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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

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

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

UAE, Israel officials conspiring against Iran at secret White House meeting

Press TV – February 5, 2020

The US, Israel and the UAE held a secret meeting at the White House to conspire against Iran, a report reveals.

According an Axios report on Tuesday, the secret meeting was held on December 17, 2019.

The sit-down, which involved a nonaggression pact between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, was referred to as an attempt to forge closer ties between the two.

The Israeli team was led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, and the UAE was represented by Yousef al-Otaiba, the country’s envoy to the US, who maintains close ties with Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

The American officials engaged in the process were national security adviser Robert O’Brien, his deputy, Victoria Coates, and US special envoy for Iran Brian Hook.

In a tweet on December 21, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed pointed to what he called “Islam’s reformation,” adding that, “an Arab-Israeli alliance is taking shape in the Middle East.”

The tweet was responded by the Israeli premier a day later, urging Abu Dhabi to remain reticent over the matter for now.

“The UAE Foreign Minister, Abdullah bin Zayed, spoke about a new alliance in the Middle East: An Israeli-Arab alliance. … I can only say that this remark is the result of the ripening of many contacts and efforts, which at the moment, and I emphasize at the moment, would be best served by silence,” Netanyahu said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting.

The UAE-Israel alliance comes as no surprise in the wake of the Muslim country’s support for the US so-called “peace” initiative between Israel and Palestinians, dubbed “deal of the century.”

Rejected by Palestinians and the world’s Muslim population, the deal recognizes Jerusalem al-Quds as the “undivided capital” of the Zionist regime.

It also amounts to violation of the fundamental rights of the Palestinians by disregarding UN resolutions and international law.

Washington has previously voiced support for closer ties between its allies in West Asia, namely the Israeli regime, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

As a senior White House official put it, “while the United States would certainly welcome expanding relationships between our critical allies and partners in the Middle East, we’re not going to detail private diplomatic conversations, nor do we have anything to announce.”

February 4, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Sudanese promised jobs in UAE but taken to war in Libya, Yemen

Job seekers wait outside the Amanda travel agency in order to get their money back in Khartoum. (Photo by MEE)
Press TV – February 2, 2020

Sudanese youths have revealed that the UAE pledged them jobs with high salaries in the Persian Gulf small country, but instead took them to Libya which is embroiled in a war between rival groups.

The United Arab Emirates is the key supporter of renegade general Khalifa Haftar which is leading a grueling military offensive against the government in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Several Sudanese youths have told the Middle East Eye that they were promised to work as security guards in the UAE on a salary of around $2,175 per month, but were instead sent to hostile areas in Libya.

Abdul Rahman Alzaki, a 34-year-old IT engineer, went to visit the Amanda travel agency in the center of the Sudanese capital that had placed the advertisement.

He was told the work was for the Emirati security firm Black Shields and would be located in Abu Dhabi or another UAE city.

Following several job interviews, Alzaki paid around 80,000 Sudanese pounds ($950) to Amanda after he was told the salary had been confirmed and that the travel agency would transport him to the UAE.

He traveled to the Emirates, but his dream soon turned into a nightmare after he discovered that he would in fact be receiving three months of military training and then be sent to Libya or Yemen.

The UAE wanted him and other Sudanese youths to protect oil refineries and strategic locations in the area held by Haftar, he told the MEE.

The UAE is among several countries supporting Haftar in his campaign to oust the UN-recognized government in Tripoli. The Arab country is also a key party to a Saudi-led coalition waging war on Yemen.

Around 3,000 Sudanese are believed to have been deceived by Black Shields, which sub-contracted companies such as Amanda advertising for the Emirati company.

“When we reached the Emirates we realized that we had been cheated, as the company had taken our passports, mobile phones and everything, and sent us to a military training camp called Zayed Military City” in Abu Dhabi, Alzaki said.

The MEE said it visited the Amanda travel agency in downtown Khartoum on Wednesday, but the agency was closed and phone calls to the manager and other employees of the agency went unanswered.

Dozens of job seekers were waiting outside the agency in order to try to get their money back, the online website said.

Boraey Mohamed Ahmed said he and other Sudanese youths had been subjected to extensive cheating by mafia companies working between the UAE and Sudan.

Circulation of the story on social media has ignited protests against the UAE and its policies in Sudan and in the region.

Thousands of Sudanese protesters have waged a wide campaign on social media against UAE policies, calling on the government to maintain the dignity of the Sudanese.

On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside the UAE embassy and the Sudanese Foreign Ministry in Khartoum, demanding the return of the Sudanese youths.

Chanting anti-Emirate slogans, the protesters also called for the return of Sudanese soldiers from the war in Yemen.

Protester Marwa Hassan criticized the policies of the UAE on Sudan and the region as whole.

“Why do they want to use our people as mercenaries in Yemen and Libya, we have nothing to do with their interests in these countries, why are they exploiting the poverty of our youth to use them badly like this,” she shouted.

