Archive for ‘Thoughts of Press’

January 30, 2017

What Trump and Israel have in Common? Apartheid Walls

by mkleit

 

Source

By Ben White

In US President Donald Trump’s first week in office, three policy issues dominated the headlines: his plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, the President’s support for torture, and his executive order targeting refugees, residents and visitors from seven Muslim majority countries.

All three have prompted widespread outrage, in particular, the ban on refugees and blanket immigration restrictions being applied on the basis of national origin and religion.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, however, only issued a reluctant and mealy mouthed criticism of Trump’s scorched-earth approach to his first few days in the White House. May is one of only a handful of world leaders seemingly eager to position themselves at Trump’s right hand side.

One other leader, however, has gone even further than the British PM in seeking to praise Trump, both before and since his inauguration – and that’s Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu. There are a few reasons for this, including the tacit approval a Trump administration is expected to give to the settlement expansion bonanza already underway.

But there’s another element at play here, which goes deeper than Netanyahu’s political agenda. For what many do not realise, is that the policies – and their undergirding ideology – that Trump is unleashing on the US have been pursued by the state of Israel for decades.

 

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First, let’s take the wall. Israel began the construction of its Separation Wall in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) almost fifteen years ago. Justified in the name of “security”, some 85 percent of the wall’s route is built inside the OPT, to incorporate illegal West Bank settlements.

It was on that basis that, in 2004, judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague deemed the wall illegal, and called for its immediate dismantling.

Israel’s Wall is not even the security miracle that its defenders claim. None other than Israel’s own security services attributed a sharp decrease in “terror attacks” in 2005 to the “truce” unilaterally adopted by Hamas. Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers without permits enter Israel every day, with some 200 miles of “gaps” in the Wall’s route remaining.

The real link to Trump’s ideas comes in the justification of Israel’s Wall on “demographic” grounds; in other words, keeping Palestinians out because they are Palestinians – and note that the idea of a wall aimed at “separation” actually pre-dates the Second Intifada.

An Israeli official admitted in 2010 that the Wall was “built for political and demographic reasons”, while the man who designed it revealed how “the main thing the government told me in giving me the job was to include as many Israelis inside the fence and leave as many Palestinians outside.”

 

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ORACIÓN DEL VIERNES EN A RAM

 

Then there’s torture. Trump’s unabashed endorsement of torture has horrified politicians, human rights activists and former prisoners alike. In Israel, however, the torture of prisoners is routine – and rubber-stamped by not just the state, but also by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Just last week, Israeli interrogators confirmed in Haaretz some of the methods used on detainees – including physical and psychological abuse. The revelations came as no surprise to Palestinians, nor those Israelis who have documented practices such as sexual torture.

This grim reality is also well-known to international human rights groups – Amnesty’s most recent annual report described how “Israeli military and police forces, as well as Israel Security Agency (ISA) personnel, tortured and otherwise ill-treated Palestinian detainees, including children.”

“Methods included beating with batons, slapping, throttling, prolonged shackling, stress positions, sleep deprivation and threats”, Amnesty added, further noting how despite almost 1,000 complaints since 2001, the authorities have not opened a single criminal investigation.

And finally, what about immigration? As horrendous as Trump’s orders have been, thus far they pale in comparison in scale and duration to what Israel has been implementing for some seven decades.

Since 1948 Israel has enforced a “Palestinian Ban” (Muslims and Christians), designed to ensure that no refugees can return to the lands and homes from which they were expelled. In parallel, the state’s borders are open for any Jewish person, from anywhere in the world.

Not only that, but in more recent times, Israel has also passed legislation – backed again by the Supreme Court – that prevents Palestinians with Israeli citizenship from family reunification – purely “on the basis of the ethnicity or national belonging of their spouse.”

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said of the law: “There is no need to hide behind security arguments. There is a need for the existence of a Jewish state.” Trump – and the likes of Steve Bannon – would approve. Just as they would, no doubt, of the fact that Israel approved just eight requests for asylum, out of 7,218 requests filed by Eritreans from 2009 to 2016.

Writing in +972 Magazine, Edo Konrad noted the double standards of those who condemn Trump, but who back institutionalised racism in Israel. Here in Britain too, Trump’s critics include those who justify, or ignore, Israel’s own toxic mix of walls, discriminatory immigration system and torture.

This dissonance is only likely to become more publicly uncomfortable for Israel’s friends in the West. For Netanyahu’s embrace of a Trump White House is not just political manoeuvrings – it is reflective of a disturbing reality with which the Palestinians are only too familiar.

 

November 25, 2016

Analysis: Why Sweden is giving an award to White Helmets?

by mkleit

 

 

Sweden did not succeed in getting Bob Dylan to come to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Literature Prize. As a consolation Sweden got nevertheless the “White Helmets”; they were bestowed today the Right Livelihood Award.

 

This article examines a likely geopolitical rationale that the Swedish elites had for selecting that organization. Also, facts suggest a congruence between the stances of those elites on Syria and the declared political aims of the organization White Helmets. The reviewing of the institutions involved in the award-decision and process can also result relevant in pondering the reason for the event. Finally, to inquire into the role of Carl Bildt, as member of the board of directors in the institution ultimately deciding, is interesting against the backdrop of his opposition against the participation of  Julian Assange and Edward Snowden in previous international events organized by the same institutions –all of them under the umbrella of the Swedish Foreign Office.

 

However, Sweden’s awarding a prize to this organization –called the  “murky Withe Helmets’ by Professor Jan Osberg– it might reveal a semi-concealed intervention in support of Hillary Clinton’s doctrine in the dirty war against Syria. In concrete, another means used by Sweden’s elites in uttering their view, and gathering support, for the No-Fly Zone campaign in Syria.

 

A main purpose of what I have called the Hillary Clinton doctrine in the Middle East is the ending –by violent means– of the secular governments in the region, to be replaced by fundamentalist dictatorships. That happened in Egypt, Libya, etc. Now it was Assad’s turn. A valuable testimony of both the origin and purpose of this stance by Clinton was given by US Senator Richard Black, who declared in video:

 

“Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, put into place a series of actions to overthrow the secular governments in the Middle East and to replace them with radical Islamic regimes. Why she was doing this? I know she has great connections, financial and otherwise, with Saudi Arabia, with Qatar, with Kuwait, with tyrants of the Arab world”.

 

To these ends in Syria, the Swedish establishment has comprehensively supported the establishment of a No-Fly zone –precisely as advocated by Hillary Clinton. Beside illustrating Hillary Clinton’s stance on the No-Fly Zone issue, the video below shows also the risk of an all-out war against Russia and Syria, and what such measure would signify for the US Armed Forces (and others supporting the No-Fly Zone, such as the Swedish establishment).

 

 

 

 

 

It would be worth to mention in this context the participation of the “neutral and nonaligned” Swedish air Force in the No-Fly Zone operation masterminded by Hillary Clinton –the ultimate responsible for the bullets fired a close range against the head of the secular Libyan government, Omar Kaddafi, while he was held prisoner and immobilized. “We came, we saw, he died“, says Hillary Clinton on video, while she laughs.

 

Also, it should be reminded that the decision regarding the military participation of Sweden in Libya was taken at the Parliament after a proposition presented by Carl Bildt; a proposal that found uncontested support in ALL political parties of the Swedish political establishment, including the Left Party (the former ‘euro-communists’). Only the Sweden Democrats opposed.

 

For the Swedish rulers, as it was for Hillary Clinton, it is not about religion or ideology, or about an “idealistic” solidarity with refugees from the Syrian war (in fact most of those migrants are not ). It is only about money.

 

While those Sunni governments financially backed Clinton and the Clinton Foundation (mentioned in the above-quoted testimony by Senator Richard Black), the role of Sweden was to contribute either with direct public funds or with donations by important Swedish companies, such as Lundin Oil or Ericsson. In retribution, they got the kind of favours from Clinton’s State Department, which permitted further expansion of Swedish business in the area, such as  Ericsson. Meanwhile, the business of Sweden with Saudi Arabia, or Sweden’s arms export to the United Arab Emirates, continues unabated [See my recent articles in “The Indicter” and “Global Research”].

 

 

Another promoter for a No-Fly Zone in Syria is the organization “White Helmets”. Undoubtedly, there are in that organization, like in any of that kind,  true volunteer-individuals trying to do a humanitarian contribution. However, as organization at large, “White Helmets” is in fact another operation set up and financed by the same forces pressing for an escalation in the military conflict in Syria. In other words, the same factions that financed armed and trained the ‘moderate’ rebels –as the New York Times and the Washington Post call them (also called non-partisan media, also call them “moderate” terrorists, or “moderate jihadists”).

 

This organization has been boosted and financed by a number of State-donors, all of them implicated in the US-led (Clinton/Obama) political and/or military coalition aimed to depose the presidency of Assad in Syria. Most of these countries count with economic benefits in the planned oil-pipe construction designed to pass through Syria and that Assad opposed; the real cause of the war. For instance, Germany raised recently its financing to the “White Helmets” up to $7.85 million. Other examples of funding governments to this so-called “non-governmental organization”: The US government has contributed with $23 million; the UK government with $4.5 million.

