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Yemen – Court Battle Exposes UK – Saudi Arms Trade. A Marriage Made in Hell

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On Monday 10th July, a ruling was handed down by London’s High Court, which should, in a sane world, exclude the UK government ever again judging other nations leaders human rights records or passing judgement on their possession or use of weapons.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) lost their case to halt the UK selling arms to Saudi Arabia, the case based on the claim that they may have been used to kill civilians in Yemen.

Anyone following the cataclysmic devastation of Yemen would think it was a million to one that the £3.3Billion worth of arms sold by the UK to Saudi in just two years, had not been used to kill civilians, bomb hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, decimate vital and economic infrastructure and all necessary to sustain life.

In context, a survey released by the Yemen Data Project in September last year found that between March 2015 and August 2016 in more than 8,600 air attacks, 3,158 hit non-military targets. (1)

How casual the slaughter is, Saudi pilots (as their British and US counterparts) apparently do not even know what they are aiming at. So much for “surgical strikes” – as ever:

“Where it could not be established whether a location attacked was civilian or military, the strikes were classified as unknown, of which there are 1,882 incidents.” All those “unknown” killed had a name, plans, dreams, but as in all Western backed, funded or armed ruinations “it is not productive” to count the dead, as an American General memorably stated of fellow human beings.

In context, the survey found that:

“One school building in Dhubab, Taiz governorate, has been hit nine times … A market in Sirwah, Marib governorate, has been struck 24 times.”

Commenting on the survey, the UK’s shadow Defence Secretary, Clive Lewis, said:

“It’s sickening to think of British-built weapons being used against civilians and the government has an absolute responsibility to do everything in its power to stop that from happening. But as Ministers turn a blind eye to the conflict … evidence that Humanitarian Law has been violated is becoming harder to ignore by the day.”

Forty six percent of Yemen’s 26.83 million population are under fifteen years old. The trauma they are undergoing cannot be imagined.

Activists rally in front of the UK Parliament to protest British arms sales to Saudi Arabia. (file photo)

Activists rally in front of the UK Parliament to protest British arms sales to Saudi Arabia. (Source: PressTV)

The original CAAT Court hearing which took place was a Judicial Review in to the legality of the UK government’s arms sales to Saudi, held on 7th, 8th and 10th of February in the High Court.

CAAT stated, relating to the case:

“For more than two years the government has refused to stop its immoral and illegal arms sales to Saudi Arabia – despite overwhelming evidence that UK weapons are being used in violations of International Humanitarian Law in Yemen.”

They also quoted Parliament’s International Development and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees, who opined in October 2016:

“Given the evidence we have heard and the volume of UK-manufactured arms exported to Saudi Arabia, it seems inevitable that any violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK. This constitutes a breach of our own export licensing criteria.” (Emphasis added.)

UK supplied arms since the onset of the assault on Yemen are:

  • £2.2 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
  • £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks.)

Contacting CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith I queried what “countermeasures” might be (point two.) He said technically, protective items, however: “CAAT feels that the overwhelming majority will be bombs and missiles including those being used on Yemen.”

On 5th June CAAT had pointed out some further glaring anomalies:

“The last two months have seen three terrible terrorist attacks carried out in the UK. The attacks were the responsibility of those that have carried them out, and they have been rightly condemned.”

However: “Last week it was revealed by the Guardian that the Home Office may not publish a Report into the funding of terrorism in the UK. It is believed that the Report will be particularly critical of Saudi Arabia.”

Andrew Smith commented:

“Only two months ago the Prime Minster was in Riyadh trying to sell weapons to the Saudi regime, which has some of the most abusive laws in the world. This toxic relationship is not making anyone safer, whether in the UK or in Yemen, where UK arms are being used with devastating results.”

Nevertheless: “Delivering an open judgment in the High Court in London, Lord Justice Burnett, who heard the case with Mr. Justice Haddon-Cave, said:

“We have concluded that the material decisions of the Secretary of State were lawful. We therefore dismiss the claim.” (2)

CAAT called the ruling a “green light” for the UK government to sell arms to “brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers”.

Interestingly, in increasingly fantasy-democracy-land UK: “The Court (also handed down) a closed judgment, following a case in which half of the evidence was heard in secret on national security grounds.”

What a wonderful catch-all is “national security.”

Moreover: “UK and EU arms sales rules state that export licences cannot be granted if there is a ‘clear risk’ that the equipment could be used to break International Humanitarian Law. Licences are signed off by the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox.” (Emphasis added.)

Mind stretching.

So the oversight of what constitutes a “clear risk” of mass murder and humanitarian tragedy, goes to the Minister whose Ministry stands to make £ Billions from the arms sales. Another from that bulging: “You could not make this up” file.

‘The case … included uncomfortable disclosures for the government, including documents in which the Export Policy Chief told the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, then in charge of licensing:

“my gut tells me we should suspend (weapons exports to the country).”

