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Yemen: A tale of Saudi Folly and Global Silence

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A deafening Silence. That is how the world is reacting to the screams and miseries of the Yemeni children. I will not ask why or how are they able to be so silent? By now we are used to the indifference of the world when it comes to the atrocities committed by Imperialism in the name of democracy in the Middle East.

It is no secret that the world has lost all its senses, especially to feel the sufferings of the tormented. We have seen that many times over the course of history and we will continue to see that, however this does not eliminate the fact that a genocide in Yemen is taking place at the hands of a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, supported by the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. Bombardment started on March 25, 2015 and is still going on to this moment. The world stands in silent, turning a blind eye while fighting over who wears what on the beach.

Saudi Arabia appears to have completely lost what was left of its sanity. The Saudis have succeeded in killing more than 10,000 Yemeni lives including newborns, women, elderly and disabled people in the past 17 months. Yes 10,000…let that number sink in for a second. Even people who were hospitalized due to the Saudi bombing rampage were bombarded again inside the hospital itself. During that time, the international community has not even lifted a finger over the situation. Simply because of the petrodollar. Al Saud have enough money to control the mass media and bribe all its political patrons including the United Nations.

Back in June 2016, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a startling admission, saying he bowed to pressure over a report that blasted Saudi Arabia for child casualties that have resulted from its bombing campaign in Yemen. Ban called it one of the most difficult choices he had to face. Really Mr. Moon? That must have been an agonizing choice for you right? Just as agonizing as losing one’s child under the rubble of a shelled house in what was once a peaceful neighborhood in Saada or Sanaa isn’t it? Just like the agonizing feeling of one’s family members screaming for hours under the debris of a hospital with nothing left to do except wait for them to die isn’t it? Exactly so agonizing like the dead bodies of 30 young Yemeni school children stuck under the remains of their school in Saada. How would you feel Mr. Moon if it were your child who went to school in the morning and was brought back to you in a plastic back without limbs for you to burry? Not so calm and composed I suppose.

Despite the fact that the UN report held Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners responsible for the attacks on schools and hospitals and 60 percent of the nearly 5,000 children killed and injured, the report stands, but Ban said he made a “decision to temporarily remove the Saudi-led coalition countries from the report’s annex,” which lists those who violate children’s rights. He made clear that U.N. funding was at stake. “I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would de-fund many U.N. programs,” he said. In other words, let the Yemeni children die in peace please, can we?

it is no secret that this war waged on Yemen hardly appears balanced when a homegrown resistance movement finds itself facing a mighty military coalition of both Western and Arabian powers, an alliance of some of the richest and militarily most powerful countries in the world against a native Yemeni representative resistance. Strong on its imperial force and petrodollars, the Monarchy of Al Saud flexed every muscle it has – or in this case every muscle it could buy- and invested all its military capabilities in an attempt to humiliate and subjugate the people of Yemen assuming that the country would offer but a timid resistance to its over-powering hegemonic will. And yet Yemen has held true and stood tall. Indeed you might break the bones of a fearless and righteous Yemeni but you’ll never see him fall.

The campaign of haphazard murder has now been going on for almost a year and a half, while the United States and the United Kingdom bear a large part of the responsibility. The US government is vigorously selling the Saudis billions of dollars of weaponry. They’re re-supplying planes engaged in the bombing rampages and providing “intelligence” for the targets that Saudi Arabia is hitting inside a war control room in Riyadh. The imperial powers on this planet are not only funding a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, they are doing so with a straight face and with no shame whatsoever.

The facts are simple. Saudi Arabia is guilty of war crimes and the U.S. and the UK are an outright complicit as they provide airstrike targeting information as part of their support for the Saudi-led coalition.

Mark Toner, deputy U.S. State Department spokesman, would not comment earlier in July 2016 on either allegations of potential U.S. complicity in war crimes in Yemen or whether Saudi Arabia should be removed as a member of the Human Rights Council.

