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Yemen’s Al-Houthi offers to exchange Saudi pilots for Hamas prisoners

MEMO | March 27, 2020

The leader of Yemen’s Houthi movement, Sayyid Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, has made an offer to release Saudi captives in exchange for members of the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, being held in Saudi Arabia.

“We are fully prepared to release one of the captured pilots along with four Saudi officers and soldiers,” Al-Houthi said in a televised speech on Al-Masirah. “This will be in exchange for the release of those from Hamas arrested in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Last September, Saudi detained 81-year-old Dr Muhammad Saleh Al-Khodari, a prominent member of Hamas who has served as the movement’s officially-acknowledged representative in the Kingdom for 20 years. He was also the head of Hamas’s General Shura (Consultative) Council.

Earlier this month it was reported that the Saudis were preparing to prosecute Palestinians held in its prisons. Al-Khodari and his son, Hani, are among the detainees. Their arrests on “terrorism” charges are seen by some to be politically-motivated following Saudi Arabia’s increasing normalisation of relations with Israel under de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Last week the Head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, urged King Salman Bin Abdulaziz to release the Palestinian prisoners, citing health concerns given the spread of coronavirus Covid-19.

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar welcomed the proposal by the Houthis: “The initiative of the leader of Ansar Allah has pleased the hearts of all Palestinian resistance fighters,” he was reported as saying by Al Mayadeen.

A statement by Hamas also expressed appreciation for the solidarity and support shown by the Houthis: “We greatly appreciate the spirit of brotherhood and sympathy with the Palestinian people and support for their steadfastness and resistance. We express our thanks for this interest and this self-initiative.”

Speaking on the fifth-anniversary of the US-backed, Saudi-led coalition’s war on Yemen yesterday, Al-Houthi said, “Unfortunately, the regimes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have presented [themselves] as worse than Israel.”

Al-Houthi also said that his movement is “ready for peace and stopping the war if the aggressor is serious about stopping the aggression and siege.” He vowed that the sixth year of the conflict will involve “advanced military capabilities” and will entail new surprises for the coalition. “The general evaluation and studies confirm that the economic losses of the Saudi regime are great and its ambitions have failed,” he added.

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

After 5 years, Saudi Arabia is finally on the verge of defeat in Yemen

By Omar Ahmed | MEMO | March 26, 2020

Exactly five years ago, the US-backed, Saudi-led Arab coalition carried out its first air strikes on Yemen in an effort to reinstate the disgraced, exiled President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. He is a statesman in name only who I have argued previously has neither power, authority nor legitimacy. The strikes targeted the Houthi movement, which is supported by the Yemeni armed forces, and the war, claimed the Saudis, was supposed to be over in a matter of weeks.

The war’s devastating effects have claimed over 112,000 lives and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The steadfast and resilient Yemeni people have prevented the coalition from toppling the Houthi-aligned government in the capital, Sanaa.

After five years, in fact, it is fair to say that the Saudis and their mercenaries are on the verge of defeat. The Yemeni armed forces and “popular committees” which include Houthi forces are continuing their advances with their sights set firmly on the stronghold of Marib and the pro-Hadi, Islah militia which makes up the coalition-backed force on the ground.

The province of Marib is currently facing onslaughts on several main fronts: from the Nahm district of Sanaa province to the west; much of the recently-liberated Al-Jawf in the north; and from Sirwah district – a part of Marib already under Houthi control — and from the south in the Baydah province. Saudi air strikes continue in support of its mercenary ground forces although, as the years of conflict have shown, they are strategically ineffective.

The terrain, internal divisions among the mercenary forces, local distrust of Hadi and the relative ease of establishing relations in tribal areas captured by the Houthis are also reasons for their advance. Developments in missile defence systems which, according to the Yemeni armed forces, have been effective against some Saudi air strikes, coupled with more pre-emptive cross-border operations targeting Saudi military and economic interests are likely to change the direction of the war.

The Saudis know that the stakes are high in Marib, and losing it would be the end of the Saudi ground war against the Houthi-Yemeni army forces, which is why there have been fierce counterattacks, especially in Al-Jawf, which until recently had been in the hands of pro-Hadi fighters for the past five years. The province not only shares a border with Saudi Arabia, but the region is also rich in natural resources. Decades of Saudi policy, though, have ensured that Yemen has remained poor and unable to exploit its own oil reserves fully.

It is clear that the so-called Riyadh Agreement has failed to prompt a concerted effort among Saudi and UAE proxies to set aside their political differences and refocus their attention on the Houthis in the north. Clashes between the Saudi-backed Islah militia forces and those aligned with the UAE-supported separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) are now routine, and have intensified in recent days in the southern port city of Aden.

The Sanaa-based government has made it clear that it will confront the coalition and its mercenaries in the country’s south and east. This not only implies fighting in the de-facto STC-held Aden, which was under the control of the Houthis back in 2015 before they were driven out, but also the oil-rich Shabwa province.

Having control of most of the population and the capital Sanaa; having a lot of the Yemeni military, including the Republican Guards, on their side; and with potential access and control of Yemen’s resources, the Houthi-aligned National Salvation Government (NSG) may finally get international recognition at the expense of the “legitimate” UN-recognised Yemeni government in exile under Hadi in Riyadh. At the moment, the NSG only has diplomatic relations with Iran and Syria.

Earlier this week, the Houthi-aligned Yemeni military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, told a press conference that there have been more than 257,000 coalition air strikes over the past five years and warned that the sixth year “will be harsher and more painful”. In doing so he affirmed that Yemen is not in the same position militarily that it was at the start of the conflict.

