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Report finds UK enabled ‘unlawful’ Saudi-led naval blockade of Yemen, as London resumes arms sales to Riyadh

RT | July 8, 2020

The United Kingdom has been providing naval training to members of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, skills which may have been used to impose a widely condemned embargo on the war-torn country, according to a new report.

The Royal Navy is instructing naval personnel from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Declassified UK has uncovered, even as the Gulf states continue to impose a devastating sea blockade on Yemen, resulting in millions of civilians living on the brink of starvation.

In September 2015, a UAE naval officer attended a four-week training course in southern England – just months after the Saudi-led coalition began its embargo on Yemen and bombed the port of Hodeidah, destroying warehouses, cranes and other infrastructure used to unload and store badly needed humanitarian supplies. The British program included instruction in ‘counter-smuggling’ and ‘board and search’.

Six months later, according to Declassified UK, Royal Navy officers spent a week in Saudi Arabia drilling 15 sailors on how to “board and search” vessels in “international waters or territorial seas.” The Saudi personnel were taught “high-risk search techniques” as well as detention procedures. Between September 2016 and March 2017, the UK also provided Saudi and UAE forces with instruction on protecting an Exclusive Economic Zone – the area off the coast of a country containing its exclusive fishing and other resource-gathering rights. The course was followed by training exercises with the Saudi Navy.

The relationship between the Royal Navy and the Saudi-led coalition continued even as the situation in Yemen rapidly deteriorated, the investigative report revealed. In 2019, the UAE navy received instruction on how to “board and search” vessels. The same year, nine Saudis, as well as personnel from Bahrain and the UAE, attended the Royal Navy’s officer academy at Dartmouth. Meanwhile, a number of commandos from the UAE were given instruction in amphibious operations during a 60-week Royal Marines course.

The training reportedly continues to the present day. According to the UK military watchdog, the Royal Navy has five sailors, including a lieutenant commander, on loan to the Saudi Navy. Three of the individuals are listed as instructors, suggesting that they could possibly be providing regular training to Saudi personnel. Some instruction coming from the UK has been provided by the private sector; BAE Systems, Britain’s largest arms firm, has a contract to train the Saudi navy.

The Saudi-led blockade, part of the coalition’s campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, has been denounced by the international community as illegal. The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, warned that the embargo was “paralyzing a nation” and amounted to an “unlawful unilateral coercive measure under international law.” Millions of Yemenis now face starvation due in part to the sea blockade.

The humanitarian catastrophe has not deterred London from increasing its involvement in the conflict. On Tuesday, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss confirmed that the UK will resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The UK temporarily halted weapons deliveries to Riyadh after a court ruling in June 2019 found that the practice was unlawful. The British government now claims that, although there is cause for concern, “possible” war crimes carried out by the Saudi-led forces are only “isolated incidents.”

July 8, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Somalia rejects ‘ridiculous’ UAE incentive to join Yemen war

MEMO | June 30, 2020

Somalia has rejected as “ridiculous” an offer made by the UAE for the African state to join the war in Yemen in return for financial incentives, the country’s foreign minister has revealed.

According to Somalia News, the UAE offered to reopen the Sheikh Zayed Hospital in the Somali capital Mogadishu on the condition Somalia take part in the war in Yemen, while officially claiming the Socotra archipelago as Somali territory.

The Emirati-run Sheikh Zayed Hospital offered free healthcare to Somali citizens until it was closed by the UAE in 2018, as part of a diplomatic row between Abu Dhabi and Mogadishu.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 1 Comment

Israel’s ambitions in south Yemen increase risk of conflict with Houthis

By Omar Ahmed | MEMO | June 29, 2020

Israel’s involvement in the Yemen war throughout its five year duration is an open secret. In 2015, when the Saudi Arabian Embassy in the capital Sanaa was seized by the Houthi forces in retaliation for the Saudi-led coalition’s aggression, a large cache of Israeli-made weapons and ammunition was discovered, in addition to documents detailing intentions by the US to establish a military base on Perim Island near the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, “to protect [America’s] interests and ensure the security of Israel”. The island has been under the coalition’s control since it was wrested from the Houthis in the same year. Foreign mercenaries fighting on behalf of coalition-partner the UAE were also said to have been trained by the Israeli military at camps in the Negev Desert.

