Posts Tagged ‘United Arab Emirates’

Al-Jazeera Report into Israel Lobby in America and Qatar

March 10, 2018

‘Michelle’, another of the great commenters on this blog, sent me the link below to a report by Asa Winstanley in the Electronic Intifada on a forthcoming Al-Jazeera documentary exposing the activities of the Israel lobby in spying on anti-Israel activists in America, and their attempts to bring the United Arab Emirates into line with Israeli and American foreign policy. And, of course, suppress Al-Jazeera.

This is being done through the Neocon organisation, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which is gathering the data of pro-Palestinian activists and the BDS movement in the US. The top civil servant at the Israeli Ministry of Strategy Affairs is Sima Vaknin-Gil, an Israeli army officer, whose boss is an ally of Netanyahu. The Ministry is in charge of propaganda against the BDS movement. Vaknin-Gil has said that she wants to create an army of pro-Israeli trolls to flood the internet, while being formally separate from the Israeli state.

The Foundation also receives funding from Sheldon Adelson, the American casion magnate, who makes it very clear that he stands for ‘Israel first’.

The documentary also shows pro-Israel lobbyist Max Adelstein, who works for AIPAC, the big pro-Israel lobby group in the US, boasting of how he is also working to bring the UAE into closer alignment with America and Israel.

The film also shows Jonathan Schanzer, the Senior Vice-President at the Foundation, telling his minions how they are to smear pro-Palestinian activists. And he reveals how the smears increasingly aren’t work. This part of the report says

According to the source, Schanzer admits to the undercover reporter that “BDS has taken everybody by surprise.”

He calls the response by Israel lobby groups “a complete mess,” adding, “I don’t think that anybody’s doing a good job. We’re not even doing a good job.”

According to the source, Schanzer laments that attempts to smear Students for Justice in Palestine and American Muslims for Palestine as linked to extremist Islamic terrorism have failed to gain traction.

He is also said to regret that the Israel lobby’s habitual tactic of falsely alleging Palestine solidarity activists are motivated by anti-Jewish hatred is losing its impact.

“Personally I think anti-Semitism as a smear is not what it used to be,” he is said to tell the undercover reporter.

Schanzer’s views echo a secret report endorsed by the Israeli government and distributed to Israel lobby leaders last year. That report, a leaked copy of which was published by The Electronic Intifada, concludes that Israel’s efforts to stem the growth of the Palestine solidarity movement have largely failed.

And the Emirates’ links to the Trump administration are also being investigate by Robert Mueller, who is moving away from the supposed Russian influence to include them through their connections to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

It also discusses Al-Jazeera documentary, The Lobby, which showed Shai Masot conspiring with members of the Conservative and Labour parties. This new documentary was supposed to be shown five months ago, but has not yet come out.

The Israel lobby has also been active travelling to Qatar to get the film suppressed, and supposedly received assurances that it won’t, though the Qataris deny this. Al-Jazeera’s investigation has been decried by Noah Pollak, another Neocon, as a foreign espionage investigation on American soil. The Israel lobby is pressuring the US government to force Al-Jazeera to register as an arm of the Qatari government.

https://electronicintifada.net/content/whats-al-jazeeras-undercover-film-us-israel-lobby/23496

I am frankly completely unsurprised that the Neocons were up to their neck in this. The Neocon project always was a Zionist outfit. It all started with an article in the late ’60s by their chief ideologue, William Kristol, about ways to get the American public to back Israel. Which included the vast majority of Jewish Americans at the time, who were completely indifferent in Israel, a foreign country they had never seen and had no desire to emigrate to.

As for AIPAC, there’s more than a whiff of double standards here. One of the left-wing American news channels pointed out that FARA, the piece of American legislation dating from World War II, which demands that foreign lobbyists register with the US authorities, should cover them. But it doesn’t. Because of their very powerful influence since the 1950s.