In light of the Houthi forces’ strategic advances and superior political resolve, it is thus possible that we will see a political agreement to end the war, if not this year then next. In a promising sign, a leading member of the Supreme Political Council, Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, tweeted that he welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to support a ceasefire at the behest of the UN Secretary-General due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It remains to be seen, therefore, how much longer the Saudis will continue their disastrous and illegal intervention in Yemen, especially with the oil war and looming bankruptcy as oil prices fall, not to mention domestic political crises between de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and his rivals. The Saudis will soon find that they have neither the will nor the wealth to carry on.

That being said, the fall of Marib to the Yemeni military and its Houthi allies might be the catalyst to bring about an end to the war, but there are reports of thousands of civilians being displaced as a result of the current escalations. There is also the brutal siege of the port of Hudaydah by the coalition that needs to be addressed; the UAE occupation of Socotra; and — arguably the most worrying — the direct Saudi military presence in the eastern province of Al-Mahrah.

Earlier this month I speculated how the resistance movement in Al-Mahrah may soon turn into an armed struggle against a Saudi occupation. This materialised several days later, with the Southern National Salvation Council (SNSC) announcing a call for armed resistance against the foreign forces.

Following the coalition defeat, the future of the NSG and the alliance between the Houthi movement and Yemeni military will be tests of the stability and security of Yemen. Alliances tend only to serve a purpose against a common enemy. That’s an issue for the future, though; for now, that enemy is on the verge of defeat.

March 26, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Riyadh’s “Oil War” on Russia has some Global Objectives

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 24.03.2020

The on-going Saudi ‘oil war’ with Russia has its roots in the logic of increasingly using natural resources for geo-political and geo-economic purposes. While this is not something entirely new, the latest push comes against the backdrop of increasing competition between the US and Russia for global leadership roles and the former’s attempts at forcing the latter out, squeeze its share in the global oil market to increase that of the US shale oil, thus denting Russia’s economic capacity and its ability to project power in regions beyond its borders.

Whereas the Saudis blame Russia for the ‘oil war’ and Kremlin’s refusal to further cut oil production, the proposed cut, as it stands, would have ultimately meant a further decrease in Russia’s share of the global market and a significant increase in the US’ shale-oil production and exports. Ever since OPEC+ agreement of 2016 and the related cuts in oil production, the output of US shale oil has soared by 4.5 million barrels a day. Whereas the Western political pundits have been speaking and writing of Russia as the ‘malign’ player targeting the US’ ‘booming’ shale oil industry, the fact of the matter is that the US shale industry would not have grown in the first place if there had been no OPEC+ agreement. Russia, as it stands, has only refused to further cut its production, and is willing to extend the OPEC+ to continue a stable system of oil production.

How the OPEC+ benefited the US shale oil is evident from the fact that balanced production of crude oil meant stable and high prices, which made the US shale oil more profitable, further allowing the US to use the scenario to build its production and export infrastructure. As it stands, since 2016 when the OPEC+ deal was struck, US oil exports have increased five-fold and shale production increased from 8.9 million barrels per day to 13.1 million barrels per day. Thus, to a significant extent, by refusing the Saudi proposal of further cuts in oil production, Russia essentially refused to allow the US shale oil industry a further free-way for global expansion.

At the same time, Russia continues to stick with the OPEC+ deal. The Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has said,

“We did not initiate the withdrawal from the agreement [OPEC+ deal]. On the contrary, we proposed to extend the agreement on the existing terms, at least until the end of the second quarter or for a year, so as not to complicate the situation that has developed with the spread of coronavirus.”

At the recent meeting between Russia’s Putin and energy officials, Putin reportedly said that:

“OPEC+ has “proved to be an effective instrument to ensure long-term stability on global energy markets. Thanks to that, we have obtained extra budget revenues and, what is important, provided a possibility for upstream companies to confidently invest in promising development projects.”

What becomes evident here is that the blame for reduced oil prices can hardly be put on the Russians. Its roots lie in the global struggle for market share. This struggle is taking place at two levels. The first is between the Russians and the Saudis whereby the latter, known for playing on the US side in every war, want to expand their share of the market to sustain their massively oil-dependent economy. The second level, linked as it is with the first, is again about reducing Russian share of the market and allowing for the shale-oil sector to expand. Since this expansion will theoretically come at the expense of Russian oil, the Saudis would still benefit.

There is as such a Saudi-US consensus behind the dropped oil prices. US President Donald Trump spoke on the phone to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the eve of the Vienna meeting, and their subject of discussion, according to the White House, was the “energy market.”

That the US and Saudi Arabia have a deep interest in squeezing out Russia’s share of the global hydrocarbon market is evident from the way the US has been trying to block and even sanction the joint Russian-German Nord Stream-2 pipeline project.

Who will win this war? Unlike the Saudis, Russia’s economy does not solely depend on oil prices, although it still does play a significant role in enabling the Russian government to fulfil its budgetary commitments. The Saudis would be thus at a loss much sooner than the Russians. If the US president called the Saudi ruler to discuss the “energy market” and it was mainly about finding ways of squeezing Russia, it was equally about finding a way to stabilise oil prices because the continuously falling oil prices would only make shale-oil companies suffer losses. According to a Bloomberg report, “The US shale sector is getting completely killed. A complete bloodbath. Billions of dollars in equity wiped out.”

Whereas some in the West think that this is a Saudi-Russian project to destroy the US economy, this is not the case; for, if both oil producers had wanted this, they could have done this by doing a new OPEC+ deal in a way that would have allowed a cut in prices and still maintain production levels at agreed levels. This has not happened, and given the nature of deep Saudi interests in the US, it is difficult to conceive of a Saudi project to ‘kill’ the US economy. What it signifies is an attempt at squeezing the Russian share of the market. This explains the Saudi proposal for cutting oil production (and thus allowing that of the shale-oil grow further). The falling oil prices only indicate that the project is failing; Russia is resilient and has enough reserves to sustain itself for a decade.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistani foreign and domestic affairs.

