While Secretary Pompeo is pushing for an extension of the arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in the fall, Houthis continue facilitating Iran’s military and ideological agenda in the region. Iran denied having yet another ship filled with sophisticated weaponry intercepted during a joint US-Arab Coalition operation near Yemen in June, another piece of evidence pointing to the dangers of Iran’s continuing relationship with the Houthis. And despite dealing with a series of explosions throughout IRGC military bases, and nuclear/power stations, Iran has shown no signs of slowing down in the implementation of this agenda and denied any external interventionism. The blasts are attributed to Israel, and to an opposition group known as “Cheetahs of the Homeland.” The latest such incident took place to the West of Tehran, in the vicinity of additional IRGC bases and power stations.
Most of the P5+1 members are reluctant to follow US lead in renewith the arms embargo. Furthermore, there is evidence that where EUropean companies have turned away from profit due to the concern over losing access to the US financial system, China and Russia have stepped comfortably in, which means that with or without the arms embargo, Iran retains access to the components needed for the production of sophisticated weapons. A new deal inked between Beijing and Tehran reportedly grants China access to Iranian air force bases, while Iran essentially becomes a gas station for the Chinese Communist Party which has been suffering ongoing financial losses and reportedly has not been able to meet its “New Silk Road” /Belt-and-Road commitments.
Enter the HOuthis, who have been reportedly smuggling oil out of Southern Yemen and supplying Hezbullah and IRGC with a resource lifeline to complement access to Iraqi oil and the Chinese lease monopoly over Ahwazi petrochemicals. Yemen’s internationally recognized government has downplayed the attacks on Safter oil pumping stations, but with the fall of oil output in Yemen since the HOuthi coup, access to natural resources has become an important rallying point for the Houthis. In exchange, Houthis are playing an increasingly central role in Iran’s regional hegemony projects as Iraqi militias have attracted increasing US scrutiny and ire, with mass arrests following the liquidation of Qassem Soleimani and several important heads of Iran-backed Shi’a groups starting in January.
While the US and the Arab Coalition have succeeded in intercepting several ships providing weapons to Houthis as evidence of the close relationship, they have not been able to stop the smuggling altogether. And for every number of bomb-laden Houthi boats destroyed by the Arab Coalition, an unknown number of such operations succeeds, at least partially. Then there are rumors of the HOuthis exploiting security vulnerabilities and launching a deadly and destructive attack on a Saudi air force base in June 2020, among a series of missile and drone attacks aimed at Saudi cities, which, according to the Coalition, were intercepted by the Saudi missile defense systems. Those are just some of the most recent examples of Houthi attacks; during the course of the war, according to the Coalition spokesman Turki Al-Maliki, nearly 1700 attacks against civilian sites in Saudi Arabia had been launched by the HOuthis, and an unknown number of similar attacks against civilians in Yemen. In July, another quantity of drones was destroyed by the Coalition forces over Yemen.
These events show the limits of US diplomacy and political action, and in particular, the limits of the strategy exclusively targeting Iran, without taking into the account the subversive and increasingly powerful role of the HOuthis in the region. Of course, in the event of the non-renewal of the embargo, Iran will indeed become an international arms marketplace for the worst of rogue actors, but even now with the restrictions in place, it has evaded full accountability and has managed to sow mayhem and mischief with the help of its proxies and increasingly integrated regional relationships.
It, too, is important to note that much of Iran’s assets lie outside Tehran. Therefore the approah of “cutting off the head of the snake”, with anything short of complete regime change and destruction of the existing Iranian administrative infrastructure and financial architecture, is hardly the panacea for the Iranian assertion of control in the Middle East, without also severing the limbs that carry out its bidding, including, in particular the Houthis.
And that is the argument that was heard in detail by a gathering of international experts during a series of meetings held by the Coalition of Organizations for Peace in Yemen on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council, session 44.
The first seminar focused on the HOuthi role in the shelling of Yemeni and Saudi cities.Seminar of Houthi shelling of cities:
Violation of the armistice and non-compliance with international agreements
Moderator: Dr. Arwa Al-Khattabi, an academic and human rights activist
The first speaker, Engineer Khaled Al-Afif, head of the German-Yemeni Forum for Rights and Freedoms, member of European organizations allied for peace in Yemen, spoke about the Houthi breach of the armistice and the agreements and stated that the Houthi militias relied on the tactic of restoring breath and arranging the papers to pounce on the adversaries and their means were to deceive the tribes and the government and now the international community.and the truce announcement. Each time, the militias break the ceasefire agreements once their ranks are rearranged (this follows a model long adopted by another Iranian proxy, Hamas).
He mentioned that between 2004 and 2010, the Yemeni government fought six wars with the Houthi militias, and all these wars were stopped by ceasefire agreements with the involvement of mediation committees that the Houthis did not adhere to. On the contrary, for them it was a warrior’s rest to arrange their ranks and when the army stopped the war because of the truce the Houthis rallied to crush the tribal sheikhs and the regions that supported the government and opposed their forces. After 2011, the Houthi militia took advantage of the youth revolution, political division, and the army’s division to impose its complete control over the Saada governorate, and the first thing that it worked on was the displacement of the Dammaj sons after several armies and agreements that were not adhered to, and this is the first case of sectarian displacement in Yemen.