‘Documents obtained by the Guardian showed that the UK was preparing to suspend exports after the bombing of a funeral in Yemen in October 2016 killed 140 civilians. But even after that mass murder, the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, advised Fox that sales should continue, adding:

“The ‘clear risk’ threshold for refusal … has not yet been reached.”

Johnson with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and the UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in London, 19 July 2016 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

For anyone asleep at the wheel, Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is supposed to be the UK’s chief diplomat. Definition: “a person who can deal with others in a sensitive and tactful way. Synonyms: Tactful person, conciliator, reconciler, peacemaker.” Comment redundant.

‘CAAT presented “many hundreds of pages” of reports from the UN, European Parliament, Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, Amnesty International and others documenting airstrikes on schools, hospitals and a water well in Yemen, as well as incidents of mass civilian casualties.’

However, to further batter the mind: “The reports “represent a substantial body of evidence suggesting that the coalition has committed serious breaches of International Humanitarian Law in the course of its engagement in the Yemen conflict”, the Judges wrote. “However, this open source material is only part of the picture.”

In two eye watering fox guarding henhouse observations: ‘The Saudi government had conducted its own investigations into allegations of concern, the judges noted, dismissing CAAT’s concern that the Saudi civilian casualty tracking unit was working too slowly and had only reported on 5% of the incidents. The Kingdom’s “growing efforts” were “of significance and a matter which the Secretary of State was entitled to take into account” when deciding whether British weapons might be used to violate international humanitarian law.’

So Saudi investigates itself and the Secretary of State over views his own actions in the State profiting in £ Billions from seeminglyindiscriminate mass murder and destruction.

‘There was “anxious scrutiny – indeed what seems like anguished scrutiny at some stages” within government of the decision to continue granting licences, wrote the Judges. But the Secretary of State was “rationally entitled” to decide that the Saudi-led coalition was not deliberately targeting civilians and was making efforts to improve its targeting processes, and so to continue granting licences.”

Pinch yourselves, Dear Readers, it would seem we live in times of the oversight in the land of the seriously deranged.

CAAT’s Andrew Smith, said:

“This is a very disappointing verdict and we are pursuing an appeal. If this verdict is upheld then it will be seen as a green light for government to continue arming and supporting brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia that have shown a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law.

“Every day we are hearing new and horrifying stories about the humanitarian crisis that has been inflicted on the people of Yemen. Thousands have been killed while vital and lifesaving infrastructure has been destroyed.” The case had exposed the UK’s “toxic relationship” with Saudi Arabia.

On Wednesday 12th July, UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd again invoked “national security” (something Yemenis can only dream of in any context) and presented Parliament with a paltry four hundred and thirty word “summary” of the Report on the funding of terrorism,origins of which go back to December 2015.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott encapsulated the thoughts of many, telling Parliament:

“ … there is a strong suspicion this Report is being suppressed to protect this government’s trade and diplomatic priorities, including in relation to Saudi Arabia. The only way to allay those suspicions is to publish the report in full.” (3)

Caroline Lucas, co-Leader of the Green Party said:

“The statement gives absolutely no clue as to which countries foreign funding for extremism originates from – leaving the government open to further allegations of refusing to expose the role of Saudi Arabian money in terrorism in the UK.”

Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Fallon condemned the refusal of the government to publish the Report as: “utterly shameful.”

Amber Rudd concentrated on pointing to individuals and organisations which might be donating, often unknowingly to: “ … inadvertently supporting extremist individuals or organisations.”

Peanuts compared to UK arms to Saudi Arabia.

CAAT’s appeal is to go back to the High Court and: “If it fails, will go to the Court of Appeal” states Andrew Smith.

It also transpires that Saudi has dropped British made cluster bombs in Yemen, despite the UK being signatory to the 2008 Ottawa Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning their use, or assistance with their use. The Scottish National Party said it was a:

“shameful stain on the UK’s foreign policy and its relationship with Saudi Arabia, as well as a failure by this government to uphold its legal treaty obligations”. (4)

Final confirmation that the British government’s relations with Saudi over Arms and Yemen lies somewhere between duplicity and fantasy would seem to be confirmed in an interview (5) with Crispin Blunt, MP., former army officer and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

Inspite of the legal anomalies and humanitarian devastation, he assured the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse that the Saudis were “rigorous” in making sure there were no breaches of international law and adopted the sort of high standard of the British army.

In that case, the cynic might conclude, given the devastation caused by the British army in Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps it is not only arms and money that are the ties that bind the two countries, but scant regard for humanity itself.