March 24, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Yemen’s Ansarullah welcomes UN call for global ceasefire to tackle coronavirus pandemic

Press TV – March 24, 2020

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has welcomed a call by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a ceasefire in all conflicts worldwide amid a global fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee of Yemen, said in a tweet on Monday that Sana’a welcomes the UN chief’s call and supports a halt in attacks by the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies against Yemen.

The movement, he said, also seeks the lifting of an aerial and maritime blockade imposed on Yemen by the Saudi regime and its coalition allies since early 2015, to facilitate the adoption of preventive measures against the coronavirus outbreak.

The United States and Britain are not part of the Saudi-led alliance but have been providing all sorts of support to the bloody war.

Speaking to reporters from the UN headquarters in New York on Monday, Guterres called for “an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world,” adding, “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on true fight of our lives, pull back from hostilities and put aside mistrust & animosities.”

The United Nations has been trying to mediate an end to conflicts in countries including Syria, Yemen and Libya, while also providing humanitarian assistance to millions of civilians.

Guterres warned that in war-torn countries health systems have collapsed and the small number of health professionals left were often targeted in the fighting.

While Yemen has not recorded any COVID-19 cases to date, the possibility of an outbreak threatens the war-ravaged country’s already fragile healthcare system.

Last week, Houthi warned that the Saudi-led coalition of aggressors will be responsible for a possible spread of the virus to Yemen, citing the negative impacts of the siege.

Houthi’s comments come as Yemen is preparing to mark, on March 26, the fifth anniversary of the military campaign, which the Saudi regime and a number of its vassal states launched to reinstall a Riyadh-backed former regime in Yemen.

The Western-backed offensive, coupled with a naval blockade, has destroyed the country’s infrastructure.

The aggression has also led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where over 1,000 people, including many kids, were killed and hundreds of thousands afflicted by cholera, diphtheria, measles and dengue fever in 2019, according to the World Health Organization.

March 24, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

From Cluster Bombs to Toxic Waste: Saudi Arabia is Creating the Next Fallujah in Yemen

A collection of unexploded ordnance recovered by the UNDP’s YEMAC project in Yemen. Courtesy | YEMAC
By Ahmed AbdulKareem | MintPress News | March 20, 2020

AL-JAWF, YEMEN — As the world’s focus turns to the rapidly-spreading COVID-19 pandemic, Yemenis are reeling from their own brewing tragedy, contending with the thousands of cluster bombs, landmines and other exploded munitions that now litter their homeland. Just yesterday, a young child was killed and another was injured in the al-Ghail district of al-Jawf when a landmine left by the Saudi military exploded, witnesses told MintPress. Outraged and terrified by the presence of these unexploded ordnances, Ahmed Sharif, a father of 9 who owns a farm in the district called the unexploded ordnances “a significant threat to our children.”

Earlier this week, thousands of cluster bombs containing between dozens and hundreds of smaller submunitions were dropped by air and scattered indiscriminately over large areas near Ahmed’s farm. A large number of those munitions failed to explode on impact, creating a new threat to residents already reeling from 5 years of war, famine and an economic blockade. The use, production, sale, and transfer of cluster munitions is prohibited under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international agreement recognized by over 100 countries, but rejected by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Saudi Arabia is estimated to have dropped thousands of tons of U.S.-made weapons in al-Jawf over the past 100 days alone. Al-Jawf is an oil-rich province that lies in Yemen’s north-central reaches along the Saudi border. The aerial campaign is likely a last-ditch effort to stem the tide of battlefield success by local volunteer fighters who teamed with Houthi forces to recapture large swaths of al-Jawf and Marib provinces. That campaign, for all intents and purposes, has failed.

An unexploded bomb dropped by a Saudi warplane is recovered from a pomegranate farm in the Jamilah district in Sadaa. Courtesy | YEMAC

On Wednesday, the Houthis announced that their military operation – dubbed “God Overpowered Them” – was complete and that al-Jawf was free of Saudi occupation. According to Houthi sources, more than 1,200 Saudi-led coalition fighters were killed or injured during the operation and dozens of Saudi troops, including officers, were captured. The Houthis also struck deep into Saudi territory in retaliation for the more than 250 Saudi airstrikes that were carried out during the campaign. In multiple operations, ballistic missiles and drones were used to target facilities inside Saudi Arabia, according to officials.

Saudi losses haven’t been limited to al-Jawf either. Last week, Marib province, which lies adjacent to Yemen’s capital of Sana’a, was recaptured following heavy battles with Saudi forces. Local tribal fighters were able to clear strategic areas in the Sirwah District with the assistance of Houthi forces and take control of the town of Tabab Al-Bara and the strategic Tala Hamra hills that overlook Marib city. Both the Saudi-led coalition and its allied militants initially admitted defeat but later described their loss as a tactic withdrawal.

Marib is now the second Yemeni governorate adjacent to Saudi Arabia to fall under the control by Yemen’s resistance forces in the last month, al-Jawf being the first. Both provinces have strategic importance to Saudi Arabia and could serve as a potential launch point for operations into Saudi Arabia’s Najran province.

“Saudi [Arabia] and America have planted our land with death”

The highly populated urban areas of Sana’a, Sadaa, Hodeida, Hajjah, Marib, and al-Jawf have been subjected to incomprehensible bombing campaigns during the Saudi-led war on Yemen, which turns five on March 26. The sheer scale of that campaign, which often sees hundreds of separate airstrikes carried out every day, coupled with its indiscriminate nature, has left Yemen one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world.