The militia expanded its military operations to Imran and held several rounds of talks through mediation committees that ended in neutralizing the tribes and swooping on anyone who opposed the HOuthis; the Houthis did not abide by any agreement or armistice with any party that did not accept their authority, but relied on terrorism and the scorched earth policy after all the armistice and additionally, relied on the bombing the homes of tribal elders. Before announcing the truce in Amran, the Houthis launched an armed attack on the governorate to control it. While the mediation committees led by the UN envoy bin Omar were moving to a cease-fire, the Houthis stormed the capital, Sanaa, and then a truce was established, or what was known as the peace agreement, one that the Houthis did not adhere to. The Houthis entered into a partnership agreement with the Congress Party and former President Ali Saleh, and they did not adhere to any provision of it. Rather, at the end of 2017, they launched armed operations against the party that ended with the killing of former President Saleh and collaborators, and threw thousands of supporters of the party, women and men, in prison.
Khaled Al-Afif further talked about the most prominent agreement that were brokered by the United Nations, which was Stockholm, which ended with the handover to the Houthis of the port of Al-Hadidah, strategically important both for humanitarian aid to the rest of the country and as a smuggling center for the delivery of Iranian weapons and other contraband. The Houthis violated the ceasefire hundreds of times and killed some members of the monitoring committees, including Colonel Muhammad Sharaf al-Sulayhi. In Naham, Al-Jawf, and Marib, more than a truce was held and announced, but the Houthis did not adhere to any truce.
On the contrary, they took advantage of the truces to arrange their ranks, and those areas were neglected, Al-Jawf and the military operations are carried out on a daily basis in Marib. In conclusion, he said: “A few days ago, the Houthis held a truce in Radman Al Bayda, through tribal mediation that the Houthis did not abide by, and ended in storming the Radman area and detonating many homes.” Mr. Khaled talked about bombing and detonating property, raising terror and terrorizing citizens and residents, which is a systematic strategy for the Houthi militia, which started from the first six wars between 2004 and 2009 in Saada against all opposition figures, villages, and regions that rejected these militias, and this Houthi terrorism reached the zenith after their coup against the state in September 21, 2014 and their control grab over the weapons of the Yemeni army and the acquisition of experiences in developing weapons, booby traps and drones through Iranian experts and from the Lebanese Hezbollah, which was stated by Iranian officials and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Since the beginning of its war to control the Yemeni governorates, the Houthi militia has deliberately bombed residential areas in cities and rural areas that refuse to submit to and surrender to the militia, and with every defeat this militia has been subjected to, indiscriminate shelling of residential neighborhoods and hospitals to terrorize people, the resistance and the army to surrender. In Taiz, among the 20 hospitals and health centers, 18 hospitals were suspended due to the bombing of the Houthi militia or the siege they struck on the city of Taiz, and only two hospitals remain operational.
Despite this, the militias bombed the main revolution hospital in Taiz, according to human rights organizations, and the Houthi missiles destroyed the part The largest of the hospital was mass destruction concentrated in the intensive care department. Where the victims of indiscriminate shelling in Taiz between 2015 and 2018, nearly 3,000 civilians, including 630 children and 371 women. Taiz is at the forefront of the number of injured people in Yemen, and the pain of the wounded is compounded by the Houthi siege imposed on the city of Taiz, which exacerbated their tragic situation in an unprecedented way, as the number of wounded reached 16 thousand and 402 civilians, including 1756 children and girls and 249 women.
7070 went missing due to kidnapping and enforced disappearance, and in 2019, approximately 186 citizens were killed, 54 of which were indiscriminate shelling of residential neighborhoods, 18 snipers, 41 as a result of landmines, 3 under torture, and one of extrajudicial executions. The total destruction resulting from indiscriminate shelling was 2,320 buildings, 452 of which were public property, 338 buildings were partially destroyed, and 18 of the 20 hospitals in the city were destroyed due to the constant shelling.
At the level of cities and governorates, entire neighborhoods in Aden Governorate, from Khor Maksar, Tawahi and the northern regions of the governorate were destroyed as a result of the war launched by the Houthi militia in an attempt to occupy Aden and the center of Lahj and Abyan Governorate. Most public property and a large part of private property were destroyed and the effects of the destruction are still prominent to today. It also bombed a water tank in the Al-Duraimi district in Al-Hodeidah, which is one of the hot spots where water is not easily available. The Houthi militia bombed the Al-Isayad port, in Hodeidah, killing 14 people and wounded 30, most of them civilians.
The Houthi militia also boasted more than 73 torrential bridges and streams of mines linked to rockets and missiles in major roads linking Hodeidah directorates to destroy roads and bridges in the areas they lost and to hinder the progress of the Yemeni army and prevent the return of citizens. Since the signing of the Stockholm Agreement, the Houthi militia has continued to violate the ceasefire by attacking cities under the control of the Yemeni government, blowing up bridges and destroying roads in crimes aimed at passing humanitarian aid to people in need outside its control areas.
The systematic militia destruction of cultural objects and historical monuments of Yemen occurs, either through the trade and sale of antiquities and manuscripts, or their use as military barracks and military sites, and Yemen has joined the countries whose antiquities are sold in public auctions after being looted by gangs and smugglers. Because assaulting or harming antiquities and manuscripts is a crime in accordance with national legislation and an explicit violation of international agreements, militia leaders have added to their crimes against the Yemenis an additional crime by committing hostilities against the historical and artistic works that constitute the cultural heritage of peoples.