“I’m not going to speak to … that, other than that we work very closely, as I said, to urge all sides to show respect for civilians and to certainly not target civilians, but indeed, to protect civilians and comply with international humanitarian law,” he said. Toner however failed to indicate exactly how the US is protecting civilians and complying with international humanitarian law. Maybe they do so by killing Yemenis themselves using unmanned drones by turning weddings into a funerals like that in a village outside the central Yemeni city of Rad’a. Maybe the US missile is a bit lighter than the Saudi one when it falls on the heads of innocent civilians.

The United Kingdom is no better than the US. The fact that British military experts have joined Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against the people of Yemen raises a lot of demands for a total review of British policy towards the fundamentalist Monarchy. Now it appears that Britain, already a massive source of weapons and bombs to the Saudi Kingdom, is helping in more direct ways.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) in London has already confirmed that there are a number of “experts” who are working with the Saudi military on locations for attack, while insisting that they are not part of any direct operations but are training the Saudis to comply with the international rules of war. This hypocritical announcement came at a time when the Saudis and other members of the Gulf coalition are committing multiple violations of the laws of war in Yemen and it is all documented by the Human rights Watch. Oh good, they managed to write it down on papers without getting bribed or intimidated by the Saudis.

The Human Rights Watch claims that it has put out numerous reports about what the Saudis are up to in Yemen. And that the British are working hand in glove with the Saudis, helping them, enhancing their capacity to prosecute this war that has led to the death of thousands of civilians.

Let us also not forget that the presence of the Saudi proxy warriors -known historically as al-Qaeda and most recently as ISIS- has spread in Yemen while much of the country’s northern parts has been plunged into calamity and chaos due to the unending Saudi bombing campaign. In other words, the war has turned Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe, worsened regional security and boosted the presence and power of terror groups, while the horrid Saudi invader has been dragged deeper into the conflict on the frontline by the might and steadfastness of the Yemeni Resistance forces (Ansarullah).

Saudi Arabia is yet to end this war despite the severe military setbacks on the ground and the world yet lingers to allow the continuation of a devastating war with full impunity and ever more weaponry. Remain indifferent as is and just keep going. Nothing to see here. Only thousands more Yemeni children will die until the west dries Yemen of its natural resources. However, Yemenis will remain defiant and adamant to break free from this global enslavement. Proving yet again that Yemenis are fearless people and the toughest fighters on Earth.

Ms. Marwa Osman. PhD Candidate located in Beirut, Lebanon. University Lecturer and host of the political show “The Middle East Stream” broadcasted on Al-Etejah English Channel. Member of the Blue Peace Media Network and political commentator on issues of the Middle East on several international and regional media outlets.

Middle East

Ukraine crisis could produce an unexpected winner: Iran

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 Iran potentially could emerge as an unintended winner in the escalating crisis over Ukraine. That is, if Russian troops cross the Ukrainian border and talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement fail.

An imposition of tough US and European sanctions in response to any Russian incursion in Ukraine could likely make Russia more inclined to ignore the fallout of violating US sanctions n its dealings with Iran.

By the same token, a failure of the talks between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, the European Union, France, Germany, and Britain to revive the accord that curbed the Islamic republic’s nuclear program would drive Iran closer to Russia and China in its effort to offset crippling US sanctions.

US and European officials have warned that time is running out on the possibility of reviving the agreement from which the United States under then-President Donald J. Trump withdrew in 2018.

The officials said Iran was weeks away from acquiring the know-how and capability to produce enough nuclear fuel for a bomb quickly. That, officials suggested, would mean that a new agreement would have to be negotiated, something Iran has rejected.

No doubt, that was in the back of the minds of Russian and Iranian leaders when they met last week during a visit to Moscow by Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi. It was the first meeting between the leaders of Russia and Iran in five years.

To be sure, the road to increased Russian trade, energy cooperation, and military sales would open with harsh newly imposed US sanctions against Russia even if restrictions on Iran would remain in place.

That does not mean that the road would be obstacle-free. Mr. Putin would still have to balance relations with Iran with Russia’s ties to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

If anything, Russia’s balancing act, like that of China, has become more complicated without the Ukraine and Vienna variables as Iranian-backed Houthis expand the seven-year-long Yemen war with drone and missile strikes against targets in the UAE.