February 2, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen registers as lobbyist for Emirates in Washington

Press TV – January 30, 2020

A former US congresswoman has been registered as a foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to lobby US officials regarding “export controls and sanctions, and foreign and defense policies.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s registration comes as the United Arab Emirates has managed so far to stave off US congressional restrictions on arms sales over its controversial role in the deadly Saudi war on Yemen.

The former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee was registered as lobbyist to represent Abu Dhabi earlier this month.

She will “provide outreach to US government officials and counsel on policy issues,” according to a Justice Department filing.

According to the document, she will also be counseling officials on “human rights, trade policies, foreign media registration, and strengthening trilateral relations and regional security.”

Ros-Lehtinen, who is known as a pro-Israel hawk on Iran and Latin America, has passed her one-year cooling-off period for retired lawmakers and became eligible to lobby her former colleagues.

She was registered on Jan. 21 by US lobby firm — Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld — which is one of over a dozen lobbying firms the UAE has under contract, according to al-Monitor.

Akin Gump, which has been lobbying for Abu Dhabi since 2007, campaigned last year for more US sanctions against Iran, the UAE’s role in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and arms sale.

The United Arab Emirates has been among the major buyers of US weapons, clinching a $1.8-billion arms deal with Washington last year.

Many countries, including Denmark, Finland, Germany and Belgium, have suspended arms exports to UAE either upon court orders or receiving evidence that the weapons were indeed used against civilians in Yemen.

According to a December 2018 report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi war has claimed the lives of more than 60,000 Yemenis since March 2015.

The war has also taken a heavy toll on the Arab country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says more than 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

January 30, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel participation in Expo 2020 Dubai amounts to normalization: Hamas

Press TV – January 20, 2020

Palestinian Islamic resistance movement Hamas has censured Israel’s presence in the Expo 2020, which is to be hosted by the United Arab Emirates’ city of Dubai, as a form of normalization between the Persian Gulf state and the Tel Aviv regime.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem, in a written statement released on Monday, slammed attempts by a number of Arab countries, particularly Persian Gulf littoral states, to bring out in the open their clandestine relations with the Israeli regime, calling on them to put an end to such efforts.

“Such a behavior encourages the Occupation to increase the level of its crimes against Palestinian people, and to step up its violations against the sanctities of our nation,” the statement added.

“The Zionist regime must remain the principal enemy of the [Palestinian] nation. The campaign against the regime and its policies, which aim to dent all opportunities for the nation’s awakening and development, must continue,” Qassem pointed out.

Israeli authorities are hoping to reach out to Arab peoples through participation in the Expo 2020 Dubai.

“To us, the added value is in the Arab and Muslim visitor,” Elazar Cohen, the Israeli foreign ministry’s point man for the expo, which is organized by the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), said on December 15 last year.

An auditorium below the pavilion will offer visitors an interactive multimedia experience, the ministry’s director general Yuval Rotem told AFP at the time.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the Israeli expo pavilion as part of “the continued progress of normalization with the Arab states,” alleging that building relations with Arab countries will push the Palestinians toward a ‘peace deal’ with the Israeli regime.

Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on November 6 that the UAE is expected to allow tourists holding Israeli passports to take part in the expo.

“Israeli and the UAE’s authorities have been in talks for a while in order to allow those with Israeli passports to attend the expo in Dubai,” an unnamed source within the expo’s management team told the daily at the time, adding, “These talks are happening because both sides want to see the expo turn into the biggest exhibition in the world.”

Another source said the event in Dubai could be a great pilot run during which Israeli tourists would be allowed into the country, and it can be a signal that the UAE “might leave its doors open to Israeli tourists permanently.”

Israeli foreign minister, Israel Katz, told a ministerial meeting in Jerusalem al-Quds on August 6 last year that he was working toward “transparent normalization and signed agreements” with a number of Arab Persian Gulf littoral states.

Arab countries — except for Jordan and Egypt — have no formal relations with the Israeli regime.

Israel’s trade with Persian Gulf states is estimated to stand at about $1 billion annually, according to a study published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in August 2018.

Jamal al-Suwaidi, founder of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, told the British newspaper The Guardian in an interview in March that the Palestinian issue is no longer at the top of the agenda among the Arab Persian Gulf states.

“The Palestinian cause is no longer at the forefront of Arabs’ interests, as it used to be for long decades,” he said. “It has sharply lost priority in light of the challenges, threats and problems that face countries of the region.”

January 20, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How an Israeli Spy-Linked Tech Firm Gained Access to the US Gov’t’s Most Classified Networks

Graphic by Claudio Cabrera
By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | January 14, 2020

If the networks of the U.S. military, the U.S. intelligence community and a slew of other U.S. federal agencies were running the software of a company with deep ties, not only to foreign companies with a history of espionage against the U.S. but also foreign military intelligence, it would — at the very least — garner substantial media attention. Yet, no media reports to date have noted that such a scenario exists on a massive scale and that the company making such software recently simulated the cancellation of the 2020 election and the declaration of martial law in the United States.