Cairo’s ancient castle, on of the most prominent monuments in Taiz and Yemen, was severely damaged as a result of its use by the militias as a military barracks, which were bombing the city and its residential homes, which was subjected to bombing by the resistance to preserve the lives of innocent people. Hundreds of them were killed and injured from the bombing of a tank that was inside The castle destroyed the militias, blew up 7 archaeological monuments in the Dhamar governorate, and before their departure from Aden they looted and destroyed the Aden Museum. Also, the monuments in the governorates of Shabwah and the outskirts of Marib and in Abib were looted and tampered, and large quantities of rare artifacts were smuggled out and only revealed when they were placed. An auction to sell antiquities on the internet.
In Al-Jawf, the militias destroyed 63 archaeological monuments and historical cities that have become almost completely destroyed, including Nashan, Kamana, Haram, Anba, and Nasq, in addition to the well-known and well-known cities such as Baraqish, Qarnaw, Al-Kharba al-Bayda, and Khirbet Al-Aswad. And the bombing of villages and areas of the Hajjur tribes in the district of Keshr, northeast of Hajjah, was mentioned by ballistic missiles, after more than 40 days of the humanitarian blockade.
The author, presenting at this event, said: “I noticed that we have a strange situation that although the international community has extensive information documenting the extent of Iran’s assistance to the Houthis in attacks on civilians and the supply of weapons used in attacks on Yemeni and Saudi cities, as well as oil tankers, oil sites, and airports, no However, the evidence of Iranian interference is increasing. Many attacks on various Saudi cities from Jizran and Abha to Riyadh show evidence of advanced missiles and drones loaded with bombs that could not be produced in Yemen without Iran’s help. The media failed In documenting general violations of human rights by the Houthis, as well as the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
Houthi launched a deadly attack on Aden, killing 32 members of the Yemeni military parade while targeting high-ranking officials. And that’s just one such well known attack against Yemeni cities; the experts have documented attacks against Yemeni civilians that have not been covered by Western media, but which have gone more lethal and precise over time, according to the experts, as the Houthis gained additional access to increasingly more sophisticated Iranian weapons.
Indeed, the international community is well aware that Iran’s interference precedes the ongoing five-year long civil war. These weapons have been secretly replenished with consistency going back decades, while the international community turned a blind eye to the Houthi smuggling of contraband through the Oman borders, excusing it as regular crime rather than a precursor to a coup. Since then, Iran has developed various routes for smuggling weapons, posing a threat to international maritime security.
Despite allegations that the Somali shipping route used to smuggle arms has been closed, the Iranians continue to use shipments, as well as other sea routes on the way to Hodeidah that are under the control of the Houthis and are both necessary as a receiving point for humanitarian supplies and as a point for arms smuggling. The author added that the Houthis were able to smuggle weapons by road and in trucks to Hodeidah, and this complex mechanism dates back to a long period before the civil war where Iran funded, armed, and trained the Houthis for years before the coup. For years the Houthis have been moving back and forth to Iran and we know that Hezbollah and Iranian advisers have been on the ground providing direct assistance and advice away from ground operations or basic training.
That’s how the Houthis were able to assess vulnerabilities of the Saudi defense systems, and to receive complex intelligence information which had allowed them to penetrate cities, attack well protected military bases, and coordinate complex attacks far exceeding their own capabilities and knowledge.
The United Nations has documented that the missiles and drones recovered from the attack sites bear Persian markings and appear similar to the the brands, makes, and models of Iranian weapons used elsewhere in the region, and recovered in other places including in Lebanon, Bahrain, and Iraq.
To counter these threats, it is necessary to prevent Iran from being able to import Western weapons and other weapons and parts that can be used to continue to produce missiles and drones. The international community continues to treat the war in Yemen as an isolated issue, the Houthi attacks on civilians as a Yemeni and a Saudi issue, but in reality this is not the case. The Houthis involved in these attacks must be sanctioned, the entire movement must be considered an Iranian proxy and designated as a terrorist organization such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, the flow of weapons should be disrupted more forcefully, the delivery routes must be closed and the Houthis must be treated as a global threat, and not only a Yemeni, a Saudi, or even a regional threat, because they are part of Iran’s global network of terrorist agents and will soon have global influence and threaten countries outside the Middle East, just like Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards do. ”
Majdi Al-Akwa, Assistant Secretary-General of the Humanitarian League for Human Rights and member of organizations allied for peace in Yemen affirmed the above-stated concerns.
Interventions were made by the attendees, and they affirmed that the Houthis cannot be trusted and any agreement and truce concluded with them and that the international community should classify them as a terrorist group and deal with them as they do with ISIS.
Continuing on this theme, the following symposium on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council session 44 explored how the Iranian regime embraces terrorism and destroys nations and peoples.
Organizer: The Yemeni Coalition of Independent Women and European organizations allied for peace in Yemen
Attorney Faisal Al-Qifi, head of European organizations allied for peace in Yemen
The first speaker, Peymaneh Shafi, a journalist and member of the Iranian-American community in California, talked about the Iranian regime’s policy and said: “I lived in Iran under the pressure of the regime and fled to asylum in America decades ago, and from here I am trying to help those who are persecuted by the Iranian militias in Iran, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.