Notes

1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/16/third-of-saudi-airstrikes-on-yemen-have-hit-civilian-sites-data-shows
2. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/10/uk-arms-exports-to-saudi-arabia-can-continue-high-court-rules?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
3. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/12/uk-terror-funding-report-will-not-be-published-for-national-security-reasons
4. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/19/saudis-dropped-british-cluster-bombs-in-yemen-fallon-tells-commons
5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0481zgm

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MSF paramedic, civilian first responders killed in Saudi double-tap airstrike in Yemen

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Almost two dozen people, including civilian rescuers and an ambulance driver from an MSF-affiliated hospital, have reportedly been killed after Saudi-led coalition planes carried out repeated airstrikes on the same target in Sa’ada province, Yemen.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirmed the fatal air raids in Sa’ada, saying the “planes went back to bomb areas already hit.”

“An ambulance driver from an MSF hospital [was] killed,” the NGO wrote, explaining that the first responders at the scene had been trying to help those wounded in the first round of strikes.

The ambulance had just picked up the victims when a direct strike killed everyone inside it, said the director of the Jumhuriya Hospital in Sa’ada province, according to the New York Times.

Yemen’s Health Ministry has strongly condemned the coalition’s actions as a “heinous massacre” that first targeted a residential building in Sa’ada, Saba news agency reports, citing ministry spokesperson Dr. Nashwan Attab.

According to reports, at least 20 people were killed and another 35 wounded, in what the medics claim was a deliberate attack. Following the initial air raid in the Dhahyan district of Sa’ada, first responders rushed to the scene to care for the wounded. But the planes soon returned to strike again in an attempt to “completely eliminate the few remaining medical staff in the province,” Dr. Attab said.

WARNING! DISTURBING VIDEO, VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!

“There are still people under the rubble and it is difficult to get them as a result of targeting by Saudi aggression of paramedics and medical personnel in the region,” he added.

Earlier this week, MSF said that the Saudi coalition continues to engage civilian targets on the ground, in particular medical treatment facilities, noting that over 100 hospitals have witnessed attacks since the Saudi-led intervention began last March.

The constant bombing of health clinics in Yemen has created conditions in which locals fear for their lives and try to avoid hospitals at all costs, MSF said. The United Nations has criticized the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen for the disproportionate number of civilian deaths and the destruction of infrastructure.

The UN estimates that the violence has resulted in a dramatic increase in civilian casualties, with more than 5,800 people killed in Yemen since March.

READ MORE:

Yemeni hospitals seen as targets, people ‘avoid them as much as possible’ – MSF

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In Yemen’s Secret Prisons, UAE Tortures And US Interrogates

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By Maggie Michael

Information Clearing House

MUKALLA, Yemen (AP) — Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses. Interrogating detainees who have been abused could violate international law, which prohibits complicity in torture.

The United Arab Emirates and Yemeni forces run a secret network of prisons where prisoners are brutally tortured. The U.S. has questioned some detainees, and have regular access to their testimony — a potential violation of international law. (June 21)

The United Arab Emirates and Yemeni forces run a secret network of prisons where prisoners are brutally tortured. The U.S. has questioned some detainees, and have regular access to their testimony — a potential violation of international law. (June 21)

The AP documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by the United Arab Emirates or by Yemeni forces created and trained by the Gulf nation, drawing on accounts from former detainees, families of prisoners, civil rights lawyers and Yemeni military officials. All are either hidden or off limits to Yemen’s government, which has been getting Emirati help in its civil war with rebels over the last two years.

The secret prisons are inside military bases, ports, an airport, private villas and even a nightclub. Some detainees have been flown to an Emirati base across the Red Sea in Eritrea, according to Yemen Interior Minister Hussein Arab and others.

Several U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the topic, told AP that American forces do participate in interrogations of detainees at locations in Yemen, provide questions for others to ask, and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati allies. They said U.S. senior military leaders were aware of allegations of torture at the prisons in Yemen, looked into them, but were satisfied that there had not been any abuse when U.S. forces were present.

“We always adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct,” said chief Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White when presented with AP’s findings. “We would not turn a blind eye, because we are obligated to report any violations of human rights.”

In a statement to the AP, the UAE’s government denied the allegations.

“There are no secret detention centers and no torture of prisoners is done during interrogations.”

Inside war-torn Yemen, however, lawyers and families say nearly 2,000 men have disappeared into the clandestine prisons, a number so high that it has triggered near-weekly protests among families seeking information about missing sons, brothers and fathers.

Looking out over part of Aden Central Prison, known as Mansoura

None of the dozens of people interviewed by AP contended that American interrogators were involved in the actual abuses. Nevertheless, obtaining intelligence that may have been extracted by torture inflicted by another party would violate the International Convention Against Torture and could qualify as war crimes, said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University who served as special counsel to the Defense Department until last year

At one main detention complex at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, former inmates described being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the “grill,” and sexually assaulted. According to a member of the Hadramawt Elite, a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, American forces were at times only yards away. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

“We could hear the screams,” said a former detainee held for six months at Riyan airport. “The entire place is gripped by fear. Almost everyone is sick, the rest are near death. Anyone who complains heads directly to the torture chamber.” He was flogged with wires, part of the frequent beatings inflicted by guards against all the detainees. He also said he was inside a metal shipping container when the guards lit a fire underneath to fill it with smoke.