Amid the ever-growing normalisation of relations between Israel and Gulf states, it should come as no surprise that it was reported last week that Israel and the Emirati-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) are “secret friends” with meetings facilitated by the UAE.

The STC’s vice-chairman, Hani Bin Briek, confirmed that relations with Israel are “very good” while Tel Aviv reacted positively to the prospects of a “new autonomous state in Yemen”. The fragmentation of Arab states is, of course, consistent with Zionist strategies in the region; support for separatism in the south of Yemen echoes Israel’s decades-old policy of backing Kurdish statehood.

Covert Israeli interventions in Yemen are not without precedent. During the 1962-1970 civil war Israel airlifted arms and money in support of the royalist Mutawakkilite dynasty — ironically the predecessors of the Houthis — against the Nasserite republicans. The Saudis also supported the Zaydi monarchs who ultimately lost out in the war.

Securing Israel’s southern port of Eilat and a shipping lane which grants access not only to the Suez Canal but also the Red Sea and through Bab Al-Mandab to the Indian Ocean and beyond is of vital interest to Tel Aviv, especially as a gateway to the Far East and China, which is a major trading partner. The wars with Arab neighbours in 1956, 1967 and 1973 all involved blocking Israeli shipping. In the latter, Yemen closed off the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and blockaded the Red Sea. Ever since, Israel has viewed any attempt to block access to the Red Sea as an act of war and has threatened to deploy all branches of its military in the event of Iran doing so.

As with every other party involved in the current conflict in Yemen, access to all seaways leading to the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean play a significant part in the underlying agendas. It is certainly one of the charges levied against the UAE over its involvement in the recent STC “coup” of Socotra Island.

However, the revelation of Israeli support for the STC is a worrying development for the prospects of maintaining a unified Yemen, however elusive that appears to be. Any attempts by Tel Aviv to back the emergence of a break-away “independent” state in the region should be treated with suspicion. The STC has made it clear that it intends to expand further beyond its current control of Aden and parts of the Dale and Lahj provinces. Clashes continue in the Abyan province with the Saudi-backed militia and there have been calls for solidarity with the STC in Hadhramout.

The Houthi-aligned government in Sanaa is committed to the territorial integrity of Yemen and is well-aware of Israel’s destructive ambitions. “The Israeli enemy sees Yemen as a threat to it, explained Information Minister Dhaifalla Al-Shami, “especially in its strategic location, so it has worked to find a foothold in Yemen through the UAE’s role.”

Earlier this month, the leader of the Houthi movement, Sayyid Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, criticised Saudi Arabia and the UAE for siding with “the chief enemy of the Muslim world,” Israel.

“The US and Israel seek to enslave Yemeni people,” Al-Houthi said in a televised speech. “Their plots target the entire Muslim community, and are meant to ‎disintegrate Islamic nations from within through sowing the seeds of discord and division.” He has stated previously that the Houthis are ready to support the resistance factions in Lebanon and Palestine against Israel.

Moreover, the Houthis, who are supported by most of the Yemeni armed forces, have threatened Israel once before with “revenge” over its known involvement in the Yemen war of aggression. The Defence Minister in the National Salvation Government (NSG), General Mohammed Al-Atefi, said late last year that a “bank of military and maritime targets” have already been identified and that they will not hesitate to attack them when the leadership decides to do so.

These are security challenges that Israel takes seriously, especially with the long-range ballistic missiles and armed drones in the Yemeni army’s arsenal, which cross-border offensives against Saudi have shown to be very accurate. Israel has also expressed a willingness to attack Houthi targets near Bab Al-Mandab.