The Houthis struck as the Russian, Chinese and Iranian navies started their third joint exercises since 2019 in the northern Indian Ocean. The two events were not related.

“The purpose of this drill is to strengthen security and its foundations in the region, and to expand multilateral cooperation between the three countries to jointly support world peace, maritime security and create a maritime community with a common future,” Iranian Rear Admiral Mostafa Tajoldini told state tv.

US dithering over its commitments to security in the Gulf has persuaded Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE to hedge their bets and diversify the nature of their relations with major external powers.

However, a Russia and potentially a China that no longer are worried about the fallout of violating US sanctions against Iran could put Riyadh and Abu Dhabi on notice that the two US rivals may not be more reliable or committed to ensuring security in the Gulf. So far, neither Russia nor China have indicated an interest in stepping into US shoes.

This leaves Saudi Arabia and the UAE with few good choices if Russia feels that US sanctions are no longer an obstacle in its dealings with Iran.

Russia is believed to want the Vienna talks to succeed but at the same time has supported Iranian demands for guarantees that the United States would not walk away from a revived deal like it did in 2018.

Against the backdrop of talk about a proposed 20-year cooperation agreement between the two countries, Russia appears to want to negotiate a free trade agreement between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union that groups Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, alongside Russia.

Iran has signed a similar 25-year cooperation agreement with China that largely remains a statement of intent at best rather than an action plan that is being implemented.

Like in the case of China, the draft agreement with Russia appears to have been an Iranian rather than a Russian initiative. It would demonstrate that Iran is less isolated than the United States would like it to be and that the impact of US sanctions can be softened.

“We have a document on bilateral strategic cooperation, which may determine our future relations for the next 20 years. At any rate, it can explain our prospects,” Mr. Raisi said as he went into his talks with Mr. Putin.

For now, Mr. Raisi’s discussions in Moscow appear to have produced more lofty prospects than concrete deals.

Media speculation that Russia would be willing to sell Iran up to US10 billion in arms, including Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 anti-missile defense systems, appear to have remained just that, speculation. Saudi Arabia and the UAE would view the sale to Iran of such weapons as particularly troublesome.

By the same token, Iranian officials, including Finance Minister Ehsan Khanduzi and Oil Minister Javad Owji, spoke of agreements signed during the Moscow visit that would revive a US$5 billion Russian credit line that has been in the pipeline for years and produce unspecified energy projects.

It’s unclear if these are new projects or ones that have been previously discussed and even agreed to, such as the one Lukoil stopped working on in 2018 after the US pulled out… Lukoil was concerned about being targeted by US sanctions,” said international affairs scholar Mark N. Katz.

Theoretically, the dynamics of the Ukraine crisis and the prospects of failed Vienna talks could mean that a long-term Russian Iranian cooperation agreement could get legs quicker than its Chinese Iranian counterpart.

Negotiating with a Russia heavily sanctioned by the United States and Europe in an escalated crisis in Ukraine could level the playing field as both parties, rather than just Iran, would be hampered by Western punitive measures.

Tehran-based Iranian scholar and political analyst Sadegh Zibakalam suggested that it was time for the regime to retire the 43-year-old Iranian revolution’s slogan of “neither East nor West.” The slogan is commemorated in a plaque at the Foreign Ministry.

Asserting that Iran has long not adhered to the motto, Mr. Zibakalam suggested that the plaque be removed and stored in the basement of a hardline Tehran newspaper. “It has not been used for a long time and should be taken down,” he tweeted.

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Middle East

Unified Libya will come only via ballot box, ‘not the gun’-UNSC

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A boy runs in the ruins of the Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli, Libya. © UNICEF/Giovanni Diffidenti

Libya is at a “delicate and fragile juncture in its path to unity and stability”, the UN Political Affairs chief told the Security Council on Monday, urging the international community to remain united in supporting national elections postponed last month. 

In welcoming positive developments across three different tracks of intra-Libyan dialogue, Rosemary A. DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, also recognized the challenges that must be overcome.  