Like other ex-detainees, he spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested again. The AP interviewed him in person in Yemen after his release from detention.

The AP interviewed 10 former prisoners, as well as a dozen officials in the Yemeni government, military and security services and nearly 20 relatives of detainees. The chief of Riyan prison, who is well known among families and lawyers as Emirati, did not reply to requests for comment.

Laura Pitter, senior national security counsel at Human Rights Watch, said the abuses “show that the US hasn’t learned the lesson that cooperating with forces that are torturing detainees and ripping families apart is not an effective way to fight extremist groups.” Human Rights Watch issued a report Thursday documenting torture and forced disappearances at the UAE-run prisons and calling on the Emirates to protect detainees’ rights.

Amnesty International called for a U.N.-led investigation “into the UAE’s and other parties’ role in setting up this horrific network of torture” and into allegations the U.S. interrogated detainees or received information possibly obtained from torture. “It would be a stretch to believe the US did not know or could not have known that there was a real risk of torture,” said Amnesty’s director of research in the Middle East, Lynn Maalouf.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has praised the UAE as “Little Sparta” for its outsized role in fighting against al-Qaida.

U.S. forces send questions to the Emirati forces holding the detainees, which then send files and videos with answers, said Yemeni Brig. Gen. Farag Salem al-Bahsani, commander of the Mukalla-based 2nd Military District, which American officials confirmed to the AP. He also said the United States handed authorities a list of most wanted men, including many who were later arrested.

Al-Bahsani denied detainees were handed over to the Americans and said reports of torture are “exaggerated.”

18 secret prisons in Yemen controlled by the United Arab Emirates

The network of prisons echoes the secret detention facilities set up by the CIA to interrogate terrorism suspects in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In 2009, then-President Barack Obama disbanded the so-called “black sites.” The UAE network in war-torn Yemen was set up during the Obama administration and continues operating to this day.

“The UAE was one of the countries involved in the CIA’s torture and rendition program,” said Goodman, the NYU law professor. “These reports are hauntingly familiar and potentially devastating in their legal and policy implications.”

The UAE is part of a Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition meant to help Yemen’s government fight Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who overran the north of the country. At the same time, the coalition is helping the U.S. target al-Qaida’s local branch, one of the most dangerous in the world, as well as Islamic State militants.

A small contingent of American forces routinely moves in and out of Yemen, the Pentagon says, operating largely along the southern coast. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has escalated drone strikes in the country to more than 80 so far this year, up from around 21 in 2016, the U.S. military said. At least two commando raids were ordered against al-Qaida, including one in which a Navy SEAL was killed along with at least 25 civilians.

A U.S. role in questioning detainees in Yemen has not been previously acknowledged.

Inside a secret prison in Yemen

A Yemeni officer who said he was deployed for a time on a ship off the coast said he saw at least two detainees brought to the vessel for questioning. The detainees were taken below deck, where he was told American “polygraph experts” and “psychological experts” conducted interrogations. He did not have access to the lower decks. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation for discussing the operations.

Senior U.S. defense officials flatly denied the military conducts any interrogations of Yemenis on any ships.

“We have no comment on these specific claims,” said Jonathan Liu, a CIA spokesman, adding that any allegations of abuse are taken seriously.

This Yemeni man says his son was detained and has since disappeared.

The Yemeni officer did not specify if the ‘Americans on ships’ were U.S. military or intelligence personnel, private contractors, or some other group.

Two senior Yemen officials, one in Hadi’s Interior Ministry and another in the 1st Military District, based in Hadramawt province where Mukalla is located, also said Americans were conducting interrogations at sea, as did a former senior security official in Hadramawt. The three spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the U.S. role.

The AP learned the names of five suspects held at black sites who were said to have been interrogated by Americans. The Yemeni official on the ship identified one of the detainees brought there. Four others were identified by former detainees who said they were told directly by the men themselves that they were questioned by Americans.

One detainee, who was not questioned by U.S. personnel, said he was subject to constant beatings by his Yemeni handlers but was interrogated only once.

“I would die and go to hell rather than go back to this prison,” he said. “They wouldn’t treat animals this way. If it was bin Laden, they wouldn’t do this.”

Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor and Desmond Butler in Washington and Ahmed al-Haj and Maad al-Zikry in Yemen contributed to this report.

See also – Inside Yemen’s secret prisons: ‘We could hear the screams’

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UNSC liable for consequences of Saudi Zio-Wahhabi war on Yemen

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Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has held the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) accountable for the consequences of the deadly Saudi Zio-Wahhabi war, stressing that the nation reserves the right to defend itself.