Since 2015, when the war began, coalition warplanes have conducted more than 250,000 airstrikes in Yemen, according to the Yemeni Army. 70 percent of those airstrikes have hit civilian targets. Thousands of tons of weapons, most often supplied by the United States, have been dropped on hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, farms, factories, bridges, and power and water treatment plants and have left unexploded ordnances scattered across densely populated areas.

A significant proportion of those ordnances are still embedded in the ground or amid the rubble of bombed-out buildings, posing a threat to both civilians and the environment. As Man’e Abu Rasein, a father who lost two sons to an unexploded cluster bomb in August of 2018 puts it: “Saudi [Arabia] and America have planted our land with death.” Abu Rasein’s sons, Rashid, ten, and Hussein, eight, were grazing their family’s herd of sheep in the village of al-Ghol north of Sadaa, far from any battlefield. They spotted an unusual looking object and like most curious young boys, picked it up to investigate. But the object they found was no toy, it was an unexploded cluster munition dropped by a Saudi jet. After hearing an explosion, the boys’ family went to investigate and found them lying dead, covered in blood.

A group of children in Sahar district inspects a cluster bomb dropped by a Saudi warplane at a farm in Sadaa, March 18, 2019. Abdullah Azzi | MintPress News

Since March of 2015, Human Rights Watch has recorded more than 15 incidents involving six different types of cluster munitions in at least five of Yemen’s 21 governorates. According to the United Nations Development Program’s Emergency Mine Action Project, some of the heaviest mine and ERW (explosive remnants of war) contamination is reported in northern governorates bordering Saudi Arabia, southern coastal governorates and west-central governorates, all areas surrounding Houthi-dominated regions of Yemen. Since 2018 alone, the UNDP has cleared nearly 9,000 landmines and over 116,000 explosive remnants in Yemen.

From the Yemeni war of 1994 to the six wars in Sadaa, Yemenis have suffered several wars over the last three decades. Yet thanks to saturation of U.S. weapons, the ongoing war has brought death on a toll not seen in Yemen for hundreds of years. In Sadaa, the Saudi coalition has a significant legacy of unexploded ordinances, up to one million according to figures provided to MintPress by the Yemeni Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC), an organization backed by the United Nations.

The Project Manager of YEMAC identified heavy cluster munition contamination in Saada, al-Jawf, Amran, Hodeida, Mawit, and Sanaa governorates, including in Sanaa city. Contamination was also reported in Marib. For the time being, YEMAC is the only organization working throughout the country during the ongoing war. Their teams are confronted with a very complex situation, disposing of both conventional munitions and bombs dropped from airplanes, including explosive remnants of war rockets, artillery shells, mortars, bombs, hand grenades, landmines, cluster bombs, and other sub-munitions and similar explosives.

Saudi Arabia’s toxic legacy

In addition to killing and injuring hundreds of civilians, American-made weapons have exposed Yemen’s people to highly toxic substances on a level not seen since the now-infamous use of radioactive depleted uranium by the United States in Fallujah, Iraq, which to this day is causing abnormally high rates of cancer and birth defects.

The hazardous chemicals from Saudi Coalition military waste, including radioactive materials, fuel hydrocarbons, and heavy metals, has already led to outbreaks of disease. Vehicles abandoned on battlefields, usually in various states of destruction, contain toxic substances including PCBs, CFCs, DU residue, heavy metals, unexploded ordnances, asbestos and mineral oils. Hundreds of these military scraps remain publicly accessible in Nihm, al-Jawf, Serwah, Marib and throughout Yemen.

Aside from the threat they pose to life and limb, unexploded ordnances contain toxic substances like RDX, TNT, and heavy metals which release significant levels of toxic substances into the air, soil and water. According to both the Ministry of Water and Environment and the Ministry of Health, which have undertaken environmental assessments on the impact of urban bombing, high levels of hazardous waste and air pollutants are already present in a populated areas.

Alongside the still unknown quantities of more conventional weapons remnants in Yemen, the waste from the cleanup of bombed-out buildings has been found to be especially contaminated with hazardous materials, including asbestos which is used in military applications for sound insulation, fireproofing and wiring among other things. Fires and heavy smoke billowing over heavily populated civilian areas following Saudi bombing runs also pose an imminent threat to human health. A common sight in many Yemeni cities since the war began, these thick clouds of toxic smoke sometimes linger for days and coat both surfaces and people’s lungs with hazardous toxins like PAHs, dioxins and furans, materials which have been shown to cause cancer, liver problems and birth defects.

Before the war began, most hazardous materials were trucked to Sanaa where they were separated and disposed of properly at the sprawling al-Azragein treatment plant south of the capital. But that plant was among the first targets destroyed by Saudi airstrikes after the war began. After it was bombed, puddles and heaps of toxic material were left to mix with rainwater and seep into surrounding areas. Yemeni researchers are still trying to grasp the scale of pollution from biohazardous chemicals at the site.

Although a comprehensive nationwide environmental assessment of the impact of urban bombing in Yemen has yet to be completed, high levels of hazardous waste and air pollutants have been recorded by many hospitals and environmental agencies. Some idea of the long-term effects can also be gleaned from studies carried out in areas where similar toxins have been used, particularly by the United States in Fallujah, Iraq and in Vietnam, where scientific assessments have shown increased cases of birth defects, cancer and other diseases, including in U.S. veterans.

In southern Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates operate largely unchallenged, the coalition has been disposing of military waste in large trenches devoid of any measures to mitigate potential toxic fallout. Waste is dumped into large holes and either detonated or simply buried, inevitably contaminating soil and groundwater according to data from the UN Environment Program.

Yemen’s coastline hasn’t been immune either. The country’s General Authority for Environmental Protection said Wednesday that the Saudi-led coalition is dumping toxic and polluted waste on the shores of Yemen and in Yemeni regional waters, causing great damage to the marine environment, the deaths of fish and marine organisms, and in some cases, actually changing the color of the sea to a toxic green. The agency stated that in addition to dumping toxic waste, the coalition was allowing unsafe fishing practices such as marine dredging and the use of explosives by foreign ships, destroying the marine environment and coral reefs.