Earlier this month, MintPress News reported on the simulations for the U.S. 2020 election organized by the company Cybereason, a firm led by former members of Israel’s military intelligence Unit 8200 and advised by former top and current officials in both Israeli military intelligence and the CIA. Those simulations, attended by federal officials from the FBI, DHS and the U.S. Secret Service, ended in disaster, with the elections ultimately canceled and martial law declared due to the chaos created by a group of hackers led by Cybereason employees.

The first installment of this three part series delved deeply into Cybereason’s ties to the intelligence community of Israel and also other agencies, including the CIA, as well as the fact that Cybereason stood to gain little financially from the simulations given that their software could not have prevented the attacks waged against the U.S.’ electoral infrastructure in the exercise.

Also noted was the fact that Cybereason software could be potentially used as a backdoor by unauthorized actors, a possibility strengthened by the fact that the company’s co-founders all previously worked for firms that have a history of placing backdoors into U.S. telecommunications and electronic infrastructure as well as aggressive espionage targeting U.S. federal agencies.

The latter issue is crucial in the context of this installment of this exclusive MintPress series, as Cybereason’s main investors turned partners have integrated Cybereason’s software into their product offerings. This means that the clients of these Cybereason partner companies, the U.S. intelligence community and military among them, are now part of Cybereason’s network of more than 6 million endpoints that this private company constantly monitors using a combination of staff comprised largely of former intelligence operatives and an AI algorithm first developed by Israeli military intelligence.

Cybereason, thus far, has disclosed the following groups as lead investors in the company: Charles River Ventures (CRV), Spark Capital, Lockheed Martin and SoftBank. Charles River Ventures (CRV) was among the first to invest in Cybereason and has been frequently investing in other Israeli tech start-ups that were founded by former members of the elite Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200 over the last few years. Spark Capital, based in California, appears to have followed CRV’s interest in Cybereason since the venture capitalist who co-founded Spark and led its investment in Cybereason is a former CRV partner who still has close ties to the firm.

While CRV and Spark Capital seem like just the type of investors a company like Cybereason would attract given their clear interest in similar tech start-ups coming out of Israel’s cyber sector, Cybereason’s other lead investors — Lockheed Martin and SoftBank — deserve much more attention and scrutiny.

Cybereason widely used by US Government, thanks to Lockheed

“A match made in heaven,” trumpeted Forbes at the news of the Lockheed Martin-Cybereason partnership, first forged in 2015. The partnership involved not only Lockheed Martin becoming a major investor in the cybersecurity company but also in Lockheed Martin becoming the largest conduit providing Cybereason’s software to U.S. federal and military agencies.

Indeed, as Forbes noted at the time, not only did Lockheed invest in the company, it decided to integrate Cybereason’s software completely into its product portfolio, resulting in a “model of both using Cybereason internally, and selling it to both public and private customers.”

Cybereason CEO and former offensive hacker for Israeli military intelligence — Lior Div — said the following of the partnership:

Lockheed Martin invested in Cybereason’s protection system after they compared our solution against a dozen others from the top industry players. The US firm was so impressed with the results they got from Cybereason that they began offering it to their own customers – among them most of the top Fortune 100 companies, and the US federal government. Cybereason is now the security system recommended by LM to its customers for protection from a wide (sic) malware and hack attacks.”

Rich Mahler, then-director of Commercial Cyber Services at Lockheed Martin, told Defense Daily that the company’s decision to invest in Cybereason, internally use its software, and include the technology as part of Lockheed Martin’s cyber solutions portfolio were all “independent business decisions but were all coordinated and timed with the transaction.”

How independent each of those decisions actually was is unclear, especially given the timing of Lockheed Martin’s investment in Cybereason, whose close and troubling ties to Israeli intelligence as well as the CIA were noted in the previous installment of this investigative series. Indeed, about a year prior to their investment in the Israeli military intelligence-linked Cybereason, Lockheed Martin opened an office in Beersheba, Israel, where the IDF has its “cyberhub”. The office is focused not on the sales of armaments, but instead on technology.

Marilyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin’s CEO, said the following during her speech that inaugurated the company’s Beersheba office:

The consolidation of IDF Technical Units to new bases in the Negev Desert region is an important transformation of Israel’s information technology capability… We understand the challenges of this move. Which is why we are investing in the facilities and people that will ensure we are prepared to support for these critical projects. By locating our new office in the capital of the Negev we are well positioned to work closely with our Israeli partners and stand ready to: accelerate project execution, reduce program risk and share our technical expertise by training and developing in-country talent.”

Beersheba not only houses the IDF’s technology campus, but also the Israel National Cyber Directorate, which reports directly to Israel’s Prime Minister, as well as a high-tech corporate park that mostly houses tech companies with ties to Israel’s military intelligence apparatus. The area has been cited in several media reports as a visible indicator of the public-private merger between Israeli technology companies, many of them started by Unit 8200 alumni, and the Israeli government and its intelligence services. Lockheed Martin quickly became a key fixture in the Beersheba-based cyberhub.