Mohammed Abdulsalam, the movement’s spokesman, said on Saturday that the UNSC issues statements that encourage the invader to continue its attacks and sieges, increasing the suffering of millions of Yemenis and dashing hope for a political resolution of the conflict, the al-Masirah television network reported.

The Yemeni army and allied popular forces would use all means to respond to Saudi assaults as Yemen, like other nations, reserves the right to defend itself against any invasion, Abdulsalam said.

The UNSC, which is in charge of preserving global peace, should know that the Saudi war supported by the US arms and financial aid, threatens international security, he added.

The Houthi official also stressed that the deterioration of the health situation in Yemen with the outbreak of Cholera is “a source of shame” for the body that claims to be promoting human rights.

He further held Saudi Zio-Wahhabi responsible for the stalemate in talks between Yemen’s warring sides, the siege on Yemen and Sana’a Airport activities.

In a lengthy statement on Thursday, the UNSC called on the Houthis and allies to cease all attacks at Saudi Arabia.

It also urged Yemen’s warring sides to reach a UN brokered deal on management of the strategic port city of Hudaydah at a time that the country slides closer to famine.

Saudi Zio-Wahhabi family has been leading a brutal military campaign against Yemen for more than two years to eliminate the Houthi movement and reinstall a Riyadh-friendly former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The military campaign, however, has failed to achieve its goals and left over 12,000 Yemenis dead.

The country is also grappling with a Cholera epidemic.

Earlier this week, Save the Children charity said at least 942 people have been killed since the outbreak began in Yemen in April.

It further warned that the rate of infection is increasing and that one child is contracting the disease every 35 seconds.

“Disease, starvation and war are causing a perfect storm of disaster for Yemen’s people. The region’s poorest country is on the verge of total collapse, and children are dying because they’re not able to access basic healthcare,” said Grant Pritchard, Save the Children’s Yemen director.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection that is spread through contaminated food or water. It can be effectively treated with the immediate replacement of lost fluids and salts, but without treatment it can be fatal.

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Yemen Weekly News

Yemenis infected with cholera wait for treatment at Sabaeen Hospital in Sana’a on June 13, 2017. Six weeks into the second outbreak of the deadly disease in less than a year, at least one patient checks in at Sabaeen every 60 seconds. MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
  • Since a new outbreak began in April, a total of 129,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported in Yemen, resulting in 942 deaths. A new child is infected approximately every 35 seconds, and more than 30 people are dying every day. Yemen’s healthcare system has been almost completely destroyed by the ongoing war, and medicine is increasingly hard to find.
  • Close to the southeastern Yemeni town of Baddah, suspected al-Qaeda members attacked an army base with car bombs and guns on June 12. At least 10 al-Qaeda members and two Yemeni soldiers were killed.
  • On June 13, the U.S. Senate voted 53-47 against a bill that would have blocked $500 million of the $110 billion arms deal President Trump unveiled in Riyadh in May. New arms sales to Saudi Arabia have become controversial in Congress, as some members are against further arms deals with a country they say has indiscriminately bombed civilians in Yemen.
  • On June 15, Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at an Emirati ship as it was leaving the Mokha port near the Bab al-Mandab Strait. One person on board was injured, but the ship was not damaged.

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The Drone War: Understanding Who Must Die From Above

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Photo by Debra Sweet | CC BY 2.0

In late October of 2016, I took a break from reading for my various social science courses to work for a couple of hours at my work-study job at the Vassar College Athletics Communications Office. On this particular day, I had to provide commentary and audio for a video stream of the game which is played live online, largely for parents and family members of the players. At halftime, the parents of someone on the team approached my boss to talk, and in this conversation, one parent casually commented that the other loved to watch their child play while in their office at General Atomics. General Atomics, the defense contracting company which, among other things, manufactures the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper, the two most-used military drones.

This chance meeting with a General Atomics employee speaks to the larger context of drone warfare as well as the logics behind it. This person could, through a video image and the sound of my voice, be transported from an office in California to a sports field 3,000 miles away. At the same time, General Atomics was producing and selling military drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the U.S. military to be used in locations across the world, thousands of miles away, while being controlled remotely in places such as Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

In the context of the game stream, one is completely aware of the rules of the contest and the bounds of play, the participants are numbered and their names are listed, they are in uniform, and their actions are occurring within a clear set of guidelines and norms. No one is trying to speculate on the loves, hates, future plans, or deep-seeded beliefs of players based on the footage. Further, the contest is projected with my description and the assistance of statistics and information provided by a team of people there, who know the athletes, and the coaches, and can hear and see close up what is occurring. In the other context, the U.S. military takes control over decisions of life and death in places they do not and cannot understand, making decisions based on their understandings of patterns of life and metadata from thousands of feet in the air. There are not rules to what they are seeing, there are no uniforms, and there is rarely information in any fashion from people who are physically present. Instead, it is just the video, being watched from thousands of miles away, as people are targeted for death.