The Iranian regime is being weakened by the pressure of the international community, and friends in Iran are trying to establish the Iranian regime in order to live in safety and peace in the Middle East region.
I am sure that you know that Iran has a great role to play in supporting the Houthi militia, and since 2014 through Hezbollah militias, where Hezbollah trainers have been sent to educate and recruit youth.
And they worked to spread fears among people in order not to refuse to join Houthi.
Wesam Basindowah, the head of the March 8 bloc for the women of Yemen, talked about the influence of Houthi in the Iranian regime also regarding women’s rights, as Houthi pursues Iran’s path to oppress women.
From September 2014 to December 2018, 266 women and their children were arrested. By the Houthi coup, women were valued in Yemen and were not arrested as the militia did.
She expressed hope the activists in Yemen will work to resist the militia and uphold the principle of human rights.
Wesam also added that in the United States, activists are working to classify this militia, to follow Iran’s IRGC and the Lebanese Hezbullah in the terrorist lists, so that Middle Eastern countries can enjoy peace and freedom.
Ben Minick, a Middle East journalist specializing in military strategy, spoke about the role of the international community in classifying Houthi as a terrorist group and said: “I would like to thank you for allowing me to present today to you on behalf of the Yemeni Alliance of Independent Women and in the United States of America. We are gathered here today to discuss the role of the international community in classifying the Houthi rebels as a terrorist group.
The war on terror began long before the United States intervened in 2001. The regime that took power during the 1979 Islamic revolution engaged in a terrorist war from the start. We can spend months discussing the various groups listed, but today I would like to focus specifically on Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels.
More recently, formal legislation has been passed declaring Hezbollah a terrorist group. There is no need for us to review all the reasons for this classification. The main issue that goes into effect is the reasoning behind the amount of time it took to develop a classification.
It is not easy to determine the classification of a particular group as a terrorist. Although it may look better, there is a standard that must be fulfilled. Otherwise, it would be as simple as referring to a group of people that one country does not like or disagree with and causes it to be classified as a terrorist group. This is part of the delay.
To be determined, the group must fit the relevant U.S. law definition. An organization may be classified as a terrorist even if it does not directly attack American targets. However, it must threaten the national security of the United States or its citizens.
In terms of the United States government, once an organization is included in this list of standards, well-written and highly documented legislation must be submitted to Congress. If the majority of delegates in Congress believe in the benefits of the bill, it is passed. This is neither a quick nor easy operation.
But the bill itself does not classify the organization; It only directs the Secretary of State to review the evidence and report back to Congress within a short period of time on whether to classify it and give reasons. For example, the Secretary of State may choose to request additional evidence for review, or require additional time for the review process. Before conducting the designation, the Secretary of State must inform the leaders of Congress; Once the organization is publicly announced as a terrorist organization, the state and treasury department can begin the process of asking financial institutions to freeze their assets.
It can be said that even when the Houthis do not directly attack American targets, they attack US allies, facilitate Iranian terrorism in the region targeting the United States through various agents, facilitate the spread of other terrorist groups, and deal with Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, both of whom are terrorist-specific entities. , In planning operations that could target the area.
Moreover, attacks on Yemen and Saudi Arabia, even when not specifically directed against the United States, endanger American forces.
There may be political reasons for avoiding classification; The political obstacle here is that the Houthis were legalized by the international community and seized power; The internationally recognized government is largely in exile.
The classification of the Houthis means that the United States will have to work closely with the Arab coalition to get the Houthis out of power, which would seem to many Americans as participants in an endless “Middle East war”, even if it was done for reasons of national security , American military intervention is minimal, and confrontation is inevitable and the best way takes place at the time and the method that the United States chooses instead of the opponent.
This also means generating a lot of publicity, long-term legal battles and political attempts to block this move from within the State Department. These are the challenges that must be addressed before this issue is brought up to Congress, let alone the State Department. “
Adel Al Ahmadi, Chairman of the Nashwan Al-Hamiri Council for Studies and Media, talked about the expected effects and consequences of the continued expansion of Houthi’s authority over international peace and security and summarized it in:
- The threat from Yemen’s strategic location between at least two continents overseeing an international strategic corridor and a long coastal strip that stretches from east to west. The threat related to the Houthis being an Iranian focus was found to be a tool to target the Yemeni neighborhood represented by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as it represents the economic status in the world. And both sides proved without detail, that Houthi acted by targeting some ships and threatening navigation.
- The continued control of a sectarian terrorist group by force of arms over the will of the vast majority of Yemenis prepares the country for the possibility of the emergence of extremist terrorist groups from the other side, similar to ISIS and Al Qaeda. He stated that the rise of ISIS in Iraq was the result of terrorism practiced by pro-Iranian militias in previous years against those described as Sunnis. He talked about sectarian thought and how it is based on a revenge racist idea that claims that the government is its own, and that it finds in terrorism and wars one of the most prominent reasons for survival, as it was not possible to find acceptance in social circles except in circles of turmoil.
- The group proceeds from the racist slogan, which exclaims the death of peoples and religions. All that the Houthis do is to see the slogan implemented. He explained that the strategic location of Yemen and the threat that Al-Houthi poses to the Yemeni neighborhood, as happened in targeting the Abqaiq and Khurais fields last year in Saudi Arabia. It indicates that the world may face economic crises whose borders cannot be predicted, if it leaves the chance for the Houthis to remain as an armed group that controls the capital of Yemen and many of Yemen.