Not long before Lockheed began exploring the possibility of opening an office in Beersheba, the company was hacked by individuals who used tokens tied to the company, RSA Security, whose founders have ties to Israel’s defense establishment and which is now owned by Dell, a company also deeply tied to the Israeli government and tech sector. The hack, perpetrated by still unknown actors, may have sparked Lockheed’s subsequent interest in Israel’s cybersecurity sector.

Soon after opening its Beersheba office, Lockheed Martin created its Israel subsidiary, Lockheed Martin Israel. Unlike many of the company’s other subsidiaries, this one is focused exclusively on “cybersecurity, enterprise information technology, data centers, mobile, analytics and cloud” as opposed to the manufacture and design of armaments.

Marillyn Hewson, center, poses with Israeli gov. officials at the opening of Lockheed Martin’s facility in Beersheba. Photo | Diego Mittleberg

Haden Land, then-vice president of research and technology for Lockheed Martin, told the Wall Street Journal that the creation of the subsidiary was largely aimed at securing contracts with the IDF and that the company’s Israel subsidiary would soon be seeking partnership and investments in pursuit of that end. Land oversaw the local roll-out of the company’s Israel subsidiary while concurrently meeting with Israeli government officials. According to the Journal, Land “oversees all of Lockheed Martin’s information-systems businesses, including defense and civilian commercial units” for the United States and elsewhere.

Just a few months later, Lockheed Martin partnered and invested in Cybereason, suggesting that Lockheed’s decision to do so was aimed at securing closer ties with the IDF. This further suggests that Cybereason still maintains close ties to Israeli military intelligence, a point expounded upon in great detail in the previous installment of this series.

Thus, it appears that not only does Lockheed Martin use Cybereason’s software on its own devices and on those it manages for its private and public sector clients, but it also decided to use the company’s software in this way out of a desire to more closely collaborate with the Israeli military in matters related to technology and cybersecurity.

The cozy ties between Lockheed Martin, one of the U.S. government’s largest private contractors, and the IDF set off alarm bells, then and now, for those concerned with U.S. national security. Such concern makes it important to look at the extent of Cybereason’s use by federal and military agencies in the United States through their contracting of Lockheed Martin’s Information Technology (IT) division. This is especially important considering Israeli military intelligence’s history of using espionage, blackmail and private tech companies against the U.S. government, as detailed here.

While the exact number of U.S. federal and military agencies using Cybereason’s software is unknown, it is widespread, with Lockheed Martin’s IT division as the conduit. Indeed, Lockheed Martin was the number one IT solutions provider to the U.S. federal government up until its IT division was spun off and merged with Leidos Holdings. As a consequence, Leidos is now the largest IT provider to the U.S. government and is also directly partnered with Cybereason in the same way Lockheed Martin was. Even after its IT division was spun off, Lockheed Martin continues to use Cybereason’s software in its cybersecurity work for the Pentagon and still maintains a stake in the company.

The Leidos-Lockheed Martin IT hybrid provides a litany of services to the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence. As investigative journalist Tim Shorrock noted for The Nation, the company does “everything from analyzing signals for the NSA to tracking down suspected enemy fighters for US Special Forces in the Middle East and Africa” and, following its merger with Lockheed and consequential partnership with Cybereason, became “the largest of five corporations that together employ nearly 80 percent of the private-sector employees contracted to work for US spy and surveillance agencies.” Shorrock also notes that these private-sector contractors now dominate the mammoth U.S. surveillance apparatus, many of them working for Leidos and — by extension — using Cybereason’s software.

Leidos’ exclusive use of Cybereason software for cybersecurity is also relevant for the U.S. military since Leidos runs a number of sensitive systems for the Pentagon, including its recently inked contract to manage the entire military telecommunications infrastructure for Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). In addition to maintaining the military telecom network, Cybereason is also directly partnered with World Wide Technologies (WWT) as of this past October. WWT manages cybersecurity for the U.S. Army, maintains DISA’s firewalls and data storage as well as the U.S. Air Force’s biometric identification system. WWT also manages contracts for NASA, itself a frequent target of Israeli government espionage, and the U.S. Navy. WWT’s partnership is similar to the Lockheed/Leidos partnership in that Cybereason’s software is now completely integrated into its portfolio, giving the company full access to the devices on all of these highly classified networks.

Many of these new partnerships with Cybereason, including its partnership with WWT, followed claims made by members of Israel’s Unit 8200 in 2017 that the popular antivirus software of Kaspersky Labs contained a backdoor for Russian intelligence, thereby compromising U.S. systems. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on the alleged backdoor but did not mention the involvement of Unit 8200 in identifying it, a fact revealed by the New York Times a week later.

Notably, none of the evidence Unit 8200 used to blame Kaspersky has been made public and Kaspersky noted that it was actually Israeli hackers that had been discovered planting backdoors into its platform prior to the accusation levied against Kaspersky by Unit 8200. As the New York Times noted:

Investigators later discovered that the Israeli hackers had implanted multiple back doors into Kaspersky’s systems, employing sophisticated tools to steal passwords, take screenshots, and vacuum up emails and documents.”