How do we begin to understand an outlook where an un-narrated stream of a sporting event would be self-explanatorily difficult to understand, but similar video footage gathered by unmanned aerial vehicles is sufficient to understand who below must die? The perceptions and lenses that enable this outlook must be picked apart in order to comprehend (and begin to resist) the pull of drone warfare.

Drone-use has become the United States’ preferred way of waging war. Unmanned aerial vehicles are piloted remotely from thousands of miles away providing both surveillance in near-constant streams, and the ability to drop bombs. Through this new means of violence, Americans are not vulnerable, and are instead separated physically from the violence and death. The U.S. drone campaign is waged almost entirely in secret and without the hindrance of laws, international or domestic. The U.S. Executive and the various military and intelligence agencies involved are able to forward the drone war with unilateral power, with U.S. sovereignty extending globally.

In a short time in early 2016, the United States “deployed remotely piloted aircraft to carry out deadly attacks in six countries across Central and South Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, and it announced that it had expanded its capacity to carry out attacks in a seventh,” the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer explains. Drone bombs kill people not only in “hot war zones” like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but also in Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Pakistan.

A myriad of ethical and moral problems arise in the face of this new way of killing engaged in the United States. The dominant institutional justification for drone-use, as outlined by former President Barack Obama and others involved, asserts that the strikes of drones are safer, smarter, more efficient, more accurate, and cost less lives (American and otherwise) than the methods used in traditional warfare.  They are the civilized way of waging war. Over the course of his eight years in office, Obama repeatedly asserted that he was not “opposed to all war” but instead “opposed to dumb wars,” one of which being the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. He contrasted drone-use with “conventional airpower or missiles” and “invasions of these territories” saying that drones are more precise, cause less civilian casualties, and do not “unleash a torrent of unintended consequences” such as causing people to see the U.S. as an invading and occupying force.

However, an engagement with the realities of drone warfare proves these notions to be false. Instead of being ethical, drone-use has unleashed an often indiscriminate volley of bombs on thousands of people in many countries, and drone violence has become a go-to answer to the problem of American existential fear of terrorism.

This is displayed in the continuous and repeated failure of unmanned aerial vehicles and their operators to differentiate friend from foe, supposed-target from civilian. The lack of capacity (or care) to discriminate between people is repeatedly seen, whether it be in the 2011 murder of a Yemeni governor, the first Obama approved Yemeni strike which killed 14 women and 21 children, the first drone attack in Pakistan which left two children dead, the 2013 bombing of 12 Yemeni people in a wedding party, or the murder of American teenager Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi while failing to kill the bomb’s target.

We are left in a present where the call for this somehow ‘ethical’ way of war becomes more and more enticing and normalized as the drone war rages on in the early days of the administration of Donald Trump with no end in sight.

The faith in powerful institutions and U.S. technological ability that enables the view of drones as ethical, as demonstrated by the General Atomics employee, is clearly astronomical. This discourse doesn’t just enable an acceptance of the usage of drones, but an acceptance based on the claim that drones do not kill people but save lives. The new biopolitical and theopolitical sovereignty seen in U.S. drone-use is vulnerable because drones are constantly making mistakes. This is evidence of the incredible strength of the perception of U.S. sovereignty as all-moral and all-knowing, the belief in drone technology as mythically powerful, and the Orientalist view of people in the Middle East and Africa.

However, the indefensible imperial reality of drone violence also reveals that if these produced narratives are weakened, a different understanding of the drone war may emerge. This view could be one that elicits horror, shame, and revulsion, as well as profound fear of the state. But it could also be purposed to weaken the state apparatus that wage drone warfare.

Posted in Middle East, USA, Afghanistan, Pakistan & Kashmir, Somalia, YemenComments Off on The Drone War: Understanding Who Must Die From Above

Saudi Zio-Wahhabi Warplanes Strike Yemen Hospital amid Cholera Epidemic

NOVANEWS
  • A girl infected with cholera lies on the ground at a hospital in Sanaa.
    A girl infected with cholera lies on the ground at a hospital in Sanaa. | Photo: Reuters
The WHO announced Friday that nearly 73,700 people have been affected by Yemen’s cholera epidemic.

Saudi Zio-Wahhabi warplanes struck a health facility in Northwest Yemen treating patients for cholera Saturday night, Yemen’s al-Masirah television network reported, killing and injuring a number of people.

RELATED: Cholera Cases in Yemen Can Reach 130,000 in 2 Weeks: UNICEF

The attack in Qahza, in the province of Sa’ada, also devastated the facility’s medical equipment and the building itself, forcing the center to halt operations.

The assault comes as the World Health Organization said Friday that Yemen’s cholera epidemic has resulted in 605 deaths thus far, 40 percent of whom were children, with the number of people likely infected totaling up to 73,700.

View image on Twitter

continues to spread in . Over 73,700 suspected cholera cases and 605 associated deaths have been reported in 19 governorates.