- He talked about the seriousness of the threat posed by the Houthi group in that it combines deadly weapons: first the weapon of gun and gunpowder, secondly the weapon of the religious text is false and thus the weapon of atonement and thirdly the weapon of racism and claiming the preference of a particular family and its right to rule and fourth the weapon of hatred and incitement to the Yemeni society or the world as a whole. Finally, Dr. Al-Ahmadi mentionedthe organic affiliation with the Iranian charity project in the region.
- Dr. Wassam Basandouh explained that the arrival of the mullahs regime to power in Iran or what they call the Islamic Republic revolution, is nothing but a military militia coup that brought to power a regime hostile to liberation and the concept of the state and threatens peace and security in the region and the world under the slogan “exporting the revolution”, and it is the same system that supported the militia coup Al-Houthi in Yemen provided it with weapons and fueled it with spiritual ideological sectarian tide. Two days prior to this seminar, there was a session in the Security Council discussing a proposal to renew the arms embargo on Iran, and this matter affects Yemen and the region in particular as it will have its broader effects globally, it clearly means restoring the outright ability of the mullahs ’regime to supply militias Terrorism with weapons in Syria, Hezbollah in Iran, Al-Houthi in Yemen, and in Iraq, and even the restoration of the full capabilities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is practicing destabilizing operations extending from the Arab region to Africa, South America and the world.
- The international community’s delay in including Hezbollah as a terrorist group has had dire consequences for European countries and American interests, and the waiting process is long until the world is convinced that the Houthi militia should be included in terrorist lists, and it will raise the cost that the world will face later. We know very well that the United States, for example, and the Western system in general are subject to its classification on the extent of the direct harm that these groups are committing against their interests, they do not care much for the Yemenis, and here we remind him immediately after the Houthi coup and control of the capital, Sanaa, groups of Houthi militia went to storm the American embassy in a blatant violation The Vienna Convention, which secures diplomatic facilities and wreaks havoc on its property.
- Also, the Houthi slogan targets America with hostility, which is a declaration of war, and here Dr. Basindowa wondered how any US proposal for peace in Yemen could include allowing this rogue group to participate in the state and share power after all the crimes it committed? Also evidenced is the renewed American announcement that there are Houthi warships funded by Iran targeting its ships, in addition to the recent reports discussed in the Security Council that recognized that the missiles used to bomb Aramco are Iranian-made missiles, and we do not forget here that the Houthi militia has adopted this launch.
- Missiles, even if it was a false declaration, remains revealing. We as human rights activists conscious of our capabilities know that the inclusion of the Houthi militia on terrorist lists is the decision of its states and needs the efforts of states, Dr. Basindowah said, and that in order to make a decision like this it takes a lot of time, but we also will not give up and will not give up our effort by calling and seeking to classify this militia as a terrorist group and we will remember that the Iranian regime is a regime A terrorist embraces, sponsors and funds terrorism.
Since these presentations were heard, several Houthi leaders went on trial in the Yemeni territories under the Coalition control. It will be instructive to follow the evidence against them presented in the case and to watch what additional details about cooperation with Iran will be revealed in the course of the legal process. Additionally, the Houthis continue to hold Yemen, the region, and international community hostage with the ticking time bomb of the FSO Safer oil tanker, at risk of turning into a colossal environmental disaster, whether through continuing neglect, or a deliberate act of sabotage threatened time and again by the Houthis.
And despite increasing scrutiny and reporting, none of other troubling issues, such as diversion of international humanitarian aid, is going away either. The sooner the United States and others realize that the passive acceptance of Houthi authority is detrimental to whatever other political, economic, and military action is being taken to deter Iran’s aggression in the region and beyond, the more likely they are to develop an effective strategy that might finally begin to address both sides of the equation.
US-led ‘Psychological Wars’ Against Russia, China Lead to All Lose Situation
Andrei Ilnitsky, an advisor to Russian defense minister, said in an interview at the end of March that the US and the West are waging a “mental war” against Russia. Why does the West resort to the psychological war? How will Russia cope with the psychological war? Global Times (GT) reporters Wang Wenwen and Lu Yuanzhi interviewed Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, on these issues by email.
What are the features of such a psychological war?
There is nothing new about psychological wars – they have always been a part of standard military operations. The goal has been to demoralize both your enemy’s army and its population at large in order to break down the will of your opponent to fight and to resist. Ancient kings, emperors and warlords broadly used over-exaggeration, deception, disinformation, mythology, and so on. However, today states commonly use these instruments of psychological wars not only during military conflicts, but in the peacetime as well. Moreover, new information technology offers plenty of innovative ways to get your message to select target audiences in a foreign country; you can customize and focus this message as never before. Each of us is a target in this warfare, even if we do not feel it.
The US-led West used to wage color revolutions on countries they deem as adversaries. What are the differences between the color revolution and the psychological war? Why does the West resort to the psychological war?
A color revolution is an unconstitutional regime change caused by sizeable and sometimes violent street activities of the radical opposition. Western leaders usually welcome such changes and arguably render them diverse political, organizational and financial assistance. Nevertheless, a regime change cannot come from nowhere. There should be significant political, social, economic or ethnic problems that, if remain unresolved for a long time, gradually lead to a color revolution. Psychological wars help to articulate unresolved problems, deprive the leadership of a target country of legitimacy in the eyes of its own population and, ultimately, prepare a color revolution.