Unit 8200’s claims ultimately led the U.S. government to abandon Kaspersky’s products entirely in 2018, allowing companies like Cybereason (with its own close ties to Unit 8200) to fill the void. Indeed, the very agencies that banned Kaspersky now use cybersecurity software that employs Cybereason’s EDR system. No flags have been raised about Cybereason’s own collaboration with the very foreign intelligence service that first pointed the finger at Kaspersky and that previously sold software with backdoors to sensitive U.S. facilities.

SoftBank, Cybereason and the Vision Fund

While its entry into the U.S. market and U.S. government networks is substantial, Cybereason’s software is also run throughout the world on a massive scale through partnerships that have seen it enter into Latin American and European markets in major ways in just the last few months. It has also seen its software become prominent in Asia following a partnership with the company Trustwave. Much of this rapid expansion followed a major injection of cash courtesy of one of the company’s biggest clients and now its largest investor, Japan’s SoftBank.

SoftBank first invested in Cybereason in 2015, the same year Lockheed Martin initially invested and partnered with the firm. It was also the year that SoftBank announced its intention to invest in Israeli tech start-ups. SoftBank first injected $50 million into Cybereason, followed by an additional $100 million in 2017 and $200 million last August. SoftBank’s investments account for most of the money raised by the company since it was founded in 2012 ($350 million out of $400 million total).

Cybereason CEO Lior Div speaks at a SoftBank event in Japan, July 21, 2017. Photo | Cybereason

Prior to investing, Softbank was a client of Cybereason, which Ken Miyauchi, president of SoftBank, noted when making the following statement after Softbank’s initial investment in Cybereason:

SoftBank works to obtain cutting edge technology and outstanding business models to lead the Information Revolution. Our deployment of the Cybereason platform internally gave us firsthand knowledge of the value it provides, and led to our decision to invest. I’m confident Cybereason and SoftBank’s new product offering will bring a new level of security to Japanese organizations.”

SoftBank — one of Japan’s largest telecommunications companies — not only began to deploy Cybereason internally but directly partnered with it after investing, much like Lockheed Martin had done around the same time. This partnership resulted in SoftBank and Cybereason creating a joint venture in Japan and Cybereason creating partnerships with other tech companies acquired by SoftBank, including the U.K.’s Arm, which specializes in making chips and management platforms for Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

SoftBank’s interest in Cybereason is significant, particularly in light of Cybereason’s interest in the 2020 U.S. election, given that SoftBank has significant ties to key allies of President Trump and even the president himself.

Indeed, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son was among the first wave of international business leaders who sought to woo then-president-elect Trump soon after the 2016 election. Son first visited Trump Tower in December 2016 and announced, with Trump by his side in the building’s lobby, that SoftBank would invest $50 billion in the U.S. and create 50,000 jobs. Trump subsequently claimed on Twitter that Son had only decided to make this investment because Trump had won the election.

Son told reporters at the time that the investment would come from a $100 billion fund that would be created in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund as well as other investors. “I just came to celebrate his new job. I said, ‘This is great. The US will become great again,’” Son said, according to reports.

Then, in March of 2017, Son sent top SoftBank executives to meet with senior members of Trump’s economic team and, according to the New York Times, “the SoftBank executives said that because of a lack of advanced digital investments, the competitiveness of the United States economy was at risk. And the executives made the case, quite strongly, that Mr. Son was committed to playing a major role in addressing this issue through a spate of job-creating investments.” Many of SoftBank’s investments and acquisitions in the U.S. since then have focused mainly on artificial intelligence and technology with military applications, such as “killer robot” firm Boston Dynamics, suggesting Son’s interest lies more in dominating futuristic military-industrial technologies than creating jobs for the average American.

After their initial meeting, Trump and Son met again a year later in June 2018, with Trump stating that “His [Son’s] $50 billion turned out to be $72 billion so far, he’s not finished yet.” Several media reports have claimed that Son’s moves since Trump’s election have sought to “curry favor” with the President.

Through the creation of this fund alongside the Saudis, SoftBank has since become increasingly intertwined with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), a key ally of President Trump in the Middle East known for his authoritarian crackdowns on Saudi elites and dissidents alike. The ties between Saudi Arabia and SoftBank became ever tighter when MBS took the reins in the oil kingdom and after SoftBank announced the launch of the Vision Fund in 2016. SoftBank’s Vision Fund is a vehicle for investing in hi-tech companies and start-ups and its largest shareholder is the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. Notably, Son decided to launch the Vision Fund in Riyadh during President Trump’s first official visit to the Gulf Kingdom.

Masayoshi Son, left, signs a deal related to the Vision Fund with Bin Salman in March 2018. Photo | SPA

In addition, the Mubadala Investment Company, a government fund of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), gave $15 billion to the Vision Fund. UAE leadership also share close ties to the Trump administration and MBS in Saudi Arabia.