One hundred years to safety

Thousands of displaced Yemenis cannot fathom returning home due to the large number of explosives potentially hidden in and around their houses. Removing them all would require an end to the U.S.-backed war and economic blockade. Special equipment and armored machines such as armored excavators would need to be brought in, a slim prospect in a country unable to secure even the basic staples of life.

The remnants of a cluster bomb dropped by Saudi-led coalition warplanes inside a Yemeni home. March 18, 2020. Abdullah Azzi| MintPress News

Explosive remnants do not just impact lives and limbs, they prevent the use of potentially productive agricultural land and the rebuilding of important infrastructure. Like many border areas in Saada and Hajjah, fertile soil in al-Jawf and Marib has become so environmentally polluted since the war began that it could take decades to recover. Explosive remnants also prevent access to vital resources like water and firewood, cripples the movement of residents, including children traveling to school, and prevents aid from reaching those in need.

Even if the Saudi-led coalition were to stop the war immediately and lift the blockade, its legacy of indiscriminate bombing on such a massive scale will be felt for years to come. Due to the intensity of the bombing, experts at the United Nations Development Program’s Yemeni Executive Mine Action Center estimate that clearance could take at least 100 years in larger cities. Despite these dangers, desperate families with nowhere to go do not waste a lull in the barrage of Saudi airstrikes or a short-lived ceasefire to attempt to return home.

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

March 20, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

This Isn’t a “Saudi-Russian” Oil War. It’s a Saudi & Russian War on Shale

MBS couldn’t get Russia to join him in aggressive cuts, so he forced it to join him in aggressive pumping — but Russia is not his target

By Marko Marjanović | Anti-Empire | March 11, 2020

The media is so eager to see Putin behind everything that it can’t see it is the Saudis who started this, and it’s US oil they’re targeting exactly as they already did once before.

At OPEC+ in Vienna Russia offered to extend the current cuts for another three months and then meet again. Saudi Arabia instead wanted to take another 1.5 million bpd from the market.

When Russia balked the Saudis made a 180-degree turn and declined the extension of existing cuts, slapped a big discount on their oil, and started warming up their spare capacity to start flooding the market come April 1st when the current OPEC+ quotas expire.

The 67-year old Putin wanted to continue the current neither here nor there approach. The 34-year old MBS wanted to try something radical and new. At least ostensibly he wanted more cuts that could lift all producers for which he needed Russia’s cooperation. When he couldn’t get it he instead went the flooding route for which he did not.

The media did MBS a huge favor by failing to notice it was he — the supposed US ally — who blew up the OPEC+ cuts and not Putin. (A typical headline: How Putin spurned the Saudis to start a war on America’s shale oil industry)

The media committed another mistake. It keeps deluding itself this is “Saudi-Russian” war where US energy is merely collateral damage:

This is silly. Just because MBS started flooding after talks with Russia didn’t go his way the media assumes his pumping is directed against Russia. When in fact every indication is that he wanted Russia as a partner, if not in radical cuts for which he needed its acquiescence, then at least in radical pumping for which he did not.

Whatever Russia’s previous preferred path it now has no choice but to fight for market share which will only increase the pressure on shale further. In other words, despite Moscow’s unwillingness the Saudis have in the end added Russian strength to their own, just for a different strategy.

Sure enough, Saudi Arabia is not in a great state to wage a long campaign, but it may not have to. Shale has never been weaker. The Saudis tried to drive it out before, between 2014 and 2017, and failed. Frackers found ways to slash cost and financial markets propped them up with even more loans.

Neither is likely this time around. Most cost-cutting that was possible has likely already been made, and with the next great recession and a drop in demand around the corner financial markets aren’t standing in line to get into energy that barely makes sense even now

Riyadh needs $85 oil to balance its budget. It can not hope to outlast Russia which can live on $40. But a 6-month flooding campaign to see if it can’t, together with Russia, collapse US shale isn’t the dumbest idea ever.

In fact, precisely the fact MBS needs oil at $85 is what would make him more desperate to try radical means to get there, whether they’re deep cuts or unrestricted production.

Call it the MBS stress test of the US oil bubble in an election year. Truly Trump has great friends…

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

US marines arrive on Yemen’s Socotra to support UAE forces

MEMO | March 9, 2020

A new batch of US Marines arrived on the Yemeni island of Socotra on Saturday, according to local sources, installing Patriot defence systems.

Sanaa Post reported that the American soldiers were received by the “occupying” UAE forces at their headquarters on the island.

There is speculation that the US intends to establish its own military base amid reports that America had sent military experts to equip observation points to deploy radars and air defence points on the strategically located island overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

US forces had previously arrived on Socotra in December of last year and reportedly started installing a Patriot missile system in order to protect the Saudi and Emirati forces on the island at the time.

According to the sources, on 21 December of last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman ordered the UN-recognised, exiled Yemeni government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to lease the entire island to the UAE for a period of about 95 years. Saudi and Emirati forces began to arrive on the island in April 2018, the Saudi deployment was reportedly coordinated with the Yemeni government, whilst the UAE arrived without prior coordination with the Saudi-backed Yemeni authorities.

March 9, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Saudi arms imports increased by 130%

MEMO | March 9, 2020

The global arms industry has enjoyed a major boon period over recent years with the rise of tension and military conflict across the globe.

The US has seen the largest financial windfall from the sale of arms while Saudi Arabia continues to be the world’s largest importer of arms according to a new report released today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

According to SIPRI, which keeps the only publicly available database on the transfer of arms, “arms imports by countries in the Middle East increased by 61 per cent between 2010-14 and 2015-19, and accounted for 35 per cent of total global arms imports over the past five years.”

Saudi Arabia has seen a 130 per cent increase compared with the previous five-year period making it the world’s largest arms importer in 2015-19. The volume of weapons purchased by Riyadh accounted for 12 per cent of the global arms imports in that period.

The USA and the UK remain the main source of arms for the kingdom. A total of 73 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s arms imports came from America while 13 per cent of its arsenal were supplied by UK, despite major concerns in both countries over Riyadh’s military intervention in Yemen.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has been militarily involved in Libya as well as Yemen over the past five years, was the eighth-largest arms importer in the world between 2015-19. The US supplied two-thirds of the arms imported by Abu Dhabi.

SIPRI noted that in 2019, when foreign military involvement in Libya was condemned by the United Nations Security Council, the UAE had major arms import deals ongoing with a number of other countries including, the UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.

Turkish arms imports were 48 per cent lower between 2015-2019 than in the previous five-year period, even though its military was fighting Kurdish rebels and was involved in the conflicts in Libya and Syria. The SIPRI report explained that the reason for this decrease was due to delays in deliveries of some major arms; the cancellation of a large deal with the USA for combat aircraft; and developments in the capability of the Turkish arms industry.

The main supplier of weapons worldwide is still the US, which has increased its arms exports by 23 per cent, according to SIPRI.

March 9, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Hamas condemns continued detention of Palestinian officials in Saudi Arabia

Press TV – March 9, 2020

A Hamas spokesman has condemned the continued detention and prosecution of Palestinian figures in Saudi Arabia over their support for the Palestinian resistance movement, urging Riyadh to immediately release them.

“The national and pan-Arabism duty requires honoring those people and not trying them in this way,” Hazim Qassim told Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television on Sunday.

He added that Arab countries should reinforce the Palestinian cause and “not weaken its resistance with such trials”.

The spokesman said Hamas has contacted various parties to secure the release of Palestinian detainees in the kingdom, expressing hope that Saudi authorities would respond to those efforts and release the detainees.

His remarks came as a Saudi court on Sunday held the first hearing in the case of 68 Palestinian and Jordanian detainees.

According to al-Mayadeen, the detainees are charged with “supporting terrorism and financing it” and belonging to “a criminal terrorist entity”.

Senior Hamas official Muhammad al-Khudari and his son Hani, who were arrested last April, were among those who stood trial on Sunday.

Al-Khudari represented Hamas in Saudi Arabia between the mid-1990s and 2003. He has held other important positions in the Palestinian resistance movement as well.

Saudi Arabia’s repressive measures against the Palestinian resistance movement as well as those seeking to collect donations for people living in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip come as the kingdom and Israel are believed to be planning to publicize their secret ties.

Gaza has been blockaded by the Israeli regime since 2007.

Last month, Saudi authorities launched a new campaign of “arbitrary” arrests against Palestinian expatriates on charges of supporting Hamas.

The Prisoners of Conscience, a non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced on February 12 that the kingdom had detained a number of Palestinians, including the relatives or children of those imprisoned last April for the same reason.

Over the past two years, Saudi authorities have deported more than 100 Palestinians from the kingdom, mostly on charges of supporting Hamas financially, politically, or through social networking sites.

March 9, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Yemenis encircle strategic city in al-Jawf as Saudi countermeasures fail: Report

Press TV – February 29, 2020

Yemen’s armed forces have encircled the strategic city of al-Hazm – the capital city of the northern al-Jawf province – as Saudi attempts to break Yemeni advances failed, a report says.

The Beirut-based al-Akhbar newspaper reported Saturday that the advances by Yemeni forces, led by the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement, continue towards the strategic city and that major Saudi positions surrounding al-Hazm have fallen.

A tribal source loyal to Ansarullah told al-Akhbar that advances are currently ongoing northwest of the city, adding that a Saudi counteroffensive seeking to recapture the al-Ghail region south of al-Hazm had failed.

The source added that the Yemeni forces have gained control over a number of positions overlooking provincial government buildings in the city.

Up to 70 percent of the province is currently under the control of the Yemeni forces, he added.

According to the report, Saudi Arabia has sent dozens of military vehicles along with hundreds of mercenaries from the central Ma’rib and southern Shabwah province in a bid to push back the Yemenis advances.

Saudi Arabia has also sought to win the loyalty of Yemeni tribes against the Yemeni forces in the region by offering money, the report added.

Yemen’s al-Jawf province had been under Riyadh’s control for up to 50 years.

Due to Saudi intervention and influence, al-Jawf province was effectively deprived of using its oil reserves, which are largest in Yemen, and attracting needed investment, it added.

According to the report, Saudi Arabia expelled as many as 370,000 Yemeni workers from the kingdom in 2013 to put pressure on the former Yemeni government shortly after Yemen’s Safer oil company started operating the first oil well in al-Jawf province.

Saudi Arabia launched its war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing back to power the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and crushing the popular Houthi movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi war has claimed more than 100,000 lives since the war broke out.

February 29, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | Leave a comment

Once Saudi Allies, Tribes in Eastern Yemen’s Al-Mahrah Are Now Battling Saudi Forces

By Ahmed Abdulkareem | MintPress News | February 28, 2020

AL-MAHRAH, YEMEN — Saudi Arabia’s continued efforts to occupy Yemen’s province of al-Mahrah, which lies on the country’s border with Oman, appear only to have emboldened al-Mahrah tribes, who have resorted to using military tactics to drive out Saudi forces from their province. The tribes are fueled by a collective social desire for sovereignty stemming from their long history as an independent region and a local culture that remains wary of foreign forces.