What are the likely outcomes for the West’s psychological war on Russia? How will Russia cope with the psychological war?
Russian authorities are trying to limit opportunities for the West to wage the psychological war by exposing Western disinformation and imposing restrictions on select Western media, NGOs and foundations that are perceived as instruments of waging the war.
Is the West capable of launching a military offensive on Russia?
Russia remains a nuclear superpower with very significant military capabilities. A nuclear war with Moscow could lead to the annihilation of the humankind and therefore cannot be considered a feasible option. Even a full-fledged conventional conflict between Russia and the West in Europe would turn into a catastrophe of an epic scale for both sides. It does not necessarily mean that we can rule out such a scenario, but I think that if there were a war, it would erupt because of an inadvertent escalation rather than because of a rational decision to launch a military offensive.
The West has never dropped the illusion of changing China’s and Russia’s systems to that similar of the West by adopting the tactic of “peaceful evolution.” How could Russia and China join hands in face of such Western attempts?
Indeed, many in the West still believe that their system has a universal value and that eventually both Russia and China should move to Western-type liberal political systems. These views are less popular now than they were twenty or thirty years ago, but we cannot ignore them. Moscow and Beijing have the right to defend themselves against the Western ideological and psychological offensive. Still, I see the solution to the problem of psychological wars in a “psychological peace” should be based on a common understanding on what is allowed in the international information exchange and what is not. Russia and China could work together in defining a new code of conduct regulating the trans-border information flows. In the immediate future, the West will be reluctant to accept this code, but we should keep trying. In my view, this is the only way to proceed; if psychological wars continue, there will be no winners and losers – everybody will lose.
From our partner RIAC
Boko Haram: Religious Based Violence and Portrayal of Radical Islam
Modern-day global and domestic politics have set forth the trend that has legitimized and rationalized the use of religion as a tool to attain political gravity and interests. Similarly, many religion-oriented groups use religion to shape their political agenda and objectives, often using religion as a justification for their violent activities. Most of these mobilized groups are aligned with Islam. These groups have promoted religion-based violence and have also introduced new waves and patterns in global terrorism. Some prominent organized groups that attain world attention include Boko Haram, ISIS, Al- Qaeda, and the Taliban. These groups have potentially disrupted the political establishment of their regions. Although, a comparative insight delivers that these various organizations have antithetical political objectives but these groups use Islam to justify their violent actions and strategies based on violence and unrest.
The manifesto of Boko Haram rests on Islamic principles i.e. establishing Shariah or Islamic law in the region. A system that operates to preserve the rights of poor factions of the society and tends to promote or implement Islamic values. Hence, in this context, it negates westernization and its prospects. However, the rise of Boko Haram was based on anti-western agenda which portrayed that the existing government is un-Islamic and that western education is forbidden. Hence, the name Boko Haram itself delivered the notion that western culture or civilization is forbidden. Boko Haram has a unique political and religiously secular manifesto. Boko Haram was formed by Mohammad Yusuf, who preached his agenda of setting up a theocratic political system through his teachings derived from Islam. And countered the existing governmental setup of the Christians. The violent dynamics surged in 2009 when an uprising against the Nigerian government took the momentum that killed almost 800 people. Following the uprising, Mohammad Yusuf was killed and one of his lieutenants Abu Bakar Shekau took the lead.
Boko Haram used another violent strategy to gain world attention by bombing the UN Compound in Abuja that killed twenty-three people. The incident led to the declaration of Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organizationby the United States Department. Thus, the group continued the process of violence and also started to seize several territories like Bama, Dam boa, and Abadan. They also extended their regional sphere in terms of occupation using violent strategies. The violence intensified when in the year 2014, 276 girls were abducted from Girl’s school in Chibok. This immediately triggered global outrage and developed an image of religious extremism and violence. This process continued over the years; one reported case articulated that a Christian girl ‘Lean Shairbu’ was kept in captivity for a prolonged period upon refusal to give up her religion. Ever since, the violence has attained an upward trajectory, as traced in the case of mass Chibok abduction and widespread attack in Cameroon in the years 2020 and 2021.
After establishing a regional foothold Boko Haram improvised new alliances especially in 2015 after the government recaptured some of its territories that pushed the militant group near Lake Chad and to the hilly areas. Consequently, Abu Bakar Shekau turned towards international alliance and pledged its allegiance to IS. This created two branches of Boko Haram called Jamat u Ahlis Liddawatiwal Jihad (JAS) headed by Abu Bakar Shekau and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) lead by Musab Al Barnarwai. The ISWAP developed strong social, political, and strategic roots in the region. It has embedded itself socially in the hearts and minds of people by establishing their caliphate and judicial system.