As a consequence, SoftBank’s Vision Fund is majority funded by two Middle Eastern authoritarian governments with close ties to the U.S. government, specifically the Trump administration. In addition, both countries have enjoyed the rapid growth and normalization of ties with the state of Israel in recent years, particularly following the rise of current Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and Jared Kushner’s rise to prominence in his father-in-law’s administration. Other investments in the Vision Fund have come from Apple, Qualcomm and Oracle’s Larry Ellison, all tech companies with strong ties to Israel’s government.

The Saudi and Emirati governments’ links to the Vision Fund are so obvious that even mainstream outlets like the New York Times have described them as a “front for Saudi Arabia and perhaps other countries in the Middle East.”

SoftBank also enjoys close ties to Jared Kushner, with Fortress Investment Group lending $57 million to Kushner Companies in October 2017 while it was under contract to be acquired by SoftBank. As Barron’s noted at the time:

When SoftBank Group bought Fortress Investment Group last year, the Japanese company was buying access to a corps of seasoned investors. What SoftBank also got is a financial tie to the family of President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.”

According to The Real Deal, Kushner Companies obtained the financing from Fortress only after its attempts to obtain funding through the EB-5 visa program for a specific real estate venture were abandoned after the U.S. Attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission began to investigate how Kushner Companies used the EB-5 investor visa program. A key factor in the opening of that investigation was Kushner Companies’ representatives touting Jared Kushner’s position at the White House when talking to prospective investors and lenders.

SoftBank also recently came to the aid of a friend of Jared Kushner, former CEO of WeWork Adam Neumann. Neumann made shocking claims about his ties to both Kushner and Saudi Arabia’s MBS, even asserting that he had worked with both in creating Kushner’s long-awaited and controversial Middle East “peace plan” and claimed that he, Kushner and MBS would together “save the world.” Neumann previously called Kushner his “mentor.” MBS has also discussed on several occasions his close ties with Kushner and U.S. media reports have noted the frequent correspondence between the two “princelings.”

Notably, SoftBank invested in Neumann’s WeWork using money from the Saudi-dominated Vision Fund and later went on to essentially bail the company out after its IPO collapse and Neumann was pushed out. SoftBank’s founder, Masayoshi Son, had an odd yet very close relationship with Neumann, perhaps explaining why Neumann was allowed to walk with $1.7 billion after bringing WeWork to the brink of collapse. Notably, nearly half of SoftBank’s approximately $47 billion investments in the U.S. economy since Trump’s election, went to acquiring and then bailing out WeWork. It is unlikely that such a disastrous investment resulted in the level of job creation that Son had promised Trump in 2016.

Given that it is Cybereason’s top investor and shareholder by a large margin, SoftBank’s ties to the Trump administration and key allies of that administration are significant in light of Cybereason’s odd interest in 2020 U.S. election scenarios that end with the cancellation of this year’s upcoming presidential election. It goes without saying that the cancellation of the election would mean a continuation of the Trump administration until new elections would take place.

Furthermore, with Cybereason’s close and enduring ties to Israeli military intelligence now well-documented, it is worth asking if Israeli military intelligence would consider intervening in 2020 if the still-to-be-decided Democratic contender was strongly opposed to Israeli government policy, particularly Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. This is especially worth considering given revelations that sexual blackmailer and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who targeted prominent U.S. politicians, mostly Democrats, was in the employ of Israeli military intelligence.

Notably, Cybereason’s doomsday election scenarios involved the weaponization of deep fakes, self-driving cars and the hacking Internet of Things devices, with all of those technologies being pioneered and perfected — not by Russia, China or Iran — but by companies directly tied to Israeli intelligence, much like Cybereason itself. These companies, their technology and Cybereason’s own work creating the narrative that U.S. rival states seek to undermine the U.S. election in this way, will all be discussed in the conclusion of MintPress’ series on Cybereason and its outsized interest in the U.S. democratic process.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

January 14, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tel Aviv calls for Gulf States to unite with Israel against Iran

MEMO | January 11, 2020

Former Israeli communication minister, Ayoob Kara, has called for the Gulf States to form a security and economic “union” with Israel, to stand against Iran at all levels, Shehab News Agency reported on Friday.

Kara, who is very close to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, posted on Twitter that the goal of this “union” is to be a “strong front in the face of Iranian evil.”

The tweet came after the Iranian declaration that Iran would turn its hostile arms against Haifa and Dubai. In his tweet, Kara announces: “It is time that the States of the Arab Gulf come together with Israel in a security and economic union to stand against Iran’s threats in the Middle East.”

 

January 11, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s time for the international community to stop ‘recognising’ Hadi’s ‘government’

By Omar Ahmed | MEMO | December 14, 2019

In spite of having no substantial physical political presence in Yemen, and no formal armed forces on the ground, the media is insistent on running with the same, tired expression of “the internationally recognised legitimate government” of the fugitive president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who has apparently been running the country from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, since he fled Yemen in 2015.