What is encouraging, however, is Schanzer’s admission that the lies and smears he and his scummy friends have been directing against pro-Palestinian activists, that they’re all connected to Islamist terror groups, or anti-Semites, increasingly aren’t working.

And when they fail completely, how is this going to make McNichol and the kangaroo courts persecuting decent, anti-racists and campaigners against anti-Semitism, who’ve been libelled by the Israel lobby because of their anti-Israel activism, going to look?

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Priti Patel and the Shady World of Right-Wing Lobbyists and Thinktanks

November 9, 2017

Hat tip to Michelle, one of the great commenters on this blog, for letting me know about this article.

Priti Patel has finally done the decent thing, and resigned following the revelation of her highly secretive visit to Israel, where she met met leading politicians, while telling everyone she was just on a holiday. Part of the reason behind Patel’s little trip seems to have been to get the British government to divert some of the money it gives for international aid to Israel, so it can spend it on the IDF’s continuing occupation of the Golan Heights. This is territory which Israel nicked from the Syrians during the Six Day War.

Israel is already massively supported by Britain, the US and the EU, where it is treated almost as a member, despite not having formal membership. The IDF is one of the main instruments of the country’s brutal repression and ethnic cleansing of its indigenous Arab people, the Palestinians. During its independence campaign in 1948, the Israeli armed forces were responsible for a series of massacres, rapes and beatings against the Palestinians. The most notorious of these was Deir Yassin. But that was only one massacre out of many. Very many. Israeli soldiers killed people sheltering in a mosque, shot and threw handgrenades at women and children, and in one horrendous incident killed a group of Palestinians, who were coming towards them to offer them rice in the hope of getting some mercy. The IDF today enforces the brutal apartheid regime against the Palestinians, including the fouling of cisterns and wells to make the water undrinkable, and the demolition of houses and seizure of property by Israeli colonists.

I have no desire whatsoever to see my government give aid money to the IDF. And I very much doubt I’m alone.

This isn’t about anti-Semitism. I am very much aware that there is and always has been a very strong Jewish opposition to the ethnic cleansing and terror, which not only includes American and European Jews, but also Israelis such Ilan Pappe and human rights organisations such as BT’salem. Anyone, who dares to criticise Israel, is smeared and abused as an anti-Semite. But many anti-Zionist Jews, or simply Jews critical of the occupation of the West Bank and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, feel that they are particularly singled out for abuse and vilification. Tony Greenstein, a veteran anti-Zionist and anti-Fascist campaigner, has quoted in his blog the left-wing comedian, Alexei Sayle. Sayle, the son of Jewish Communists, has said that it seems to him that the majority of people smeared as anti-Semites in the Labour Party were Jews.

Returning to Patel, an article by Adam Ramsay on the Open Democracy site, reveals that she has very extensive links to some very shady right-wing lobbying groups and thinktanks.

Before she was elected MP in 2010, Patel worked for the PR form Weber Shandwick, whose clients included British American Tobacco. Not only does the company produce a highly addictive and lethal drug, it also has links to the dictatorship in Myanmar and child labour. The article notes that some of the PR company’s employees were uncomfortable dealing with BAT. Not so Patel. She was perfectly relaxed.

BAT in their turn fund the right-wing think tanks the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs. In 2002, while Patel was working there, Weber Shandwick merged with the Israeli lobbyists Rimon Cohen, whose clients include the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, the illegal Migron settlement on the West Bank, and Benjamin Netanyahu. Whom Patel coincidentally met on her jaunt.

Weber Shandwick’s clients also included Bahrein, and just months after her election, the Bahreini’s flew her there to meet some of their ministers. This is a Gulf kingdom widely criticised for human rights abuses. In 2012 she went on another trip, this time to the United Arab Emirates, as part of the All Party Group, which went there. She made two return trips in 2013 and 2014. The first time she went with the World Consulting and Research Corporation, based in New Delhi. This outfit describe themselves as a brand equity and management organisation. The second trip was courtesy of Sun Mark Ltd., who are regular donors to her office. Weber Shandwick also added the Dubai firm Promoseven to its list of clients about the same time it merged with Rimon Cohen.