The pattern of religion-based conflicts has transformed the global religious conflicts. That is often referred to as extremist terrorism based on religion. Hence the rise of Boko Haram also involved demographics that complimented their political objectives. As the state of Nigeria is an amalgamation of Christians and Muslims; and has been constructed as a distinct ethno-lingual society, historically. The Christians resided in the South of Nigeria while the Muslims were located in Northern Nigeria. The northern side suffered from poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and public health issues under the government of Goodluck Jonathan. His government was centrally weak and marginalized the Northern side. This also contributed as one of the major factors that granted an edge for the influence and legitimacy of Boko Haram. Therefore, the main reason that triggered the organization and its move was based on Islamic principles of Jihad and Tajdid. This presents new notions of religion to recruit and incorporate more people into their community. The concept of Jihad has been historically driven which reflects and justifies acts against the unjust state and its authority. It also expands the capacity for social hostilities against the non-religious entities promoting hatred and non-acceptance. This also breeds religious extremism and rigidity that further validates the use of violence on their behalf. Hence Jihad acts as a driving force to strive against the un-Islamic state structure for Islamic religious social fabric. Moreover, this religiously derived conception of violent confrontation has always been legitimized in terms of the historic concept of war and terms of self-defense.
As a radical and contemporary religious belief; Jihad is regarded as the manifestation of religious violence and extremist terrorism. The establishment of the caliphate and state-like institutions represents a radical Salafist view regarding the establishment of the Islamic state structure. The ISWAP acts as a pseudo-state or state with in state that has established its authority and control. The reflection of another religious proclamation ofTajdid refers to the renewal of religious norms that aims at reconstruction or reset of social structure in accordance with Islamic values. Jihad and Tajdid collaboratively serve to generate notions about the reset of the political framework as an Islamic state system. The socio-religious reconstruction is particularly divergent from the western one. As western societies are often pluralistic, while Boko Haram’s vision aims as establishing Islamic social composition. Moreover, the western setup provided constitutional provisions to women in terms of rights, freedom, education, and liberty. This completely contradicted their conceptualization of women. Hence, this also generated gender-based violence as means to protect Islamic values. This was closely witnessed during the abduction of girls from their school. Furthermore, Islamic radicalization has been pursued through different channels that have extensively contributed to narrative building amongst the population, propaganda, and the development of a religious mindset in the African region. One of the most prominent tactics used for the purpose has been achieved through the propagation of literature. The scholars started to preach about Jihad and its implications since the 15th Century. The channel continues to date where the teachers preach about these scholarly findings that further encourages the youth to turn towards radical Islamization. The degree of radicalization elevates as Boko Haram propagates the concept of exclusivism that tends to oppose other value systems and beliefs. This creates a rift the society and deteriorates the sense of co-existence. As a result, Boko Haram represents a destructive paradox that promotes religious extremism and violence through misinterpretation of Islamic principles. Pursuing the political agenda of Boko Haram under the banner of Islamic law; which is power-oriented and would help them maintain dominance politically, economically, and territorially in the African region.
Security of nuclear materials in India
The author is of the view that nuclear security is lax in India. More so, because of the 123 Agreement and sprawling nuclear installations in several states. The thieves and scrap dealers even dare to advertise online sale of radioactive uranium. India itself has reported several incidents of nuclear thefts to the international bodies. The author wonders why India’s security lapses remain out of international focus. Views expressed are personal.
Amid raging pandemic in the southern Indian state of Maharashtra, the anti-terrorism squad arrested (May 6, 20210) two persons (Jagar Jayesh Pandya and Abu Tahir Afzal hussain Choudhry) for attempting to sell seven kilograms of highly-radioactive muranium for offered price of about Rs. 21 crore. The “gentlemen” had uncannily advertised the proposed sale online.. As such, the authorities initially dismissed the advertisement as just another hoax. They routinely detained the “sellers-to-be” and forwarded a sample of their ware to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. They were shocked when the centre reported that “the material was natural uranium”. As such the squad was compelled to book the duo under India’s Atomic Energy Act, 1962 at Nagpur police station (Explained: ATS seizes 7 kg uranium worth Rs. 21 crore from a scrap dealer…Indian Express May 7, 2021).
Not a unique incident
The event, though shocking, is is not one of its kind. Earlier, in 2016 also, two persons were arrested by Thane (Maharashtra) police while they were trying to sell eight to nine kilograms of depleted uranium for Rs. 24 crore. It is surmised that sale of uranium by scrap dealers in India is common. But, such events rarely come in limelight. According to Anil Kakodar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, `Factories using uranium as a counterweight in their machines are mandated to contact the Atomic Energy agencies and return uranium to them. They however resort to short cuts and sell the entire machine with uranium in scrap’.
India media scarcely report such incidents. However, Indian government sometimes reports such incidents to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to meet disclosure requirements. According to international media reports (February 25, 2004), India reported 25 cases of “missing” or “stolen” radio-active material from its labs to the IAEA. Fifty-two per cent of the cases were attributed to “theft” and 48% to the “missing mystery”. India claimed to have recovered lost material in twelve of total 25 cases. It however admitted that 13 remaining cases remained mysterious.
India’s reports such incidents to the IAEA to portray itself as a “responsible state”. It is hard to believe that radio-active material could be stolen from nuclear labs without operators’ connivance.
Nine computers, belonging to India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation establishment at Metcalfe House, New Delhi, were stolen. India communicated 25 cases of ‘stolen or missing’ uranium to the IAEA. In different incidents, uranium in varying forms and quantities continue to be recovered from scrap dealers and others by Indian authorities. The recoveries include fifty-seven pounds of uranium in rod form, eight kilograms in granular form, two hundred grams in semi-processed form, besides twenty-five kilograms in radioactive form, stolen from the Bibi Cancer Hospital.
Too, the ‘thieves’ stole three cobalt switches, worth Rs. 1.5 million, from Tata Steel Company laboratory at Jamshedpur (Jharkhand). A shipment of beryllium (worth $24 million), was caught in Vilnius, on its way to North Korea. Taiwanese authorities had intercepted a ship carrying dual-use aluminum oxide from India to North Korea. A New Jersey-based Indian engineer Sitaram Ravi Mahidevan was indicted for having bypassed US export procedures to send blue-prints of solenoid-operated valves to North Korea.
We know that the Taiwanese authorities had intercepted a ship, carrying dual-use aluminum oxide from India to North Korea. The oxide is an essential ingredient of rocket casings and is, as such, prohibited for export to “rogue” countries.
Despite recurrent incidents of theft of uranium or other sensitive material from indiandian nuclear labs, the IAEA never initiated a thorough probe into lax security environment in government and private nuclear labs in india. However, the international media has a penchant for creating furore over uncorroborated nuclear lapses in Pakistan. The Time magazine article ‘Merchant of Menace’, had reported that some uranium hexafluoride cylinders were missing from the Kahuta Research Laboratories. Pakistan’ then information minister and foreign-office spokesman had both refuted the allegation. Masood Khan (foreign office) told reporters, `The story is a rehash of several past stories’.
Similarly, Professor Shaun Gregory in his report ‘The Security of Nuclear Weapons’ contends that those guarding about 120 nuclear-weapon sites, mostly in northern and western parts of Pakistan, have fragmented loyalties. As such, they are an easy prey to religious extremists.
Frederick W. Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon, also draw a gloomy portrait of the situation in Pakistan. In their article, published in The New York Times, dated November 18, 2007, they predicted that extremists would take over, if rule of law collapses in Pakistan. Those sympathetic with the Taliban and al-Qaeda may convert Pakistan into a state sponsor of terrorism. They pointed to Osama bin Laden’s meeting with Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, former engineers of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission (having no bomb-making acumen).
They claimed that U.S. military experts and intelligence officials had explored strategies for securing Pakistan’s nuclear assets. One option was to isolate the country’s nuclear bunkers. Doing so would require saturating the area, surrounding the bunkers, with tens of thousands of high-powered mines, dropped from air, packed with anti-tank and anti-personnel munitions. The panacea, suggested by them, was that Pakistan’s nuclear material should be seized and stashed in some “safe” place like New Mexico.
The fact is that the pilloried Pakistani engineers had no knowledge of weaponisation (“When the safest is not safe enough,” The Defence Journal -Pakistan), pages 61-63). The critics mysteriously failed to mention that Pakistan is a party to the UN Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. The steps taken by Pakistan to protect its nuclear materials and installations conform to international standards. The National Command Authority, created on February 2, 2000, has made fail-safe arrangements to control development and deployment of strategic nuclear forces. Pakistan’s nuclear regulatory authority had taken necessary steps for safety, security, and accountability of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, facilities, and materials even before 9/11 incident. These controls include functional equivalent of the two-man rule and permissive action links (PALs). The indigenously-developed PALs are bulwarks against inadvertent loss of control, or accidental use of weapons. So far, there has been no security lapse in any of Pakistan’s nuclear establishments.
Abdul Mannan, in his paper titled “Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in Pakistan: Sabotage of a Spent Fuel Cask or a Commercial Irradiation Source in Transport”, has analysed various ways in which acts of nuclear terrorism could occur in Pakistan (quoted in “Pakistan’s Nuclear Future: Worries beyond War”). He has fairly reviewed Pakistan’s vulnerability to nuclear terrorism through hypothetical case studies. He concludes that the threat of nuclear terrorism in Pakistan is a figment of imagination, rather than a real possibility.
There are millions of radioactive sources used worldwide in various applications. Only a few thousand sources, including Co-60, Cs-137, Ir-192, Sr-90, Am-241, Cf-252, Pu-238, and RA-226 are considered a security risk. The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) has enforced a mechanism of strict measures for administrative and engineering control over radioactive sources from cradle to grave. It conducts periodic inspections and physical verifications to ensure security of the sources. The Authority has initiated a Five-Year National Nuclear-Safety-and-Security-Action Plan to establish a more robust nuclear-security regime. It has established a training centre and an emergency-coordination centre, besides deploying radiation-detection-equipment at each point of nuclear-material entry in Pakistan, supplemented by vehicle/pedestrian portal monitoring equipment where needed.
Fixed detectors have been installed at airports, besides carrying out random inspection of personnel luggage. All nuclear materials are under strict regulatory control right from import until their disposal.
Nuclear controls in India and the USA are not more stringent than Pakistan’s. It is not understood why the media does not deflect their attention to the fragile nuclear-security environment in India. It is unfortunate that the purblind critics fail to see the gnawing voids in India’s nuclear security.
The ‘research work’ by well-known scholars reflects visceral hatred against Pakistan. The findings in fresh ‘magnum opuses’ are a re-hash or amalgam of the presumptions and pretensions in earlier-published ‘studies’. It is time that the West deflected its attention to India where movements of nuclear materials, under the 123 expansion plan, are taking place between nuclear-power plants sprawling across different states.
Above all, will the international media and the IAEA look into open market uranium sales in India.
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