The Houthis also have a consistent stance on supporting the Palestinian cause. Al-Houthi even went as far as to offer to exchange captured Saudi pilots for the release of prominent Hamas members imprisoned in the Kingdom.

Direct military confrontation between Israel and the Houthis is unlikely and unrealistic for the time being, although both sides have voiced a willingness to take action if necessary. However, Israel is playing a dangerous game; should it become more embedded in the war in Yemen it runs the risk of conflict with the Houthis. Just as Israel has securitised its access to the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, it should not be surprised if the Houthi authorities decide to react to Israeli attempts to sow further discord and break up the already fragile Yemeni state. The chief-backer of the STC, the UAE, has also been threatened by the Houthis. “Abu Dhabi can be attacked at any time,” claimed a pro-Houthi military spokesperson.

At the moment, the main focus of the Houthis is to take control of Marib city from the Saudi-backed militia fighting on behalf of the internationally-recognised government-in-exile, which is increasingly proving to be an irrelevant mouthpiece of Riyadh. The NSG, which controls most of Yemen in terms of population density, will turn its attention to the south once Marib has been secured. When the inevitable clash with the STC comes, we will see the indirect confrontation with Israel come out into the open.

June 29, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UAE conceals news about normalising ties with Israel

MEMO | June 27, 2020

Despite the official announcement, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) mass media has concealed news about medical cooperation with Israel from its people, Arab48.com reported on Friday.

The National reported the news while the Spokeswoman of the Ministry of Health Hend Al-Otaiba posted a tweet on her account.

It was noteworthy that the country’s mouthpieces, Sky News Arabic and Al-Hadath, did not make reference to this news, despite offering wide coverage of internal UAE issues and the medical assistance the country offers to the needy.

Local UAE newspapers including Al-Bayan, Al-Khaleej and Emarat Al-Youm also did not feature the news.

However, mass media covered the article of UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al-Otaiba, where he claimed that his country is moving against the Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands.

During the last two decades, Israel launched several major offensives on the Palestinians and Lebanese, and killed thousands along with settlement expansion at the expense of the Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Arab world, especially the UAE, continued criticising the Palestinian resistance while maintaining good relations with Israel.

June 27, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Yemen’s UAE-Backed Transitional Council ‘Secret friends’ with Zionist Entity: Israeli Report

Al-Manar | June 22, 2020

According to an article in Israel Today, the UAE-backed Yemeni separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) are “secret friends” with the Zionist entity.

A new state in the Middle East had been declared behind closed doors, the article said, referring to the STC-held territory which includes the interim capital of Aden and more recently the seizure of the Socotra island from the Saudi-backed government in Yemen.

The piece, which suggests the Port of Aden “casts a friendly eye on the Jewish state”, cites a recent press conference held by the STC which expressed a positive attitude towards the Zionist entity, although the issue of diplomatic relations are yet to be discussed.

Hani Bin Briek, the vice-chairman of the STC, tweeted that “relations between Israel and Qatar are very good” and also recounted former Israeli President Shimon Peres’ visit to Doha and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Oman.

“Arabs and Israelis agree on a two-state solution, and Arab countries normalizing relations with Israel.”

The stance on normalizing ties with Tel Aviv follows current trends among Gulf states, including the STC’s patron, the UAE.

The report also states that many Israelis reacted positively and welcomed the developments of a “new autonomous state in Yemen”, with sources telling Israel Today that Tel Aviv has been conducting secret meetings with the STC.

Earlier on Friday, leader of the Houthi revolutionary movement, warned Saudi Arabia and the UAE against normalization with the Zionist entity. “Saudi Arabia and the UAE are siding with Israel, which is the chief enemy of the Muslim world,” Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi said in a televised speech broadcast live from the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

The Emirati-backed group, which is led by former Aden governor Aidrus Al-Zoubaidi, announced in April its autonomy, although this has been rejected by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government-in-exile as well as the UN.

Earlier this month the STC also confirmed it had withdrawn from the so-called Riyadh Agreement, which was a power-sharing deal intended to end the on-going conflict between the STC and the Saudi-backed forces in Yemen.

June 23, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Report: Denmark sold arms to UAE despite ban over Yemen concerns

MEMO | May 20, 2020

A series of Danish investigations published on Danwatch on Sunday accused the country’s largest arms manufacturer of war crimes in Yemen.

The report, which is based on information gathered from intelligence reports, public access requests, satellite imagery, television and interviews, found that Danish arms manufacturer Terma had continued to supply radar and missile defence systems to the UAE which were later used in the civil war in Yemen.

Sales from Terma continued beyond 22 November 2018, despite a decision by Denmark and other European states to block arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE as a result of their involvement in Yemen.

Danwatch, TV2 and Lighthouse’s investigation alleges military hardware provided by Terma after 2018 was used to prevent cargo ships carrying emergency aid from reaching the Yemeni coast.

The report reviews footage from Emirati television station Aloom Al-Daar, which was later uploaded to YouTube, showing a UAE warship stopping a smaller cargo ship as part of the blockade of Yemen.

Danwatch claims this footage, and “several other videos” demonstrates the UAE’s participation in the blockade, and therefore, Terma’s complicity in causing a famine which, according to the investigation, caused the deaths of at least 85,000 Yemeni children.

The report goes on to claim Terma’s arms exports to the UAE facilitated Emirati bombing of opposition-held regions of the country, by providing a defence system for the Archangel fighter aircraft.

The investigation was able to pinpoint Emirati Archangel aircraft in several places in the war zone through satellite images, Danwatch reported.

General Secretary of Amnesty International in Denmark, Trine Christensen, told the reporters: “The Emirates is deeply involved in the blockade of Yemen. The blockade has had catastrophic consequences for the civilian population and is contributing to extensive famine because food and medicine supplies cannot enter the country.”

Adding, “of course, only a court can decide whether or not what is going on in Yemen is a war crime. But it smells strongly of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

According to the investigation, the continuation of sales, and their subsequent use by the UAE in Yemen could amount to a violation of international humanitarian law and the perpetration of war crimes.

Both Terma and Denmark’s authorities repeatedly refused requests to speak to those carrying out the investigation directly.

 

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

Ansarullah slams Saudi Arabia, UAE for using television programs to promote Israel

Press TV – May 8, 2020

The leader of Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement has slammed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for using certain television programs to promote relations with Israel and demean the Palestinian struggle against occupation.

“Those who are directly coordinated with Israel, or through intermediaries allied with Israel, are partners in their crime,” Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi said in a speech on Thursday, according to Yemen’s al-Masirah television network.

Al-Houthi added that colluding in crimes committed by the Israeli regime was amongst “the most dangerous” of acts.

“The evils committed by the Zionists are the most significant. This is because the scope of their crimes extends to all of humanity given the large scope of Zionist influence over major countries,” he said.

“People have to avoid providing any assistance to Israel, the United States or their supporters,” al-Houthi added.

Riyadh’s pro-Israel programming

Al-Houthi’s remarks come in response to the airing of a string of media productions by certain Persian Gulf countries promoting ties with Israel.

The new “Umm Haroun” television series is one of such programs produced by the Dubai-based Saudi-owned Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC).

The series directed by Egypt’s Ahmed Gamal el-Adl in the United Arab Emirates stars a Kuwaiti actress who plays the role of a Jewish midwife of Turkish origin living in the Persian Gulf country before settling in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Hebrew-language outlet N12 reported on Sunday that many believe Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is involved in the series as he is interested in closer relations between the kingdom and Israel.

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas in Gaza denounced the TV series as a “political and cultural attempt to introduce the Zionist project to Persian Gulf society.”

Critics regard the show as an invitation to normalized ties with Israel. The show has consequentially provoked a storm in the Arab world.

The airing of the series has taken place as Riyadh, along with certain other Persian Gulf states such as the UAE, have moved to embrace relations with the Israeli regime, specifically in the past year.

Numerous Israeli delegations have consequently visited certain Persian Gulf states in recent months. Arab delegations from Persian Gulf states have also visited Israel.

No Arab country has formal relations with the Israeli regime, with the exception of Jordan and Egypt.

“Exit 7”: Yet another pro-Israel production

The “Umm Haroun” series is not the only MBC production seeking to promote ties with Israel to the Arab public.

“Exit 7” is another series currently being aired by the Saudi company.

According to Asia Times, the program seeks to promote various western values alongside breaking taboos regarding Israel.

Characters in the series promote “doing business with Israel” and argue against Saudi aid being sent to Palestine.

The program also disseminates blatantly anti-Palestinian themes, such as claiming that Palestinians “attack Saudi Arabia” whenever an opportunity arises.

Characters in the series also seek to legitimize Israeli occupation of Palestinian land by claiming that Palestinians “sold their land” to Jewish settlers.

Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, has disseminated similar claims of Palestinians selling their lands to Jewish settler to legitimize its ties with the Israeli regime.

According to Persian Gulf states analyst Nabeel Nowairah, MBC’s pro-Israel themes clearly “came from the high levels of the government”.

“You cannot talk about these things unless they’re approved by some agency or another. So it has the blessing of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in some way,” he said.

The Arab-Israeli attempts to normalize ties come as Tel Aviv and Washington have stepped up attempts to legitimize Israeli occupation as part of US President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” initiative unveiled earlier this year.

Al-Houthi’s remarks on Thursday also come as Tel Aviv has mulled military intervention against Sana’a following the failure of the Saudi war on Yemen seeking to crush the popular Ansarullah, according to reports.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring the country’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and defeat Ansarullah.

The Saudi-led attempt has, however, been brought to a standstill by the Yemeni resistance.

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 five years.

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

Riyadh makes inroads into Hollywood

The push to normalize ties with Israel comes as bin Salman has also sought to greatly westernize the kingdom ever since being appointed crown prince in 2017.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, many major US entertainment brands are bracing themselves for large Saudi investment opportunities in the near future.

Last month, Saudi Arabia was disclosed to have bought a 5.7 percent stake in the American events operator Live Nation.

According to the report, Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund has also specifically made an offer to buy the Warner Music Group, one of the three major music moguls in the US.

Many major Hollywood stars have also visited and performed in the oil-rich kingdom in the last year.

The report highlighted that Hollywood companies seeks to overlook the brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi under the orders of the Saudi state in 2018 – which caused major international uproar – as they step up cooperation with the Saudi regime.

See also:

Israel gearing up to attack Houthis in Yemen: Report

May 8, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

UAE’s Rapprochement With Syria Aimed Against Turkey

By Paul Antonopoulos | March 31, 2020

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the head of United Arab Emirates (UAE), spoke by phone on Friday in the first such communication since the Syrian War began in 2011. This shows a metamorphosis of alliances and geopolitics in the Middle East and the wider region considering the UAE was one of the main backers of terrorist organizations who fought to remove Assad from power. However, for more than a year, the UAE has been sending signals showing a change in policy towards Syria. The phone call was after a long series of rapprochement that began in late 2018 with the reopening of the Emirati embassy in Damascus.

“I have discussed with the Syrian president… updates on the coronavirus. I assured him of the support of the UAE and its willingness to help the Syrian people,” Prince Mohammed said on Twitter. “Humanitarian solidarity during trying times supersedes all matters, and Syria and her people will not stand alone.”

A diplomatic source close to the case was quoted by the Lebanese daily L’Orient-Le Jour as saying the “Westerners, the Americans and French particularly, were against” a Syrian-Emirati rapprochement. According to the diplomatic source, the UAE is trying to gain favours from Moscow and has already won dozens of contracts, including in armaments, gas and infrastructure, but also with space cooperation. This is part of a broader geostrategic context and the stakes go far beyond Syria and the UAE. Rather, the UAE has acknowledged that Russia has taken a greater interest in the region, in particular in Syria and Libya.

Relations between the Gulf monarchies and the United States, traditional allies, have greatly deteriorated in recent years. The gradual disengagement of American forces from the region, but especially the lack of support from Washington against Turkey, made the monarchies with the exception of Qatar, lose the confidence they once had in the United States. According to the diplomatic source quoted by L’Orient-Le Jour, the UAE is trying to get closer to Beijing and Moscow, and the Crown Prince’s phone call to Assad is evidence of that. The call also comes as relations with Iran softened, especially seen with the many Emirati delegations who visited Iran last year, however this has not softened the UAE’s brutal Yemeni policy. None-the-less, this suggests a change in foreign policy that appeals to Moscow.

It appears then that the UAE’s turn around in its Syria policy serves two purposes: first – to strengthen relations with Russia, second – to form an anti-Turkish bloc.

As Turkey actively pursues the establishment of a neo-Ottoman Empire, the UAE is aggressively undermining the project as it opposes the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has openly supported and backed in Syria, Libya and Egypt. The UAE recognized the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in 2014 after the fundamentalist group made plans to infiltrate and destabilize the Gulf country to take control – the main reason for the ever-increasing deterioration in relations between the UAE and Turkey.

Since then, the UAE has been actively countering Turkish influence across the region. As part of its efforts to create an anti-Turkish block, the UAE have strengthened their relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt fear being taken over by Muslim Brotherhood rule. However, the UAE’s pursuit of countering Turkey has not been reduced to only the Islamic world.

Greece, considered the “Old Enemy” by the Turks, received 11 tons of medical aid from the UAE on Thursday, with a Greek government press release stating that relations “began as economic cooperation, but thanks to the trust that was developed, it evolved into a strong bond.” This came as a working meeting of the Greece-UAE Broader Strategic Cooperation Forum was held in Athens on February 19 following the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit to UAE. In 2019 and 2020, the UAE and Greece has conducted joint military drills and military heads have been meeting each other often in a clear directive against Turkey.

In Libya, the UAE has not held back in supporting the Libyan National Army in their struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood government in Tripoli, headed by the ethnic Turk Fayez al-Sarraj who has the full backing of Erdoğan. The UAE’s material assistance has been crucial in the success of the Libyan National Army’s battle against Muslim Brotherhood forces, a clear demonstration that the UAE are willing to directly check Turkey’s ambitions to exert its influence and power across the region.

By securing close relations with Greece and directly countering Turkey in Libya, the UAE’s rapprochement with Syria is another step in formulating an anti-Turkish bloc, with itself at the head. While Turkey has acted to strangulate countries who oppose its hegemony in the region, it now appears that it is the UAE who is pressurizing Turkey and isolating it. There is every chance that the UAE will begin sending material aid to Syria that will be crucial in its future battles to expel the Turkish military and their jihadist proxies from Syrian territory. This will once again undermine Turkey’s efforts to dominate Syria and be the main power in the region, a move that Erdoğan would not have expected.

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

March 31, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coronavirus hastens an Arab rapprochement

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 28, 2020

A phone call by the UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday signifies in many ways a major development in regional politics.

The official UAE news agency WAM modestly placed the UAE initiative “within the framework of Sheikh Mohamed’s contacts to follow up the humanitarian conditions in sisterly and friendly countries” in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the region.

The agency said the two leader “reviewed precautionary and preventive measures… and the possibility of helping sisterly Syria to fight the virus.” But it added that “Sheikh Mohamed stressed the need for countries to place the humanitarian solidarity over political issues during this common challenge …. [and] affirmed that Syrian – the sisterly Arab country – will not be left alone during these delicate and critical circumstances.”

The report ended by taking note that Assad welcomed the Crown Prince’s “collaborative initiative while praising the UAE humanitarian stance.”

The Syrian news agency SANA succinctly highlighted that the UAE Crown Prince “affirmed that the UAE supports the Syrian people during these extraordinary circumstances, saying that Syria will not remain alone in these critical circumstances.”

Clearly, a serious normalisation process has begun between Abu Dhabi and Damascus and this must be counted as one of the geopolitical fallouts of rampage of coronavirus.

The UAE was one of the main backers of the “regime change” project in Syria and a key promoter of jihadi groups. But a rethink apparently began sometime around late 2016 following the Russian intervention in Syria the previous year, which swung the military balance dramatically in favour of Assad’s government.

The UAE made a course correction once it became apparent that the regime change project had floundered. Its support for the extremist Islamist groups tapered off. Cool realism, which is UAE’s trademark, prevailed. (We see the realism also in the UAE’s disengagement from the Saudi-led war in Yemen.)

Most certainly, President Trump’s detached attitude toward the Syrian conflict would have played its part in the UAE rethink. Among other factors, the UAE’s growing rapport with Russia, involving the two leaderships at a personal level, encouraged the UAE to reassess the Syrian situation from a new perspective. At any rate, the UAE reopened its mission in Damascus in 2018.

Without doubt, one major consideration for the UAE has been the proactive and repeated Turkish military interventions in northern Syria in the period since 2016 starting with Operation Euphrates Shield, which steadily evolved into a Turkish occupation in northern Syria.

The Turkish-Emirati relations have been very poor in the recent years following President Recep Erdogan’s accusation that the UAE had a hand in the 2016 failed coup attempt to overthrow him. Basically, the leitmotif of this discord lies in Erdogan’s kinship with the Muslim Brotherhood, whom the UAE regards as an existential threat.

To be sure, the antipathy toward the Brothers, whom Turkey (and its regional ally Qatar) promotes as the vehicle of the Arab Spring, has been a key factor in the budding UAE-Syria rapprochement — as indeed in the growing rapport between Damascus and Cairo.

Interestingly, Syria finds itself on the same page as the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia in opposing the Turkish intervention in Libya as well. Recently, the Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar’s faction (which opposes the Turkey-backed government in Tripoli) was allowed to take over the Libyan embassy in Damascus.

Indeed, the UAE is playing a long game to isolate Turkey (under Erdogan) in the Middle East by drawing together forces in the region that abhor political Islam — Muslim Brotherhood in particular. How far Russia encourages such an alignment in regional politics is anybody’s guess but it won’t be a surprise, given the difficulties Moscow is currently facing in managing the mercurial personality of Erdogan and a possibility that Russian-Turkish relations could be on a collision course any day over northern Syria if a Turkish-Syrian military confrontation in Idlib erupts.

Interestingly, the UAE Crown Prince’s overture to Assad comes within six weeks of a visit by the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergey Naryshkin, a top Kremlin official close to President Vladimir Putin, to Dubai. Tass news agency reported that “that the approaches assessing regional crises and solutions to them (Russia and UAE) are similar or close.”

Interestingly, both Russia and the UAE have direct dealings with the Kurdish separatist groups that operate in Syria and Turkey. No doubt, Russia will view with satisfaction the acceleration of the UAE-Syrian rapprochement. Emirati assistance in Syria’s reconstruction and rehabilitation will come as a big relief to Moscow.

Also, the return of Syria to the Arab family can only enhance Russia’s room for manoeuvre, apart from giving Assad much-needed “strategic depth”. All this helps in the stabilisation of the Syrian situation. Can we expect Syria’s readmission to the Arab League? It’s entirely conceivable.

The bottom line is that the UAE-Syrian normalisation holds the potential to redraw regional alignments. Despite the calamities of the 9-year old conflict, Syria still remains the throbbing heart of Arab nationalism, although, tragically, it came to symbolise in the recent years the deep divisions across the Middle East.

On the ground, besides the tragic loss of lives, Syria has gone through destruction on a colossal scale that would take decades to reverse. Nonetheless, a nascent opportunity arises here for Syria to climb out of the deep divisions and regain its regional standing.

March 28, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 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

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