In 2014 she also attended a meeting in Washington, courtesy of the right-wing, and highly secretive British think tank, the Henry Jackson Society. The meeting was organised by AIPAC, the very powerful Israeli lobbying organisation in the US, about security in the Middle East. As for the Henry Jackson Society, they are so secretive about the source of their funds that they withdrew it from two parliamentary groups, rather than reveal where it comes from. Earlier this year the Charity Commission announced they were investigating it following allegations that it was being paid by the Japanese government to spread anti-Chinese propaganda.

Patel’s holiday to Israel also seems to have been sponsored by Stuart Polak, the former head and honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel. In 2009 Peter Oborne wrote a piece about the extensive influence the CFI has in the Tory party. Ramsay also notes that trips to Israel funded by the CFI and similar groups are the most consistent entry in the MPs’ and MSPs’ register of foreign interests.

The article concludes

Much has been written about the weakness of the current Conservative government, as exhibited by this scandal, Boris Johnson’s blunders, and last week’s resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon amid allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour. But here is the problem. When governments are falling apart, special interest groups run riot. Flagrant abuses usually happen at times when minor abuses are normalised. What other powerful lobby groups are pushing ministers around? How did it get to the point that Patel thought she’d get away with this?

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/we-cant-ignore-patels-background-in-britains-lobbying-industry

It’s a good question, though you’d have to work extremely hard to find out. The Labour MP Colin Challen wrote a piece years ago in Lobster reporting that half of Tory funding remains mysterious. As for the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs, they’re extreme right-wing think tanks that provided much of the ideology of the New Right during Thatcher’s grotty rise to power and period in office. They want to privatise everything, including the NHS and schools, as well as social security. I know. I’ve got the IEA’s pamphlets about the last two. The IEA also produced another pamphlet addressing a question vital to today’s women: Liberating Women – From Feminism. Which has been the line the Daily Mail’s taken almost since it was founded.

Mike yesterday put up a piece commenting on the strange verbiage of Patel’s resignation letter, and the reply from Theresa May. Both contained passages stressing that Patel was usually open and transparent about her business. Mike commented that neither of these letters actually looked like they’d been written by the two.

Mike comments that neither May nor Patel have acted transparently and openly, and we still don’t know what Downing Street’s role in this whole affair may have been. The Jewish Chronicle suggests it’s rather more than May and Patel are telling.

He concludes

This matter has demonstrated that Theresa May’s government has no interest in transparency and openness. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The minority Prime Minister will be hoping that it will go away, following the resignation of the offending minister.

It won’t.

We need to know exactly what happened, when it was arranged, with whom, who knew about it, who was there at the time, what was said about it afterwards and to whom, and whether all the information has been made public. My guess that it hasn’t.

Recent events involving Boris Johnson have shown that ministers cannot expect to be able to lie to us and expect us to accept it. We need the facts.

And if Theresa May can’t provide the answers, it won’t be one of her ministers who’ll need to resign.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/11/08/priti-patel-resigns-resigns-doesnt-theresa-may-have-the-guts-to-sack-anyone/

And Patel’s trip to Israel is just one secretive lobbying trip, paid by some very shady people, of many.

It’s time this government was forced out, and some real transparency put in place.

John Kampfner on the Growth of the Surveillance State in France under Sarkozy

March 7, 2016

It isn’t just in Britain where the powers of the state to monitor and imprison its citizens have been massively expanded. John Kampfner in his book, Freedom for Sale describes not only the growth of authoritarian government not just in Britain, and in the traditionally closed societies of China and Russia, but also in the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, India, Berlusconi’s Italy and France under Sarkozy.

He states that in France Sarko introduced a series of measures expanding the surveillance and intelligence gathering powers of the secret police and authorising the preventative arrest of terrorist or criminal suspects. His Socialist opponents have compiled a ‘black book’ of attacks on liberty by Sarko’s government since 2007.

For example, in November 2008 anti-terrorist police arrested twenty people in the small village of Tarnac. There was little real evidence against them. They were arrested because they were suspected of writing a book, The Coming Insurrection, and of being members of the ‘ultra-left’.

In June 2008, Sarko created EDVIGE, a feminine-sounding acronym that stands for Exploitation documentaire et valorisation de l’information generale. It’s a database of groups, organisations and individuals, which the state considers a threat, or possible threat. The database includes not just known criminals, or criminal suspects, but also the people, who associate with them. The EDVIGE database also includes information on their jobs, marriage status and family history; their former and present addresses, phone numbers and email addresses; their physical appearance, including photographs, and descriptions of how they behave. It also includes their identity papers, car number plates, tax records and legal history.

Gay organisations have been worried and criticised the database because it will also store information on people’s sexual orientation and health, as a means of keeping track of AIDS. It has also been condemned by the French magistrates’ union, which declared that it was ‘undemocratic’ and would ‘inform the government on politically active people’. Even the establishment newspaper, le Monde criticised it, commenting ‘A state governed by the rule of law cannot accept the penalisation of supposed intentions’.

Sarkozy’s government stated that much of the database’s function is to keep track on teenage gangs in the suburbs of the major cities. As part of this, the database will include information on children as young as thirteen. This followed the declaration of the Interior Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, that there had been an increase in teenage delinquency. The French public responded by making her the winner of the tenth Big Brother Awards. The judges decided she deserved the award based on her distinguished contributions to violations of privacy, her love of video surveillance, and ‘immoderate taste for putting French citizens on file’.

The government has also set up a drone programme, ELSA, or Engins legers de surveillance aerienne, creating and testing robot aircraft equipped with night vision cameras to observe criminal and anti-social behaviour from above.

Sarko also used his personal influence to get troublesome journalists either to fall into line. If they didn’t, he got them sacked. When he was Interior Minister, he had the veteran prime-time newsreader, Patrick Poivre d’Arvor sacked from the private station, TFI, after he described Sarko at the G8 summit as ‘looking like a little boy in the big boy’s club’. Alain Genestar was sacked as editor in chief of Paris Match, after he published pictures of his then wife, Cecilie Sarkozy in New York with the man, who later became her husband. He also had another story spiked in Le Journal du Dimanche about Cecilie not voting during the presidential election. When he married his next wife, Carla Bruni, the two were hailed by the newspaper as ‘the Star Couple’.

He also passed a series of legislation strengthening government control over television. In 2009, parliament approved a set of laws gradually phasing out advertising on the state television stations. Instead, the stations would be funded by the state. Furthermore, the Chief Executive of France Televisions would be nominated directly by the president, not by the broadcast regulator.
He was also called ‘le telepresident’ because of the way he orchestrated political events like a reality TV show.

Le Monde describe Sarko as having created ‘a new model of media control’, which fell somewhere between Berlusconi’s and Putin’s style of autocratic government. The newspaper noted that much of Sarko’s control of the press was informal. It observed that unlike Berlusconi, he didn’t have to own newspapers and the media in order to censor and control them. His friends in charge of them did that. (pp. 179-82).

All over Europe and the world, government are becoming increasingly dictatorial and autocratic. This has to be stopped before freedom dies and is replaced across the globe with the jackboot and the fist of the police state.

More on Saudi Slavery and Arms Sales

January 20, 2016

I got a few more great comments from people for the posts I ran on the Saudi arms trade and their plans to acquire nukes, and their continuing enslavement of poor migrant workers from other parts of the Developing World.

Michelle Thomasson in particular sent a number of very interesting links to newspaper articles and TV videos about these topics. She provided the following links.

Petition for the UK to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia: https://www.caat.org.uk/get-involved/act-now/petition/stop-arming-saudi

Further information on ‘Saudi arms sales: Court threat by campaign group’ 17th Dec 15 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35118296

and about a hospital in Yemen, run by Medecin Sans Frontieres, which was destroyed by Saudi airstrikes: http://www.msf.org.uk/article/yemen-msf-hospital-destroyed-by-airstrikes.

She also commented on the modern Saudi slave trade

Saudi”s system of jurisprudence promotes slavery, from Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, ‘Is Home Secretary Theresa May covering up a slavery inquiry into the circumstances of nearly 20,000 whose visas are sponsored by subjects of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates?’ Short video with McQuade and Afshin Rattansi (18th Jan 16):

This last video is about the way British law ties foreign servants to their masters by allowing them to come in on their masters’ passports. The result of this is that those slaves, who try to flee risk being deported. They also cover the strong-arm tactics the Saudis have used in order to stop Britain putting pressure on them over this issue. When the government threatened to do something about this previously, the Saudis said that they would not share intelligence on terrorism with us if we did so, thus leaving us vulnerable to attack. So this is what are allies in the region are like – spoilt, petulant bullies, getting in a huff and threatening to play elsewhere when they can’t get their own way.

She also provided further links to interviews with modern days slaves describing their plight and exploitation, writing

Interviews with modern day victims of slavery in the UK, especially from rich Saudi households, the victims are even more trapped due to changes in UK visa system in 2012: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2016/jan/11/i-was-just-a-slave-the-foreign-domestic-staff-living-a-life-of-five-star-serfdom-in-london-video

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2016/jan/11/i-was-just-a-slave-the-foreign-domestic-staff-living-a-life-of-five-star-serfdom-in-london-video.

Despite these horrors and flagrant human rights abuses, Mike today has blogged a piece about a report in the Independent that Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia has increased by 100 x in the last three months of last year, when we managed to sell £1 billion worth of arms to them. See Mike’s article at
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/20/british-arms-companies-ramp-up-bomb-sales-to-saudi-arabia-by-100-times-despite-air-strikes-on-civilians/

Here’s Kyle Kulinski from Secular Talk discussing the Saudis’ bombing of the hospital.

Kulinski also reports that the Saudis have also bombed weddings and schools, including a school for the blind. These bombings are also contributing – what a surprise! – to a hostile attitude towards America. Why? because the weapons dropped come from the US, and have ‘Made in USA’ printed on them. And when these don’t go off, like many of them don’t, this can be read, and the Yemenis informed who is selling armaments to their attackers.

And the weapons dropped on the Yemenis are very nasty indeed. They include clusterbombs, which remain in fields, killing and maiming after wars and fighting have officially ended. They are illegal under international law.

Kulinski states that it’s clear that America should stop selling arms to these butchers. Not least because America is having problems spending money on issues at home, like the water crisis in Michigan. He’s right, and it’s about time we stopped selling arms to the Saudis too.

Here’s another video from Kulinski and Secular Talk, in which he comments on the Saudis bombing of Shi’a mosques in Yemen. This seems to have been done as part of a campaign against the Shi’a population as a whole in a deliberate act of ethnic cleansing.

Prof Paul Rogers on ISIS’ Blowback War

December 29, 2015

This month’s (December 2015) issue of Justpeace, the newsletter of the Roman Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, carries an article ‘The Paris Atrocity, and After’, by prof Paul Rogers. Rogers is professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. In his article he analyses the Paris attacks, and their intended consequences. He makes the point that the massacres had three purposes, and were ultimately intended to provoke the West into retaliating so the Islamists could gain further recruits in Syria and Iraq as the true defenders of Muslims. Identifying the three aims of the attack, he writes

The first is to demonstrate that in the wake of the destruction of Russia’s Metrojet over Sinai and the bombing in Beirut on November 12, ISIS has now gone truly international. Thus its modus operandi has reached the level of the loose al-Qaida affiliates in the post-9/11 years: Islamabad, Bali, Madrid, London, Jakarta, Istanbul, Mombasa, Amman, Sinai, Casablanca, Djerba in Tunisia – and many more. This is potentially a very major change since ISIS has so far concentrated primarily on its territorial base, in contrast to the old al-Qaida movement.

The second is to further damage intercommunal relations, not just in Paris but across western Europe and further afield. An accelerating Islamophobia suits ISIS in its quest to attract more recruits from recent diasporas and more established migrant communities, many members of whom now feel thoroughly insecure and greatly worried and even fearful of the hardening of attitudes towards them.

The third is to provoke and incite France and other states to intensify the war against ISIS – in Syria, Iraq, and anywhere else that it, or its affiliates, make progress.

ISIS wants war. It presents itself as the true guardian of Islam under attack from the ‘Crusader west’. This message, though pernicious and dangerous, is currently being encouraged by the progressive withdrawal of all Middle Eastern states from active involvement in the airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

The air war in Syria was in early 2015 led by the United States with the participation of France, Australia, Canada, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan. In recent months, however, the four Arab states have ceased bombing. In addition, Justin Trudeau’s new government in Canada is withdrawing all CF-18 strike-aircraft from Syria and Iraq, and Australia is reported to have paused its operations in Syria since the Russians started separate air attacks (almost all against non-ISIS anti-Assad rebels). That leaves just the US and France. So in Syria at least, ISIS can easily claim that a ‘crusader onslaught’ is taking place.

Furthermore, the sustained air assault of the last 15 months, with close to 10,000 targets hit, has not pushed ISIS into retreat. In the first 11 months of the air war, to July 2015, the US-led coalition killed 15,000 ISIS supporters. By October, that had risen to 20,000, yet a Pentagon source said that the total number of ISIS fighters was unchanged at 20,000-30,000. (USA Today, 12 October 2015).

In an extraordinary admission, US intelligence sources say there has been a surge in recruits to ISIS in spite of the air war and the losses. In September 2014, 15,000 recruits were reported to have joined from 80 countries; a year later the figure had risen to 30,000 from 100 countries.

In blunt terms, ISIS is actually being strengthened by the air war, and it can be assumed that it wants more. The movement vigorously and insistently peddles the message of ‘Islam under attack’; and though it is disliked and hated by the great majority of Muslims worldwide, the message strikes enough of a chord with a small minority to serve ISIS’s aim of creating this purist if brutal caliphate.

Prof Rogers writes a weekly article on security at the Open Democracy website. The full article originally appeared there on 14 November. The website’s address is http://www.opendemocracy.net.

Republicans Demand Obama Lead Saudi War in Yemen

April 4, 2015

Earlier this morning I put up a video by the American internet news programme, The Young Turks, commenting on the airstrikes last week by Saudi Arabia against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Houthis are Shi’a and have revolted against the persecution and marginalisation inflicted on them by the state’s Sunni authorities. Saudi Arabia is an extremely strict Sunni state, and so has led a coalition of other Sunni Muslim nations to strike against the rebels. The coalition includes the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, with additional support promised by Pakistan and Turkey. The airstrikes raise the terrifying spectre of a war between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims erupting across the Middle East, plunging the region into bloodshed and chaos.

Both the EU and America have decided to keep out of the conflict. The previous video explains why this is a good policy, if America is to carry out successful negotiations with Iran on that country’s nuclear programme. Both countries are also fighting a common enemy in ISIS in Iraq. Iran is a Shi’a nation, and are probably aiding the Houthi rebels. Any attack by America on the Houthis would damage the tentative negotiations with Iran, as well as alienate Shi’a throughout the Middle East. It there’s one thing the West does not need in the region, it’s fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda on one side, and the Shi’a on the other.

This, apparently, is not good enough for the Repugs. John Boehner, the Republican speaker in the Senate, has condemned Obama for doing nothing, and claimed that ‘the world is starving for American leadership’. He has therefore demanded that American join the Saudis in attacking Yemen.

The Young Turks here point out exactly why this is nonsense, because of the above reasons. And also because Obama has also been vigorous in continuing to prosecute the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also shows how keen the Republicans are for America to continue fighting the Saudis’ proxy wars for them.

The video’s an object lesson in why the Republicans should not be allowed anywhere near American foreign policy. Their ignorance and sheer belligerence threaten to escalate an already perilous situation into an international conflict, where millions could die, and the rest of the world suffer disastrous consequences through the effect on the oil supply.

There is another reason for not wanting to do what the Saudis tell the West in this instance. Saudi Arabia is a strictly Wahhabi nation, where other religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and so on are not permitted. Nor are other forms of Islam, such as the Shi’a. It is therefore wrong and unfair to require members of these faiths to fight for a country that does not recognise them, and persecutes their believers if they attempt to worship within its borders.

The Young Turks on Saudi Airstrikes and Sunni Coalition Against Yemen

April 4, 2015

A week or so ago I blogged about the horrific implications of the ISIS terrorist attack in Yemen, and the Saudi airstrikes against the Houthi rebel forces. ISIS are horrific, not just because of the mass death and terror they inflict on the territories they occupy, but also because of the massive cultural vandalism they also commit.

In Iraq they have smashed immensely valuable Assyrian antiquities and bulldozed the ancient city of Nimrod in order to cover up their looting and destroy the remains of the country’s pre-Islamic history. They have also destroyed mosques and shrines to St. George and Seth, one of Adam’s sons, who is revered in Islam as the Prophet Sheth. Yemen is also rich in history, as the centre of civilisations going back thousands of years. Its city, Marib, was the capital of the kingdom of Sheba, whose Queen visited King Solomon in both the Bible and the Qu’ran. There is thus a similar possibility that ISIS could attempt to destroy these ancient and vastly important remains as well.

I also blogged on the airstrikes against Yemen by the Saudis, and the terrible threat they also pose for peace in the Middle East. The Houthi are Shi’as, who have been marginalised and persecuted by the Sunni Gulf states. The attack on them by the Saudis could act as the catalyst for a wider war between Shi’ah and Sunni that could tear apart this entire region.

In this video from The Young Turks, they also discuss this possibility and the other political implications of the airstrikes. It hasn’t just been Saudi Arabia that launched the attack. They were also assisted by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan, as well as Egypt. Pakistan was also considering sending ground forces if Iran became involved, while Turkey promised to provide logistical support. Iran, meanwhile, has possibly been supplying aid to the Houthis, but this is unclear.

The Turks point out how dangerous this situation is, especially when Turkey and Pakistan are both being drawn into it. Both are ‘tangential’ to the Middle East. Turkey in particular is a relatively modern, secular country, which has tried to position itself as a European as well as Middle Eastern country.

The Turks point out that the Saudis have probably acted because this time they can’t get America to wage war on their behalf, as they have so many times in the past. And aiding them would be very much against America’s interests. America needs to avoid a confrontation with Iran as it is negotiating with them over the country’s nuclear programme. Furthermore, both America and Iran are fighting ISIS in Iraq. The last thing America needs is to take part in attack on Yemen, and so find itself fighting the entire Shi’a population of the Middle East, as well as ISIS and al-Qaeda.

The one positive aspect to this is that America has not blindly done what the Saudis want. Several of the posters on the Islamophobic sites, were former members of the American armed forces. They had served in Saudi Arabia, and bitterly resented the arrogance with which the Saudis boasted they had the Americans wrapped around their little fingers and could get them to do their bidding. If America finally shows some independence from the Saudis in Middle Eastern policy, this might make some a little less prejudiced towards Muslims generally through experiences serving Saudi oil aristocrats.