U.N. envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed also said last Tuesday that only “less than 45 percent” of medical facilities in the country were functioning, Press TV reported.

RELATED: Yemen – a Nation in Resistance Against Wahhabi Imperialism

In addition, UNICEF warned Saturday that the cases of cholera could double every two weeks, unless more aid is delivered to the region ravaged by the U.S.-backed, Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led war.  The official warned that the outbreak could potentially “spread beyond Yemen” as the imperialist aggression enters well beyond its third year.

“It is sad today, but we hope the cholera outbreak will be the turning point in turning people’s attention to Yemen,” he stated. “Cholera is not going to be stopped by any border.”

Despite calls for aid, assistance to Yemenis amid the war proves challenging, given reports that the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led coalition has previously targeted the country’s main port of Hodeidah, obstructing attempts to import much-needed food, medical and fuel supplies.

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on Saudi Zio-Wahhabi Warplanes Strike Yemen Hospital amid Cholera Epidemic

World Watches as Yemen Descends into Total Collapse

NOVANEWS

More than 17 million people are facing dire food shortages in Yemen, as Oman seeks to mediate a peace deal

 

Yemen is descending into total collapse, its people facing war, famine and a deadly outbreak of cholera, as the world watches, the UN aid chief said on Tuesday.

Speaking to the UN Security Council, Stephen O’Brien said

“the time is now” to end the world’s largest food emergency and put Yemen back on the path to survival.

“Crisis is not coming, it is not looming, it is here today – on our watch and ordinary people are paying the price,” said O’Brien, the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs.

“The people of Yemen are being subjected to deprivation, disease and death as the world watches.”

The crisis is spiraling towards “total social, economic and institutional collapse” in the poor Arab country, O’Brien added.

His remarks reflected frustration with the Security Council’s failure to pressure the warring sides in Yemen to pull back from the brink and engage in serious negotiations on ending the two-year war.

A man carries an injured child from fighting in Taiz (Source: AFP)

More than 8,000 people have been killed since a Saudi-led coalition launched a military campaign in March 2015 against Iran-allied Huthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa.

The conflict has left 17 million people facing dire food shortages including nearly seven million who are one step away from famine in the country, which is heavily dependent on food imports.

Cholera is spreading

Since late April, a cholera outbreak has killed 500 people while 55,206 Yemenis – one third of them children – are ill, according to UN figures.

Another 150,000 cases of cholera are expected in the next six months.

After the Saudi-backed government moved the central bank from Sanaa to Aden, more than one million civil servants stopped receiving their salaries, pushing more families toward starvation, said O’Brien.

He singled out the Saudi-led coalition for criticism, saying its threat of attacks on the rebel-held port of Hodeida – a “lifeline” for Yemen’s imports – coupled with clearance delays for ships had sapped traders’ confidence.

“Giving rising costs, major shipping companies are now simply avoiding the Red Sea ports, thereby depriving the Yemeni people of desperately needed food and fuel,” said the UN aid chief.

Returning from talks in the region, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed reported no progress in his efforts to broker a return to negotiations and to clinch a deal on allowing vital deliveries to Hodeida.

“I will not hide from this council that we are not close to a comprehensive agreement,” he told the council.

Last week, 22 international and Yemeni humanitarian and human rights groups including Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee and Oxfam raised alarm over Yemen.

Image result for yemen cholera outbreak

Source: The Conflict Comment

They called on the council, in particular Britain which has the lead for addressing the conflict at the top UN body, to “end its year-long inaction on Yemen, and move decisively to end what is now the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”

Meanwhile, it emerged late on Tuesday that Oman is mediating between Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi‘s government and its Houthi opponents over a U.N. plan to resume peace talks in the war-torn country, according to a Yemeni government official.

The official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi was in Muscat at Oman’s invitation to discuss ways to bridge differences with the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa with their allies, over plans presented by the U.N. special envoy to Yemen last week.

The plans, presented by U.N. Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed during a regional tour last week, included confidence building measures such as turning over the Red Sea port of Hodeidah to a neutral party, opening Sanaa airport for civilian traffic and paying civil servants’ salaries.

The Omani side has conveyed to Mekhlafi the Houthis’ willingness to accept this plan, but also its insistence that civil servants’ salaries be paid first.

“The differences regarding Hodeidah now centre on the identity of the neutral party which will manage the port,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Oman maintains good ties with the Houthis, who seized Sanaa in 2014 in a campaign that eventually forced Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia in 2015 with his government. The Gulf Arab state had long mediated in international affairs, including facilitating talks between Iran and the United States.

Hadi’s government, which had recently made some small gains at the battlefront after months after a long stalemate, has threatened to attack Hodeidah, where most of Yemen’s food and humanitarian supplies enter, unless the Houthis agreed to turn the facility over to neutral observers.