 

 

One conclusion emerging in this analysis, considering also White Helmets own statements done previously in its home page, is that a main aim of its propaganda endeavour is bringing public opinion’s support to the ‘necessity of establishing a No-Fly Zone in Syria’. This is the geopolitical item that coincides with the one of Sweden’s political establishment pursuing a confrontation of “West” against Russia. And it is in this context where the Swedish award  to “White Helmets” should be understood.

 

The claims for a No-Fly Zone in Syria have been passed through standard psy-op  by the pro-Clinton corporate-owned press. This has been directed not only at American audiences, but also echoed among EU countries  viewed as potential proxies for the escalation of the Syria military conflict. Sweden is, historically considered, the primary government in Europe to react positively to such calls.

 

As Sweden now is giving its prestigious award to the White Helmets, the Swedish media has relentlessly reported in the most positive terms the deeds of the organization. None of the international reports denouncing a variety of manipulation techniques in constant use by the White Helmets has found space in the Swedish media. The image and video below shows how this is done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The appeals by “White Helmets” are done by fabricating or drastically exaggerating news on ‘war atrocities’. Hence, the suggestion of demolishing ‘air raids’ directed at civilian populations is a favourite number, for instance, in videos uploaded in YouTube. In the videos I have seen, however, such attacks never appear; what we see instead, solely, are rooms filled with smoke, dust, etc., where same “patients” move constantly in the scene with or without anti-dust protection masks.

 

In the Swedish version of “Swedish Institute of International Affairs” that I have access to, I found that the largest single entity financing this ‘independent’ institution is ultimately the Swedish State.

 

Right now, as I am typing these lines, the Swedish Institute of International Affairs has removed its web page in English. There is a growing focus on that institution right now because of the Right Livelihood Prize to the White Helmets. So, one reason might be that they are ‘cleaning up’ the page. And they should.

July 17, 2016

Turkey’s Coup That Wasn’t

by mkleit

by 

Source

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As coups go, the Turkish effort was a study in ineptitude: No serious attempt to capture or muzzle the existing political leadership, no leader ready to step in, no communication strategy (or even awareness of social media), no ability to mobilize a critical mass within either the armed forces or society. In their place a platoon of hapless soldiers on a bridge over the Bosporus in Istanbul and the apparently uncoordinated targeting of a few government buildings in Ankara.

It was enough for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on his cellphone’s FaceTime app, to call supporters into the streets for the insurrection to fold. That Erdogan will no doubt be the chief beneficiary of this turmoil, using it to further his push for an autocratic Islamist Turkey, does not mean that he staged it. The Turkish army remains isolated from society. It is entirely plausible that a coterie of officers believed a polarized and disgruntled society would rise up once given a cue. If so, they were wrong – and the error has cost more than 260 lives.

But in Erdogan’s Turkey, mystery and instability have become the coin of the realm. It is no wonder that conspiracy theories abound. Since an electoral setback in June 2015, the president has overseen a Turkey that is ever more violent. This dangerous lurch has enabled him to bounce back in a second election in November and portray himself as the anointed one averting mayhem. His attempt to blame, without any evidence, the attempted coup on Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric and erstwhile ally living in Pennsylvania, forms part of a pattern of murkiness and intrigue.

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Through Erdogan’s fog this much seems clear: More than 35 years after the last coup, and almost two decades after the 1997 military intervention, Turks do not want a return to the seesawing military and civilian rule that characterized the country between 1960 and 1980. On the contrary, they are attached to their democratic institutions and the constitutional order. The army, a pillar of Kemal Atatürk’s secular order, is weaker. Every major political party condemned the attempted coup. Whatever their growing anger against the president, Turks do not want to go backward.

A successful coup would have been a disaster. Erdogan has massive support in the Anatolian heartland, particularly among religious conservatives. Mosques all over the country were lit through the night as imams echoed the president’s call for people to pour into the street. There can be little doubt that any military-controlled administration would have faced a Syria-like insurgency of Islamists and others. The blow to what is left in the Middle East of democratic institutions and the rule of law would have been devastating.

No wonder President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry “agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected Government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence of bloodshed.”

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The problem is that “restraint” is not part of Erdogan’s vocabulary. As Philip Gordon, a former Special Assistant to Obama on the Middle East, told me: “Rather than use this as an opportunity to heal divisions, Erdogan may well do the opposite: go after adversaries, limit press and other freedoms further, and accumulate even more power.” Within hours, more than 2,800 military personnel had been detained and 2,745 judges removed from duty.

A prolonged crackdown on so-called “Gulenists,” whoever Erdogan deems them to be, and the Kemalist “deep state” (supporters of the old secular order) is likely. An already divided society will grow more fissured. Secular Turkey will not quickly forget the cries of “Allahu akbar” echoing last night from some mosques and from crowds in the streets.

A rapid push by Erdogan to reform the constitution through a referendum and create a presidency with sweeping executive powers is possible. He now has a case to say only such powers will keep enemies at bay.

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“It may well be that democracy has triumphed in Turkey only to be strangled at a slower pace,” Jonathan Eyal, the international director at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, told me. There can be little doubt the expressions of support for Erdogan from western capitals came through gritted teeth.

For the Obama administration, the dilemmas of the Middle East could scarcely have been more vividly illustrated. When an Egyptian general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, led a coup three years ago against the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, Obama did not support the democratic government, as he has now in Turkey. The administration even avoided use of the word “coup” in Egypt. In effect, the president sided with the generals in the name of order.

True, Morsi was deeply unpopular. The Egyptian coup had massive support. It was a fait accompli by the time Obama weighed in. Still, principles in the Middle East are worth little. Policy often amounts to choosing the least bad option.

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In Turkey, the least bad – Erdogan’s survival – has prevailed. That does not mean much worse will not follow. A failed coup does not mean democracy is the winner. In fact, the worst of this prickly autocrat may now be unleashed upon Turkey, with America and its allies able to do little about it.

July 14, 2016

Three Men Shot In Virginia While Streaming Live On Facebook

by mkleit

 

Buzzfeed

A Facebook live stream ended abruptly on Tuesday when three men listening to music inside a car in Norfolk, Virginia, were suddenly shot, authorities said.

Police said three men — two age 27 and the other age 29 — were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, with two suffering life-threatening injuries.

In a statement Wednesday morning, police said two of the men were “doing better, but one is still listed in critical condition.”

“During the shooting incident, one of the men inside the car was broadcasting a live video to Facebook,” police said. “This video has been confirmed to be of the actual shooting incident.”

The video, posted on Facebook by T.J. Williams, shows the trio smoking in a car while listening to music. After about five minutes, a string of gunshots are heard and the camera falls to the ground.

After the gunshots stop, a man can be heard saying, “Call an ambulance, please.” Moments later, a person is heard again asking for an ambulance and providing an address.

A man is then heard repeatedly telling another person to “stay calm, stay relaxed.” He says to “stay with me. They’re all good — we called the paramedics already.” He continues to talk with the presumably injured victims until the ambulance arrives, saying “they are breathing and keep focused on me.”

After about 10 minutes, emergency responders can be heard in the background.

The video continues to roll for more than an hour until the phone appears to run out of battery.

May 31, 2016

روبرت فيسك: السلطان «أردوغان» يبتز أوروبا لترحيل الأكراد

by mkleit
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الرئيس التركي رجب طيب أردوغان

لماذا يتعجل سلطان تركيا حصول شعبه على حق دخول الاتحاد الأوروبي دون تأشيرة؟ وخَطب الأسبوع الماضي قائلا إنه إذا لم يقفز الاتحاد الأوروبي إلى خانة التوقيع، سيفسد البرلمان التركي الصفقة برمتها، وكان هذا تلميحا بأنه سيترك هذا الجيش من اللاجئين العرب يبحرون مرة أخرى عبر بحر إيجه لليونان. أين الـ3 مليارات يورو التي وُعدت بها تركيا؟
ومع ذلك، سأل قليل من الأوروبيين عما إذا كان هذا الأمر المتعلق بالتأشيرة والسفر له علاقة بمجموعة معينة من الشعب التركي: الأكراد.

الأوروبيون، الذين يشاركون في حملة واسعة من الرشوة لوقف جحافل الفقراء الشرق أوسطيين الذين يصلون إلى أراضيهم، أهدروا رغبة «أردوغان» في الحفاظ على قوانينه الوحشية لمكافحة الإرهاب. أنجيلا ميركل التي وضعت هذه الصفقة الفظيعة لتجنب تكرار ما حدث لها العام الماضي، توارت بعيدا في الخلفية.

عدد من وزراء خارجية منطقة الشرق الأوسط (مع استبعاد السوريين نظرا لأنهم حالة خاصة) يعتبرون أن السلطان «أردوغان» يسعى بهذه الصفقة إلي توفير حل لأكبر مشاكله الداخلية، خاصة في المنطقة الجنوبية الشرقية من البلاد، التي يمثل فيها الأكراد غالبية السكان، من خلال تشجيعه لـ16 مليون مواطن كردي على الاستفادة من السفر للاتحاد الأوروبي بدون تأشيرة.

«هل تعتقدون أن أردوغان يتوقع أن يتزاحم شعبه على أوروبا لأنهم يريدون التسوق في باريس مثلا؟».. سؤال وجهه دبلوماسي عربي مقيم في بيروت، بروح حزينة وسلبية.

بالطبع، يود السلطان الانضمام إلي الاتحاد الأوروبي، لأنه يريد في الأساس الحصول على 3 مليارات يورو، ويعتزم الاحتفاظ بسلطاته الديكتاتورية المتزايدة. والعمال الضيوف الأتراك كانوا في أوروبا لعقود من الزمن.

لكن الشتات الكردي المتزايد في «شنجن أوروبا»، ربما أكثر من 1.5 مليون شخص، سيزداد بشكل كبير إذا انتهى بنزوح غالبية الأكراد في منطقة ديار بكر الفقيرة والمهمشة إلي ألمانيا والدنمارك والسويد للعيش هناك.

ولفهم ما يحدث، فإن الإمبراطورية العثمانية دمرت معظم سكانها المسيحيين في الإبادة الجماعية للأرمن، الذين وصل عددهم إلى مليون ونصف المليون شخص عام 1915، وشارك خلفاء أتاتورك في ذبح أكثر من 50 ألفا من الأكراد والعلويين بين 1937 و1938. ووسط حرب أخرى في كردستان تركيا، الناجمة عن رفض السلطان الحديث الالتزام بوقف إطلاق النار، أضاف حافزا لهجرة أخرى لغير الأتراك.. مرحبا بكم في الاتحاد الأوروبي.

نعم، أصبح مقدرا الآن أن يكون هناك مجرد «السفر بدون تأشيرة»، لكننا نعلم جميعا ماذا يعني ذلك. ونحن سنتحمل وصول مئات الآلاف من الأكراد حتى لا نرى وجوها هزيلة مرة أخرى أمام سلك الحدود.

التاريخ، بالطبع، يلعب حيلا غريبة وسط الجمر الذي لا يزال يتطاير دخانه الكثيف من عهد الإمبراطورية العثمانية القديمة. منذ 5 سنوات فقط، كنا نظن جميعا أن رجب طيب أردوغان الديمقراطي كان نموذجا للقيادة العربية في المستقبل. الرجل الذي أدار ظهره لـ«أتاتورك»، القدوة السابق لفقراء العالم العربي القديم، قد يكون مؤيدا للإخوان المسلمين، لكنه يؤمن بانتخابات حرة وصحافة حرة واقتصاد السوق وحملات واسعة النطاق لمكافحة الإرهاب، والسبب الأخير هو ما جعله الورقة الرابحة فورا في واشنطن ولندن وباريس، وكذلك وفر «الأهداف الناعمة» الأخرى، التي كانت مغطاة بقشرة من الاهتمام بحقوق الإنسان.

لكن الآن، السلطان القابع في قصره ذو الألف غرفة، المزودة بالكراسي الذهبية، يبدو أقرب للعثمانيين من أتاتورك، الرجل الذي كان من المفترض أنه يحتقره.

لا يزال السلطان يتحدث عن الشعارات، يتحدث عن إعادة إدخال اللغة العثمانية في الكتابة العربية، رغم أن الأرشيف العثماني عن الإبادة الجماعية للأرمن سيبقى مغلقا، يتحدث أيضا عن تشجيع السيدات على ارتداء الحجاب. لكن السلطان بدأ الآن يعمل كأنه الأب لشعبه.

من المفيد أن نتذكر أن دولة واحدة في أوروبا كانت تُكِن إعجابا هائلا لأتاتورك وأرضه الجديدة: ألمانيا النازية. وقد أشيد بالفوهرر التركي في الصحافة النازية لأسباب واضحة، إذ أعاد بلاده بعد الهزيمة من فرنسا وألمانيا في الحرب العالمية الأولي. كان يحكم دولة أطلق سراحها (من قبل العثمانيين) من أقلية مكروهة. كان يدير نظام الحزب الواحد إلي حد كبير، وقمع المعارضة بقسوة، وهمّش الدين.

لكن من هو «أردوغان» اليوم؟، الرجل الذي استأنف الحرب الكردية، والآن يريد ترحيلهم بدون تأشيرة سفر إلى أوروبا بسرعة؟ هل هو السلطان في قصره، سيد عظيم صاحب إمبراطورية خيالية، أم كما وصفه بشجاعة أحد الصحفيين الأتراك بأنه «طفل أتاتورك»؟ أنا لا أريد أن أقول إنه مزيج من الاثنين معا.

أعتقد أن «أردوغان» يحاول الجمع بين الأمرين. والد الأمة ومنظف الأرض، الأب الروحي والنموذج والقدوة لتركيا النقية، وإمبراطور الشرق الأوسط الذي يصل صوته من قصر الباب العالي مثل الرعد إلى قاعات ملوك الخليج.

وبالمناسبة، أين قرار الموافقة على السفر بدون تأشيرة إلى الاتحاد الأوروبي؟ أحضريها علي الفور أنجيلا. فأنت ستحصلين على الكثير من الأكراد في برلين، لكن إن وافقتِ أن تكوني المسؤولة عن اتفاقية الرشوة، فلا يمكن أن تشكي الآن من طلبات الجانب الآخر في الصفقة. وهذا ما يسمي «التدخل في الشؤون الداخلية لدولة ذات سيادة».

ترجمة غادة غالب – المصري اليوم

April 6, 2016

Armenia and Azerbaijan – The History Behind the Recent Tensions

by mkleit

Andrew Korybko

Source

 

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The unprecedented upsurge in violence along the Line of Contact between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh has raised universal concern that a larger conflict might be brewing, with some analysts seeing it as an outgrowth of Turkey’s destabilizing anti-Russian policies over the past couple of months.

As attractive as it may be to believe such that Azerbaijan is behaving as a total puppet of the West, such an explanation is only a superficial description of what is happening and importantly neglects to factor in Baku’s recent foreign policy pivot over the past year. It’s not to necessarily suggest that Russia’s CSTO ally Armenia is to blame for the latest ceasefire violations, but rather to raise the point that this unfolding series of militantly destabilizing events is actually a lot more complex than initially meets the eye, although the general conclusion that the US is reaping an intrinsic strategic benefit from all of this is clearly indisputable.

Instead of beginning the research from a century ago and rehashing the dueling historic interpretations that both sides have over Nagorno-Karabakh, the article at hand begins at the present day and proceeds from the existing on-the-ground state of affairs after the 1994 ceasefire, whereby the disputed territory has de-facto been administered as its own unrecognized state with strong Armenian support in all sectors. There’s no attempt to advocate one side or denigrate the other, but rather to objectively understand the situation as it is and forecast its unfolding developments.

In keeping with the task at hand, it’s essential that the point of analytical departure be an overview of Armenia and Azerbaijan’s latest geopolitical moves in the year preceding the latest clashes. Afterwards, it’s required that an analysis be given about the limits to Russia’s CSTO commitment to Armenia, which thus helps to put Russia’s active diplomatic moves into the appropriate perspective.

Following that, Part II of the article raises awareness about the US’ Reverse Brzezinski stratagem of peripheral quagmire-like destabilization along the post-Soviet rim and how the recent outbreak of violence is likely part and parcel of this calculated plan. Finally, the two-part series concludes with the suggested appeal that Armenia and Azerbaijan replace the stale OSCE Minsk Group conflict resolution format with a fresh analogue via their newly shared dialogue partner status under the SCO.

 

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Not What One Would Expect

Over the past year or so, Armenia and Azerbaijan’s geopolitical trajectories haven’t exactly been moving along the course that casual commentators would expect that they would. Before beginning this section, it’s necessary to preface it with a disclaimer that the author is not referring to the average Armenian or Azeri citizen in the following analysis, but rather is using their respective countries’ names interchangeably with their given governments, so “Armenia” in this instance refers to the Yerevan political establishment while “Azerbaijan” relates to its Baku counterpart.

This advisory note is needed in order to proactively prevent the reader from misunderstanding the author’s words and analyses, since the topic is full of highly emotionally charged elements and generally evokes a strong reaction among many, especially those of either of the two ethnicities.

 

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Armenian troops during clashes with Azerbaijan

 

Armenia:

The general trend is that the prevailing geopolitical stereotypes about Armenia and Azerbaijan are not as accurate as one would immediately think, and that neither country adheres to them to the degree that one would initially expect. It’s true that Armenia is a staunch and loyal Russian CSTO ally which maintains a presence of 5,000 troops, a handful of jets and helicopters, a forthcoming air defense shield, and possibly soon even Iskander missiles there, but it’s been progressively diversifying its foreign policy tangent by taking strong strides in attempting to reach an Association Agreement with the EU despite its formal Eurasian Union membership.

This has yet to be clinched, but the resolute intent that Yerevan clearly demonstrated in May 2015 raises uncomfortable questions about the extent to which its decision-making elite may have been co-opted by Western influences. The author was so concerned about this eventuality that he published a very controversial analysis that month explaining the various ploys by which the West has sought to woo Armenia over to its side, including the shedding of crocodile tears for its genocide victims during their centenary remembrance commemoration.

As is the established pattern which was most clearly proven by Ukraine, the more intensely that a geostrategically positioned country flirts with the West, the more susceptible that it is to a forthcoming Color Revolution attempt, so it’s unsurprising in hindsight that the “Electric Yerevan” destabilization was commenced just one month after the Armenian President was publicly hobnobbing with so many of his Western “partners”.

That anti-government push was a proto-manifestation of what the author later described in an unrelated work as “Color Revolution 1.5” technologies which seek to use “civil society” and “anti-corruption” elements as experimental triggers for testing the catalyzation of large-scale regime change movements. The geopolitical end goal in all of this, as the author wrote in his “Electric Yerevan” piece cited above, was to get Armenian nationalists such as Nikol Pashinyan into power so that they can provoke a continuation war in Nagorno-Karabakh that might conceivably end up dragging in Russia.

They thankfully didn’t succeed in this, and the sitting Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has repeatedly underscored that Armenia does not want to see a conflict escalation in the disputed territory.

Strangely, despite the regime change attempt that the West tried to engineer against Armenia, Sargsyan still declared in early 2016 that “Armenia’s cooperation and development of relations with the EU remain a priority for Armenia’s foreign policy” and “expressed gratitude to the EU for their assistance in carrying out reforms in Armenia.” Also, the EU’s External Action Service reports that the two sides formally relaunched their negotiation process with one another on 7 December with the aim of reaching a “new agreement (that) will replace the current EU-Armenia Partnership and Cooperation agreement.”

An EU analyst remarked in March of this year that he obviously doesn’t believe that it will be identical to the Association Agreement that the EU had offered to Armenia prior to its Eurasian Union ascension, but that of course doesn’t mean that it couldn’t share many similarities with its predecessor and create geopolitical complications for Yerevan’s economic alliance with Moscow.

It must be emphasized at this point that while the Armenian state is still closely linked to Russia on the military-political level and formally part of the Eurasian Union, it is provocatively taking strong economic steps in the direction of the EU and the general Western community, disturbingly raising the prospect that its schizophrenic policies might one day engender a crisis of loyalty where Yerevan is forced to choose between Moscow and Brussels much as Kiev was artificially made to do so as well (and possibly with similar pro-Western urban terrorist consequences for the “wrong choice”).

 

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Armenian house destroyed due to Azerbaijan shelling

 

Azerbaijan:

On the other hand, while Armenia was bucking the conventional stereotype by moving closer to the West, Azerbaijan was also doing something similar by realigning itself closer to Russia. Baku’s relations with Washington, Brussels, Ankara, and even Tel Aviv (which it supplies 40% of its energy to via the BTC pipeline) are well documented, as is its geostrategic function as a non-Russian energy source for the EU (particularly in the context of the Southern Corridor project), so there’s no use regurgitating well-known and established facts inside of this analysis.

Rather, what’s especially interesting to pay attention to is how dramatically the ties between Azerbaijan and the West have declined over the past year. Even more fascinating is that all of it was so unnecessary and had barely anything to do with Baku’s own initiative.

What happened was that Brussels started a soft power campaign against Baku by alleging that the latter had been violating “human rights” and “democratic” principles, which resulted in Azerbaijan boldly announcing in September 2015 that it was cancelling the planned visit of a European Commission delegation and considering whether it “should review [its] ties with the European Union, where anti-Azeri and anti-Islam tendencies are strong.”

For a country that is stereotypically seen as being under the Western thumb, that’s the complete opposite of a subservient move and one that exudes defiance to the West. Earlier that year in February 2015, Quartz online magazine even exaggeratedly fear mongered that “Azerbaijan is transforming into a mini-Russia” because of its strengthening domestic security capabilities in dealing with asymmetrical threats.

While Azerbaijan’s resistance certainly has its pragmatic limits owing to the country’s entrenched strategic and energy infrastructural relationship with the West over the past couple of decades, it’s telling that it would so publicly rebuke the West in the fashion that it did and suggests that the problems between Azerbaijan and the West are deeper than just a simple spat.

Part of the reason for the West’s extreme dislike of the Azerbaijani government has been its recent pragmatic and phased emulation of Russia’s NGO security legislation which aims to curb the effectiveness of intelligence-controlled proxy organizations in fomenting Color Revolutions. Having lost its influence over the country via the post-modern “grassroots-‘bottom-up’” approach, it’s very plausible that the US and its allies decided to find a way to instigate Nagorno-Karabakh clashes as a means of regaining their sway over their wayward Caspian ‘ally’.

Amidst this recent falling out between Azerbaijan and the West and even in the years preceding it, Moscow has been able to more confidently position itself as a reliable, trustworthy, and non-discriminatory partner which would never interfere with Baku’s domestic processes or base its bilateral relations with the country on whatever its counterpart chooses to do at home.

Other than the unmistakable security influence that Russia has had on Azerbaijan’s NGO legislation, the two sides have also increased their military-technical cooperation through a surge of agreements that totaled $4 billion by 2013. By 2015, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that Azerbaijan’s total arms spending for the five-year period of 2011-2014 had increased by 249%, with 85% of its supplies coming from Russia.

In parallel to that, it also asserted that Russia’s weapons exports to Europe for 2011-2015 increased by 264%, “mainly due to deliveries to Azerbaijan”. It’s plain to see that Russia isn’t treating Azerbaijan as though it were an unredeemable Western puppet state, but is instead applying a shrewd and calculated military balancing strategy between it and Armenia.

While unconfirmed by official sources, the head of the Political Researches Department of the Yerevan-based Caucasian Institute Sergey Minasian claimed in 2009 that Russia was supplying its Gyumri base in Armenia via air transit permission from Azerbaijan after Georgia banned such overflights through its territory after the 2008 war.

If this is true, then it would suggest that Russian-Azeri strategic relations are at their most trusted level in post-independence history and that Baku has full faith that Moscow will not do anything to upset the military balance in the Southern Caucasus, which of course includes the paranoid fear that some Azeri observers have expressed about Russia conspiring with Armenia to wage another war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

 

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Armenian troops during clashes with Azerbaijan

 

Strategic Calculations and CSTO Limits

Russia And Armenia:

Everything that was written above likely comes as a complete shock to the casual observer of international affairs because it flies in the face of presumed “logic”, but this just goes to show that the prevailing geopolitical stereotypes about Armenia and Azerbaijan are inaccurate and do not fully reflect the present state of affairs.

The common denominator between the two rival states is their evolving relationship with Russia, which as was just described, appears to be progressively moving in opposite directions. Again, the author does not intend to give the impression that this reflects popular sentiment in either country or its expatriate and diaspora communities, especially Armenia and its affiliated ethnic nationals, since the general attitude inside the country (despite the highly publicized “Electric Yerevan” failed Color Revolution attempt) and for the most part by its compatriots outside of it could safely be described as favorable to Russia.

This makes Yerevan’s pro-Western advances all the more puzzling, but that only means that the answer to this paradox lies more in the vision (and possible monetary incentives) of the country’s leadership than the will of its people. Still, the situation is not critical and has yet to approach the point where the pragmatic and trusted state of bilateral relations is endangered.

Russia And Azerbaijan:

That being said, to many conventional observers, Russia’s close military cooperation with Azerbaijan might seem just as peculiar as Armenia’s intimation of a forthcoming pro-Western economic pivot, but that too can be explained by a strategic calculation, albeit one of a much more pragmatic and understandable nature.

Russia has aspired to play the role of a pivotal balancing force between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and truth be told and much to the dismay of many Armenians, it did approve of UNSC Resolutions affirming Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity along its internationally recognized borders, specifically the most recent 62/243 one from 2008 which:

“Reaffirms continued respect and support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders” and “Demands the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all Armenian forces from all the occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan”.

What’s happening isn’t that Russia is “betraying Armenia” like some overactive nationalist pundits like to allege, but that it’s maintaining what has been its consistent position since the conflict began and is abiding by its stated international guiding principle in supporting territorial integrity.

Key to this understanding is that the conception of territorial integrity is a guiding, but not an irreversible, tenet of Russian foreign policy, and the 2008 Russian peace-enforcement operation in Georgia that led to the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the 2014 reunification with Crimea prove that extenuating circumstances can result in a change of long-standing policy on a case-by-case basis.

This can be interpreted as meaning that Moscow at this stage (operative qualifier) does not support the independence of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, but to be fair, neither does Yerevan, although the Armenian state just recently repeated its previously stated position that it could recognize the Armenian-populated region as a separate country if the present hostilities with Azerbaijan increase.

Therefore, the main condition that could push Armenia to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state and possibly even pressure Russia to follow suit would be the prolonged escalation of conflict around the Line of Contact.Geopolitical Consistency:

 

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Armenian troops during clashes with Azerbaijan

 

The Unification Conundrum:

As much as some participants and international observers might think of such a move as being historically just and long overdue, Russia would likely have a much more cautious approach to any unilateral moves that Armenia makes about recognizing the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.

To repeat what was earlier emphasized about Russia’s political approach to this conflict, this would not amount to a “betrayal” of Armenia but instead would be a pragmatic and sober assessment of the global geostrategic environment and the likely fact that such a move could instantly suck Russia into the war.

As it stands, Russia has a mutual defense commitment to Armenia which makes it responsible for protecting its ally from any aggression against it, however this only corresponds to the territory that Russia internationally recognizes as Armenia’s own, thereby excluding any Armenian forces and passport holders in Nagorno-Karabakh.

If Armenia recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state, it would likely initiate a rapidly progressing process whereby the two Armenian-populated entities vote for unification, which would then place Russia in the very uncomfortable position of having to consider whether it will recognize such a unilateral move by its ally and thereby extend its mutual defense umbrella over what would by then be newly incorporated and Russian-recognized Armenian territory.

On the one hand, Moscow wouldn’t want to be perceived as “betraying” its centuries-long Armenian ally and thenceforth engendering its unshakable hate for the foreseeable future, but on the other, it might have certain reservations about getting directly involved in the military conflict as a warfighting participant and forever losing the positive New Cold War inroads that it has made with Baku.

Russian-Azeri relations, if pragmatically managed along the same constructive trajectory that they’ve already been proceeding along, could lead to Moscow gaining a strategic foothold over an important Turkish, EU, and Israeli energy supplier and thus giving Russia the premier possibility of indirectly exerting its influence towards them vis-à-vis its ties with Baku.

In any case, the Russian Foreign Ministry would prefer not to be placed on the spot and in such a zero-sum position where it is forced to choose between honoring its Armenian ally’s unilateral unification with Nagorno-Karabakh and abandoning its potential outpost of transregional strategic influence in Azerbaijan, or pursuing its gambit to acquire grand transregional influence via Azerbaijan at the perceived expense of its long-standing South Caucasus ally and risk losing its ultra-strategic military presence in the country.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Question is thus a quandary of epic and far-reaching geostrategic proportions for Russia, which is doing everything that it can to neutrally negotiate between the two sides in offsetting this utterly destabilizing scenario and preventing it from being forced to choose a disastrous zero-sum commitment in what will be argued in Part II to likely be an externally third-party/US-constructed military-political dilemma.

Furthermore, both Armenia and Azerbaijan want to retain Russian support and neither wants to risk losing it, which also explains why Azerbaijan has yet to unleash its full military potential against the Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and why Armenia hasn’t unilaterally recognized Nagorno-Karabakh or made an effort to politically unite with it.

Conclusively, it can be surmised that the only actor which wants to force this false choice of “either-or” onto Russia is the US, which always benefits whenever destabilization strikes Moscow’s periphery and its Eurasian adversary is forced into a pressing geopolitical dilemma.

March 28, 2016

The Syrian Army, Hezbollah, Iranians, and Russia drove ISIS out of Palmyra

by mkleit

by Robert Fisk

The Independent

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aerial view of the city of Palmyra

The biggest military defeat that Isis has suffered in more than two years. The recapture of Palmyra, the Roman city of the Empress Zenobia. And we are silent. Yes, folks, the bad guys won, didn’t they? Otherwise, we would all be celebrating, wouldn’t we?

Less than a week after the lost souls of the ‘Islamic Caliphate’ destroyed the lives of more than 30 innocent human beings in Brussels, we should – should we not? – have been clapping our hands at the most crushing military reverse in the history of Isis. But no. As the black masters of execution fled Palmyra this weekend, Messers Obama and Cameron were as silent as the grave to which Isis have dispatched so many of their victims. He who lowered our national flag in honour of the head-chopping king of Arabia (I’m talking about Dave, of course) said not a word.

 

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As my long-dead colleague on the Sunday Express, John Gordon, used to say, makes you sit up a bit, doesn’t it? Here are the Syrian army, backed, of course, by Vladimir Putin’s Russkies, chucking the clowns of Isis out of town, and we daren’t utter a single word to say well done.

When Palmyra fell last year, we predicted the fall of Bashar al-Assad. We ignored, were silent on, the Syrian army’s big question: why, if the Americans hated Isis so much, didn’t they bomb the suicide convoys that broke through the Syrian army’s front lines? Why didn’t they attack Isis?

 

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aerial view of the ancient city of Palmyra

“If the Americans wanted to destroy Isis, why didn’t they bomb them when they saw them?” a Syrian army general asked me, after his soldiers’ defeat  His son had been killed defending Homs. His men had been captured and head-chopped in the Roman ruins. The Syrian official in charge of the Roman ruins (of which we cared so much, remember?) was himself beheaded. Isis even put his spectacles back on top of his decapitated head, for fun. And we were silent then.

 

Putin noticed this, and talked about it, and accurately predicted the retaking of Palmyra. His aircraft attacked Isis – as US planes did not – in advance of the Syrian army’s conquest. I could not help but smile when I read that the US command claimed two air strikes against Isis around Palmyra in the days leading up to its recapture by the regime. That really did tell you all you needed to know about the American “war on terror”. They wanted to destroy Isis, but not that much.

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aerial view of the ancient city of Palmyra

So in the end, it was the Syrian army and its Hizballah chums from Lebanon and the Iranians and the Russians who drove the Isis murderers out of Palmyra, and who may – heavens preserve us from such a success – even storm the Isis Syrian ‘capital’ of Raqqa. I have written many times that the Syrian army will decide the future of Syria. If they grab back Raqqa – and Deir el-Zour, where the Nusrah front destroyed the church of the Armenian genocide and threw the bones of the long-dead 1915 Christian victims into the streets – I promise you we will be silent again.

 

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Syrian soldier holding ISIS flag in the city of Palmyra

Aren’t we supposed to be destroying Isis? Forget it. That’s Putin’s job. And Assad’s. Pray for peace, folks. That’s what it’s about, isn’t it? And Geneva. Where is that, exactly?

January 27, 2016

Iceland Boycotts Israel

by mkleit

Source
By Stephen Lendman

The whole world needs to follow Iceland’s lead. Its capital City of Reykjavik no longer will buy products made in Israel.

 

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Map of Iceland

 

Its city council voted for boycott as long as it continues occupying Palestinian territory – a bold act deserving high praise, perhaps inspiring greater numbers of cities worldwide to follow suit, then maybe countries if enough effective popular resistance against its viciousness materializes.

Petitions in Britain and America to arrest Netanyahu attracted growing thousands of ordinary people – expressing justifiable anger against an apartheid state brutalizing Palestinians for not being Jewish.

Reykjavik Social Democratic Alliance councilwoman Bjork Vilhelmsdottir introduced the motion to boycott – her last action before retiring from politics, expressing support for long-suffering Palestinians, recognizing their self-determination right, free from Israeli oppression.

Left Green Alliance governing coalition member Soley Tomasdottir expressed hope Reykjavik’s action will be a step toward ending Israel’s illegal occupation. Boycotting other countries guilty of human rights abuses may follow, she said.

By acting, “we as a city council, even though we are a small city in the far north, are doing what we can to put pressure on the government of Israel to stop the occupation of Palestinian territory,” she told Icelandic public broadcaster RUV.

Israel reacted as expected. “A volcano of hatred is erupting in the Reykjavik city council,” blustered foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.

“There is no reason or justification for this move, besides hate itself, which is being heard in the form of calls for a boycott against Israel, the Jewish state,” he added.

“We hope that someone in Iceland will wake up and stop this blindness and one sidedness which is aimed against the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel.”

The move is largely symbolic, yet another BDS success. Its web site highlighted “a decade of effective solidarity with Palestinians,” citing the following:

 

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BDS activists in Iceland – Reuters

 

A UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report shows year-over-year direct foreign investment in Israel declined 46% in 2014.

UNCTAD’s Ronny Manos said “(w)e believe that what led to the drop in investment in Israel are Operation Protective Edge and the boycotts Israel is facing.”

French transnational company Veolia failed to win major contracts across Europe and in other countries because of its involvement in Israeli human rights abuses.

The University of Johannesburg cut ties to Israel’s Ben-Gurion University in response to boycott calls from 400 South African academics. Three-fourths of London’s SOAS University academics and students voted to back BDS.

Growing numbers of entertainers refuse to perform in Israel. Many academics decline to lecture there or participate in Israeli conferences. Thousands of professionals and activists support culturally boycotting Israel.

Over 30 US student associations and 11 in Canada voted to support BDS. Israel’s largest defense company Elbit Systems lost a major Brazilian contract. SodaStream closed its settlement factory.

The American Studies Association is the nation’s oldest and largest organization involved in the interdisciplinary study of US culture and history. It voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

Kuwait boycotted 50 companies profiting from Israel’s occupation. The African National Congress declared support for BDS. Sao Paulo Festival organizers ended a sponsorship arrangement with Israel.

Major European banks divested from Israeli companies. Community actions blocked Israeli ships from docking at world ports.

 

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Gazan boy stand in front of destroyed house due to israeli bombs in last war over Gaza

 

Israeli exporters are experiencing sales declines in Europe. Chile suspended a trade agreement with Israel following its summer 2014 Gaza aggression.

US churches are divesting from companies involved in Israel’s occupation. Its state owned Mekorot water company lost contracts in Argentina, Portugal and the Netherlands.

Over 500 European academics called for EU nations to boycott Israeli settlement products. Growing numbers of European city councils support BDS.

Citing Israeli “state terrorism,” Venezuela and Bolivia cut diplomatic ties. Norway refuses to sell it weapons.

These and numerous other examples of BDS effectiveness show growing world outrage against daily Israeli crimes too horrific to ignore, including against young Palestinian children.

They’re terrorized, brutalized, or murdered in cold blood. Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) reported around 2,000 Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces in the past 15 years.

It blamed Israel’s “hyper-militarized environment” – calling its summer 2014 Operation Protective Edge a war on Gazan children. Over 550 died – 68% under age 12.

It blasted Israel’s judicial system for denying Palestinian children basic rights. It said conditions won’t improve until occupation ends.

Global BDS activism is the single most effective campaign against Israeli lawlessness. It hits hard where it hurts most – economically, as well as exposing its phony image as a democratic state. It highlights its apartheid viciousness.

July 20, 2015

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

by mkleit

Independent

How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as “spoils of war”. Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.

There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan

Prince Bandar bin Sultan

Dearlove’s explosive revelation about the prediction of a day of reckoning for the Shia by Prince Bandar, and the former head of MI6’s view that Saudi Arabia is involved in the Isis-led Sunni rebellion, has attracted surprisingly little attention. Coverage of Dearlove’s speech focused instead on his main theme that the threat from Isis to the West is being exaggerated because, unlike Bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida, it is absorbed in a new conflict that “is essentially Muslim on Muslim”. Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by Isis are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.

The forecast by Prince Bandar, who was at the heart of Saudi security policy for more than three decades, that the 100 million Shia in the Middle East face disaster at the hands of the Sunni majority, will convince many Shia that they are the victims of a Saudi-led campaign to crush them. “The Shia in general are getting very frightened after what happened in northern Iraq,” said an Iraqi commentator, who did not want his name published. Shia see the threat as not only military but stemming from the expanded influence over mainstream Sunni Islam of Wahhabism, the puritanical and intolerant version of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia that condemns Shia and other Islamic sects as non-Muslim apostates and polytheists.

Dearlove says that he has no inside knowledge obtained since he retired as head of MI6 10 years ago to become Master of Pembroke College in Cambridge. But, drawing on past experience, he sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes. First, they are convinced that there “can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam’s holiest shrines”. But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be “deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom”.

Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Isis. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.

Sir Richard Dearlove

Sir Richard Dearlove

But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa’ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar’s approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.

He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence “literally shouting at me across his office: ‘9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.'” In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.

Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia “militancy” is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.” She said that, in so far as Saudi Arabia did act against al-Qa’ida, it was as a domestic threat and not because of its activities abroad. This policy may now be changing with the dismissal of Prince Bandar as head of intelligence this year. But the change is very recent, still ambivalent and may be too late: it was only last week that a Saudi prince said he would no longer fund a satellite television station notorious for its anti-Shia bias based in Egypt.

The Sunni Ahmed al-Rifai shrine near Tal Afar is bulldozed

The Sunni Ahmed al-Rifai shrine near Tal Afar is bulldozed

The problem for the Saudis is that their attempts since Bandar lost his job to create an anti-Maliki and anti-Assad Sunni constituency which is simultaneously against al-Qa’ida and its clones have failed.

By seeking to weaken Maliki and Assad in the interest of a more moderate Sunni faction, Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of Isis which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, as happened previously in its Syrian capital Raqqa, potential critics and opponents are disarmed, forced to swear allegiance to the new caliphate and killed if they resist.

The West may have to pay a price for its alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, which have always found Sunni jihadism more attractive than democracy. A striking example of double standards by the western powers was the Saudi-backed suppression of peaceful democratic protests by the Shia majority in Bahrain in March 2011. Some 1,500 Saudi troops were sent across the causeway to the island kingdom as the demonstrations were ended with great brutality and Shia mosques and shrines were destroyed.

An alibi used by the US and Britain is that the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family in Bahrain is pursuing dialogue and reform. But this excuse looked thin last week as Bahrain expelled a top US diplomat, the assistant secretary of state for human rights Tom Malinowksi, for meeting leaders of the main Shia opposition party al-Wifaq. Mr Malinowski tweeted that the Bahrain government’s action was “not about me but about undermining dialogue”.

Iraqi leader al-Maliki

Iraqi leader al-Maliki

Western powers and their regional allies have largely escaped criticism for their role in reigniting the war in Iraq. Publicly and privately, they have blamed the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for persecuting and marginalising the Sunni minority, so provoking them into supporting the Isis-led revolt. There is much truth in this, but it is by no means the whole story. Maliki did enough to enrage the Sunni, partly because he wanted to frighten Shia voters into supporting him in the 30 April election by claiming to be the Shia community’s protector against Sunni counter-revolution.

But for all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki’s failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. “I guess they just didn’t believe us and were fixated on getting rid of [President Bashar al-] Assad,” said an Iraqi leader in Baghdad last week.

Of course, US and British politicians and diplomats would argue that they were in no position to bring an end to the Syrian conflict. But this is misleading. By insisting that peace negotiations must be about the departure of Assad from power, something that was never going to happen since Assad held most of the cities in the country and his troops were advancing, the US and Britain made sure the war would continue.

The chief beneficiary is Isis which over the last two weeks has been mopping up the last opposition to its rule in eastern Syria. The Kurds in the north and the official al-Qa’ida representative, Jabhat al-Nusra, are faltering under the impact of Isis forces high in morale and using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army. It is also, without the rest of the world taking notice, taking over many of the Syrian oil wells that it did not already control.

The Shia Al-Qubba Husseiniya mosque in Mosul explodes

The Shia Al-Qubba Husseiniya mosque in Mosul explodes

Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open. As Kurdish-held border crossings fall to Isis, Turkey will find it has a new neighbour of extraordinary violence, and one deeply ungrateful for past favours from the Turkish intelligence service.

As for Saudi Arabia, it may come to regret its support for the Sunni revolts in Syria and Iraq as jihadi social media begins to speak of the House of Saud as its next target. It is the unnamed head of Saudi General Intelligence quoted by Dearlove after 9/11 who is turning out to have analysed the potential threat to Saudi Arabia correctly and not Prince Bandar, which may explain why the latter was sacked earlier this year.

Nor is this the only point on which Prince Bandar was dangerously mistaken. The rise of Isis is bad news for the Shia of Iraq but it is worse news for the Sunni whose leadership has been ceded to a pathologically bloodthirsty and intolerant movement, a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, which has no aim but war without end.

The Sunni caliphate rules a large, impoverished and isolated area from which people are fleeing. Several million Sunni in and around Baghdad are vulnerable to attack and 255 Sunni prisoners have already been massacred. In the long term, Isis cannot win, but its mix of fanaticism and good organisation makes it difficult to dislodge.

“God help the Shia,” said Prince Bandar, but, partly thanks to him, the shattered Sunni communities of Iraq and Syria may need divine help even more than the Shia.

July 14, 2015

Yemen: A Voice in the Wilderness

by mkleit

“Yemeni people are not bad people, they are good people. They want to be respected, they want their sovereignty to be respected. We did not wage a war, a war was brought upon us. Our issue was an internal one and it would have been sorted out internally”

Hanan al-Harazi, her mother and her 8 year old daughter fled Yemen 10 days after the first bombs started to tear holes in her beloved country. Hanan’s daughter had begun to present the early signs of PTSD and for her sanity, the family decided to split itself down the middle, leaving Hanan’s husband behind in Yemen with his family and her two brothers. Hanan brings us a moving and powerful insight into the events leading up to the present devastation of Yemen at the hands of their Saudi oppressors and their imperialist allies.

Neutron bomb on the outskirts of Yemeni capital Sanaa

Neutron bomb on the outskirts of Yemeni capital Sanaa

Vanessa Beeley: When did you leave Yemen?

Hanan al-Harazi: I think we were in Yemen for almost 10 days after the bombing started and then there was a rocket attack on our immediate neighbourhood, very close to where we lived. After this, my daughter developed urinary incontinence and a sudden fear of any loud sound. Recently, I was looking for her for over an hour and I eventually found her hiding in the closet because she had heard an aircraft flying overhead. It will take decades to erase this trauma from her memory. I can’t even imagine what the other children still in Yemen have been going through after almost 103 days of continuous air raids. It is devastating.

V: How old is your daughter?

H: She is turning 9 in August. I used to work at a school so I know that children are not able to express themselves in words as well as adults.

I just gave her a piece of paper and I told her to write down her feelings. It was heart-breaking for me to read the pain and suffering in those baby words. A few days later, it’s the same thing, all she can draw or paint are jets bombing her country, really sad images. I know that the sun represents something really positive in a child’s life but when you have a child depicting a crying sun with a sad face, it should really pass a powerful message to the world.

We were lucky enough to have foreign passports that meant we could leave Yemen.Nobody is issuing visas to Yemeni nationals so this means 23 million people trapped inside a country that is being mercilessly and indiscriminately bombed with complete disregard for civilian life.

V: There are reports that state over 80% of the population are now enduring a humanitarian crisis. Is this figure realistic?

H: Absolutely! There is a catastrophic humanitarian crisis unfolding in Yemen. My fear is that if the blockade is not lifted we are going to witness something horrific by all standards. You are talking about a population of which almost 60% are living below the poverty line. They don’t know how to secure the next meal and this was when their world was “ok” and not in a state of war. I would say the few people who had jobs have lost them and food prices have rocketed. The capital may have slightly better facilities than some outlying areas but even there, the water is now contaminated and the cost of bottled water has trebled in price. I have no idea how people are coping.

Food is still available in the markets but supplies are sparse. Once these supplies do run out, Yemen will starve. We produce very little food in Yemen itself, the majority of foodstuff is imported so the movement of goods is essential to our survival. The blockade will ensure that we cannot survive. There has been a tiny trickle of aid via certain aid groups and NGOs but this has only reached hardest hit areas like Aden, leaving entire swaths of the country without food, water or medical facilities. The cumulative effects will be horrendous and the Humanitarian crisis will be crippling.

V: I am assuming that KSA [as Israel did in Gaza] is targeting Yemen’s infrastructure in order to destroy the civilian ability to survive this onslaught.

H: Yes absolutely. If you look back to yesterday, the events in Amran and Lahj, they have targeted food markets and livestock markets. More evidence of the coalition determination to starve the people of Yemen. The livestock constitutes part of our minimal domestic produce, so this is a deliberate destruction of the civilian ability to survive. The footage that is coming out shows that they are targeting civilian areas, schools have been hit, stadiums, sports facilities, you name it. They have hit everything. They are saying they are only targeting military centres. Perhaps in the beginning this was true. Over the last few weeks we have seen far more random & intense bombing of civilian sites.

The Ansarullah movement is pretty much part of the Yemeni fabric, the Yemeni society. They don’t carry any markings or insignia to distinguish them from the local population so it is beyond ridiculous to say that they are hitting only Ansarullah targets in a city like Sanaa, that has a population of 3 million people .The civilian death toll is way higher than if they were only targeting Ansarullah operatives.

Doctor holds bomb-surviving three-days-old girl in Sanaa, Yemeni capital

Doctor holds bomb-surviving three-days-old girl in Sanaa, Yemeni capital

V: In your view is there any alternative to resisting this attack on Yemen? Is there an option for surrender and negotiation?

H: Look, I will speak for myself and for a lot of people in Yemen. The question of Yemen’s sovereignty has always been uppermost in Yemeni minds and this led to the 2011 revolution to get rid of our long- time dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh because we knew he was largely a Saudi puppet. He was pushing the Saudi agenda in Yemen and giving it priority over the interests of the country. During this time many people lost their livelihoods and their lives and most of the major cities caught up in the revolt, came to a standstill for a while.

We have not come this far only to have another Saudi puppet government in place in Yemen. If this continues we no longer have an identity. Yemeni people are not bad people, they are good people. They want to be respected, they want their sovereignty to be respected. We did not wage a war, a war was brought upon us. Our issue was an internal one and it would have been sorted out internally.

Jamal Benomar, the former UN peace envoy to Yemen stated very openly that the warring factions were actually reaching an agreement before the first bomb hit. “When this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis,” said Mr. Benomar, a Moroccan diplomat. Thus it becomes obvious that our aspirations are being sacrificed at the altar of Imperialist greed and ambition.

V: We are seeing this across the region, these internal attempts at reconciliation and agreement that are being derailed by the Imperialist agenda and their sectarian propaganda. From what you are saying, this is also happening in Yemen?

H: I can categorically state, there is no sectarian conflict in Yemen. They have been trying to ignite a sectarian war in Yemen but Yemen is one country where we have had Shafi Sunnis and Zaydi Shias praying in the same mosques for hundreds of years. We are a society that is known to intermarry between these two sects. In reality they instigated this territorial war when they wanted to split Yemen into a 6 federal state system. We are tired of having their agenda imposed upon us and being forced to implement it.

I have lived in Yemen for the last 21 years and I never knew that my next door neighbour was a Shafi Sunni or a Zaydi Shia. It was not part of our culture, we never asked. We peacefully coexisted. This balkanisation agenda was the start of the entire problem. Their division was all wrong. They left some areas totally isolated.

The Ansarullah movement and the Southern Separatist movement were both in favour of a confederal state system where Yemen would be divided into north and south existing within a federal state. Most of us were ok with that.

President Hadi [although I hate to call him our President] was pushing the Saudi agenda of the 6 state system. Another thing that a lot of people don’t realise, is that when they divided the 6 state system they purposefully isolated one state called Azal. Azal incorporated many of the Zaydi strongholds, Sadaa, Amran, Sanaa and Dhamar. Azal was left without any resources or any access to the sea. It was blatant imprisonment and suppression of what we would term the “traditional powers” in that area. It was a deliberate attempt to weaken their influence in Yemen.

So Hadi’s plan would have divided Yemen into smaller sectarian states while the Ansarullah plan was more like going back to the boundaries before unity where the south would have greater autonomy over its own internal affairs.

V: How great is the “extremist” threat in Yemen?

H: Let me give you an example. The al-Jauf area has both Sunni and Shia populations and so does Marib and elsewhere. The Zaydi Shias and Shafi Sunnis are both very moderate sects. Yemeni people have no affiliation to the Wahabi sect of Saudi Arabia. Wahabism is alien to Yemen.

We do see certain areas in the South, like Hadramaut which has been in the media lately, parts of which are totally under control of Al Qaeda. The funny thing is, the bombs are falling on the very people that are fighting these extremists. Not a single bomb has been dropped on the extremist strongholds. Even though they know that AQ is in total control of al-Mukalla in Hadramaut and the seaport in that area. That has to be a huge question mark over their true agenda in the region.

The bombing has only achieved one thing and that is to further strengthen these extremist groups in Yemen. I know that in Ansarullah controlled-areas we have the local popular committees that are in charge of security and they have been working round the clock to ensure that the extremist elements are kept at bay. On the battleground their progress has been immensely impeded thanks to the airstrikes that serve as cover for the advancing extremists.

I am not sure if there are any foreign fighters at the moment. I know there are some Saudis, but I am not aware of foreigners from Afghanistan, Chechnya for example. If things escalate I believe we will see many more of these extremists entering Yemen via our borders, yes. Right now the northern borders are secure, apart from Marib where there is heavy fighting going on.

V: How much support are you receiving from Iran?

H: I do not believe that Iran is playing any active role. They support Yemen from a media perspective only. I believe Iran’s “support” is a propaganda ploy to justify hitting Yemen. This war was planned a long time ago, even before Ansarullah moved towards the capital. It becomes very suspicious when you have a president in power and a minority group leaves its stronghold in the northernmost tip of Yemen and moves down towards the capital, Sanaa, in the centre of the country. One city after another in the north falls to them and the president says nothing. Then just as they reach agreement which was the Peace and Partnership Initiative, Hadi suddenly decides that he does not want Ansarullah to have even marginal representation in Government. That was obviously never going to be acceptable, Ansarullah is a force on the ground that must be considered part of the coalition. That is where the conflict originated and that is why they placed Hadi under house arrest because he was following Saudi instructions. Saudi was against the Ansarullah inclusion in Yemen’s government. Then Hadi fled to the south.

My personal take was that the plan was always for Hadi to flee to the south and ask the Saudis for help which justified their bombing of the north of Yemen which has traditionally been the Zaydi stronghold and a thorn in their side. Ansarullah and the army discovered this plan and moved very quickly down to the south and hence you see this widespread bombing in all areas, not just in the north.

As a final point in the analysis of Iran’s role in Yemen. Yemen is a sovereign state and we are free to have bilateral ties with whomsoever we choose. Saudi had a problem with Yemen opening up about 12 flights per week to Iran mainly for bilateral reasons because the rest of the world shut down against Yemen. We have been under Saudi influence for, at least, the last 30 years. Many will say it’s much longer due to Saudi having been implicated in the assassination of President Ibrahim Al Hamdi who was probably the best President that Yemen has ever had.

Yemen’s greatest problems are economic in nature. Saudi never did anything to resolve our economic issues other than putting our leaders on their payroll in order to effectively destroy the country. It’s nearly impossible for a Yemeni to get a visa to travel, even to the UAE.

How can a country flourish when there are so many restrictions upon its people? When Ansarullah came to power our options were reviewed and bilateral ties with Iran were naturally investigated.

Injured kid after Saudi bombing on Talah, in Sada district, northern Yemen

Injured kid after Saudi bombing on Talah, in Sada district, northern Yemen

V: There is a very strong sense of Yemen’s isolation. Even last night 180 Yemeni civilians were massacred in Amran and Lahj yet the media barely mentions it. Is this how you perceive it?

H: Yes. This goes back to decades and decades of isolation. Let me ask this question to the world. The government collapsed in Yemen in September 2014. Can you imagine a country that has gone months and months without a government in place, without a police force, without an army, with a population that does carry arms and with crushing poverty, yet the crime rate is less than “first world” countries like America. Why are these people isolated when they have this inestimable respect for human life? They are an example to the world.

News trickles out via internet, Yemen Today channel and Ansarullah’s channel, al-Masirah. It pains me that people seem to be largely ignoring our suffering, particularly when it is relatively easy to inform themselves these days. For instance, Yemen has had no coverage regarding the internationally banned weaponry that is being used against us. I know that where I work, the area has been decimated. It is an area called Faj Attan a densely populated civilian area where there are shopping areas, thousands of residential homes, schools. How can you use such weapons of mass destruction in an area like this and be exempt from investigation?

V: Are you receiving any help through Oman?

H: Oman appears to have taken a neutral stance, for which I am grateful. The interesting thing is, about a month before the bombing started, I read a report from inside Oman stating that they were preparing for a refugee crisis. They were talking about the possibility of setting up refugee camps on the Yemen/Oman borders. So when the first bombs hit at 1.30 am when we were all asleep, I knew immediately that this had all been pre-planned. Maybe because Oman are part of the Gulf Cooperative [GCC] they had information that something was being prepared against Yemen. I do know that a lot of people have been flown into Oman for treatment, particularly during the suicide bomb attacks on the mosques in Yemen.

V: How is the internet in Yemen? How much electricity or alternative power source is available?

H: People are struggling, there is no power. Can you imagine a country in the 21st century without any power at all? Many people don’t realise that much of the water used in Yemen is pumped from underground reservoirs and so we need diesel or electricity to enable this pumping process, neither of which are available.

From what I hear, electricity is available maybe 40 minutes per week in the capital, Sanaa. There are other areas in the country that have no power at all. We did have this black out problem even before the war but never to this extent. Yes some have generators but black market fuel prices are crippling.

V: You mention WMD. I know there were reports on the use of nuclear bombs. The information coming out of Yemen is sketchy. Do you have any further information or evidence of this claim?

H: I know that 2 of the bombs that were used did produce a nuclear “type” mushroom cloud. Obviously the effects of any radiation will only be seen after time.

Yemen cluster bombs, But even if they did not use nuclear missiles..the weapons they are using are still illegal and devastating. Their use of cluster bombs is well documented, some have failed to detonate and have been photographed on the ground. They have used neutron bombs which generate so much pressure. When my neighbourhood came under attack in first 10 days, the pressure I felt from a relatively distant explosion was terrifying. I had pain in my ears from the pressure draft for weeks afterwards.

The Yemenis were leading normal lives before being suddenly flung into a war zone, its bewildering for everyone. My husband is part of a food distribution network for the poor during Ramadan. He had just gone to deliver some goods to someone in the neighbourhood. Two minutes after he left there were direct rocket hits on this area and this poor man who didn’t even know where his next meal was coming from, was killed. How many more people must die senselessly to serve an Imperialist agenda?

V: Do you have a personal concept of what that Imperialist agenda is?

H: I do not think it is related to Iran despite the propaganda to the contrary. I think we are paying dearly for trying to free ourselves from Saudi slavery. We are paying for our freedom with our lives.

I have been told there are oil and more importantly, gas reserves in al-Jawf which is bordering Saudi Arabia and has been protected by them for years. In 2011 when the people took to the streets demanding a better life, President Saleh was forced to admit its existence publicly for the first time. So we are cursed, we are cursed because we have oil & gas. Every country that has natural resources is cursed and a target of Imperialist intervention.

Saudi Arabia has fostered corruption in Yemen for decades. Ansarullah were committed to ending this poisonous influence on our leaders and this would have countermanded Saudi power in Yemen. When the first bombs hit, the “sold” tribal sheikhs and politicians were seen fleeing to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi air force destroys mosque in bordering governorate of Saada in Yemen

Saudi air force destroys mosque in bordering governorate of Saada in Yemen

V: Would you be able to just elaborate on the situation in Aden and also address why Yemen is so important to Saudi Arabia.

H: Aden is being portrayed by the pro aggression media as being a battle for the legitimacy of Hadi. In 2011 Hadi was the only viable choice to fill the power vacuum. 6 million northerners voted for him while the south actually boycotted elections. This alone should counter the claims that he has legitimacy in the South of Yemen.

In Aden what is happening now is that Hadi has gone back to the South but it has to be made clear that the people of Aden and the surrounding area are not pro Hadi, they are also fighting for their independence and are not pro Saudi aggression.

If you look at a map of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is landlocked. Its only access or lifeline to the outside world is via the Bab-el-Mandeb straits in the south of Yemen and the Straits of Hormuz which are controlled by Iran. Yemen has never attempted to block or to impede movement through the Yemeni controlled Mandeb straits. To be honest I don’t even think that Yemen truly controls this area, it is covertly under the control of the Imperialist nations. Saudi Arabia has a lot of internal turmoil and is brutally crushing its own internal opposition. We would never interfere in Saudi internal affairs but I believe that they fear a strong Yemen. With our new constitution clearly stating that leaders can only have two terms in power, we would be the only republic in the GCC block. In Saudi Arabia, which is a despotic regime, our evolution could threaten the stability of their ruling families.

V: What is the message that you would like to convey to the outside world.

H: My hope right now, apart from a miracle from God, is that there are more good people than bad people in this world and I wish we could reach out to them and tell them, today it is me, tomorrow it is you.

We just want to survive, we want to live. Yemen is not the country it is being portrayed to be. We are not terrorists. We are proud of our culture. We are a peace loving people. Yemen is one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world. We are being portrayed as savages by a media that is supporting the savaging of our land.

I also have to say I respect Ansarullah for their wisdom and self -restraint especially when our mosques came under attack. Mosques that may have been built by Zaydi but are inclusive of all sects for worship. Ansarullah released a statement instructing people not to be drawn into the foreign conspiracy to ignite sectarian divisions. I feel they genuinely represent millions of Yemeni who are fighting for self-determination and recognition as a sovereign nation.

Surrender is not an option while our own internal peace process is being derailed by external aggression. Saudi Arabia has failed to send in ground troops and they are attempting to bomb us into submission. They see that this will not succeed so they have now imposed this brutal, horrific, cruel, vicious blockade on Yemen in the hope that the Yemeni people will turn against those who are fighting the Saudi invaders. I am proud of the solidarity that my people have shown to one another. Even in a situation like this where they have so few resources they will still take care of their neighbours. We are human beings and we have a right to a decent life.

Yemen is far from perfect but no country in this world is perfect. We did not wage this war, we did not provoke this war. For the first 40 days of the Saudi offensive, Yemen did not fire one bullet towards Saudi Arabia. It is rank hypocrisy from Saudi Arabia to label us the aggressor. It has always been the opposite, Saudi Arabia has always been sending its filthy elements into my country and attempting to spread its disgusting Wahabi ideology. Whether Zaydi or Shafi we will never adopt this distorted, twisted, ugly version of Islam.

I would go so far as to state that Yemen has potential to be a model for true democracy in the Middle East. There are 25 million people who call Yemen, home. We simply ask to be left in Peace. Is that too much to ask?

Two small refugees from Sada district to Houdeida in Yemen

Two small refugees from Sada district to Houdeida in Yemen

This interview first appeared at thewallwillfall.wordpress.com

Vanessa Beeley is a photographer, writer, peace activist and volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. She lived in Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defence and again in 2013. In 2014 she established the Gaza Smile Project to raise funds for children in Gaza. She spent her childhood in Egypt with her father, Sir Harold Beeley who was Special Envoy to Cairo during both Suez Crises, confirmed Nasserist and Middle East Advisor to Ernest Bevin. Since 2011, Vanessa has spent most of her time in the Middle East . She was recently invited to be on the steering committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement. Visit her blog thewallwillfall.wordpress.com.

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