It has now been over a month since the signing of the Riyadh Agreement, which was hailed as ushering in peace in the south, not only among the warring factions of Hadi’s forces, which largely consists of Islamist, Islah militia and Sudanese mercenaries against the Security Belt forces, who are aligned with southern separatists, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), but it was also hoped to simmer down the tension between the patrons of these two parties, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) respectively, both partners in the anti-Houthi coalition in the north, but backing opposing sides in the south.

No longer ‘Iranian proxies’

It was also a month ago that I argued that this agreement will fall flat in its objectives, namely due to the fact that Hadi doesn’t have any concrete authority in Yemen, and the real political legitimacy lies with the National Salvation Government (NSG), which has been ruling the capital Sanaa since 2014. Its power-base was formed from of an alliance between the Ansar Allah movement, the Yemeni military and remnants of the General People’s Congress political party – however the same news outlets who are trying to convince us of the “internationally recognised” government, are the same ones peddling the misleading narrative, that the NSG are merely “Houthi rebels” or “Iranian proxies”, following Tehran’s orders.

Essentially, this agreement stalled the inevitability that the Saudis, and the wider international community, will have to accept the reality that the NSG (“Houthis”) are the legitimate government in Yemen. I am using the past-tense here because the agreement is void and no longer exists – it was signed on 5 November and included a 30-day deadline in forming a new cabinet of 24 members, equally split from the north and south. I concluded with the revelation that the Saudis had acknowledged that they had opened channels of communication with the Houthis.

In fact, a few days following the signing of the accord, the UAE minister of state for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, conceded that the Houthis will have a role in post-war Yemen. In more recent developments, Saudi foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, has suggestively indicated that the Houthis are in fact, a legitimate entity, stating “all Yemenis, including the Houthis have a role in the future of Yemen.”

It would now appear that the Trump administration has also done an ‘about-face’ on its policy on Yemen, having once framed the conflict as being an Iranian proxy war, they are now trying to downplay Iran’s involvement. Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, went from declaring in September that Iran was “controlling and deploying” the Houthis as a “terror front”, to now stating that “Iran clearly does not speak for the Houthis.” I mentioned back in September how this Iranian connection has been exaggerated and misrepresented by the media. One needs only to refer to a 2015 article which stated that Iran, for example, had in fact warned the Zaydi movement against taking over Sanaa. Indeed, the Houthis, as with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, are actually acting independently, albeit with assistance from Tehran.

Who speaks for the south?

The Riyadh Agreement was always problematic from the outset, because although on paper it was plausible, the reality on the ground, in particular in the interim capital city of Aden, was another thing entirely. There are constant reports of violent clashes between Hadi’s mercenaries and the southern separatist forces. Additionally, there has been a steady increase in assassinations across the city, with the STC hinting liability with Hadi’s associates. Hampering conciliatory efforts, the STC are also refusing to vacate the presidential palace in the city. There are also reports that the former president of the Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen, Ali Nasser Mohammed, has warned the STC against plans to seize his home in Aden province, captured by the separatists last July.

It is important to recognise that the STC does not speak for all southerners, nor for the Southern Movement. There is the Southern National Salvation Council (SSC) based in Mahrah, who not only oppose both Saudi and Emirati interference in Yemen, but had opposed the Riyadh Agreement from its inception, noting that “the agreement gives legitimacy to regional militias affiliated abroad,” with reference to the STC.

The director of Human Rights for Yemen, Kim Sharif, explained to MEMO that the SSC is composed of the “original secessionists” and that the STC are widely regarded as a “traitor entity” by most southerners, as they are a party formed by the UAE who are using and exploiting the memory of the South Yemen state.

Illegitimacy of Hadi vs legitimacy of the NSG

Sharif agrees that the Hadi government lacks legitimacy, because following the election where he stood as the sole candidate, he was appointed as president for a transitional period of two years as part of the Gulf Initiative back in February 2012, reluctantly accepted by many, to avoid further bloodshed. Under the initiative, elections were to be held within the transitional period.

However, this failed to materialise and according to Sharif, under Hadi assassinations and terrorist attacks began to increase “funded by the Saudis,” and with a reliance on the Islah Party militia, who have close ties with General Mohsen Al-Ahmar, the vice president whose links to Al-Qaeda are well-documented. Hadi formerly resigned from the presidency in 2015, but has held onto the position ever since, giving him “zero legitimacy”.

“There’s no such thing as an ‘internationally recognised government’ under international law. This is sheer abuse of the terms of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations and is a totally unacceptable trespass on the sovereignty of the state of Yemen,” Sharif continued.

Meanwhile, with regards to the legitimacy of the National Salvation Government based in Sanaa, Sharif described the 2014 takeover within the context of the failure by Hadi to carry out elections as per his mandate. Additionally, under International Customary Law, whomever takes control of the capital of any country is considered the “de facto” government. In order for this to be ratified, the government has to become “de jure”. Sharif argues that such a government must first follow an “internal legislation process”, which the Sanaa government has done by preserving national institutions, creating the Supreme Council, which includes all political parties including southern secessionists and operates within the existing constitution.