The Houthis have in turn demanded that the Saudi-led coalition that controls Yemen’s airspace allow Sanaa airport to reopen and that the Yemen central bank, which Hadi had moved last year from Sanaa to Aden, pay salaries that had been withheld from civil servants for several months.

The Yemeni official said the Omani side have informed Mekhlafi in talks on Monday that the Houthis were ready to agree to Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s plan in full.

“The differences are not confined to the neutral party that will administer Hodeidah port,” the official said.

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on World Watches as Yemen Descends into Total Collapse

Five Civilians Killed in Yemen Raid

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Image result for SAUDI WAR IN YEMEN CARTOON
Reprieve 

Reprieve has learned that five civilians were killed in the raid by US Navy SEALs overnight. It is thought that at least two al-Qaeda fighters were also killed.

This contradicts the version of events put forward by the US military, which claimed seven militants were killed.

Reprieve has spoken to sources from the village of Al-Jubah in Marib province, Yemen who witnessed the raid. They confirmed the names of the five dead as:

  • Nasser Ali Mahdi Al-Adhal
  • Al-Ghader Saleh Salem Al-Adhal
  • Saleh Al-Taffaf
  • Yasser Al-Taffaf Al-Adhel
  • Shebreen Saeed Salem Al-Adhal

None of them were fighting for al-Qaeda. One of those killed, Nasser al-Adhal, was around 70 years of age and partially blind. According to witnesses, he was shot when he tried to greet the Navy Seals, mistaking them for guests arriving in the village.

The four other villagers were killed when they started to argue with the Navy Seals after the shooting of Nasser al-Adhal. Six villagers were seriously injured, including another elderly man who was around 69-years-old.

Al-Qaeda fighters gathering nearby, who are thought to have been the original target of the raid, were alerted by the gunshots in the village and firefight ensued in which at least two of them were killed. The Navy SEALs then left with the help of air support from a helicopter.

Commenting, Kate Higham, Head of the Assassinations Programme at Reprieve said:

“This new flawed raid by President Trump shows the US is not capable of distinguishing a terrorist from an innocent civilian. When even a 70-year-old is shot dead, it is clear these attacks are not targeted or precise. President Trump must order an immediate investigation into what went wrong and halt all raids and drone strikes before more innocent Yeminis are killed.”

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on Five Civilians Killed in Yemen Raid

US attack kills 7 in central Yemen

NOVANEWS

Image result for Pentagon CARTOON

Press TV 

At least seven people have lost their lives in a US ground and aerial operation in Yemen’s central province of Ma’rib, the Pentagon says.

Centcom, the US military command in the Middle East, said in a statement that the Tuesday raid had been carried out with the support of the former Yemeni government and had targeted a compound belonging to the al-Qaeda militant group.

“During this operation, US forces killed seven AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) militants through a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes,” the statement read.

It said that such assaults “provide insight into AQAP’s disposition, capabilities and intentions,” apparently referring to intelligence that may be obtained as a result of the raids.

On January 29, a similar US attack was conducted in Yakla Village in Bayda Province, the first authorized by President Donald Trump. A $75-million US aircraft was destroyed while dozens of Yemeni civilians and a US Navy SEAL were killed in the ill-prepared commando raid.

The Pentagon claimed that the attack had produced intelligence about al-Qaeda. However, senior US officials rejected the claim, saying that they were not aware of any actionable intelligence.

Yemen has been under regular US drone strikes, with Washington claiming to be targeting al-Qaeda elements while local sources say civilians have been the main victims.

Yemen has also been under military strikes in a prolonged war by Saudi Arabia and a number of its client states since late March 2015. The US has been providing assistance to that war, too.

UN envoy seeks to prevent any attack on crucial port city

On Monday, the United Nations’ Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed traveled to Yemen, where he said he wanted to prevent any attack on the western port city of Hudaydah, which is a major lifeline for imports into Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has threatened to attack the port city and retake it from the Houthi Ansarullah movement, a popular movement that has teamed up with the Yemeni army to defend the country against the Saudi-led war.

Cheikh Ahmed also stressed that Yemen’s central bank “must remain independent and must belong to all the Yemeni people.”

He further voiced concern about the dire humanitarian situation, saying, “You all know that the cholera epidemic has increased, reaching more than 25,000 cases and there have been many deaths in less than two weeks.”

The UN envoy’s visit to Yemen was met with protests as some 200 people marched from the UN headquarters in Sana’a to the city’s airport.

The demonstrators pelted Ahmed’s motorcade with rocks, shoes, and eggs as the Mauritanian diplomat was leaving the Sana’a Airport. His bodyguards fired into the air to disperse the crowd.

The Yemeni protesters carried banners, reading “Lift the blockade of Sana’a Airport.” The airport has been closed to commercial flights since August 2016, after the Riyadh regime imposed an air embargo on it.

Posted in USA, YemenComments Off on US attack kills 7 in central Yemen

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