On Wednesday, Saudi troops in Nashton Port in al-Mahrah were subjected to an explosive device targeting a Saudi military convoy in Fujeet District killing multiple troops including members of a local Saudi-funded militia. The attack came after Saudi forces occupied al Shehn port last week.

Since 2017, when Saudi forces once again entered the isolated province, the deep-seated sense of local identity spurred a growing opposition movement. The opposition developed and took the form of festivals and protests near Saudi military sites which included speeches, the reading of poetry and the playing of patriotic music.

In the past year, Mahri tribes have increasingly confronted encroachments on local sovereignty. Several confrontations have led to violence – including the al-Anfaq incident in November 2018, clashes near the Omani border in March 2019, and a shoot out at al-Labib checkpoint in April.

Their military deployment in al-Mahrah has given the Saudis de facto military control over the governorate. Today, Saudi Arabia controls al-Mahrah’s airport and Saudi forces have assumed a role akin to a state security apparatus in the province as air reconnaissance and other operations are launched from a command center at the base, bypassing even its allies. In addition to border crossings and the main seaport, dozens of Saudi bases have been established in Hat District, Lusick in Hawf District, Jawdah in Huswain District, and Darfat in Sayhut District.

Moreover, the militarization of al-Mahrah by Saudi forces has affectedthe province’s social cohesion and identity. Maharis were already divided between opposing the presence of Saudi forces and supporting it. The Saudi have reinforced this division by recruiting from and distributing weapons to certain tribes, changing the social fabric of the area which is likely to lead to open internal conflict.

Despite the fact that local opposition has prevented the construction of several military outposts, Saudi forces have continued to pursue their strategic interests in southern Yemen, including the construction of an oil shipping port in al-Mahrah on the coast of the Arabian Sea. This has resulted in renewed calls for military resistance against the Saudi presence, with opposition leaders declaring their intention to establish local anti-Saudi forces.

Al-Mahrah is Yemen’s second-largest province. It is bordered by Oman to the east, Saudi Arabia to the north, and the Arabian Sea to the south. It’s Empty Quarter, a vast desert, covers much of southern al-Mahrah. The governorate also contains a mountainous region in the east that is seasonally covered with lush green foliage. The province is a largely peaceful area that has been mostly spared from Yemen’s five-year war.

Al-Mahrah’s tribes vow resistance

Attacks from Al-Mahrah’s tribes have flared up as recently as last week after Saudi forces began construction on a number of new security checkpoints and military camps in al Shehn District. Last Monday, Saudi forces attempted to storm the town of Shahn. Armed helicopters, ground vehicles, and both Saudi troops and local mercenaries were deployed in the assault which was ultimately repelled. Later, Saudi forces succeeded in occupying the area after resorting to a plan played by the ousted president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.

Prior to Monday’s Saudi military incursion, local tribal fighters had withdrawn from Shehn after an agreement between Saudi forces and local tribes was reached following tribal mediation which stipulated that tribal fighters in the town would be replaced by forces loyal to the Saudi-led Coalition. The tribes say they were deceived into withdrawing ahead of the Saudi advance.

In the wake of recent events, Ali bin Salem al-Huraizy, al-Mahrah’s former deputy governor who plays a critical role as a figurehead in the popular opposition movement against Saudi Arabia, criticized ousted Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi saying, “I did not expect the treachers.. to authorize the Saudi occupation forces to crush al-Mahrah people… who were defending the independence and sovereignty of the country.” The deputy head of the Al-Mahra Peoples’ Sit-in Committee, Aboud Heboud Qumsit expressed similar disdain, saying: ”you [Hadi] sold yourself to Saudi [Arabia], please do not sell the Yemeni people and the whole country to Saudi Arabia.”

The Al-Mahra Peoples’ Sit-in Committee has said that Saudi actions constitute a flagrant violation of Yemeni sovereignty and national identity. The group said in a statement: “In this dangerous turning point of our honorable history, we call on all the tribes of the province, their sheiks and their dignitaries, and their citizens to unite alongside all the liberals of the province to prevent the Saudi occupation from imposing its domination over Al-Mahrah.”

Hadi recently issued a decree appointing Muhammad Ali Yasser, a parliamentarian loyal to the Saudi-led Coalition, to be the governor of Mahrah instead of sitting governor, Ba Kreit. The move is seen as an attempt to implement a new Saudi strategy, according to al-Mahrah residents.  Mahris have a unique history of running their own affairs. Saudi Arabia, however, has used “internationally recognized president Hadi ” to force the replacement of uncooperative officials in al-Mahrah and appoint pliant replacements, activists say.

Despite having a Saudi proxy as governor and thousands of Saudi troops and their proxy forces deployed around in and around al-Mahrah, the Saudi military presence in al-Mahrah appears to be increasingly challenged in the face of growing peaceful opposition and increasing military resistance.

Saudis levy punitive measures on al-Mahrah

Saudi forces have also imposed trade restrictions on al-Mahrah. Cargo entering Yemen through al-Mahrah has been confiscated by Saudi officials according to businessmen who spoke to MintPress. Local residents are concerned that the move is part of a broader effort to stifle al-Mahrah economically and push it towards starvation, just like the rest of Yemen.

Earlier this week Saudi forces arrested several Yemeni businessmen and truck drivers attempting to import goods into al-Mahrah. The drivers included Pakistani and Syrian nationals, and their trucks, which carried official authorization from their country of origin, were confiscated by Saudi officials according to local Yemen businessman.

After 2015, when the war began, most of Yemen’s official points of entry fell into coalition control. However, Shehn border crossing in al-Mahrah remains one of the only routes for traders to ship goods into Yemen. The customs revenues from the crossing have bolstered the governorate’s budget and allowed it to pay local civil servant salaries, unlike most other governorates in Yemen that have been left nearly penniless since the war began.