“So many Libyans have told us, the way towards a stable and united Libya is through the ballot box, not the gun”, she said. “We must stand with them”. 

Postponed elections 

Growing polarization among political actors, and disputes over key aspects of the electoral process, led to the postponement of long anticipated elections on 24 December.  

The High National Commission for Elections (HNEC) cited shortcomings in the legal framework along with political and security concerns. To address this, the House of Representatives has established a Roadmap Committee to chart a new political path that defines an elections timetable and process. 

New Special Adviser 

Last month, Stephanie Williams was appointed Special Adviser on Libya, having served as acting Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission, UNSMIL, last year.  

To date, she has undertaken wide-ranging consultations, including with members of the Government of National Unity (GNU), the High National Election Commission, the House of Representatives, and candidates for presidential and parliamentary elections.  

Oil-rich Libya has descended into multiple crises since the overthrow of former rule Muammar Gadaffi in 2011, which in recent years saw the country divided between rival administrations – a UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the capital Tripoli, and that of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar.  

Ms. Williams has reiterated that the focus of the political process now, should remain on holding “free, fair, inclusive and credible national elections” in the shortest possible timeframe. 

“In all her meetings, the Special Adviser highlighted the 2.8 million Libyans who have registered to vote”, said Ms. DiCarlo, adding that she also called on everyone to respect the will of the Libyan people and to adhere to the timeline agreed to in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) roadmap, which was endorsed by the Security Council

Welcomed developments 

The UN political affairs chief said ongoing dialogue among political, security and economic actors from across the country was key. 

“We have seen reports of consultations between the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the High State Council, as well as among presidential candidates from western and eastern Libya”, she said.  

On the security track, there have been meetings among various armed groups, as well as the Chief of General Staff of the Western Military Forces under the GNU and the acting General Commander of the rival LNA, with the participation of military chiefs and heads of military departments from both sides.  

Turning to the economy, further steps have been taken to reunify the Central Bank of Libya.  

Moreover, renewed efforts continue to advance national reconciliation based on the principles of transitional justice.  

Security situation 

While the ceasefire has continued to hold, “political uncertainty in the run up to the elections has negatively impacted the overall security situation”, the political chief informed the Council, including in Tripoli. 

It has resulted in shifting alliances among armed groups affiliated with certain presidential candidates, she added. 

Similarly, unfulfilled demands made to the GNU by the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) in western Libya resulted in the shutdown of oil production, causing the National Oil Corporation to declare in December, force majeure – a clause that removes liability for natural and unavoidable catastrophes. 

Following negotiations between the PFG and the GNU, Oil production was restored on 9 January. 

To implement the ceasefire agreement, last month military representatives from opposing sides, called the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC), discussed with Turkish and Russian authorities, an Action Plan to gradually withdrawal mercenaries and foreign fighters from the country.     

At the same time, despite serious logistical and security challenges, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) continued its work to establish a ceasefire monitoring hub in Sirte, pending the GNU’s approval on accommodation and office facilities. 

Human rights concerns 

“The human rights situation in Libya remains very worrying”, said Ms. DiCarlo, noting “documented incidents of elections-related violence and attacks based on political affiliation”, which she described as obstacles toward a conducive environment for free, fair, peaceful and credible elections. 

“We are particularly concerned that women and men working to protect and promote women’s rights continued to be targeted by hate speech, defamation and incitement to violence”, she stated. “Some of the disturbing social media posts that posed a threat to the safety and security of these persons were removed after UNSMIL brought them to the attention of social media platforms”.  

Meanwhile, arbitrary detention by State and non-State actors continued across the country, with many detainees subjected to serious rights abuses. 

Migration management  

The situation of migrants and refugees is also highly concerning.  

“Large numbers of migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea and returned to Libya continue to be detained in inhumane and degrading conditions with restricted humanitarian assistance. Thousands are unaccounted for”, the UN official said.  

Ms. DiCarlo pointed out that hundreds of foreign nationals were expelled from Libya’s eastern and southern borders without due process, with some “placed in extremely vulnerable situations across remote stretches of the Sahara Desert without sufficient food, water, safety and medical care”. 

“The United Nations remains ready to work with Libyan authorities on a long-term national response to migration and refugee management in line with international law to include addressing human rights concerns”, she assured. 

Accountability  

To ensure political progress, Elham Saudi, Co-founder and Director of Lawyers for Justice in Libya, said that all who commit abuses must be held accountable, including mercenaries. 

She noted that without law, revenge would be the only winner.  

Ms. Saudi also maintained the importance of an enabling environment for all rights advocates, especially women, and expressed hopes for a human-rights based approach in how Libya is governed, going forward. 

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Middle East

Embarking on Libya’s Noble Foray Into the Future

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On Saturday the 22nd of January, activists from across the civil society spectrum in Libya gathered over Zoom with one purpose in mind; publicly declaring their support for the 1951 Libyan Independence Constitution. Despite the political turmoil which has engulfed the country since the Arab Spring began in Tunisia in 2011, a strong civil society movement which supports a return to our historical constitution, has always existed in Libya. These supporters, who represent a significant number of Libyans from across the country, see the restoration of the 1951 constitution as the only way to shape their future.

Libya has been through an immeasurable amount of internationally led initiatives, all aimed at providing Libya with long term “solutions”. Only over the course of the past decade, one can count the UN-brokered Skhirat agreement in December of 2015, the 2017 Paris meeting, the 2018 Palermo conference alongside Mohammed bin Zayed’s Abu Dhabi gathering in February 2019. Followed by Putin and Erdogan’s joint call for a ceasefire in 2020, alongside the first (2020) and second (2021) Berlin conferences alongside UN-sponsored talks in Geneva, each and every one of these efforts amounted to nothing.

The main reason behind these, perhaps well-intentioned but failed attempts, was the simple fact that none of these efforts had any grounding in Libyan history or the support of the Libyan people. Reaching consensus in a society as heavily divided as that of Libya, is a significant challenge. However, placing our faith in our history will undoubtedly provide us with a solution that is closer to the hearts of citizens of our nation and which has the potential to assist in competing factions finally putting their differences aside.

This was the catalyst of Saturday’s meeting which sought to once and for all provide an authentically Libyan solution to the issues which have been plaguing the country for over a decade. The first of these is the preservation of our territorial integrity which has for too long been challenged by foreign actors. It is high time that a long term resolution for our country’s ills is found that ensures the exclusion of foreign elements from shaping the future of our great land.

The second issue the gathering sought to underscore was the need to build an inclusive future for all members of Libyan society. For far too long, our country has excluded citizens of certain political persuasions, cultural backgrounds or those who hold different opinions. Every Libyan deserves equal opportunities, protection of basic rights alongside access to justice. This has been impossible in a country which for so long has lacked a cohesive national identity.

These two issues are indeed intertwined with the third issue which the conference sought to highlight, namely, our demand to return to constitutional legitimacy under the leadership of our Crown Prince Mohammed El Hasan el Rida el Senussi. As the sole heir to the throne of King Idris, passed down through the late Crown Prince Hassan, Prince Mohammad is the leader our country has yearned for.

With leadership claims grounded in historical fact that cannot be upended by foreign or domestic elements, from an ideological standpoint, Prince Mohammad serves as an anchor, offsetting challenges to stability posed by foreign elements. This is strengthened by his position as  the scion of a family which has been in Libya for centuries and founded the Senoussia movement, briniging with it Islam, to the country. Furthermore, historical memories of the reign of King Idris, which saw religious tolerance, gender equality and security for its citizens, reflects the future which Libyan’s would like to see for themselves today.

Bringing together journalists, academics, human rights defenders and political activists, Saturday’s gathering was indeed revolutionary. It would have been unimaginable that such a gathering would even have taken place a mere decade ago. Representing not only themselves, but a wide range of segments of Libyan society, those attending over Zoom broadcasted a powerful message; a rejection of foreign attempts top shape the future of the country alongside a return to historical, constitutional, legitimacy under the leadership of the only man who can help Libya exit the current quagmire and begin its noble foray into the future.

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