Furthermore, it is the Yemeni armed forces who are subservient to the NSG, in addition to the “Popular Committee” (Houthi fighters), who are the ones defending the nation against foreign aggression enacted by the Saudi-led coalition. These points and the fact that the NSG entered into the “Tribal Honour Agreement 2015” with all tribes, given that tribal rule still plays a vital role in Yemeni politics, ensures that the NSG based in Sanaa are the legitimate government in Yemen.

Although a southerner, Sharif herself is supportive of the NSG and AnsarAllah, as they have a common goal in liberating Yemen from the foreign aggression and occupation. The ultimate aim being “uniting all factions in the south with a view of freeing Yemen from all foreign occupation.”  She is confident that this movement will succeed “in partnership with our brothers and sisters in the north.”

International recognition

The National Salvation Government is not only arguably the legitimate government of Yemen. The Yemeni armed forces and its alliance with AnsarAllah has proven that they are indeed the most powerful entity in the country, with an ever-developing arsenal, they have recently announced an improved air defence system, capable of “neutralising” coalition aircraft up to a projected 90 per cent in the year ahead, which is significant as according to Yemeni military expert, Brigadier General Aziz Rashid, the coalition depends on aircraft for 85 per cent of its operations. They have shot down several drones in the past two weeks, in addition to an Apache helicopter belonging to the Saudis. Just today, at the time of writing, the Yemeni armed forces downed a Saudi spy plane over the Jizan region.

As the Riyadh Agreement gradually fades into obscurity, and the Saudis and its allies begin to sue for peace and pay for the damage that they caused, in the realisation that it is the Houthi government which is the legitimate power and authority in the country, it is high time that the international community start recognising this too, at the expense of the puppet government based in Riyadh headed by Hadi, who effectively has been held in captivity there and does not speak for the Yemeni people nor has control of the armed forces. Peace, stability and an end to the man-made humanitarian crisis is achievable with the help of this international community, who have been delusional for far too long.

READ ALSO:

Houthis: 1,000 children die every day due to Saudi-led aggression

Saudi-backed Yemen government and separatists miss Riyadh Agreement deadline

December 14, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 1 Comment

Jordan seeks to restore diplomatic relations with Syria: Minister

Press TV – December 6, 2019

Jordan plans to restore full diplomatic relations with neighboring Syria in a further sign of Arab states embracing President Bashar al-Assad after a UAE diplomat praised him for “wise leadership” this week.

Jordanian Minister of State and Agriculture Samir Habashneh said Thursday he will travel to Syria later this month as part of a nearly 30-strong delegation, Arabic- language Ammon news website reported.

Former Prime Minister Taher al-Masri will head the delegation to restore Amman-Damascus bilateral relations to the level prior to the outbreak of foreign-sponsored Syrian conflict, it said.

Habashneh said Jordan and Syria actually have common areas of interest, stressing that the visit should have taken place much earlier in order to enhance communication between the two countries.

Commenting on a possible meeting with President Assad, he stated that the matter is in the hands of the Syrian side, and that the Jordanian delegates would like to sit for talks with the 54-year-old Syrian leader, senior officials and representatives of the Syrian people.

Jordan’s official Petra news agency, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Sufian Qudah, reported earlier this year that the Amman government had appointed a new chargé d’affaires to its embassy in Damascus.

“It was decided to appoint a Jordanian diplomat at the rank of charge d’affaires in the Jordanian embassy in Damascus,” the Jordanian official said.

He underlined that the “decision has been made in line with Jordan’s stance since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011 to keep the Jordanian embassy in Damascus open.”

Jordanian lawmakers first asked for the improvement of Jordan-Syria ties to the level before the start of the Syrian crisis last year, stressing that the relations are beneficial to both nations, Arabic-language Rai al-Youm newspaper reported last December.

Around the same time, Bahrain announced that work at the kingdom’s embassy “in the Syrian Arab Republic is going on whilst the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic to the Kingdom of Bahrain is carrying out its duties and flights connecting the two countries are operational without interruption.”

It came a day after the United Arab Emirates officially reopened its embassy in Damascus.

Earlier this week, the UAE’s top diplomat in Syria praised President Assad for his “wise leadership”, in one of the strongest expressions of support yet from a country that once backed Damascus’ enemies in the war.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark UAE national day on Dec. 2, UAE charge d’affaires Abdul-Hakim Naimi said he hoped “security and stability prevails throughout the Syrian Arab Republic under the wise leadership of President Bashar Al-Assad.”

“Syria-UAE relations are solid, distinct and strong,” he added, according to a video posted by Russian broadcaster RT.

Arab countries’ restoration of diplomatic ties with Damascus takes place at a time when the Syrian army troops are finalizing their victory against foreign-backed terror groups and restoring peace and stability to the war-torn country.

Earlier this year, Reuters news agency cited sources as saying that Washington had lobbied Persian Gulf states including the UAE to hold off restoring ties with Syria.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.

December 6, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment