Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

UN ‘unable’ to verify claims Iran was behind Saudi Aramco attacks

Press TV – December 11, 2019

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres says the world body’s investigators are “unable to independently corroborate” the US and Saudi claims that Iran was behind attacks on the kingdom’s Aramco oil facilities in September.

Guterres announced in a report on Tuesday that all the debris from the weapons used against Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco had been examined and the UN could not yet verify anti-Iran claims made by Washington and Riyadh.

“At this time, it is unable to independently corroborate that the cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles used in these attacks are of Iranian origin,” Guterres wrote in his semi-annual Iran report to the Security Council.

The UN chief added that the world body is “still collecting and analyzing additional information on these cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles” and would report additional findings in “due course.”

The attacks, which hit Aramco’s oil facilities in Khurais and Abqaiq in east of Saudi Arabia on September 14, were claimed by Yemen’s Houthi Ansartullah movement but the kingdom and the US were adamant to blame it on Iran without evidence.

Iran has rejected the allegations of any involvement and said the attack was a legitimate act of self-defense by Yemen, which has been under incessant strikes by the Saudi-led coalition since 2015.

The attacks cut nearly half of Saudi Arabia’s total oil production and sent shockwaves across the global markets.

Saudi Arabia has constantly denied the attacks would have any impact on the kingdom’s finances, with the government estimating that GDP growth would stand at around 1.9% at the end of 2019.

December 11, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Sudan’s new PM wants to withdraw troops from Yemen

Press TV – December 6, 2019

Sudan’s new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has vowed to withdraw troops from the Saudi-led war in Yemen, saying his country’s role should be limited to assisting in a political resolution of the conflict.

“The conflict in Yemen has no military solution, whether from us or from anywhere in the world,” Hamdok told the Atlantic Council, a US-based think tank, on Thursday.

He added that the war “has to be resolved through political means,” and that his country will seek to “help our brothers and sisters in Yemen and play our role with the rest to help them address this”.

Sudan has been one of the main contributors to the so-called Saudi coalition against Yemen, formed in 2015 in a bid to install a pro-Saudi government in Sana’a and crush Yemen’s Houthi Ansarllah movement.

According to reports, up to 40,000 Sudanese troops were deployed in the country during the peak of the conflict in 2016-2017.

Late October, however, Sudanese officials said the country had withdrawn thousands of troops from Yemen, with only a “few thousand” remaining.

Speaking on Thursday, Hamdok said “not many” Sudanese forces remain in Yemen.

Hamdok, who is leading the country’s transitional government in a power-sharing pact with the military, further stated that he will be “absolutely” able to withdraw the remaining troops from Yemen.

The new prime minster said his government had “inherited” the deployment in Yemen from Sudan’s former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir who was ousted following a popular uprising against his rule in April.

Hamdok pledged to “address” the country’s involvement in the Saudi-led war “in the near future” without further elaborating on the matter.

While Sudanese officials have abstained from publishing official casualty numbers in Yemen, Yemen’s armed forces have said a total 4,253 Sudanese troops have been killed in the conflict.

The developments come as the Saudi-led mission in Yemen has come to a standstill due to the resistance and increasingly sophisticated attacks of Yemeni forces.

Earlier this year, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Riyadh’s most influential partner in the war, was reported to have withdrawn most of its troops from Yemen.

UAE officials have reached the conclusion that the war has become “unwinnable” and that the Houthis will eventually “have a role in the future in Yemen”, reports said.

Fearing a long-lasting quagmire in Yemen, Riyadh has also been reportedly seeking to negotiate an end to the conflict through discussions with the Houthis.

December 6, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , | 1 Comment

Erdoğan Opened a Pandora’s Box in Libya That Will Be Difficult to Close

By Paul Antonopoulos | December 4, 2019

Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean are rapidly rising after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with a Libyan official of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, in Ankara last week. They agreed on their own Economic Exclusive Zone that penetrates into Greek and Cypriot waters, in violation of the United Nations Convention Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that favors Cypriot and Greek claims, a major reason why Turkey is only one of 15 UN members, out of 193, that has not signed it. Although Turkey claims it is acting within international law to enter the oil and gas-rich Greek and Cypriot waters, it never references which international law. This leads to the simple question of why Turkey has not signed UNCLOS if international law supposedly favors their claim?

The Turkish-GNA provocation against Greece comes as only last month Pakistan and Turkey conducted naval exercises where Pakistan violated Greek and Cypriot air and maritime space several times and harassed Cypriot merchant ships. This demonstrates that Turkey is bolstering its alliances to force its complete hegemony over the Eastern Mediterranean. This is to expand their maritime space in violation of international law to exploit the rich deposits of gas and oil in the region.

However, Turkey has once again defied international law, remembering the illegal invasion of northern Cyprus and Syria among many. This has now opened up a new quagmire that Erdoğan has probably not expected. With the NATO destruction of Libya in 2011, in which both Greece and Turkey took a minor part, the country has been plagued by tribalism, feudalism and Islamic radicalism, with two major forces emerging from the mess – the GNA in coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar and based in eastern Libya. This is unsurprising since Turkey has a long history of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Erdoğan has opened up a pandora’s box in Libya that will now surely backfire on him and see the dismantlement of the GNA. The GNA is now becoming increasingly isolated since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have sworn to back General Haftar with weapons and money. It is expected that with the arrival of new funds and weapons, Haftar will continue his assault to take Tripoli which he began in March. One major reason for this new support for the LNA is that Greece, Cyprus and Egypt are in a strategic regional alliance to protect their respective EEZ against Turkish aggression.

Haftar has also controversially announced that he wants relations with Israel. His desires for relations with Israel, a rarity among Muslim-majority countries, will surely bring Haftar more international recognition and legitimacy as a “reward,” especially crucial as the majority of the world recognizes the Tripoli government.

A delegation of U.S. diplomats recently asked Haftar to halt military operations, citing that it will supposedly allow Russia’s military invasion of Libya. Haftar refused. Haftar’s Secretary of State said that the United States is completely wrong, as Libya has become a huge arena for settling accounts among regional powers – and this is true if we consider that the Saudis, Emirates and Egyptians are backing the LNA, while the Turks and Qataris backs the GNA.

Rather than being in compliance with international law, Erdoğan signed with the GNA an illegal agreement to carve out the Eastern Mediterranean for its own plans. Greece has given the GNA time until today to retract their deal with Turkey. Although Greece on the international scene is a minor player, it does wield significant influence in the Eastern Mediterranean and will use NATO and EU mechanisms to convince member states to retract their recognition of the GNA, which will only further isolate Turkey as it has attempted to build an alliance to counter the Greek-Cypriot-Egyptian military partnership.

In a rare occurrence, both the U.S. and Russia have criticized Turkey’s aggression and escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean, with the US State Department describing the Turkish and GNA move as “unhelpful” and “provocative.”

It is unlikely this will make a difference as it is expected that the GNA will adamantly refuse to renounce its agreement with Turkey, which will push Greece to back the LNA and encourage NATO and EU members to do the same. At the very minimum, the Saudi-Emirati-Egyptian tripartite has used Turkey’s aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean as an excuse to back the LNA, providing him with the money, weapons, intelligence and other resources to overcome the Turkish-backed GNA.

With Saif Gaddafi, the second son of Muammar Gaddafi, also announcing his support for Haftar, there is every potential that the internationally recognized GNA will have a multitude of pressure from NATO, the EU, the Saudi-Emirati-Egyptian alliance, and from Haftar and Gaddafi supporters. Erdoğan’s desperate pursuit for regional hegemony was first received with applause domestically, but it appears he has now opened a pandora’s box in Libya that is now likely to backfire on him.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Fueling Iran’s Protests

Ron Paul Institute | November 23, 2019

What’s behind the most recent violent protests in Iran? Is it really all about a gasoline price increase? Why is US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo so enthusiastic about the protests, telling them that the US stands with them against their government? What’s the role of the CIA and the notorious “Ayatollah Mike” in fanning the flames? RPI’s Daniel McAdams joins PressTV’s Debate program to discuss Iran unrest:

November 23, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

UAE studies Russia proposals to de-escalate tension in Gulf

MEMO | November 21, 2019

The UAE has said it is interested in de-escalating the tension in the Gulf region and is studying Russian proposals in this regard, TASS reported.

In an interview the Russian Ambassador to the UAE Sergei Kuznetsov said: “Our Emirati friends are interested with us in easing the tensions in the Persian Gulf.”

He added: “They are carefully studying the corresponding Russian proposals as part of our strategy aimed at establishing a framework to launch equal dialogue between countries in order to ensure stability and security in this region of strategic importance.”

Kuznetsov stated that the main point is that Russia’s partners in the UAE “understand the dangers of artificially instigating tensions in the Persian Gulf fraught with unpredictable ramifications.”

Last month it was reported that the US was planning to send “thousands” of additional troops to bolster its military presence in Saudi in the wake of the Aramco attacks, which Washington and Riyadh blamed on Iran despite Yemen’s Houthi movement claiming responsibility.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Tehran loses patience with Modi government’s hide and seek

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 18, 2019

Historically speaking, the India-Iran relationship had its ups and downs during the decades of the Shah’s rule. The Lowest point was reached when, during the 1965 and 1971 wars with India, Pakistani Air Force jets were stationed in Iran to gain ‘strategic depth’ vis-a-vis the IAF.

However, after the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran adopted an explicitly anti-Western foreign policy and began viewing India as a natural ally. The ideology-based regime rooted in the principles of justice, freedom and resistance was greatly attracted by India’s freedom struggle, non-aligned policies, and the sheer grit to preserve its strategic autonomy. This perceived affinity withstood the changes and shifts in Delhi’s foreign policy outlook in the post-Cold war era.

Tehran was not unduly perturbed when the India-US relationship took an upward curve in the nineties during the Bill Clinton administration or when the 2008 nuclear deal was concluded — or, even when Washington and Delhi began chanting their ‘defining partnership of the 21st century’ during the Barack Obama Administration.

Tehran remained confident about India’s DNA anchored on the country’s strategic autonomy. This confidence took a beating when India voted for the first time in February 2006 in favour of a West-led resolution in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which reported against Iran to the UN Security Council — and, again, in November 2009 when India voted in favour of a resolution spearheaded by the US at the IAEA censuring Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme and demanding that it stop uranium enrichment.

Nonetheless, life moved on. There was no apparent rancour. This much needs to be recalled to put in perspective the highly critical remarks by Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif recently, while meeting a group of visiting journalists from New Delhi, regarding the Modi government’s pusillanimous attitude under American pressure to roll back cooperation with Tehran.

Zarif said Tehran had expected the Modi government to be “more resilient” in the face of Washington’s bullying. Zarif speculated that India probably “did not want to agitate” the US by being a sanctions spoiler and he added with biting sarcasm, “People want to be on the right side of President Trump” but the problem is “he hasn’t got a right side.”

Equally, Zarif regretted that the Modi government was dragging its feet on the Chabahar Port project, which has far-reaching implications for regional connectivity, stability and security.

Iranian state media widely reported Zarif’s remarks, which most certainly reflect deep misgivings at the highest level of the Iranian leadership that India’s capacity or political will to pursue independent foreign policies is increasingly in doubt.

To be sure, Zarif’s remarks must also be seen in the backdrop of the Modi government’s fawning attitude toward Saudi Arabia lately. There is no empirical evidence to suggest that Riyadh laid pre-conditions for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s embrace of PM Modi. In fact, Saudi-Iranian rivalry is far too complex to be reduced to zero-sum mindset. After all, Riyadh is robustly advancing cooperation with Russia and China despite these two countries having thriving strategic partnerships with Iran.

Indian analysts tend to link the Modi government’s dalliance with Saudi Arabia and the deepening chill in Indian-Iranian relations. Indeed, the Modi government has relegated cooperation with Iran to the back burner. It is no secret of course that Washington encourages third countries to replace Iranian crude with Saudi supplies.

The Modi government is pinning hopes on massive Saudi investments in India. During the Crown Prince’s visit to India in February, he forecast Saudi investments to the tune of $100 billion during the next two-year period. The Indian side has been daydreaming since then about big Saudi investments in the Ratnagiri petrochemical project and in Reliance Industries. While the Ratnagiri project is in limbo, Reliance is keeping its fingers crossed. Modi’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia can be viewed in this context.

How realistic are the Indian expectations? Clearly, Saudi Arabia itself needs to attract outside investment. Lackluster oil prices have caused the country’s budget deficit to widen. The budget deficit would be in the region of $36 billion in 2018 and 2019, and may widen to $50 billion in 2020. Saudi Aramco’s IPO itself is for raising money for funding the Crown Prince’s ambitious program of economic and social reforms (‘Vision 2030’).

CNBC recently featured an interview with ex-CIA chief General David Petraeus (who presently heads the KKR Global Institute, which provides consultancy to American companies active in the Middle East) regarding Saudi Arabia’s economic malaise. Some excerpts are worth noting:

“It’s a fact that Saudi Arabia is gradually running out of money, they’d be the first to acknowledge that the sovereign wealth fund has been reduced, it’s somewhere below $500 billion now.”

“The (budget) deficits each year, depending on the price of Brent crude, can be anywhere from $40 to $60 billion depending on some of their activities in countries in the region.”

“The bottom line is that they need the money, they need that outside investment that is crucial to delivering ‘Vision 2030’ which cannot be realized without outside investment, this is just one component of a number of different initiatives that they’re pursuing to try to attract that outside investment.”

The prospects aren’t bright for Reliance and Ratnagiri to pin hopes on Saudi investment. The Crown Prince’s priority is ‘Vision 2030’ — and it remains a hard sell. Period.

Put differently, neglecting India’s cooperation with Iran, especially Chabahar Port development, for the sake of a chimerical Saudi bonanza can only find the Modi government falling between two stools eventually. India cannot, should not and need not substitute Saudi Arabia as a preferred partner to Iran — or vice versa.

Why keep at arm’s length a regional power in our extended neighbourhood who is manifestly eager to foster cooperation with India? Such an attitude is illogical, myopic and cramps India’s diplomatic options in the Persian Gulf.

November 18, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

The Houthis Are Preparing for a Planned Israeli Attack on Yemen

By Ahmed Abdulkareem | MintPress News | November 11, 2019

SANA’A, YEMEN — As the war in Yemen nears the end of its fifth year, the situation in the country seems to be escalating. There are strong indications that Israel is planning to launch airstrikes against the country under the pretext of preventing an Iranian military presence from taking hold, a move that is likely to open the door for further escalation.

On Saturday, Ansar Allah, the political wing of Yemen’s Houthis, announced that Yemeni forces would not hesitate to “deal a stinging blow” to Israel in the case Tel Aviv decides to launch attacks in Yemen. The Houthis reaffirmed that their anti-Israel position is based on a principled, humanitarian, moral, and religious commitment. Historically, neither the Yemeni Army nor the Houthis themselves, have ever targeted Israel directly.

The threat from Israel is not without precedent. Israel has used claims of alleged Iranian military attachments in countries like Syria and Iraq as justification for airstrikes and bombings against those nations. Now, Israel appears to be using Iran’s alleged presence in Yemen, an allegation that both Tehran and the Houthis deny, as a pretext for military action in the country despite no evidence indicating that there are any Iranian forces present there. 

Ansar Allah leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi said in televised speech marking the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad, “Our people will not hesitate to declare jihad (holy war) against the Israeli enemy, and to launch the most severe strikes against sensitive targets in the occupied territories if the enemy engages in any folly against our people.” The occasion marks the largest festival held by the Houthis during which they reveal their domestic and foreign policies for the coming year.

The Houthis also called on the Saudi regime to stop the war and siege on Yemen, warning that there would be risks and consequences for the Kingdom should they continue their attacks. Al-Houthi also confirmed that Yemenis will continue to develop their military capability, adding that, “Anyone who uses the war and siege to control us and subjugate us is seeking the impossible, and the consequence is failure.”

Al-Houthi also pointed to the ongoing mass protest movements in Lebanon and Iraq, advising nations in the Middle East to resolve their issues vigilantly. He asked those nations to exercise vigilance in the face of what he called Israeli plots to gain a political, military, and cultural foothold in their respective countries.

On Saturday, massive demonstrations took place across Yemen’s major cities to commemorate the Prophet Mohammed’s birth, an occasion known to Muslims as Maulud Nabi. While the occasion is a religious one, it is a public holiday in Yemen and is marked with the singing of the national anthem and the waving of green flags. Many protesters told MintPress News that any attack by Israeli would not cause the Yemeni people any more suffering than they have already endured, but would push them to join a “holy war” against Israel.

According to three government officials in Sana’a that spoke to MintPress on the condition of anonymity, the Houthi’s warnings are both serious and well-placed. Those officials said that the government in Sana’a has already confirmed information that Israel is preparing to launch airstrikes on both military sites and civil targets in Yemen, especially on the country’s west coast and along the Saudi-Yemen border in coordination with the Saudi-led Coalition.

Ansar Allah’s announcement also comes in the wake of a number of recent statements made by a number of Israeli officials claiming that Yemen has become a threat to Israel. Speaking during a visit by U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin and White House aid Jared Kushner, Netanyahu claimed that Iran has supplied missiles to the Houthis that could hit Israel. The Houthis regard these statements as a justification and prelude to strikes on the country, similar to those that Israel unilaterally carried out against sites in Syria and Iraq.

In August, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida released a report saying that Israel is planning on striking sensitive positions on the Bab al-Mandab strait which links the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, to target “Houthis” in the area. The newspaper, which cited an anonymous informed source, said Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has been monitoring activities in the Yemeni strait.

Israel’s entry into the Yemen war could indeed open the door for further escalation, a prospect made more likely by both the increased strength of Ansar Allah forces and by Israel’s increasingly cozy relationship with the Gulf Arab countries of the coalition. The fact that Saudi Arabia and the UAE recently sought negotiations with Houthis after they were unable to win the war militarily, despite their superior firepower and funding, only increases the likelihood of Israel’s entry into Yemen.

In fact, Israel is alleged to have already participated in the war against Yemen on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition as a part of a series of covert interventions involving mercenary forces, the reported launching of dozens of airstrikes in the country and even the dropping of a neutron bomb on Nuqm Mountain in the middle the capital Sana’a in May of 2015.

Kicking the hornet’s nest

Like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, there is a problem with the Israeli assessment of the situation in Yemen, as the Houthis have never threatened to hit an Israeli target and Houthi attacks on Saudi-led Coalition countries have always been retaliatory, not preemptive. There are no vital targets to be bombed in Yemen as the Saudi-led coalition has already destroyed nearly every potential target, including civilian infrastructure. Moreover, any attack by Israel against Yemen will gain the Houthis even more popular support both inside of Yemen and across the Islamic and Arab world.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that Iran has any military sites or experts in Yemen, and Yemen’s Army, loyal to Ansar Allah, are not the “Iran proxy fighters” that international media so often claims them to be. Indeed, the U.S. State Department even admitted in leaked cables that the Houthis were not an Iran proxy and that they received neither funding nor weapons from Iran.

There are a convergence of interests between the Houthis and Iran, including opposition to Israel’s internationally-recognized theft of Palestinian land, but if Israel involves itself directly in the conflict in Yemen, it is likely that the Houthi alliance with Iran will grow and may actually spur Tehran into providing precise and sophisticated weapons to Ansar Allah, turning the fears of Israel into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Meanwhile, many Israeli activists and media pundits are expressing concerns over what they consider serious threats from Yemen, pointing out that these threats “should not be underestimated by the Israelis.” The Israeli security parliament said that Israeli intelligence must strictly monitor Yemen and take necessary steps to secure Israeli ships sailing in the Bab Al-Mandab area, describing the statements made by Abdulmalik al-Houthi as serious.

A well-stocked arsenal

Indeed the threats of Ansar Allah, a group known to strike sensitive targets without hesitation, are not without precedent. On September 14, Ansar Allah hit two of Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, an attack that led to a suspension of about 50 percent of the Arab Kingdom’s crude and gas production.

Prior to that, they targeted vital facilities deep inside of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, including the Barakah Nuclear Power Station in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, as well as the King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh, more than 800 km from Yemen’s northern border. Now, they have developed their arsenal of ballistic missiles and drones even further and experts say are likely capable of hitting vital targets inside of Israel. Yemen’s Army is ready to launch those missiles if Ansar Allah’s leader asks it to do, one high-ranking military officer told MintPress.

Yemen’s Army, loyal to the Houthis, is equipped with the Quds 1 winged missile which was used in an attack on the Barakah Nuclear Power Station in Abu Dhabi in December of 2017. This year, several generations of the Quds 1 were reworked to provide the “ability to hit its targets and to bypass enemy interceptor systems,” according to Ansar Allah.

The Borkan 3 (Volcano 3), whose predecessors were used by the Houthis to strike targets inside of Saudi Arabia and the UAE,  is capable of traveling even further than the Borkan 1 and 2. The Borkan is a modified Scud missile and was used in a strike on the King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh, more than 800 km from Yemen’s northern border. The missile was able to evade U.S. Patriot missile air-defense systems.

Yemen’s Army also posses the Samad 3 reconnaissance drone and the Qasef 2K drone. Both were used in strikes against the Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports. The Samad 3 has an estimated range of 1,500 to 1,700 km. Moreover, the Yemen Army recently unveiled a new drone with a range exceeding 1,700 km and equipped with advanced technology that would render it difficult for air defense systems to detect.

One Ansar Allah military source told MintPress that mines would also be deployed against Israeli battleships and watercraft in the Red Sea if Israel decides to launch attacks against Yemen. Indeed, Yemen’s military recently revealed its domestically-manufactured marine mines dubbed the “Mersad,” and is reportedly “actively developing its naval forces and naval anti-ship missiles.”

Despite the well-established precedent, many still doubt that the Houthis are capable of carrying out attacks on the scale and range of the attack that struck an Aramco facility in Saudi Arabia earlier this year — instead, accusing Iran of orchestrating the attacks. Yet repeatedly underestimating the Houthis was one of the major mistakes made by the Saudi-led coalition, who has failed to defeat the group after nearly five years of fierce battles against them, despite being equipped with the latest U.S.-supplied weaponry — everything from M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley fighting vehicles to AH-64D Apache helicopters, as well as having an air force equipped with a high-tech arsenal.

However, it would be difficult for the Yemeni Army to prevent aerial attacks by Israel. Yemeni airspace has been open to the coalition and to American drones since the war broke out in 2015. Any attack by the Yemen army would likely come in retaliation to an Israeli attack and would hit Israeli military bases in Eritrea, Israeli ships in the Red Sea as well as hit vital targets deep inside of Israel, according to Yemeni military sources.

An already dire situation

The war, which began in March 2015, has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis resulting from the bombing and a blockade which has led to mass starvation and history’s largest cholera outbreak, among other dire consequences.

The coalition, backed by the United States, has killed tens of thousands of Yemeni civilians since the war began. Moreover, the coalition’s blockade of food and medicine has plagued the country with an unprecedented famine and has triggered a deadly outbreak of preventable diseases that have cost thousands of people their lives.

Last week, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project revealed that Yemen’s death toll rose to a shocking 100,000 since 2015. The database shows approximately 20,000 people have been killed this year, already making 2019 the second-deadliest year on record after 2018, with 30,800 dead. Those numbers do not include those who have died in the humanitarian disasters caused by the war, particularly starvation.

Given the nature of  Israel’s recent wars against Gaza and Lebanon, it is unlikely that Israel would feel constrained by any moral dilemma should they chose to launch airstrikes against civilians in Yemen.

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

November 11, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Iran is winning strategic struggle for influence, even as US cripples its economy

By Darius Shahtahmasebi | RT | November 8, 2019

A new report has confirmed what some analysts have been saying for some time: that Iran is winning the regional struggle for strategic influence.

The 217-page report, published by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), is entitled “Iran’s Networks of Influence in the Middle East” and details Tehran’s use of proxy forces and networks throughout the region and the effects and benefits of its “minimum output” foreign policy strategy.

It is probably worth mentioning at this point that H.R. McMaster, Trump’s former national security adviser, was once an employee of the IISS. As was James Steinberg, a former US deputy secretary of state. Furthermore, at the end of 2016, the Guardian revealed that the organization had received £25 million ($32 million) from the Bahraini royal family (apparently almost half of its total income has come from Bahrain). Iran and Bahrain aren’t exactly close friends.

Notwithstanding the potential motives and bias of the IISS, the report definitely arrives at some interesting conclusions.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has tipped the balance of effective force in the Middle East in its favor,” the report explains.

But here’s the crazy part. Iran is, and has been for years, completely pummeled to the ground by US-imposed sanctions. Many commentators have for some time now been predicting an impending collapse of the Iranian economy.

On top of that, and likely because of this fact, Iran’s military budget has consistently been low (especially when compared to the United States or any of Washington’s major allied powers in the region). This flies completely in the face of allegations that Iran is a regional aggressor and the number-one state sponsor of terrorism (with what money?), but don’t let this get in the way of a good story.

According to the US Defense Department’s annual review of the country, “Iran’s military doctrine is defensive. It is designed to deter an attack, survive an initial strike, retaliate against an aggressor, and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities while avoiding any concessions that challenge its core interests.”

In other words, despite being under the constant threat of war, whether from the US, Israel or Saudi Arabia, Iran is not looking for a fight. It maintains a much lower military expenditure than Saudi Arabia, Israel, and especially Washington, yet as the recent IISS report notes, it has emerged from the rubble of a war-torn Middle East region as a victor.

As Foreign Affairs (the Council on Foreign Relations’ magazine) explained in a recent article:

“Iran now enters its second year under maximum pressure strikingly confident in its economic stability and regional position.”

It is likely with this newfound confidence that Iran is beginning to dictate some shots of its own to the international community, particularly when it comes to the future of uranium enrichment. Foreign Affairs also explains that Iran has essentially weathered the storm of US sanctions and come up trumps all on its lonesome. Many of the people predicted to come to Tehran’s aid during the United States’ maximum pressure campaign have been nowhere to be seen.

According to the IISS report, Iran has been winning the regional geopolitical struggle for influence by developing asymmetric warfare, such as swarm tactics, drones and cyber-attacks. It has relied upon the Quds arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to increase its operations throughout the Middle East, as well as to provide training, support and weapons to other actors allied to Tehran. The report also notes Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah, its role in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, as well as its role (supposedly) in Yemen.

As my Kung Fu instructor once told me, you serve yourself in a confrontation best by using minimum output for maximum gain. Winning the lottery doesn’t entail that you then go to a casino and put all your money down on your first gamble. Just because you have it, doesn’t mean you have to expend it.

In comparison, Saudi Arabia has expended time, effort, billions of dollars and the lives of many innocent civilians waging a genocidal war in Yemen – and it’s still losing. As Bloomberg once explained:

“Saudi Arabia has better weapons than its enemies in Yemen, no surprise in a war that pits one of the richest Arab countries against the poorest. And still the Saudis are struggling to impose their will.”

Not only is it losing a war, it’s also losing an economic battle. At the beginning of the conflict, Reuters estimated that the war would cost Saudi Arabia approximately $175 million per month. However, even by the end of the first year of the war, the kingdom had to increase its defense spending by $5.3 billion. This trend has continued right throughout the conflict. At the end of 2016, Saudi Arabia had to announce a projected increase of 6.7 percent in defense spending for 2017, bringing its total budget to around $50.8 billion.

If the IISS report’s findings are correct, there may be a deep lesson in here for the US and its allies. Perhaps it’s not that Iran has emerged victorious despite the fact it has not spent billions of dollars invading other nations at any one time; but because it hasn’t been.

At the end of the day, how much influence can you exert when you forcibly invade, occupy and kill those countries you seek to influence?

November 8, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments

Five Years On, Saudi Attacks on Yemen’s Farmers Are Pushing the Whole Country into Famine

By Ahmed AbdulKareem | MintPress News | November 1, 2019

HODEIDA, YEMEN — The country of Yemen, known in the medieval period as “Green Yemen,” is one of the most extensively terraced areas of the world. There, Yemeni farmers transformed rugged mountain slopes into terraces and built dams like the Great Marib, a structure whose history spans long enough that it was mentioned in the Quran. During the medieval period, Yemen had one of the widest ranges of agricultural crops in all of the Middle East.

Farhan Mohammed is one of the richest farmers in Qama’el, a rural village in the region of Baqim in northwestern Yemen. He owns 50 hectares of land which he uses to cultivate corn, pomegranates, and apples. Now, Farhan is struggling to keep his farm afloat after Saudi airstrikes targeted his fields, burning his crops and rendering the soil so toxic that it’s no longer able to sustain life. Saudi Arabia’s now nearly five-year-old project in Yemen has decimated the incomes of Farhan and most other Yemeni farmers. Fuel is hard to come by thanks to a Saudi-led coalition blockade and the fuel that is available has become prohibitively expensive. Airstrikes targeting farm fields and orchards have rendered large swaths of Yemen’s arable land too toxic to use.

Almost immediately after March 2015, when the war began, the Saudi-led Coalition began targeting Yemen’s rural livelihood, bombing farms, food systems, markets, water treatment facilities, transportation infrastructure, and even agricultural extension offices. In urban areas, fishing boats and food processing and storage facilities were targeted.  

Before the war began, over 70 percent of Yemen’s population lived in villages dispersed in the mountains and small towns with irregular, and at times torrential, summer rainfall. These rural residents relied on agriculture and animal husbandry and grew fruits and vegetables to feed their own families and to sell to markets. Yet that way of life has all but disappeared since the Saudi attacks began, undermining rural livelihoods, disrupting local food production, and forcing rural residents to flee to the city.

Now, Yemen’s nationwide level of household food insecurity hovers at over 70 percent. 50 percent of rural households and 20 percent of urban households are now food insecure. Almost one-third of Yemenis do not have enough food to satisfy basic nutritional needs. Underweight and stunted children have become a regular sight, especially amongst the holdouts in rural areas. Families that have fled to cities are often forced to beg or to pick through the trash for food scraps.

According to a recent report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), poverty in Yemen has jumped from 47 percent of the population in 2014 to a projected 75 percent by the end of 2019 because of the war. The report warned, “If fighting continues through 2022, Yemen will rank the poorest country in the world, with 79 percent of the population living under the poverty line and 65 percent classified as extremely poor.”

The intentional targeting of agriculture 

The targeting of the Yemeni agriculture sector and rural livelihoods is not merely accidental collateral damage incurred while targeting military sites. Data from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture shows that in the period between March 2015 and March 2019, the Saudi-led Coalition launched at least 10,000 airstrikes that struck farms, 800 that struck local food markets, and about 450 airstrikes that hit silos and other food storage facilities in the country.

According to the Ministry, crop-area cultivation declined an average of 40 percent and crop yields by 45 percent in rural areas. Many farmers in these areas reported that they could no longer produce yields at pre-war levels due to the extensive damage to infrastructure, the high cost of diesel fuel and other agricultural inputs, a collapse in markets and the destruction of roads and storage facilities.

According to a field survey carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture in the period between March 2015 and March 2018, Saudi attacks completely destroyed 270 agricultural buildings and facilities, 43 agricultural associations, 9,017 traditional irrigation canals, 54 agricultural markets, and 45 export centers.

High precision U.S. bombs dropped by Saudi-led coalition warplanes destroyed at least 1,834 irrigation pumps, 109 artesian and surface wells, 1,170 modern irrigation networks, 33 solar irrigation units, 12 diggers, 750 pieces of agricultural equipment, 940,400 farms, 7,531 agricultural reserves, 30 productive nurseries, 182 poultry farms, and 359,944 beehives.

Yemen has no major rivers like the Euphrates in Iraq and Syria or the Nile River, which supplies water to farmers in a number of African countries. This leaves farmers reliant on irrigation canals that channel rain and floodwaters into weirs and bunds built by local communities that are vulnerable to Saudi attacks. Attacks that have already completely destroyed at least 45 water installations (dams, barriers, reservoirs) and partially destroyed at least 488, including the ancient Marib Dam.

Yemen’s fishing sector has not been spared either. By the end of May 2019, every fish off-loading port in Yemen had been targeted by Saudi attacks. At least 220 fishing boats have been destroyed, 222 fishermen have been killed and 40,000 fishermen lost their only source of income. According to Yemen’s Ministry of Fishing Wealth, this has affected the lives of more than two million people living in coastal cities and villages.

Data shows that Saudi Coalition forces have stopped at least 4,586 fishing boats from leaving port in the directorates of Midi, Hajjah, Dabab, Bab al-Mandab, and in the Mukha districts in the Taiz governorate. Thirty fishing industry companies have left the country and about fifty fish factories have closed, causing catastrophic damage to Yemen’s fishing industry. Even before the war, Yemen’s fishermen were amongst the poorest segments of society.

As the war nears its fifth year, the Saudi-led coalition has continued to target the livelihoods of Yemen’s food producers. The coalition has expanded its military offensive to include large areas of agricultural lands and valleys in the K16, Durahami, Al-Jah, A-Tahita, Al-Faza, Jabaliya, Al-Mughrous, Al-Khokha and Hays countrysides.

Yemen’s breadbasket withers

With family in tow, Haddi Ibrahim Koba fled his family home in Al-Shaab in northwestern Tihama months ago after Saudi airstrikes destroyed his farm. The Koba family now struggles to eke out an existence 60 km away in the populous Hajjah province. Once proudly self-sufficient, relying on animal husbandry and farming for their livelihood, they now depend on handouts from humanitarian organizations, the meager bodies of their children already show signs of malnutrition.

According to a study by the Sana’a University-based Water & Environment Centre (WEC) in collaboration with the Flood-Based Livelihoods Network issued in November 2017 to assess the impact of the current war on food security in Yemen, the war is already drastically aggravating Yemenis’ ability to earn a livelihood, rapidly deteriorating the availability of food and elevating the complexity of an already dire humanitarian crisis in the country.

The study, The War Impact on Food Security in the Tihama, (Tihama is a region of Yemen traditionally known to be the country’s breadbasket) showed how agriculture in Tihama, which sustains most of the country’s population, has been seriously disrupted by the war. This, the study’s authors say, is undermining the productivity and investment capacity of the entire country.

Wadi Zabid is one of Tihama’s main valleys located in the Houthi stronghold of Hodeida, the second-largest governorate in Yemen. It is the second-largest valley in Tihama, with an area of 4,639 square kilometers. Before the war, Wadi Zabid was a model of sustainable agriculture and food security, but as of June 2017, when the WEC study was released, 43 percent of the valley’s residents were going hungry every night. Land cultivation has decreased by 51 percent and crop yields per hectare have declined between up to 61 percent. The production of fruits and vegetables has been wiped out as has the livestock population. Today, conditions for farmers in Tihama are likely even more dire than they were when the study was released.

Tihama’s woes are not due to climate change or local mismanagement. Instead, they are a direct result of the destruction of irrigation and water infrastructure resulting from Saudi attacks on the valley’s diversion dams and irrigation systems. Water in the irrigation canals in the downstream villages of both of Tihama’s main valley’s has decreased by about 60 percent since the war began, according to the study.

That damage has also created a massive impact on upstream areas that rely heavily on floodwater irrigation and has damaged irrigation systems and diversion dams affecting up to 75 percent of Tihama’s households.

Creating a toxic legacy

The Saudi-led coalition’s blockade on Yemen’s ports, airports and borders has only exacerbated the suffering of the country’s farmers and rural residents. The coalition has prevented the export of their products, especially to wealthy Gulf countries which imported thousands of tons of pomegranates and vegetables from Yemen before the war began. Importing pesticides, agricultural fertilizers and fuel has also become difficult due to the frequent seizure of seafaring vessels by the coalition.

For 77 days, the coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has continued to hold ships loaded with oil derivatives at sea, preventing them from entering the port of Hodeida.  The four ships that were allowed in carried transport fuel, not the fuel needed to power generators on which farmers rely.

Like in Tahamah, the blockade and attacks on agricultural targets across Yemen have not only destroyed machinery and infrastructure, it has had acute ecological impacts that may take decades to reverse. The accumulation of sediment in flood channels due to damaged gates and automatic barriers has caused trees to begin to reclaim now-dormant stream beds and flood plains, hampering the arrival of much-needed floodwaters to agricultural fields.

A Yemeni farmer tries to chase locusts off of his fields. Photo | UNFAO

Fertile soil, especially in the border areas in Saada and Hajjah, has become environmentally polluted due to the number of weapons dropped in more than half a million airstrikes. That pollution has not only affected the soil, experts fear it could genetically alter the pomegranates, grapes and coffee that were once staple crops in Yemen. Farmers and their families are at constant risk from unexploded ordnance, especially cluster bombs like the one that killed a young boy on his family farm in Hodeida last Thursday.

Agricultural and environmental experts that spoke to MintPress said that the effects of the Saudi coalition’s targeting of the agricultural sector will likely last for decades. The Director of Agricultural Extension in Yemen, Salah al-Mashreqi, said that more catastrophic effects will appear in the medium and long term, including genetic changes to pomegranates, for which Yemen is famous.

The deliberate targeting of food is prohibited by article 54 of the Geneva Conventions and the May 24, 2018, UN Security Council resolution 2417 on the protection of civilians in wartime, specifically reiterates this principle. Article 14 of the 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions clearly states that starvation as a means of combat is not allowed: ‘’It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population.” Yet the international community has done little to curb the Saudi-led coalitions use of starvation as a tactic of war in Yemen.

This, in large part, according to many Yemenis and legal scholars alike, is because Saudi Arabia enjoys the near-total diplomatic protection of the United States. Without that support, Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes, which rely on American contractors, targeting software, training, weapons, and technicians to target farmers that are concerned with little more than feeding themselves and their country, would not be possible.

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

November 1, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Who is pushing for another civil war in Lebanon?

Press TV – October 26, 2019

Secretary General of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has warned that foreign elements and certain political parties are seeking to “exploit” recent protests in Lebanon and “create a political vacuum in the county.” But who are these voices of chaos in Lebanon?

“Some protests have been financed by embassies and suspicious sides. Certain elements are seeking to stir political tensions in Lebanon in a bid to create political vacuum in the country,” Nasrallah said on Friday, warning that certain factions seek to take the country to “civil war”, a reference to the country’s bloody 1975-1990 civil war.

Nasrallah, nonetheless, did not elaborate what political parties and foreign entities may be seeking to divert the major anti-corruption and economic protests which have continued for ten consecutive days.

The Hezbollah chief had previously lauded the protests as being initially “spontaneous” and independent from any foreign or domestic political influence.

Remarks similar to those by Nasrallah have been echoed among other Lebanese figures in recent days.

Last week, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil warned of a “fifth column” seeking to provoke further tension in these heady days.

Similarly, Leader of the Arab Tawhid Party We’am Wahhab said that “foreign elements” were seeking to pressure Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign and dissolve the government.

Nasrallah has said the government’s resignation is a “waste of time”.

New elections and the consequently timely formation of a new government will ultimately include the same combination of Lebanon’s various political parties already present in the cabinet, failing to address Lebanon’s “systematic” problems and further destabilizing Lebanon, Nasrallah has argued.

While many Lebanese leaders have warned against foreign and domestic parties seeking to destabilize Lebanon and weaken its government, none have specified the names of foreign entities and domestic parties seeking to benefit from the destabilization.

Certain factions among Lebanon’s political elite have, nonetheless, openly called for the resignation of the current government.

Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces parliamentary bloc, was one of first Lebanese figures to call for Hariri to resign. He ordered his party’s four ministers in Hariri’s cabinet to submit their resignation last week.

Geagea and his party are known to have close links with Washington and Riyadh. During Lebanon’s bloody 1975-1990 civil war, Geagea led the Lebanese Forces militia which formed an alliance with Israel.

The militias are known to have facilitated the infamous Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut, which lead to death of up to 3,500 civilians from Palestinian and Lebanese Shia backgrounds.

In 1994, Geagea was found guilty of ordering four political assassinations, including the killing of PM Rashid Karami in 1987 and the unsuccessful attempt on the life of Defense Minister Michel Murr in 1991 while cooperating with Israeli intelligence.

Geagea was consequently held in solitary confinement in a cell below Lebanon’s defense ministry building in Beirut before being released in 2005.

Leader of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt is also another prominent political leader in Lebanon to call for new elections in Lebanon. His party currently has two ministers in the Hariri government.

Jumblatt is known to switch political affiliations and political positions in whatever way best suits his political agenda.

The politician, once an ardent backer of Syrian government, expressed tacit support for terrorist groups like the al-Qaeda-lined al-Nusra Front during the height of a foreign-backed terrorist insurgency against Damascus, effectively siding with Riyadh and Tel Aviv’s shared objective of ousting the Syrian government.

With US and Saudi-backed terrorists in Syria all but defeated after more than eight years of war, observers say a similar scenario may be pushed upon Syria’s southern neighbor of Lebanon.

October 26, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 1 Comment

UK protestors face jail for campaigning against Israel owned arms factory

MEMO | October 23, 2019

Seven people are facing the prospect of three months in prison for protesting against an Israeli-owned arms factory based in the UK.

The case against the seven activists will be heard in a Folkestone Magistrates Court Kent today. They are expected to plead not guilty of the charge of Aggravated Trespass, an offence which carries a maximum sentence of three months in prison. A number of the activists are locally connected to Kent.

The activists were arrested in August following a two-day occupation at the Elbit-Instro arms factory, which is newly situated in Discovery Park business park in Sandwich, Kent. Its parent company Elbit Systems supplies military equipment to Israel and activists claim that its products are the “backbone” of Israel’s drone fleet.

Elbit Systems also supplies weapons to a number of other countries accused of committing war crimes including Saudi Arabia. The weapons manufacturer is Israel’s largest privately-owned arms company. Campaign groups say that it provides 85 per cent of Israel’s drones which were used to attack Gaza’s civilian population repeatedly. Drones were used during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge which killed over 2,300 civilians, including over 500 children.

A statement released by the Stop Elbit-Instro Defendants Solidarity Campaign said: “The skilled engineers of Elbit-Instro could be working to make the world a better place, yet instead they are employed to build machines that incinerate children.” It added: “Shame on them all.”

According to the campaign group locals resent the arms manufacturer and relations between Elbit-Instro and Kent residents soured following its attempted take-over of an airport site.

A spokesperson for East Kent Campaign Against the Arms Trade said: “There are urgent questions about whether Instro’s specialist targeting technology is employed by Israel for targeting Gazan civilians every Friday during the Great Return March civil rights demonstrations, or in maintaining the surveillance of Palestinians along its illegal separation barrier, enabling the occupation’s apartheid infrastructure.”

October 23, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Foreign agents torturing Palestinian prisoners in Saudi jails

MEMO | October 22, 2019

Palestinian prisoners inside Saudi jails are being interrogated and tortured by foreign agents, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said yesterday.

Speaking to the Shehab News Agency, Abu Zuhri said: “Sadly, the prisoners are being interrogated and severely tortured by foreign interrogators of different nationalities.”

“There are about 60 Palestinian prisoners inside the Saudi jails, including some pro-Hamas or Hamas members,” Abu Zuhri said, noting that some of them have spent more than three decades in Saudi Arabia and contributed to building the country.

“Their detention shocked us and them because it is not justified and not understood.”

Abu Zuhri said that his movement has exerted many efforts, including contacting Saudi and non-Saudi officials through direct and indirect means but has been unable to arrange the release of the prisoners.

He stressed that his movement has not given up working to end the crisis, stating “this is not justified because Saudi has been and is still a supporter of the Palestinians and their cause.”

Last month, rights groups and Hamas revealed that Saudi Arabia has arrested around 60 Palestinians over claims of links to the Palestinian resistance movement, stating that they had disappeared for months without their families knowing anything about their whereabouts. The NGO Euro-Med Observer reported one of the freed detainees as saying that he and the others were subject to verbal and physical torture.

Hamas also revealed that its main official in the kingdom, Mohammed Al-Khodari, 81, has also been arrested.

October 22, 2019 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment