Category Archives: Yemen

Yemen: Where America Tests its Weapons

The US spends more on military aid to Saudi Arabia than on humanitarian aid to Yemen as the former continues to wage war on the latter. RT America’s Alex Mihailovich reports. Then former UK MP George Galloway weighs in on the conflict and why it is met with such widespread ignorance and apathy in the West.

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The Yemen Civil War Arms Bonanza

“Making billions from arms exports which fuel the conflict while providing a small fraction of that in aid to Yemen is both immoral and incoherent.”  So thundered Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director, Muhsin Siddiquey after consulting figures from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showing that members of the G20 have exported over $17 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the Kingdom entered the conflict in Yemen.  “The world’s wealthiest nations cannot continue to put profits above the Yemeni people.”

They do, and will continue to do so, despite the cholera outbreak, coronavirus, poorly functioning hospitals, and 10 million hungry mouths.  The latest illustration of this is the Trump administration’s hurried $23 billon sale of 50 F-35 fighter aircraft, 18 MQ-9B Reaper drones, air-to-air missiles and various other munitions to the United Arab Emirates.  The UAE used to be a more enthusiastic member of the Saudi Arabian-led coalition that has been pounding Yemen since 2015.  Despite completing a phased military withdrawal from the conflict in February 2020 to much fanfare, Abu Dhabi remains involved in the coalition and an influential agent.  Amnesty International has issued a grim warning that such weapons might well be used in “attacks that violate international humanitarian law and kill, as well as injure, thousands of Yemeni civilians.”

With the imminent change of administration in the United States, there is a moral flutter in Congressional ranks, though much of it remains meek and slanted.  Democratic Senators Bob Menendez (NJ) and Chris Murphy (Conn.), along with Republican Senator Rand Paul (Ky) intend introducing separate resolutions disapproving of President Donald Trump’s sale. Menendez felt morally mighty in warning the Trump administration that “circumventing deliberative processes for considering a massive infusion of weapons to a country in a volatile region with multiple ongoing conflicts is downright irresponsible.”

Murphy expressed his support for “the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but nothing in that agreement requires us to flood the region with more weapons and facilitate a dangerous arms race.”

The US President-elect, Joe Biden, has thrown a few titbits of promise to critics of the US-Gulf States circle of love and armaments.  During the Atlanta Democratic debate held in November last year, he entertained a departure from a policy embraced during the Obama administration, certainly with regards to Saudi Arabia.  “I would make it very clear that we were not going to in fact sell more weapons to them.”  A Biden administration would “make them pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are.”  Specifically on the Yemen conflict, he promised to “end the sale of material to the Saudis where they’re going in and murdering children.”  Fighting words, easily said when a candidate.

This view was reiterated to the Council on Foreign Relations in August this year.  “I would end US support for the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen and order a reassessment of our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”  The Trump administration had issued the kingdom “a dangerous blank check. Saudi Arabia has used it to extend a war in Yemen that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, pursue reckless foreign policy fights, and repress its own people.”

Progressive groups have picked up a scent they find promising.  Policy director for Win Without War, Kate Kizer, expressed hope “that [Biden] starts by immediately undoing as many of the just-notified sales to the UAE as possible, and by putting the brakes on transfers that Congress has previously tried to reject under Trump.”

The moral wash on this is, however, thin.  Menendez, for instance, is hardly giddy about the fate of Yemeni civilians in the context of such arms sales, citing “a number of outstanding concerns as to how these sales would impact the national security interests of both the United States and of Israel.”  Priorities, priorities.

Biden’s top foreign policy advisor, Tony Blinken, seems less concerned about who will be the target of the weapons in the UAE sale than any upset caused to that most unimpeachable of allies, Israel.  Sales of the F-35, for instance, were intended as a US-Israeli preserve.  Selling it to other powers in the Middle East might well compromise the “qualitative military edge” doctrine Washington adopts towards the Jewish state.  “The Obama-Biden administration made those planes available to Israel and only Israel in the region,” explained Blinken in an interview with the Times of Israel.  The new administration would have to “take a hard look” at the F-35 sale.  Was it, he wondered, a quid pro quo for the normalisation deal between Israel and the UAE?

Mammoth arms sales continue to remain matters of business and politics, with business tending to be the crowing representative.  Halting or curbing arms sales is only ever trendy and never permanent.  Oxfam reminds us of that blood-soaked truth.  “When arms exports by G20 nations to other members of this [Arab] coalition are included, the figure of $17 billion rises to at least $31.4 billion between 2015 and 2019, the last year for which records are available.”

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Criminally Responsible Americans Vote for Commander of Their Worldwide Genocidal Killing Machine

The good people of the 3rd World should not let themselves be taken in by worldwide satellite beamed CIA-fed media prattling on continuously about American democracy during ongoing presidential elections. Sadly, Americans are duped into participating  in elections that back crimes against humanity ordered by the ruling genocidal Wall St. plutocracy which militarily and financially plunders 3rd World humanity and corrupts American society.

A great many Americans voting believe the lies their criminal corporate media pours out daily, and are therefore gung-ho proud of Americans killing media-designated ‘bad guys” all around the world. These completely fooled Americans are happy to vote for the next commander-in-chief, but a substantial amount of Americans voting know they have been frightened into voting for what they hope is the lesser of two evils and are unhappy with what they feel is a mockery of the so called democratic process that has them voting for a choice that still represents evil.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, once the highest law officer of the USA, who helped write both important civil rights laws, speaks to his fellow Americans clearly, and meant that all the world should know this truth.

We’re not a democracy. It’s a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we’re a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy.

One of the most internationally powerful plutocrats in US history, John Pierpont Morgan, in a candid moment admitted:

Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy.

The well respected third president of the USA, Thomas Jefferson, saw the plutocracy coming when he said:

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

Already in 1922, USA’s most famous economist Thorstein Veblen wrote:

The current situation in America is by way of being something of a psychiatrical clinic...Perhaps the commonest and plainest evidence of an unbalanced mentality is to be seen in a certain fearsome and feverish credulity with which a large proportion of Americans are affected…. There is a visible lack of composure and logical coherence, both in what they will believe and in what they are ready to do about it.

Veblen assumed depression to  be the normal condition  in a business-enterprise economy, to be relieved in periods of excitation caused by stimuli not intrinsic to the system like war and expansion abroad. Veblen saw the modern business leader as essentially a latter-day predatory warrior.1

Veblen’s observation is born out by Americans always having been willing to follow criminal orders and bomb, invade and occupy other people’s lands the world over.

Paul Craig Roberts, former editor of the Wall Street Journal, and Undersecretary of the Treasury under President Reagan, in his article, The Looting Machine Called Capitalism, wrote,

Americans are the least exceptional people in human history. Americans have no rights at all. We hapless insignificant beings have to accept whatever capitalists and their puppet government impose on us. And we are so stupid we call it ‘Freedom and Democracy America.’

Americans today are wildly mesmerized in avid interest in who will be president for the next four years. However, given the continual American wars in smaller countries and perpetual ramped up fear of nuclear Armageddon, it’s obviously of some greater significance who will serve as Commander-in-Chief of the American worldwide genocidal killing machine, because whether Americans realize it or not, they, each citizen, has a portion of citizen co-responsibility for the crimes of their fellow Americans ‘serving’ as soldiers following criminal, and therefore illegal, orders.

Those Americans voting, who believe the lies their criminal corporate media pours out daily and are therefore gung-ho proud of Americans killing media-designated ‘bad guys” everywhere and anywhere, believe US democracy makes them and all Americans to be above the law — above all law. On the other hand, that substantial amount of Americans voting, who know they have been frightened into voting for what they hope is the lesser of two evils, are well aware of their tacit complicity in the crimes against humanity in other people’s countries. Some more modest amount of Americans voting, or refusing to vote, realize that they have already been prosecuted in the court of public opinion and in the hearts of parents of children blown to pieces or starved to death by the actions of Americans. Hopefully, this is what people overseas, especially in nations under American attack, understand.

At the same time a multitude of Americans vote, other Americans have been fueling, arming and target selecting for the Saudi airstrikes for five years. Already back in November 2017, Save the Children reported that 130 children were dying every day, with 50,000 children already believed to have died in 2017. The U.N. officials said more than 20 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of urgent assistance, with 7 million totally dependent on food assistance. The U.N. has called it the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”

US CIA controlled media is so sure of the headlock it has on the American public, its mainstream media can even inform of Yemeni children dying from bombs and starvation knowing its captive audience will not turn against their American killing machine. Even the most eye-rebounding photos  published in wars supporting New York Times Yemen Girl Who Turned World’s Eyes to Famine Is Dead (Published 2018) and seen on PBS television channels did not put a dent in American solidarity with its government’s and military’s genocidal actions in Yemen – prosecutable genocidal crimes against humanity.

During the current presidential election campaign criminal war promoting news and entertainment networks are making no mention of President Trump’s veto of a bipartisan Congressional resolution that would have forced an end to American military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s civil war in Yemen a year-and-a-half ago.

In One American Ear and Out the Other

In 2008, for two weeks the major networks telecasted as humorous, Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s cry, his finger pointed to the sky, “God bless America? No, no, God damn America for her crimes against humanity!”

In 2012, prime time news during the Republican debates of presidential candidates, candidate Rep. Ron Paul was heard denouncing “all US bombings and invasions beginning with those in Korea as illegal, unconstitutional and a horrific loss of human life.”

But nothing seems to effect a change in American dedication to their military and its military’s heritage (of gore, death and destruction).

American film maker Michael Moore castigates his fellow Americans as“sick and twisted violent people that we’ve been for hundreds of years, it’s something that’s just in our craw, just in our DNA. Americans kill people, because that’s what we do. We invade countries. We send drones in to kill civilians.”

In one American ear and out the other.

Martin Luther King made bold headlines in newspapers throughout the world with, “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my government. In Vietnam we may have killed a million already, mostly children.” King cried out, “Silence is treason!” but at home extremely few Americans spoke out in agreement,  many spoke against him, most were silent, and King was shot to death within the year.

This archival research peoples historian activist is convinced that no change will be coming from anywhere in the American led First World, especially now as it is hard pressed losing its hegemony to a future multipolar world with China’s economy now the largest.

Some of us work to somehow make this Americans killing millions of children come to be a topic of conversation in the Third World for the children’s lives that could be saved once enough people became enraged enough to demand prosecution and justice.

Once USA-EU loses world economic hegemony and can no longer sanction, the many nations that have seen their children murdered by Americans and their European allies will demand justice in the courts of a reconstituted and reorganized democratic United Nations. In the meantime let’s have faith that the astounding intelligence witnessed in the miraculous achievements in outer and inner space will eventually manifest itself in ending the five centuries of European and American genocide for money and power.

  1. Thorstein Veblen, Douglas Dowd, 1966.

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Yemen: Prisoner Swap and What May be Behind It

Transcript of an Interview with Press TV

Background

The fourth batch of Yemeni detainees has arrived in Sana’a as part of the largest prisoner swap between the country’s warring sides. The residents in the capital received 112 prisoners after their plane landed in the Sana’a international airport. 1,081 men will be released in two days.

A two-day prisoner swap between Yemen’s warring sides is underway. The move is part of a deal reached last month in Switzerland. Here is a report:

Yemen’s warring sides are exchanging detainees in the largest prisoner swap between the Ansarullah movement and the Saudi-backed former regime. One-thousand eighty-one men will be freed in a two-day swap.

Hussein al-Bukhaiti – Political Commentator

The exchange was agreed last month after a week of negotiations in Switzerland. The prisoner swap is being overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross.  Analysts believe the exchange is a victory for Yemen’s Ansarullah movement.

Naseh Shaker – Political Analyst

Ansarullah Spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam says the swap brings hope for peace-building. The United Nations special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, also hailed the success of the operation.

“Today’s release operation, led by the I-C-R-C, is another sign that peaceful dialogue can deliver. I hope the parties will soon reconvene under UN auspices to discuss the release of all conflict-related prisoners and detainees.” — PP Martin Griffiths, UN special envoy for Yemen.

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

But the campaign that was supposed to last only a few months is raging on more than five years later now. The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has killed more than 100-thousand people, mostly civilians.

Saudi Arabia’s US-backed deadly war and an all-out blockade against Yemen, in tandem with outbreaks of cholera and now the covid-19 pandemic, have left some 24 million Yemenis, or 80% of the population, in need of aid. 20 million Yemenis also lack sufficient food supplies and access to clean water.

Riyadh has so far turned a deaf ear to all humanitarian pleas to stop the war. Yemenis say today’s prisoner swap is an important step, but what is necessary as a prelude to stop the conflict is an end to Saudi Arabia’s aggression and blockade.

*****

PressTV: Tell me the significance of this prisoner swap.

Peter Koenig:  A prisoner swap is always a positive sign.  It could be a first step to a cease fire and leading hopefully to peace negotiations.

At the outset, yes, it may look like a victory, perhaps rather a “first step” towards peace, because victory is saying a lot, of the Yemen’s Ansarullah movement, actually for better understanding it is the Houthi Shia’ movement.

All depends on what the Saudis will do next.  If they get instructions from the US and the UK and other European allies, like France to halt the bombing, then we may be able to talk about an interim success.

The Saudis will do what their western Masters tell them to do.  The Saudis have been mostly a proxy for the US and UK. If you look at the map, you see how strategically located Yemen is… and Yemen in control of a left-leaning government, a government that supports the people, supports a move towards democracy, is not what the west wants.

However, the US has already reached a little talked-about target; namely, to set up via the UAE (United Arab Emirates) a military base on Socotra, a beautiful island with some 60,000 inhabitants off the Yemeni Coast, off Aden, in the Gulf of Aden.

On 8 September 2020, politicians in Aden reported that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has begun building two military camps on Yemen’s Socotra island. In this case it is the UAE building the military camps, what will eventually become a military base, to which the US and western allies will have access.

The UAE were supporting Saudi Arabia in the fight against the Yemeni Houthis, who were and are fighting for their freedom, autonomy and democracy. The UAE was instrumental in blocking the port of Hudaydah so that no food and vital medicine could enter Yemen. The UAE – close ally to the western powers – is co-responsible for famine, disease – foremost cholera – and death of tens of thousands of children.

So, perhaps UAE military bases on Socotra island, to which the west; i.e., NATO, will have free access, may have been a “chip” in the negotiations for the prisoner exchange. This is, of course, speculation, but it would make geopolitical sense.

PressTV: How significant do you think this exchange is where initially the Saudi regime thought that its war on Yemen would only take a month and now more than five-and-a-half years later, Riyadh has had to agree to negotiate with AnsaraAllah?

PK: What we don’t know is what went on behind closed doors.  I understand negotiations on Socotra started already in 2016… That would be one explanation. Another one, more straightforward, is the Irani support the Houthis received.

It wasn’t or isn’t direct weapons support, but military advice and technical support, so that the Yemeni Houthis are able to build their own military precision weapons, like rockets, missiles and drones, and are able to hit with drone guided missiles anywhere in Saudi Arabia, as we have seen when Yemeni missiles destroyed a Saudi pipeline last year.  Therefore the Saudi bombing had to go on with, of course, weapons – bombs and missiles – supplied by the US, UK, and France.  A financial bonanza for the western weapons industry. War is a very profitable business.

PressTV: The talks leading up to this swap agreement were held in Switzerland. Do you think the so-called international community can play a more active role in trying to bring this war to an end?

PK: The talks were hosted by the International Red Cross (ICRC). That’s why they were taking place in Switzerland.  Yes, I believe the international community should play a much more active role when PEACE is at stake – anywhere in a conflict zone around the world.  Unfortunately, those who have a political weight in the international community are also those who have a vested interest in wars and conflicts – not only weapons sales, also moving a step or two closer to controlling the energy-and other resources-rich Middle East.

PressTV:  Why has Saudi Arabia not been condemned for its blockade on Yemen which is preventing foodstuffs and even medicine from entering the country?

PK:They have been condemned, but not with much noise and only with tiny voices, to no avail, because they got the support from the US, UK, France and Germany. Yes, Russia and China have voiced their opposition to the Saudi/US/UK war on Yemen. But their voices were silenced by the western-bought and oriented media.

We are living in a dystopian world, where rights and international laws do no longer count.  Breaking international laws is the new normal. And the public at large is so used to it, it doesn’t even react.

Laws and international rules are made up by the western powers as they go along in the process of trying to conquer the world.

Fortunately, we have Russia and China as permanent members in the UN Security Council. Although, the UNSC has not been able to achieve Peace in Yemen – nor in Palestine, for that matter – it is at least a forum which the media cannot simply ignore. And little by little people will recognize who is behind all these conflicts and vested interests.

In the long-run, western powers for absolute dominance will not succeed.  It’s not in the laws of nature.

PressTV:  The Saudis are well equipped with sophisticated equipment and weapons which they buy from London and Washington despite their many human rights violations in this war. Shouldn’t these two countries be held partially responsible for the death and destruction which has been taking place inside of Yemen?

PK:  Absolutely. Of course,  they should.  They are not only behind the war in Yemen, but they are involved in all the Middle Eastern conflicts — Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, now Lebanon – wherever you look it’s the bloody fingerprints of the west, and often Israel acts as a proxy for Washington – almost all conflicts are started by the US, NATO and its European allies.  And not to forget, by western funding of terrorism.

PressTV: We have seen a big difference between the Yemeni fighters during the first year of war until now. It is no longer rare now that the Houthis are able to attack the Saudis. Does this help in being able to negotiate, even in being able to have a prisoner swap?

PK:  Yes, probably. The fact is that the Houthis have become much stronger in the past five years of war – which the Saudis started in March 2015, when in the US the Obama Administration was still in power.

The Houthis have made technological advances in building their own drones, missiles, and rockets. They have shown the Saudis that they have the precision and capacity to attack Saudi Arabian targets practically anywhere in the Saudi territory. This is impressive and surely may have had a crucial influence in this first step of a prisoner exchange; first step to what I hope will be a much more important goal – Peace.

PressTV:  Is the lesson learned here that in order to have effective political negotiations, that an entity needs to be strong militarily?

PK: In general, it helps.  We have seen other examples throughout the world, not least North Vietnam won the war against the South which was basically the US Army, because the North Vietnamese were well equipped and were strategic thinkers. They gained the upper hand – to eventually prompt the US to leave.

So, yes, military strength helps definitely in defining the term to the war or peace process. In this case the AnsaraAllah movement, alias the Houthis military strength and strategic thinking has certainly played a role – reaching the point where they are now possibly a step away from a Peace Process.

PressTV: Where do you see the situation in Yemen going?

PK:   I am optimistic, hoping that the ICRC will involve the UN Security Council in calling for a Cease Fire and Peace Talks. The suffering of a poverty-stricken population without the war has become atrocious with the war, especially affecting children. The Saudis, helped by the UAE and, of course, supported by western powers, have literally committed genocide by depriving the population of vital food and medication imports, causing famine and famine-related diseases,  and countless death.

PressTV:  Do you think the Saudi regime, basically Muhammad bin Salman, is getting to the point that he is ready to negotiate with AnsaraAllah?

PK:  Yes, I do hope so. It may not be an easy negotiation, because a “loser” can never admit losing. But I do hope under the guidance of the UN Security Council and the strong presence of Russia and China in the UNSC, negotiations for PEACE may emerge – and that Peace may bring restoration to this devastated country.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals such as Global Research; ICH; New Eastern Outlook (NEO) and more. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the ResistanceHe is also a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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Two Years After Khashoggi’s Murder, Why is America Still an Accomplice to MBS’s Crimes?

Trump holds a chart of weapon sales as he welcomes Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office,  March 20, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered on October 2, 2018 by agents of Saudi Arabia’s despotic government, and the CIA concluded they killed him on direct orders from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). Eight Saudi men have been convicted of Khashoggi’s murder by a Saudi court in what the Washington Post characterized as sham trials with no transparency. The higher ups who ordered the murder, including MBS, continue to escape responsibility.

Khashoggi’s assassination and dismemberment was so horrific and cold-blooded that it sparked worldwide public outrage. President Trump, however, stood by MBS, bragging to journalist Bob Woodward that he saved the prince’s “ass” and got “Congress to leave him alone.”

MBS’s ascent to dictatorial power, soon after his elderly father King Salman became king in January 2015, was sold to the world as ushering in a new era of reform, but has in reality been characterized by violent, ruthless repression. The number of executions has doubled, from 423 executions between 2009 and 2014 to more than 800 since January 2015.

They include the mass execution of 37 people on April 23, 2019, mostly for taking part in peaceful Arab Spring protests in 2011-12. These protests took place in Shiite areas where people face systemic discrimination in the majority Sunni kingdom. At least three of those executed were minors when they were sentenced, and one was a student arrested at the airport on his way to attend Western Michigan University. Many of the victims’ families have said that they were convicted based on forced confessions extracted by torture, and two victims’ beheaded corpses were put on public display.

Under MBS, all dissent has been crushed. In the last two years, all of Saudi Arabia’s independent human rights defenders have been imprisoned, threatened into silence, or have fled the country. This includes women’s rights activists such as Loujain al-Hathoul, who opposed the ban on women drivers. Despite some openings for women under MBS, including the right to drive, Saudi women remain subject to discrimination in law and practice, with laws that ensure they are subordinate citizens to men, particularly in relation to family matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance.

The Trump administration has never challenged Saudi Arabia’s internal repression, and worse yet, it has played a vital role in the brutal Saudi-led war on neighboring Yemen. After Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi failed to leave office at the end of his two-year term as the head of a transitional government, or to fulfill his mandate to draw up a new constitution and hold a new election, the Houthi rebel movement invaded the capital, Sana’a, in 2014, placed him under house arrest and demanded that he do his job.

Hadi instead resigned, fled to Saudi Arabia and conspired with MBS and the Saudis to launch a war to try to restore him to power. The United States has provided in-air refueling, intelligence and planning for Saudi and Emirati air strikes and has raked in over 100 billion dollars in arms sales. While U.S. support for the Saudi war began under President Obama, Trump has provided unconditional support as the horrors of this war have shocked the entire world.

According to the Yemen Data Project, at least 30% of US-supported airstrikes on Yemen have hit civilian targets, including hospitals, health clinics, schools, marketplaces, civilian infrastructure, and a particularly horrific airstrike on a school bus that killed 40 children and 11 adults.

After five years, this brutal war has succeeded only in wreaking mass devastation and chaos, with dozens of children dying every day from starvation, malnutrition and preventable diseases, all now compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Belated Congressional efforts to end U.S. support for the war, including the passage of a War Powers bill in March 2019 and a bill to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia in July 2019, have been vetoed when they reached President Trump’s desk.

The U.S. alliance with the Saudis certainly predates Trump, going back to the discovery of oil in the 1930s. While its traditional role as an oil supplier is no longer vital to the U.S. economy, Saudi Arabia has become one of the largest purchasers of U.S. weapons, a major investor in U.S. businesses and an ally against Iran. After the failed U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. began grooming Saudi Arabia to play a leading geopolitical and military role, alongside Israel, in a new U.S.-led alliance to counter the growing influence of Iran, Russia and China in the Middle East.

The war on Yemen was the first test of Saudi Arabia’s role as a leading U.S. military ally, and it exposed both the practical and moral bankruptcy of this policy, unleashing another endless war and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in one of the poorest countries on Earth. MBS’s assassination of Jamal Khashoggi came at a critical moment in the unraveling of this doomed strategy, laying bare the sheer insanity of basing America’s Middle East policy for the 21st century on an alliance with a neo-feudal monarchy sustained by murder and repression.

President Obama tried to change tack towards the end of his administration, putting a hold on the sale of munitions to Saudi Arabia and signing a nuclear deal with Iran. Trump reversed both these policies, and continued to treat Saudi Arabia as a critical ally, even as the world recoiled in horror at Khashoggi’s assassination.

While Saudi abuses have not diminished the Trump administration’s unconditional support, they have ignited global opposition. In an exciting new development, exiled Saudi activists have formed a political party, the National Assembly Party or NAAS, calling for democracy and respect for human rights in the kingdom. In its inaugural statement, the party laid out a vision for Saudi Arabia in which all citizens are equal under the law and a fully elected parliament has legislative and oversight powers over the state’s executive institutions. The founding document was signed by several prominent Saudi activists in exile, including London-based professor Madawi al-Rasheed; Abdullah Alaoudh, a Saudi academic who is also the son of jailed Islamic scholar Salman al-Awda; and Shia activist Ahmed al-Mshikhs.

Another new initiative, timed for the second anniversary of Khashoggi’s murder, is the launch of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), an organization conceived by Jamal Khashoggi several months before his murder. DAWN will promote democracy and support political exiles across the Middle East, in keeping with the vision of its martyred founder.

Progressive groups in the United States continue to oppose U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s Yemen war and to push USAID to restore direct humanitarian aid that has been slashed to Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen in 2020 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. European activists have launched successful campaigns to stop weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in several countries.

These past two years have also seen activists organizing boycotts of Saudi events. Pre-COVID, when the kingdom opened up to musical extravaganzas, groups such as CODEPINK and Human Rights Foundation pressured entertainers like Nicki Minaj to cancel appearances. Minaj put out a statement saying, “It is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.” Meghan MacLaren, the U.K.’s top woman golfer, withdrew from a lucrative new golf tournament in Saudi Arabia, citing reports by Amnesty International and saying she cannot take part in “sportwashing” Saudi human rights abuses.

A new group called Freedom Forward, which seeks to sever the US-Saudi alliance, has focused on the upcoming G20 in Riyadh, which is taking place virtually in November, urging invitees to refuse to participate. The campaign has successfully lobbied the mayors of several major cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, Paris and London, to boycott the event, along with notables invited to side events for women and global thinkers.

As we mark two years since Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, we may also soon be marking the end of the Trump administration. While it is hard to take Vice President Biden on his word that he would not sell more weapons to the Saudis and would make them “pay the price” for killing Khashoggi, it is good to hear a presidential candidate admit that there is “very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia” and call it a “pariah state.” Perhaps with enough pressure from below, a new administration could start the process of disentangling the U.S. from the deadly embrace of the Saudi dictatorship.

But as long as U.S. leaders continue to coddle the Saudis, it’s difficult not to ask who is more evil—the maniacal Saudi crown prince responsible for Khashoggi’s murder and the slaughter of more than a hundred thousand Yemenis, or the mendacious Western governments and business people who continue to support and profit from his crimes?

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Hunger Will Kill Us before Coronavirus

Baasanjav Choijiljav (Mongolia), Promise, 2018.
Baasanjav Choijiljav (Mongolia), Promise, 2018.

In April 2020, a month after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the pandemic, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) warned that the numbers of people who lived with acute hunger around the world would double due to COVID-19 by the end of 2020 ‘unless swift action is taken’. A report from the Global Network Against Food Crises – which is comprised by the WFP, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), and the European Union – said that the pandemic would ensure the highest level of food insecurity since 2017.

None of these reports made the front pages of newspapers. Little was made of the fact that this is not a crisis of food production – since we have enough food in the world to feed everyone – but a crisis of social inequality. This crisis – the pandemic of hunger – should have seized the attention of every country. But it did not. Apart from a few countries – such as China, Vietnam, Cuba, and Venezuela – little has been done to create mass-scale feeding programmes to prevent famine-like conditions (as the FAO warned in May).

Six months into the pandemic, the question of hunger remains a burning issue. In September, the Global Network Against Food Crises released a new report on the deepened crisis. FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu warned of ‘looming famine’ in many parts of the world, particularly in Burkina Faso, South Sudan, and Yemen. It is now estimated that one in two people on the planet struggles with hunger. No-one should go to bed hungry at night.

Shaima al-Tamimi (Yemen), So close yet so far away, 2019.
Shaima al-Tamimi (Yemen), So close yet so far away, 2019.

Yemen, which has faced an unyielding war prosecuted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (backed fully by the West and by arms manufacturers), has struggled with famine and with desert locusts and now with the enormity of the pandemic. Two days after Qu made these comments, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres pleaded for an end to the war on Yemen. The war had ‘decimated the country’s health facilities’, Guterres said, which are not able to tackle the near million cases of COVID-19 in the country. The war, he said, has ‘devastated the lives of tens of millions of Yemenis’.

It is important to understand that the population of Yemen before the Saudi-Emirati war began in 2015 was only 28 million, which means that ‘tens of millions’ means almost all of the Yemeni people. A new UN report shows that Canada, France, Iran, the United Kingdom, and the United States continue to fuel this conflict with arms sales. Pressure on the Saudis and the Emiratis, as well as on the Western arms dealers, to end this war against the Yemeni people should be the focus of attention. It is a war that bring starvation to Yemen.

Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu (DRC), Simba Bulaya (‘Lions of Europe’), 1973.
Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu (DRC), Simba Bulaya (‘Lions of Europe’), 1973.

Equally absent in popular global consciousness is the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), driven in large part due to the presence of immeasurable resources in the country (such as cobalt, coltan, copper, diamonds, gold, oil, and uranium). The war, economic distress, and heavy rain has brought 21.8 million people (out of a population of 84 million) into acute hunger as of December 2019, a situation that has been exacerbated since the emergence of COVID-19. Social indicators in the DRC are miserable: 72% of the population lives below the national poverty line, while 95% live without electricity. These are just two numbers, but perhaps the most startling is the estimated wealth of its resources at $24 trillion. Little of this wealth goes towards the people of the Congo.

On 30 June 1960, when Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba pronounced the independence of the DRC from Belgium, he said that ‘Congo’s independence is a decisive step towards the liberation of the whole African continent’ and that the new government would ‘serve its country’. This was the promise of the country and the continent; but Lumumba was assassinated by the imperialist bloc on 17 January 1961, and the country was handed over to the Western multinational corporations. Before he died, Lumumba wrote a poem, with a hope that remains alive:

Let the fierce heat of the relentless midday sun
Burn up your grief!
Let them evaporate in everlasting sunshine,
Those tears shed by your father and your grandfather
Tortured to death upon these mournful fields. 

It is hard to feel this hope at times, with northern Nigeria seeing an increase in its population of hungry people by 73% during the pandemic, Somalia seeing an increase of 67%, and the Sudan seeing an increase of 64% (a quarter of whose population is now acutely hungry). Burkina Faso, meaning ‘the Land of Upright People’, meanwhile, has seen a 300% increase in cases of acute hunger. When Thomas Sankara led Burkina Faso for four years from 1983, his government nationalised land to guarantee access to those who worked it and launched tree planting and irrigation projects to increase productivity and combat desertification. After the government passed an agrarian reform law in 1984, Sankara went to Diébougou, where he addressed a peasant rally with the promise, ‘Improve our land and farm it in peace. The time is over when people, sitting in their parlours, can buy and resell land on speculation’. All of this ended when Sankara was assassinated in 1987.

The famine sweeping these countries is not from want of resources. The DRC has 80 million acres of arable land, which could feed two billion people if it were cultivated with food crops in an agro-ecological manner; but, as of now, only 10% of the country’s arable land is cultivated. Meanwhile, the country spends $1.5 billion per year in food imports – money that could be used to invest in the agricultural sector, where the main work is done by women subsistence farmers (who own less than 3% of the cultivated land). A lack of power amongst the agricultural workers and the farmers results in a lopsided system that privileges a handful of agri-business conglomerates rather than cooperatives and family farms.

Parmar (India), Riot, 1965-1975.
Parmar (India), Riot, 1965-1975.

This brings us to India. The far-right government of Narendra Modi pushed through three agricultural bills in the upper house of parliament by voice vote, the loudest shouting their assent while the problems with the bills were not allowed to be debated. The bills have names that suggest an orientation towards small-scale farmers, but they will implement a policy that favours the agri-businesses: Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. The bills put the entire agricultural system in the hands of ‘traders’, meaning large corporations, who will now set the terms for prices and quantities. The absence of government intervention leaves family farms at the mercy of large corporations, whose power will now be largely unchecked. This will adversely impact food production and will certainly contribute further to the impoverishment of small farmers and agricultural workers in India.

As hunger increases, so does the attack on those who farm the soil. Little wonder that farmers and agricultural workers across India say that hunger will kill them before coronavirus. This is a slogan familiar to farmers and agricultural workers from Brazil, who – as we demonstrate in our dossier no. 27 Popular Agrarian Reform and the Struggle for Land in Brazil – have long been in the midst of a fight to bring democracy to the land. Like Sankara’s Burkina Faso, the brave sem terras [landless] of Brazil have their own project: to reforest land that was once saturated with agro-toxins, to occupy unused land that they then farm through agro-ecological practices, and to forge ‘a broad demand for a new vision for the country as a whole’.

The post Hunger Will Kill Us before Coronavirus first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Imagine Trump or Biden in Church Praying for Yemeni Children Facing Starvation and US Missiles?

Thousands of precious Yemeni children are being starved to death, dying of cholera, or being blown to bits by US made and managed missiles. Can Americans glued to their TV sets, straining to understand what is happening to their country, imagine Trump or Biden in church praying for Yemeni children facing starvation and US missiles?

No, corporate media has reported President Trump as wanting to continue the lucrative sale of billions of dollars of sophisticated US weaponry to the Saudis and continue American military personnel assisting their raining down upon targets in Yemen, the poorest nation in the world. The President vetoed a bipartisan resolution of Congress calling for an end to American military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s civil war in Yemen.

As to Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden, he called for an end to U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, but only after the entire Senate Democratic caucus and several Republicans had passed a resolution spearheaded by his opponent candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders calling for the U.S. to pull its backing from the Saudi military campaign in Yemen. In March of 2015, Biden, then Vice-President, backed the initial Saudi led military attack in Yemen when Yemen’s corrupt, Saudi-allied president was overthrown. The United States provided intelligence and logistical support, including aerial refueling for the intervention which initially consisted of a bombing campaign on Houthi rebels by fighter jets and or ground forces from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, with the participation of Blackwater mercenaries1 made infamous for their atrocities in Iraq, the genocidal US invasion of which Biden had championed as chairman of the of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee back in 2003.

This 1915 begun crime against humanity in Yemen was officiated by President Barak Obama. As to the possibility of finding Obama in church praying for the dear Yemeni surviving children facing starvation and US missiles, the reader might view the video on Youtube of Obama professing his having Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior.

Previously, your author wrote,

When you bombed these brothers and sisters of mine, you bombed me,’ says Jesus in Matthew chapter 25, (paraphrased of course). Obama, as presidents before him, followed the instructions of his promoters, the ruling investors, and disregarding the teaching and warnings of his ‘personal savior,’ gave to the rich at home, bombed abroad to be able to take from the poor everywhere, and lied that this is necessary and good.

The many bloody and thieving wars ordered by President Obama should make people recall how Obama as a candidate for president ran as a peace candidate, and so be cautioned not to be fooled with the present promising of both this years candidates to end America’s forever wars. Recently, President Trump allegedly called the Vietnam War a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker.”

With all President Trump’s macabre and bizarre use of US military, including assassination and deadly sanctions, and the corporate media’s consistent war promoting, the world is prone to forget how candidate Trump was the most dramatic American denouncer of US wars in history.

Candidate Trump, with wars promoting media either ridiculing him or making a blatant over the top show of frightened opposition, maintained among other things that the five trillion dollars spent on wars for regime change in the Middle East should have been spent in the US rebuilding its infrastructure; that NATO is obsolete; that the US should seek friendship with China and Russia; that he likes Xi Jinping and Putin, (America’s perennial and sacrosanct mortal enemies!) and would get along fine with them. Trump called the last two-term Republican President, George Bush, a liar for having lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and has voiced suspicion about the 9/11 attack that happened so easily on Bush’s watch. Trump rejected hailing Senator John McCain, 2008 Republican presidential candidate, as a hero for having been shot down in Vietnam, and condemned and ridiculed eighty percent of media’s reporters and commentators as pathetic liars (what is in reality that hundred percent, who are willing to preposterously describe America’s running crimes against humanity as heroic deeds in defense of American freedom). Trump asked, “why must the United States lead the world everywhere on the globe and play the role of the world’s policeman, now for example in Ukraine?” Trump asked, “why does the United States always pursue regime changes – Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, and now it wants a regime change in Syria, Damascus, when the result is disaster.” Trump’s wholesale attack on the ‘patriotic’ war establishment was unheard of.

But once Trump was elected, just imagine how powerful war industry deep pockets brought about the reality of their control over him. Trump, once in office, immediately ordered military action in Yemen. Condoleezza Rice, of US genocide in Iraq fame, was among the first to visit the White House.

On Sundays, in how many churches throughout the USA could one find Americans praying for Yemeni children dying in a war American military are actively participating in while US weapons manufacturing corporations make a fortune in profits? The question is rhetorical. Firstly, what one prays is intensely personal. Secondly, Americans are indoctrinated from childhood by the huge CIA overseen giant entertainment/news telecasting and publishing corporations to see their government’s armed forces as above the law, including religious laws, and deviation from this canard seen to be unpatriotic.

In 2019, PBS and most other major newscasters reported on their evening news programs that between 2016 and 2018, as a result the Saudi coalition bombing infrastructure and blockading ports, 85,000 Yemeni children had died.

In March 2019, one headline read: “How To Enjoy Dinner Knowing Fellow Americans Have Caused 85,000 Yemeni Kids to Starve to Death?.” The news that one’s compatriots have brought death to 85,000 darling Yemeni children being hard to stomach, the author wonders how other Americans feel or manage not to feel.

I looked down at the food on my plate, and wished I hadn’t just heard PBS’s News anchor Judy Woodruff report that the war in Yemen had already caused 85,000 children to starve to death. She read the one liner with emphasis on the number, but almost without taking a breath, went on to a local news item, as if the 85,000 dead kids had nothing to do with her American audience. Problem for me is I had already known for years that a murderous, even genocidal bombing by a Saudi Arabian coalition is USA backed, that U.S. military jets refuel those coalition bombers and fighter jets, and US military personnel are involved in running the high tech targeting systems using US missiles and guided bombs sold to the Saudis, who have agreed to buy ever more billions of dollars worth.

I put my fork down, and stared at a framed photo of my four year old great granddaughter on the wall. I thought, most every one of those 85,000 was an adorable child, and had moms and dads, siblings, and other family members and friends who loved them.

A more candid treatment of the subject of child genocide in Yemen quoted prominent Americans:

3rd World must demand justice for her kids! Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s, cry “God bless America? No, no, God damn America for her crimes against humanity!” And American film maker Michael Moore’s “sick and twisted violent people that we’ve been for hundreds of years, it’s something that’s just in our craw, just in our DNA. Americans kill people, because that’s what we do. We invade countries. We send drones in to kill civilians.”

How to stomach the American public’s indifference to the death of millions of precious children caused by their sons and daughters in uniform having criminally invaded someone else’s beloved country. I know there are Americans who feel as bad about this as I do.

So I write articles that might encourage readers to talk about their concern among family, friends and acquaintances, for nothing ever gets done before it becomes a burning topic of conversation. May all independent journalism devote itself to awaking an eventual universal outcry sooner than otherwise. Children are dying as we read this and the destiny of those who will live depends on our seeking justice for those who already have perished for our indifference. Only when those profiting from their deaths are made to pay the billions in compensation, indemnity and reparations will the forever wars and the collateral taking
of children’s lives cease.

  1. Blackwater, an American private military company founded in 1997 by former Navy SEAL officer Erik Prince renamed itself Xe Services in 2009 and known as Academi since 2011 after the company was acquired by a group of private investors. “The ‘Academi’ in Yemen: 400 Blackwater persons fighting with Saudi-Led forces,” American Herald Tribune, 1/28/2020.

The post Imagine Trump or Biden in Church Praying for Yemeni Children Facing Starvation and US Missiles? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How the Israel-UAE Deal puts the Bogus Peace Industry Back in Business

If there is one conclusion to draw from the agreement this week between Israel and the United Arab Emirates – with Israel temporarily “suspending” its threat to illegally annex parts of the West Bank, in return for “full normalisation” with the Gulf state – it is this: The peace industry is back in business.

But this time, unlike the interminable Oslo Accords signed a quarter of a century ago, there won’t even be the pretence that Palestinians are needed for “Middle East peace” to proceed. This is a process that takes place over their heads, a dialogue from which they are entirely absent.

This peace process is not between Palestinians and Israel, Washington’s client in the region. It is between Israel and oil-rich Arab states loyal to the US. It is a process that allows them to end the pretence that they are enemies of Israel. It means that they can stop feigning support for the Palestinian struggle for a state – even one on the last remnants of Palestinians’ homeland.

This is a peace process that effectively rubber-stamps the occupation and the many dozens of illegal Jewish settlements Israel has built to steal Palestinian land over many decades.

This is a peace process that moves the ostensible goal posts from permanently ending the occupation to simply postponing – for a little longer – Israel’s ambition to permanently annex those Palestinian lands it has already stolen.

In short, this is a peace process in which Arab states, led by the UAE, formally join Israel in waging war on Palestinians.

‘Outside-in’ strategy

In that sense, this is a continuation of the process begun by Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s Middle East adviser and son-in-law, in developing the so-called “deal of the century”.

From the start, Kushner turned to the Gulf – to which he and the rest of the US political and economic elite have long been personally close – and sought to craft what became known as the “outside-in” strategy.

That meant recruiting as many Arab regimes as possible, starting with the oil-rich Gulf states, to sign up to the Trump “peace plan” and use their weight – and money – to strong-arm Palestinians into surrendering to Israeli diktats.

A White House dedicated to the politics of the used-car lot was bound to imagine that economics could be used to bludgeon Palestinians into compliance. That was why Kushner held an economic conference in Bahrain early last summer, even before he had a peace plan to unveil.

Saudis next in line?

Sensing how this was playing out, the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas refused early on to engage with the Trump plan, and soon cut off all ties to Washington. It made no difference. This was a peace plan that did not need the Palestinian people to be involved in the haggling over their future.

The Trump plan, unveiled earlier in the year, offered Palestinians the promise of an eventual state on shards of the West Bank, after Israel had been allowed to annex swaths of their territory.

Now, Israel has put this move on temporary hold in return for normalisation with the UAE. Kushner says other states are expected to follow. Bahrain and Oman are likely to be close behind.

The agreement states: “The United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates are confident that additional diplomatic breakthroughs with other nations are possible, and will work together to achieve this goal.”

The real coup would be Saudi Arabia, which is presumably waiting to see how the deal with the UAE is received. It is hard to imagine, however, that the UAE’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, took this step without first getting the green light from Riyadh.

By contrast, the previous Saudi ruler, King Abdullah, championed a regional peace agreement in 2002 that offered Israel full recognition by the Arab states in return for Israel conceding Palestinian statehood in the occupied territories.

That offer exposed the true colours of Israel and Washington. Israeli leaders ignored the Saudi plan, and, taking their cue from Tel Aviv, US leaders refused to seize the opportunity to advance the bold Saudi offer as the basis for a peace agreement.

Biden jumps on board

Under Trump, things have rapidly worsened for Palestinians. Millions of refugees have been starved of aid; the US embassy has been moved to Jerusalem; Israel’s illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights has been approved; and illegal settlements have continued to expand.

And yet, Israeli intransigence is paying off. The Gulf is ready to offer Israel normalisation not just without any meaningful concessions, but at the same time as the situation for Palestinians deteriorates significantly.

Trump has called the Israeli-UAE pact “a historic peace agreement between our two great friends”. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, described the UAE’s normalisation with Israel as “a significant step forward for peace in the Middle East”.

But anyone who imagines that this is simply a floundering, implausible last move by a lame-duck president – assuming Trump fails to win the presidential election in November – is likely to be in for a disappointment.

Joe Biden, his Democratic challenger, has also excitedly jumped on board. He described the agreement as “a welcome, brave, and badly needed act of statesmanship”, adding that the alternative – annexation – “would be a body blow to the cause of peace”.

Bitter victory

In one sense, this is a victory, even if a very bitter one, for the Palestinian leadership. They denounced the agreement. Palestinians’ belated refusal to engage with the Trump plan – after long colluding in a US-dictated Oslo peace process that was designed from the outset to negate their right to live in dignity in their homeland – has flushed the real US-Israeli agenda out into the open.

Even with the best interpretation of the Oslo Accords, Palestinians were never going to be allowed the semblance of a sovereign state, even on the remnants of their original homeland.

They were to have no control over their borders, their airspace, the electromagnetic spectrum, or their diplomatic relations with other states. And of course, they were most definitely not going to be allowed an army.

The peace process was always about keeping Israel in control of the entire space, with a segment of Palestinians allowed to live there as a caged, dependent people. They could either willingly agree to their subordination, or face further repression from Israel to crush their spirit.

Now, all of this is no longer being disguised, even if politicians and diplomats in Washington and the Gulf wish to mislead the rest of the world that this should still be called a “peace process”.

Signs that they may get away with this monumental deception were evident in the responses of major European capitals, which welcomed the agreement. Germany called it “an important contribution to peace in the region”, while Boris Johnson in the UK said it was “hugely good news”.

The message sent by Israel, the US and the UAE is that committing war crimes and violating international humanitarian law can pay handsome dividends over the long run.

A shared agenda

The gains in this deal for the UAE and the other Gulf states – assuming, as seems likely, that they follow suit – are simple. The Sunni Gulf has long wanted fuller integration into the US-Israeli security nexus in the Middle East.

The US, Israel and the Gulf states share a deep hostility towards Iran and its Shia coreligionist factions in the region – from Lebanon and Syria to Iraq and Yemen.

Israel opposes these Shia actors because they have proved most ready to resist it, as well as Washington’s imperial designs, centred on control over the region’s oil.

The Gulf, meanwhile, as the birthplace of Sunni Islam and the supposed guardian of its honour, has a separate interest in securing its sectarian hegemony in the region. Gulf states have been developing close, if semi-covert, ties to Israel in recent years while engaging more actively in wars across the region, either through proxies in Syria and Iraq or directly in Yemen.

They have been keen to go public with normalisation so that they can gain greater access to US-Israeli intelligence and improved military technology, which would naturally flow from increased levels of trust.

Imperial agenda

Aside from the bland, positive diplomatic wording, the agreement does not veil this goal: A new “Strategic Agenda for the Middle East” will be developed to “expand diplomatic, trade, and security cooperation”. The US, Israel and the UAE “share a similar outlook regarding the threats and opportunities in the region, as well as a shared commitment to promoting stability”.

Repackaging its role in this entirely self-interested deal, the UAE can also still present itself as the champion of the Palestinian cause and the two-state solution, delaying annexation to another day.

The advantages to the Gulf run deeper still, however. Washington’s imperial agenda inevitably feeds and needs enemies, especially in an oil-rich region such as the Middle East, to justify endless wars and endless profits for its “defence” industries.

The Gulf states want to be on the right side of that military-industrial divide as the US moves into choppier waters ahead, facing oil shortages, a deterioration in the global climate, and the rise of China as a superpower.

Diplomatic coup

Washington’s interests in the deal, and Trump’s, are similarly clear. Pushing ahead with annexation has proved much harder than the Trump administration expected. European and Arab capitals were adamantly opposed to a move that would deprive them of the two-state cover story that, for more than two decades, had allowed them to pretend they were committed to Middle East peace.

And it became ever harder for Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to muster support from the Israeli public for annexation as the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changed priorities.

Months from a presidential election he is predicted to lose, Trump needed a diplomatic coup in the Middle East after promising so much and achieving so little with his much-trumpeted “deal of the century”. Now he has it.

This move will placate his large Christian evangelical electoral base, which is devoted to Israel and supports whatever it wants. Evangelical leaders lost no time in saying they were “elated” by the announcement.

It can also be spun, as his officials began vigorously doing from the outset, as an “historic peace agreement” – equivalent to the deals Israel signed previously with Egypt and Jordan. That can be used on the campaign trail to sell Trump to the wider electorate as one of the great US statesmen.

Sharpening the battle lines

But there are wider benefits for the bipartisan Washington foreign policy elite. They have long wished to cement ties between Israel and the Gulf states, having the US’ two most reliable regional allies publicly cooperating.

As the Gulf states have become more deeply and obviously enmeshed in wars across the Middle East – from Syria to Yemen – an agreement allying them to Israel helps Washington’s improbable narrative that they are really the good guys. It will sharpen the region’s battle lines and, it is hoped, convey greater legitimacy on these theocratic dictatorships.

The US hopes, too, that the agreement with the UAE – and other Gulf states later – will once again provide a plausible cover story as Israel entrenches its occupation, steals more Palestinian land and intensifies its repression of Palestinians.

It will allow Washington to revive its bogus claims of being an “honest broker”, seeking the best for Palestinians, even if their leaders are supposedly too dimwitted to understand what is good for them.

Pitting the Palestinian leadership against the Gulf – as well as other Arab states, such as Jordan and Egypt, that dare not antagonise their oil-rich neighbours – will further isolate Palestinians. They can now be presented more convincingly as entrenched opponents of peace, at best – or, if they resist, as terrorists.

Netanyahu bailed out

Lastly, Netanyahu, who is in deep trouble at home, hopes this agreement can dig him out of his hole. He is up against a wave of protests that have rallied large sections of Israeli society, including on the right. He faces an unprecedented corruption trial. His handling of the Covid-19 pandemic looks increasingly catastrophic. The Israeli economy is imploding.

In this context, his focus on West Bank annexation alienated much of the Israeli public, and even failed to satisfy sections of the settler community, who want all of the Palestinian territories, not just large parts. A deal with the UAE – and implicitly one with the rest of the Gulf – allows him to climb down from an unpopular annexation plan.

Netanyahu has long declared himself Mr. Security, the protector of Israel’s interests, and the only Israeli leader capable of making dramatic moves on the global stage. Here, he appears to have done both. It has even forced his political opponents to praise his achievement.

Netanyahu has managed to pull all this off while being able to argue that annexation is still “on the table”, placating his supporters among the settlers.

The agreement may yet set the stage for him to win a winter election he is widely reported to be preparing for.

No price to pay

The abandonment of annexation – temporarily or otherwise – will not, of course, interrupt Israel’s continuing capture of ever more Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, nor its relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Netanyahu has demonstrated to Israelis that he was right. Israel could violate international law, steal land, commit war crimes – and western and Arab states would stomach it all. Israel would have to pay no price for its behaviour.

Haaretz recalled on Friday that, when asked in 2018 whether concessions to Palestinians initiated in the Oslo Accords had gradually led to improvements in relations with the Arab world, Netanyahu responded that it was the “exact opposite”.

By first recruiting the West and Arab regimes to Israel’s side, he said, Israel would “become so strong” that it would force Palestinians to “understand that they have no choice but to compromise with us” – his term for absolute submission.

For Netanyahu, a strategic alliance with the Gulf – at the expense of Palestinians – has always been about more than just grabbing the occupied territories. It is central to his vision of an unreformed, maximalist, ethnic supremacist, Israeli state secure in the Middle East, serving as a regional hegemon alongside US global power.

Now, with this deal, Netanyahu believes he is in sight of the finishing line.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Yemen: A Torrent of Suffering in a Time of Siege

When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!”  When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable, the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

— Bertolt Brecht, “When evil-doing comes like falling rain” [Wenn die Untat kommt, wie der Regen fällt] (1935), trans. John Willett in Poems, 1913-1956, p. 247

 In war-torn Yemen, the crimes pile up. Children who bear no responsibility for governance or warfare endure the punishment. In 2018, UNICEF said the war made Yemen a living hell for children. By the year’s end, Save the Children reported 85,000 children under age five had already died from starvation since the war escalated in 2015. By the end of 2020, it is expected that 23,500 children with severe acute malnutrition will be at immediate risk of death.

Cataclysmic conditions afflict Yemen as people try to cope with rampant diseases, the spread of COVID-19, flooding, literal swarms of locusts, rising displacement, destroyed infrastructure and a collapsed economy. Yet war rages, bombs continue to fall, and desperation fuels more crimes.

The highest-paying jobs available to many Yemeni men and boys require a willingness to kill and maim one another, by joining militias or armed groups which seemingly never run out of weapons. Nor does the Saudi-Led Coalition  which kills and maims civilians; instead, it deters relief shipments and destroys crucial infrastructure with weapons it imports from Western countries.

The aerial attacks displace traumatized survivors into swelling, often lethal, refugee camps. Amid the wreckage of factories, fisheries, roads, sewage and sanitation facilities, schools and hospitals, Yemenis search in vain for employment and, increasingly, for food and water. The Saudi-Led-Coalition’s blockade, also enabled by Western training and weapons, makes it impossible for Yemenis to restore a functioning economy.

Even foreign aid can become punitive. In March, 2020, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) decided to suspend most aid for Yemenis living in areas controlled by the Houthis.

Scott Paul, who leads Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy advocacy, strongly criticized this callous decision to compound the misery imposed on vulnerable people in Yemen. “In future years,” he wrote, “scholars will study USAID’s suspension as a paradigmatic example of a donor’s exploitation and misuse of humanitarian principles.”

As the evil-doing in Yemen comes “like falling rain,” so do the cries of “Stop!” from millions of people all over the world. Here’s some of what’s been happening:

  • U.S. legislators in both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to block the sale of billions of dollars in weapons and maintenance to Saudi Arabia and its allies. But President Trump vetoed the bill in 2019.
  • Canada’s legislators declared a moratorium on weapon sales to the Saudis. But the Canadian government has resumed selling weapons to the Saudis, claiming the moratorium only pertained to the creation of new contracts, not existing ones.
  • The United Kingdom suspended military sales to Saudi Arabia because of human rights violations, but the UK’s international trade secretary nevertheless resumed weapon sales saying the 516 charges of Saudi human rights violations are all isolated incidents and don’t present a pattern of abuse.
  • French NGOs and human rights advocates urged their government to scale back on weapon sales to the Saudi-Led coalition, but reports on 2019 weapon sales revealed the French government sold 1.4 billion Euros worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
  • British campaigners opposing weapon transfers to the Saudi-Led Coalition have exposed how the British Navy gave the Saudi Navy training in tactics essential to the devastating Yemen blockade.
  • In Canada, Spain, France and Italy, laborers opposed to the ongoing war refused to load weapons onto ships sailing to Saudi Arabia. Rights groups track the passage of trains and ships carrying these weapons.

On top of all this, reports produced by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and the International Commission of the Red Cross repeatedly expose the Saudi-Led Coalition’s human rights violations.

Yet this international outcry clamoring for an end to the war is still being drowned out by the voices of military contractors with well-paid lobbyists plying powerful elites in Western governments. Their concern is simply for the profits to be reaped and the competitive sales to be scored.

In 2019 Lockheed Martin’s total sales reached nearly 60 billion dollars, the best year on record for the world’s largest “defense” contractor. Before stepping down as CEO, Marillyn Hewson predicted demand from the Pentagon and U.S. allies would generate an uptake between $6.2 billion and $6.4 billion in net earnings for the company in 2020 sales.

Hewson’s words, spoken calmly, drown out the cries of Yemeni children whose bodies were torn apart by just one of Lockheed Martin’s bombs.

In August of 2018, bombs manufactured by Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin fell on Yemen like summer rain. On August 9, 2018, a missile blasted a school bus in Yemen, killing forty children and injuring many others.

Photos showed badly injured children still carrying UNICEF blue backpacks, given to them that morning as gifts. Other photos showed surviving children helping prepare graves for their schoolmates. One  photo showed a piece of the bomb protruding from the wreckage with the number MK82 clearly stamped on it. That number on the shrapnel helped identify Lockheed Martin as the manufacturer.

The psychological damage being inflicted on these children is incalculable. “My son is really hurt from the inside,” said a parent whose child was severely wounded by the bombing. “We try to talk to him to feel better and we can’t stop ourselves from crying.”

The cries against war in Yemen also fall like rain and whatever thunder accompanies the rain is distant, summer thunder. Yet, if we cooperate with war-making elites, the most horrible storms will be unleashed. We must learn — and quickly — to make a torrent of our mingled cries and, as the prophet Amos demanded, ‘let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Some of the 40 blue backpacks worn in a protest in New York city against the war in Yemen. Each backpack was accompanied by a sign with the name and age of a child killed on a school bus in Dahyan, northern Yemen, on August 9, 2018, in a Saudi/UAE airstrike. (Photo: CODEPINK)

A version of this article first appeared in The Progressive Magazine.