Al-Mahrah’s Shehn and Sarfait border crossings with Oman have been under the control of local tribes since 2015 when they took advantage of a security vacuum following the withdrawal of government security forces due to the Saudi-led coalition military campaign.

Saudi ambitions in Al-Mahrah date back decades

In 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition war on Yemen began, Riyadh revived its aspirations for the construction of an oil pipeline that would allow the kingdom to transport oil directly to the Arabian Sea, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. The costs related to exporting Saudi oil would be reduced by allowing tankers to avoid the Bab al-Mandab and Hormuz straits, both vulnerable to political strife and regional enemies.

In fact, Saudi Arabia’s aspirations in Al-Mahrah date back to the end of the last century. In the 1990s, Saudi Arabia sought to build influence in al-Mahrah as part of its ambitions to build an oil pipeline through the district to the Arabian Sea. And for that, tribal sheiks were granted Saudi residency, travel documents, and financial benefits.

Moreover, in the 1980s, Saudi Arabia launched negotiations with former South Yemeni President Ali Nasser Mohammed to build the pipeline, but the negotiation failed after Ali Nasser refused, stating the pipeline would threaten the state’s sovereignty. In the 1990s, in the wake of Yemeni unification, the Saudis pressed the Yemeni government to permit the deployment of Saudi forces into a 4-kilometer buffer zone around the proposed pipeline route to maintain security. The Riyadh project was shelved after Sana’a rejected it once again.

In late 2017, Riyadh began deploying armed forces in al-Mahrah under the premise of combating smuggling across the Omani border. However, al-Mahrah residents see the presence of Saudi troops in the region as malign and colonial. According to people who have organized an open sit-in since 2018, smuggling is just a pretext for a Saudi takeover of the province.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE also claim that arms smuggling operations by Ansarullah (Houthis) are being carried out from Oman into Yemen via the al-Mahrah border crossing, though they have provided no evidence to back their claim, which Oman has repeatedly denied.

Moreover, in addition to an electrified fence along a portion of the border built by Oman in 2013, U.S. special operations forces have also deployed to al-Mahrah in 2018 to support the coalition’s alleged anti-smuggling operations according to diplomatic sources cited by the Sana’a Center.

In fact, despite their support for the Saudi-led coalition and being free from the presence of Houthi fighters, Yemen’s southern provinces, including not only al-Mahrah but also the strategic island of Socotra, have been fully controlled and managed by Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Some analysts believe that the Saudi Coalition’s continued military presence in al-Mahrah may also be intended to cordon off Oman, which enjoys long borders and solid relations with Yemen. Much to the dismay of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Oman also enjoys cordial relations with Saudi rival Iran, a relationship that the Coalition is eager to undermine.

As a result, Oman has supported popular protests demanding the removal of Saudi forces. Recently, Muscat arranged meetings in the Omani capital between the protest leaders, European and American officials, and representatives from international organizations. Oman allowed Western journalists to cross into al-Mahrah without visas or stamps.

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

February 28, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

US behind annihilation of Yemeni air defense missiles during Saleh’s reign: Report

Press TV – February 27, 2020

A Yemeni security source says the United States destroyed the country’s air defense missiles during the reign of slain Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh over allegations that the weapons would fall into al-Qaeda hands in case the then Yemeni administration was toppled.

The unnamed source told Yemen’s official Saba news agency on Thursday that an American delegation consisting of Program Manager in the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) with the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Dennis F. Hadrick, liaison officer Santo Polizzi, technical expert Niels Talbot, Deputy Director of Programs in the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism at the US Department of State, Laurie Freeman, and the military attaché at the US embassy in Sana’a held meetings with Yemeni Ministry of Defense officials at the time to pressure them to hand over the missiles in preparation for their complete destruction. Their demands were initially turned down though.

The source added that Brigadier Ammar Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, a nephew of President Saleh and then deputy director of the National Security Bureau, was then tasked with persuading Yemeni military officials to agree with the surrender and annihilation of the air defense missiles in exchange for hefty sums of money.

The Yemeni security source highlighted that the American delegation began collecting and disabling the missiles in August 2004, and it agreed to continue negotiations through the National Security Agency since the Yemeni Ministry of Defense refused to deal with such talks at the time.

The source said two batches of the Yemeni air defense missiles were detonated in al-Jadaan and Wadi Halhalan areas of Yemen’s central province of Ma’rib on February 28, 2005 and July 27, 2009.

The munitions, which included shoulder-launched and surface-to-air SAM-7, SAM-14 as well as SAM-16 missiles, were destroyed with the assistance of the American company Ronco.

On Sunday, Yemeni armed forces unveiled four domestically-built long-range, surface-to-air missile defense systems, which could act as game changers and alter the course of battle in the face of the deadly campaign led by Saudi Arabia against Yemen.

The president of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Mahdi al-Mashat, who was speaking at a ceremony in the capital Sana’a identified the systems as Fater-1 (Innovator-1), Thaqib-1 (Piercer-1), Thaqib-2 and Thaqib-3.

The systems have entered service following successful tests, the official announced.

Mashat praised the efforts by the Yemeni Ministry of Defense as regards the development and modernization of the military systems in order to deter or, if need be, confront the enemy.

“The new defense systems will change the course of the battle against the coalition of aggression, and pave the ground for the introduction of more sophisticated systems in order to engage enemy targets,” Mashat stated.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing back to power the government of former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and crushing the Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past nearly five years.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have purchased billions of dollars’ worth of weapons from the United States, France and the United Kingdom in the war on Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition has been widely criticized for the high civilian death toll from its bombing campaign. The alliance has carried out nearly 20,500 air raids in Yemen, according to the data collected by the Yemen Data Project.

The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

February 27, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment