Tag Archive | "Yemen: Zio-Wahhabi War"

Nominee for US Ambassador to Yemen is No Friend of the Yemeni People


NOVANEWS

Confirming Christopher Henzel as the US Ambassador to Yemen will continue the US role in the starvation and deaths of millions of Yemenis

Codepink's women for Peace at the Nomination Hearing for new US Ambassador to Yemen. (Photo by Ann Wright)

Codepink’s women for Peace at the Nomination Hearing for new US Ambassador to Yemen. (Photo by Ann Wright

While the press has closely followed the Senate efforts to stop US support for the Saudi war in Yemen in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, a December 4 Senate Foreign Affairs Committee meeting introducing Donald Trump’s nominee for Ambassador to Yemen slipped under the radar.

Christopher Henzel is presently the Charge d’Affairs, or acting Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. A career Foreign Service officer, he has been the acting Ambassador since the departure of the Obama administration’s appointee in January 2017. He is now Trump’s pick to become the highest US diplomat to the wartorn nation of Yemen, but his initial appearance before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not go very well. Watch video here.

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After briefing by CIA Director, Senator Corker says there was zero chance MBS was not involved in journalist Khashoggi’s murder. (Photo by The Hill)

Senators Corker, Mendenez, Kaine, Markey and Young used the appearance as an opportunity to skewer the Trump administration’s participation in the Saudi war on Yemen and its handling of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  Earlier in the day Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker and the heads of the Senate Armed Services, Appropripriations and Intelligence Committees received a briefing from CIA director Gina Haspel on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s (MBS) involvement in the Khashoggi’s murder and dismemberment. In the committee hearing, Corker said “There is zero doubt in my mind  that Prince Mohammed ordered and monitored the killing of Khashoggi. If Prince Mohammed were put on trial, a jury would unanimously find him guilty in about 30 minutes.”  Corker said that the Trump administration’s assertion that there is no direct evidence of MBS’s involvement was “unacceptable.”

At a time when US senators, both Democratic and Republic, are finding the US relationship with Saudi Crown Prince MBS untenable, Henzel, as the acting US Ambassador, has been close to MBS.

At a time when US senators, both Democratic and Republic, are finding the US relationship with Saudi Crown Prince MBS untenable, Henzel, as the acting US Ambassador, has been close to MBS. As top US representative in Riyadh, Henzel is undoubtedly the American who has had the most meetings with MBS and senior officials of the Saudi government, including accompanying President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo in their meetings with MBS.

This will probably continue to be the case. With the war raging in Yemen, the US Embassy in Sanaa is closed and the US Ambassador to Yemen will be located conveniently in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in the same building as the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia.  Since the Trump administration has not filled the position of US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Henzel  as the new Ambassador to Yemen will be seen as the top US diplomat.

Granted, Henzel does have extensive experience in the Middle East, but no history of any diplomatic breakthroughs. Like so many other foreign service people in the region, he seems to have been more an appendage of the Pentagon. He was director of the Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs at the Department of State in Washington from 2013 to 2016.  He headed the provincial reconstruction office in Mosul, Iraq in 2010-2011; was deputy chief of mission and chargé in Manama, Bahrain from 2004-2007, when peaceful protesters were brutally repressed. He worked in US Embassies in Yemen and Pakistan, and from 1985 to 1987 in Saudi Arabia. When assigned in Washington, Henzel worked on budgeting for U.S. military and economic assistance for the Near East region, on Egyptian and Maghreb economic affairs, and was the desk officer for Iran.

Senator Menenedez asked Henzel if he had read the recent reports by human rights organizations about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.  Henzel replied that he had heard that the reports were finished, but he had not read them, to which Menendez asked: “Wouldn’t it be wise for a person coming before the committee to have read the reports?”  Henzel bumbled a “Yes.”

Other questions to Henzel about the Saudi war on Yemen included the Saudi breaking of the ceasefire with 45 air attacks the previous day, the continued closing of the port of Hudiadah where food deliveries have fallen by 50 percent.  Senator Tim Kaine reminded Henzel that the Iran had not been involved in Yemen until the Saudis began attacking the Houthis. Houthis had been challenging the central government of Yemen for decades because they as a minority had been left out.

As the acting US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Christopher Henzel is neck-deep in the blood of the Yemeni people and confirming him as the US Ambassador to Yemen will continue the US role in the starvation and deaths of millions of Yemenis. His experiences on Middle East issues from Palestine to Iran, from Saudi Arabia to Yemen are supporting policies calling for death and destruction rather than non-killing approaches through real diplomacy.

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Seeing Yemen from Jeju Island


NOVANEWS

As wars rage on, every voice crying out in affliction should be heard.

People digging through rubble in war-torn Yemen. “Killing people, through war or starvation, never solves problems,” write Kathy Kelly. “I strongly believe this.” (Photo: Almigdad Mojalli / Wikimedia Commons)

Several days ago, I joined an unusual skype call originated by young South Korean founders of “The Hope School.” Located on Jeju Island, the school aims to build a supportive community between island residents and newly arrived Yemenis who seekasylum in South Korea.

Jeju, a visa-free port, has been an entry point for close to 500 Yemenis who have traveled nearly 5000 miles in search of safety. Traumatized by consistent bombing, threats of imprisonment and torture, and the horrors of starvation, recent migrants to South Korea, including children, yearn for refuge.

Like many thousands of others who’ve fled Yemen, they miss their families, their neighborhoods, and the future they once might have imagined. But returning to Yemen now would be awfully dangerous for them.

Whether to welcome or reject Yemenis seeking asylum in South Korea has been a very difficult question for many who live on Jeju Island. Based in Gangjeong, a city long renowned for brave and tenacious peace activism, the founders of “The Hope School” want to show newly arrived Yemenis a respectful welcome by creating settings in which young people from both countries can get to know one another and better understand each other’s history, culture and language.

They regularly gather for exchanges and lessons. Their curriculum suggests solving problems without relying on weapons, threats, and force. In the “Seeing Yemen from Jeju” seminar, I was asked to speak about grass roots efforts in the U.S. to stop the war in Yemen. I mentioned Voices has helped arrange demonstrations against war on Yemen in many U.S. cities and that, relative to other antiwar campaigns we’ve participated in, we’ve seen some willingness within the mainstream media to cover the suffering and starvation caused by the war on Yemen.

One Yemeni participant, himself a journalist, voiced exasperated frustration. Did I understand how trapped he and his companions are? In Yemen, Houthi fighters could persecute him. He could be bombed by Saudi and UAE warplanes; mercenary fighters, funded and organized by the Saudis or the UAE might attack him; he would be equally vulnerable to Special Operations forces organized by western countries, such as the U.S. or Australia. What’s more, his homeland is subject to exploitation by major powers greedily seeking to control its resources. “We are caught in a big game,” he said.

Another young man from Yemen said he envisions an army of Yemenis that would defend all people living there from all the groups now at war in Yemen.

Hearing this, I remembered how adamantly our young South Korean friends have opposed armed struggle and the militarization of their island. Through demonstrations, fasts, civil disobedience, imprisonments, walks, and intensive campaigns designed to build solidarity, they’ve struggled, for years, to resist the onslaughts of South Korean and U.S. militarism. They understand well how war and ensuing chaos divides people, leaving them ever more vulnerable to exploitation and plunder. And yet, they clearly want everyone in the school to have a voice, to be heard, and to experience respectful dialogue.

How do we, in the U.S., develop grass roots communities dedicated to both understand the complex realities Yemenis face and work to end U.S. participation in the war on Yemen? Actions taken by our young friends who organized “The Hope School” set a valuable example. Even so, we must urgently call on all the warring parties to enact immediate cease-fires, open all ports and roads so desperately needed distribution of food, medicine and fuel can take place, and help restore Yemen’s devastated infrastructure and economy.

In numerous U.S. locations, activists have displayed 40 backpacks to remember the forty children killed by a 500-pound Lockheed Martin missile that targeted their school bus on August 9, 2018.

In the days before August 9th, each child had received a UNICEF-issued blue backpack filled with vaccines and other valuable resources to help their families survive. When classes resumed some weeks ago, children who had survived the terrible bombing returned to school carrying bookbags still stained by spattered blood. Those children desperately need reparations in the form of practical care and generous “no-strings attached” investments to help them find a better future. They need “The Hope School” too.

Killing people, through war or starvation, never solves problems. I strongly believe this. And I believe heavily armed elites, intending to increase their personal wealth, have regularly and deliberately sown seeds of division in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Gaza and other lands wherein they desire to control precious resources. A divided Yemen would allow Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, their coalition partners, and the U.S. to exploit Yemen’s rich resources for their own benefit.

As wars rage on, every voice crying out in affliction should be heard. Following “The Hope School” seminar, I imagine we could all agree that an excruciatingly crucial voice wasn’t present in the room: that of a child, in Yemen, too hungry to cry.

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With Saudis’ Global Backers Backing Away, Yemeni Factions Prepare for Peace Talks


NOVANEWS

Mohammed bin Salman | Saudi Arabia | Yemen

Following the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, much of the West has started turning its back on Saudi Arabia, and on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular.

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on With Saudis’ Global Backers Backing Away, Yemeni Factions Prepare for Peace Talks

Yemen: Eyewitness Describes Terrifying Scenes as Explosions Rock Hospital in Central Hodeidah


NOVANEWS

Image result for YEMEN WAR CARTOON

WASHINGTON – Hundreds of medical workers and patients, including a malnourished woman carrying her daughter in a surgical robe and a man still hooked up to a catheter, fled in terror as a series of large explosions rocked a hospital in central Hodeidah yesterday, according to an eyewitness who spoke to Amnesty International.

Just before noon on November 11, an attack reportedly carried out by the Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition hit very close to al-Thawra hospital – Hodeidah’s largest public medical facility.

The pro-Saudi Arabian media outlet Al Arabiya reported that Coalition warplanes and attack helicopters targeted Huthi positions on November 11, including in areas around the university, al-Thawra hospital and 22 May hospital.

A medical worker who was inside al-Thawra hospital at the time told Amnesty International that hundreds of patients and staff dodged a hail of shrapnel as they fled in panic. The sustained bombardment near the hospital lasted more than half an hour.

“In armed conflict, hospitals are supposed to be places of sanctuary. But as the battle for control of Hodeidah intensifies, both sides seem intent on eviscerating the laws of war and disregarding the protected status of even the most vulnerable civilians,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International.

“The situation is increasingly dire, and the UN Security Council must speak out before the battle for Hodeidah sparks a spiralling civilian catastrophe. Yesterday hospital patients and staff were lucky to escape with their lives. If things are allowed to continue like this, it won’t be long before the luck runs out and Hodeidah descends into horror.”

‘The shrapnel sounded like rain’

Speaking to Amnesty International just hours after the attack, the al-Thawra hospital worker said that explosions began at around 11:30am, but nobody inside the bustling hospital seemed fazed because they initially sounded far off. After months of skirmishes in the outskirts of the city and occasional air strikes by Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition aircraft, many Hodeidah residents have become accustomed to the sound of distant explosions.

But before long the hospital’s hundreds of patients and staff realized they were in mortal danger. The blasts came close enough to shake water in water bottles inside the hospital. The explosions were accompanied by the sound of anti-aircraft guns nearby.

“At five minutes to midday, the explosions intensified and were a lot closer. This time I was scared, also because I heard the sound of [anti-aircraft guns] for the first time. I ran to the reception area… I heard many explosions, and either bullets or shrapnel was hitting the metal roof of the hospital entrance, falling like rain. I could still hear explosions as I got out of the hospital, but I couldn’t focus on it. We were all too afraid for our safety,” the medical worker told Amnesty International.

He described how panicked people fled into Jamal Street outside the hospital, which is near the fishing harbour and university in the city centre,and fled on foot or in cars and minibuses. Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition aircraft were flying overhead and smoke was billowing from the Dentistry Faculty in the university complex, around 500m away. He said it was widely known the faculty had been full of Huthi fighters, both inside the building and gunmen stationed on the roof.

“I saw a patient carrying another patient. It looked like a mother and daughter. The mother was skin and bones, she was malnourished, a typical Yemeni mother… Nonetheless, she was managing to carry her 15 or 16-year-old daughter in her arms. Her daughter was crying. I knew she had either just had surgery or had been in preparation for surgery because she was in a blue surgical robe. There are no words to describe how I felt at this moment,” the medical worker said.

“I also saw a man walking as fast as he could while carrying a bag of his own urine. He was still attached to a urinary catheter while making his escape. This scene will stay with me for the rest of my life. There were many children too. Some parents were carrying their children. I saw 10 or 12 children among everyone else trying to flee.”

The medical worker said he returned to work at around 1pm. By that time, clashes had calmed down in that area but the hospital was semi-deserted.

An al-Thawra hospital spokesperson told Reuters that intensive care, burn unit and emergency room doctors and nurses stayed in the hospital during the attack. The witness Amnesty International spoke to confirmed this, saying, “A few brave doctors and medical staff chose to stay; I was among the majority that chose to leave.”

Hospital patients caught in the crossfire

In the aftermath of the attack, a World Health Organization staffer in Yemen lamented on Twitter how al-Thawra hospital “used to serve about 1,500 people per day [but] is now almost inaccessible as the ground fighting is raging.” Amnesty International can confirm that it is the only public hospital in Hodeidah, serving the city and four outlying districts. There are other hospitals in the city but they are private, so besides al-Thawra Hospital there are no viable alternatives for people with limited financial resources to access health care.

As such, al-Thawra hospital is a vital facility for civilians – including many children – in Hodeidah and along Yemen’s western coast who are facing acute malnutrition amid the country’s dire humanitarian crisis. Last weekUNICEF warned that 59 children, 25 of them in intensive care, faced an “imminent risk of death” if fighting encroached on the hospital.

The attack on al-Thawra hospital comes just days after Amnesty International confirmed that Huthi fighters were placing civilians in danger by militarizing the 22 May hospital on Hodeidah’s eastern outskirts.

Sources on the ground told the organization that 22 May hospital has since been evacuated. According to media reports, Yemeni government forces then took control of it on 9 November.

It is also not the first time that al-Thawra hospital has been impacted by the conflict. On August 2 this year, an attack hit just outside the hospital, killing and injuring scores of civilians, including first responders who were coming to the aid of civilians hit in a separate strike on the nearby harbour. While it remains uncertain who was responsible for the attack, a Bellingcat open source investigation strongly suggested it was a result of mortars fired from the south by the Saudi Arabian and UAE-led coalition forces.

Hodeidah residents told Amnesty International that Huthi fighters have closed and barricaded two of the three roads outside al-Thawra hospital, declaring them to be “military areas”. Satellite imagery reviewed by the organization appears to corroborate this. As residents are forbidden from entering, they are unable to confirm what types of weapons or installations these areas now contain.

“It is feared that the latest attack near al-Thawra hospital may be due to the constant presence of Huthi fighters nearby and their tactic of basing artillery units in civilian areas. Stationing military forces in densely populated civilian areas and carrying out attacks from these locations endangers civilians. All parties are required to do their utmost to avoid locating military objectives amidst civilians. And using civilians to shield fighters from attack is absolutely prohibited and can constitute a war crime,” said Lynn Maalouf.

“International humanitarian law is very clear that hospitals carrying out their medical functions are never a target – and al-Thawra was very clearly a functioning hospital at the time of the attack. As well as violating the laws of war, deliberately attacking a functioning hospital is a war crime. All the warring parties must immediately halt attacks that endanger civilians, including attacks on or close to medical facilities.”

Background

On November 9, the UN-backed Yemeni government announced that a “vast offensive” was under way – supported by the Saudi Arabian and UAE-led coalition – to capture the port city of Hodeidah from the Huthi armed group which has been in power there since 2015.

This statement is available at: https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/yemen-eyewitness-describes-terrifying-scenes-as-explosions-rock-hospital-in-central-hodeidah/

Follow Amnesty International USA on Twitter.

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Congress Must End U.S. Military Aid to Saudi War in Yemen


NOVANEWS

Today’s leaders owe it to all those who have sacrificed for a fairer world to bring an end to the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth

The United Nations childrens agency said Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, that Yemen’s economic crisis and the relentless violence at a key Red Sea port city risks leaving millions of children and families without food, clean water and sanitation.(Photo: Hani Mohammed / Associated Press August 2018)

The United Nations childrens agency said Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, that Yemen’s economic crisis and the relentless violence at a key Red Sea port city risks leaving millions of children and families without food, clean water and sanitation.(Photo: Hani Mohammed / Associated Press August 2018)

Every ghastly new detail we learn about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi suggests that this was a premeditated murder, carried out at the direction of the highest level of the Saudi dictatorship. The cascading revelations rival the gore of horror films, from the 15 Saudis who flew into Turkey, lying in wait for Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, to the bone-saw-equipped forensics specialist who reportedly dismembered Khashoggi’s body wearing headphones and recommending that others listen to music as well.

Just weeks before, Khashoggi had publicly pleaded with the de facto ruler of the Saudi regime, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to curb his propensity for violence. Khashoggi’s September column for the Washington Post was headlined “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince must restore dignity to his country — by ending Yemen’s cruel war.”

“Cruel” is, if anything, an understatement. Since 2015, the Saudis have launched an estimated 18,000 air strikes on Yemen, attacking hospitals, schools, water treatment plants, funerals, markets and even farms. The Saudis also imposed a blockade on food, fuel and medicine from freely entering the country in what can only be described as a deliberate effort to starve the civilian population into submission. Buried by the news of Khashoggi’s slaying was a grim new warning by Lise Grande, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen: The nation could experience the world’s worst famine in 100 years, with 12 million to 13 million innocent civilians at risk of dying from the lack of food within months.

As early as 2015, Foreign Policy magazine reported the Saudi coalition’s “daily bombing campaign would not be possible without the constant presence of U.S. Air Force tanker planes refueling coalition jets.” Yet there was never a debate or vote by the people’s elected congressional representatives, as required by the Constitution, as to whether the U.S. military should participate in the Saudi government’s genocidal war.

As the architect of this hideous military strategy, Mohammed bin Salman reacted to Khashoggi’s criticisms the way he knew best. MbS, as he’s known, probably ordered the assassination of Khashoggi and then — just as the Saudi regime did after bombing a school bus filled with Yemeni children last month — issued ever-shifting and contradictory lies, relying on the Trump administration’s full backing and clumsy assistance in the cover-up.

MbS’ campaign of killing Yemenis and Saudis alike must come to an end. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and I are leading dozens of our colleagues, including top House Democrats, in demanding answers from the Trump administration about its possible complicity in Khashoggi’s killing. We also are working to force a vote in Congress to decisively shut down unconstitutional U.S. participation in the Saudi regime’s gruesome war in Yemen within weeks.

Partnering with Sen. Bernie Sanders, independent-Vermont, we aim to secure majorities in both chambers of Congress as soon as we return to Washington to direct the president to remove U.S. forces from unauthorized hostilities in Yemen. We are invoking the War Powers Resolution with the aim of passing House Congressional Resolution 138 and Senate Joint Resolution 54. These resolutions have priority over other foreign policy considerations in the chambers, and the votes on them cannot be blocked by Republican leadership. Never before has such a feat been attempted in both houses of Congress at once — but the War Power Resolution allows members of Congress to force votes to end illegal U.S. military participation in this war. When we succeed, the Saudi campaign will inevitably collapse.

If our moral compass is to guide our country after the butchering of Jamal Khashoggi, the incineration of thousands of Yemenis in U.S.-Saudi air strikes, and the quiet deaths of more than 100,000 Yemeni children who succumbed to war-triggered hunger and disease over the past two years, Congress must pass these resolutions.

America’s founders deliberately broke with the unchecked power enjoyed by Europe’s monarchs by vesting Congress with the sole authority over the question of war and peace.

By forcing long-overdue sunlight and public participation into the now-secret realm of war, these resolutions will help restore our republic and end America’s complicity in such incomprehensibly immense human suffering.

Today’s leaders owe it to all those who have sacrificed for a fairer world to bring an end to the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth.

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How Saudi Money Keeps Washington at War in Yemen


NOVANEWS

It was May 2017. The Saudis were growing increasingly nervous. For more than two years they had been relying heavily on US military support and bombs to defeat Houthi rebels in Yemen. Now, the Senate was considering a bipartisan resolution to cut off military aid and halt a big sale of American-made bombs to Saudi Arabia. Fortunately for them, despite mounting evidence that the US-backed, supplied, and fueled air campaign in Yemen was targeting civilians, the Saudi government turned out to have just the weapon needed to keep those bombs and other kinds of aid coming their way: an army of lobbyists.

That year, their forces in Washington included members of more than two dozen lobbying and public relations firms. Key among them was Marc Lampkin, managing partner of the Washington office of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BHFS), a company that would be paid nearly half a million dollars by the Saudi government in 2017. Records from the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) show that Lampkin contacted Senate offices more than 20 times about that resolution, speaking, for instance, with the legislative director for Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) on May 16, 2017. Perhaps coincidentally, Lampkin reported making a $2,000 contribution to the senator’s political action committee that very day. On June 13th, along with a majority of his fellow senators, Scott voted to allow the Saudis to get their bombs. A year later, the type of bomb authorized in that sale has reportedly been used in air strikes that have killed civilians in Yemen.

Little wonder that, for this and his other lobbying work, Lampkin earned a spot on the “Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns” list compiled by the Washington publication the Hill.

Lampkin’s story was anything but exceptional when it comes to lobbyists working on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was, in fact, very much the norm. The Saudi government has hired lobbyists in profusion and they, in turn, have effectively helped convince members of Congress and the president to ignore blatant human rights violations and civilian casualties in Yemen. According to a forthcoming report by the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative program, which I direct, at the Center for International Policy, registered foreign agents working on behalf of interests in Saudi Arabia contacted Congressional representatives, the White House, the media, and figures at influential think tanks more than 2,500 times in 2017 alone. In the process, they also managed to contribute nearly $400,000 to the political coffers of senators and House members as they urged them to support the Saudis. Some of those contributions, like Lampkin’s, were given on the same day the requests were made to support those arms sales.

The role of Marc Lampkin is just a tiny sub-plot in the expansive and ongoing story of Saudi money in Washington. Think of it as a striking tale of pay-to-play politics that will undoubtedly be revving up again in the coming weeks as the Saudi lobby works to block new Congressional efforts to end US involvement in the disastrous war in Yemen.

A Lobby to Contend With

The roots of that lobby’s rise to prominence in Washington lie in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As you may remember, with 15 of those 19 suicidal hijackers being citizens of Saudi Arabia, it was hardly surprising that American public opinion had soured on the Kingdom. In response, the worried Saudi royals spent around $100 million over the next decade to improve such public perceptions and retain their influence in the US capital. That lobbying facelift proved a success until, in 2015, relations soured with the Obama administration over the Iran nuclear deal. Once Donald Trump won the presidency, however, the Saudis saw an unparalleled opportunity and launched the equivalent of a full-court press, an aggressive campaign to woo the newly elected president and the Republican-led Congress, which, of course, cost real money.

As a result, the growth of Saudi lobbying operations would prove extraordinary. In 2016, according to FARA records, they reported spending just under $10 million on lobbying firms; in 2017, that number had nearly tripled to $27.3 million. And that’s just a baseline figure for a far larger operation to buy influence in Washington, since it doesn’t include considerable sums given to elite universities or think tanks like the Arab Gulf States Institute, the Middle East Institute, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (to mention just a few of them).

This meteoric rise in spending allowed the Saudis to dramatically increase the number of lobbyists representing their interests on both sides of the aisle. Before President Trump even took office, the Saudi government signed a deal with the McKeon Group, a lobbying firm headed by Howard “Buck” McKeon, the recently retired Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. His firm also represents Lockheed Martin, one of the top providers of military equipment to the Kingdom. On the Democratic side, the Saudis inked a $140,000-per-monthdealwith the Podesta Group, headed by Tony Podesta, whose brother John, a long-time Democratic Party operative, was the former chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Tony Podesta later dissolved his firm and has allegedly been investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for serving as an unregistered foreign agent.

And keep in mind that all this new firepower was added to an already formidable arsenal of lobbying outfits and influential power brokers, including former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who, according to Lee Fang of the Intercept, was “deeply involved in the [Trump] White House hiring process,” and former Senator Norm Colemanchairman of the pro-Republican Super PAC American Action Network. All told, during 2017, Saudi Arabia inked 45 different contractswith FARA-registered firms and more than 100 individuals registered as Saudi foreign agents in the US They proved to be extremely busy. Such activity reveals a clear pattern: Saudi foreign agents are working tirelessly to shape perceptions of that country, its royals, its policies, and especially its grim war in Yemen, while simultaneously working to keep US weapons and military support flowing into the Kingdom.

While the term “foreign agent” is often used as a synonym for lobbyist, part of the work performed by the Kingdom’s paid representatives here resembles public relations activity far more than straightforward lobbying. For example, in 2017, Saudi foreign agents reported contacting media outlets more than 500 times, including significant outreach to national ones like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and PBS, which has aired multiple documentaries about the Kingdom. Also included, however, were smaller papers like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and more specialized outlets, even ESPN, in hopes of encouraging positive stories.

The Kingdom’s image in the US clearly concerned those agents. Still, the lion’s share of their activity was focused on security issues of importance to that country’s royals. For example, Saudi agents contacted officials at the State Department, which oversees most commercial arms transfers and sales, nearly 100 times in 2017, according to FARA filings. Above all, however, their focus was on Congress, especially members with seniority on key committees. As a result, at some point between late 2016 and the end of 2017, Saudi lobbyists contacted more than 200 of them, including every single Senator.

The ones most often dealt with were, not surprisingly, those with the greatest leverage over US relations with Saudi Arabia. For example, the office of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who sits on both the appropriations and armed services committees, was the most contacted, while that of Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) was the top Democratic one. (He sits on the appropriations and foreign relations committees.)

Following the Money From Saudi Arabia to Campaign Coffers

Just as there’s a clear pattern when it comes to contacting congressional representatives who might help their Saudi clients, so there’s a clear pattern to the lobbying money flowing to those same members of Congress.

The FARA documents that record all foreign-agent political activity also list campaign contributions reported by those agents. Just as we did for political activities, the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative program conducted an analysis of all campaign contributions reported in those 2017 filings by firms that represented Saudi interests. And here’s what we found: more than a third of the members of Congress contacted by such a firm also received a campaign contribution from a foreign agent at that firm. In total, according to their 2017 FARA filings, foreign agents at firms representing Saudi clients made $390,496 in campaign contributions to congressional figures they, or another agent at their firm, contacted on behalf of their Saudi clients.

This flow of money is best exemplified by the 11 separate occasions we uncovered in which a firm reported contacting a congressional representative on behalf of Saudi clients on the same day someone at the same firm made a campaign contribution to the same senator or House member. In other words, there are 10 other cases just like Marc Lampkin’s, involving foreign agents at Squire Patton Boggs, DLA Piper, and Hogan Lovells. For instance, Hogan Lovells reported meeting with Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) on behalf of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia on April 26, 2017, and that day an agent at the firm made a $2,700 contribution to “Bob Corker for Senate 2018.” (Corker would later decide not to seek reelection.)

While some might argue that contributions like these look a lot like bribery, they turn out to be perfectly legal. No law bars such an act, and while it’s true that foreign nationals and foreign governments areprohibited from making contributions to political campaigns, there’s a simple work-around for that, one the Saudis obviously made use of big time. Any foreign power hoping to line the pockets of American politicians just has to hire a local lobbyist to do it for them.

As Jimmy Williams, a former lobbyist, wrote: “Today, most lobbyists are engaged in a system of bribery, but it’s the legal kind.”

The Saudi Lobby Today

Fast forward to late 2018 and that very same lobby is now fighting vigorously to defeat a House measure that would end US support for the Saudi war in Yemen. They’re flooding congressional offices with their requests, in effect asking Congress to ignore the more than 10,000 civilians who have died in Yemen, the US bombs that have been the cause of many of those deaths, and a civil war that has led to a resurgence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. They’ll probably mention Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent “certification” that the Saudis are now supposedly taking the necessary steps to prevent more civilian casualties there.

What they’re not likely to mention is that his decision was reportedlydriven by the head of the legislative affairs team at the State Department who just happens to be a former foreign agent with BGR Government Affairs, one of 35 FARA registrants working for Saudi Arabia at this moment. Such lobbyists and publicists are using the deep pockets of the Saudi royals to spread their propaganda, highlighting the charitable work that government is doing in Yemen. What they fail to emphasize, of course, are the Saudi blockade of the country and the American-backed, armed, and fueled air strikes that are killing civilians at weddings,funeralsschool bus trips, and other civilian events. All of this is, in addition, helping to create a grotesque famine, a potential disaster of the most extreme sort and the very reason such humanitarian assistance is needed.

In the end, even if the facts aren’t on their side, the dollars are. Since September 2001, that reality has proven remarkably convincing in Washington, as copious dollars flowed from Saudi Arabia to US military contractors (who are making billions selling weapons to that country), to lobbying firms, and via those firms directly into Congressional coffers.

Is this really how US foreign policy should be determined?

Posted in USA, Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on How Saudi Money Keeps Washington at War in Yemen

A Less than Modest Proposal to End the War in Yemen. “I am Writing This on Thanksgiving Eve”


NOVANEWS

“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled …” —Jonathan Swift, 1729 (from “A Modest Proposal”)

I am writing this on Thanksgiving eve. Tomorrow, like so many other fellow Americans, I will be passing the mashed potatoes and gravy, calling for more cranberry sauce, and once again feeling pangs of conscience as the turkey platter comes my way and I imagine industrial-scale factories where millions of farm-raised turkeys are slaughtered and otherwise prepared for consumption.In Plymouth, hundreds will gather for a Day of Mourning in recognition of the suffering Native Americans have endured since Europeans first began their conquest of indigenous lands over 500 years ago.

It will be a day of mourning for me as well. For that matter, every day lately has become a day of mourning as I reflect upon my country’s role in the starvation and slaughter of the people of Yemen. Through its open-ended support of Saudi Arabia’s illegal war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the U.S. is complicit in what has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The statistics are appalling: At least 10,000 Yemenis have been killed, the majority of whom are innocent civilians; millions have been displaced; and, according to UN reports,

“some 7 million people in Yemen are now on the verge of starvation. Yemen is also in the throes of a cholera epidemic that has infected more than 900,000 people.”

Cholera is an infectious disease that occurs when a person ingests food or water contaminated with a particular type of bacterium. Typically, feces from an infected person are the source of contamination. In Yemen, Saudi planes have deliberately targeted the country’s water- and sewage-treatment plants, and its electrical infrastructure. Result: People are consuming untreated food and water and becoming ill. Cholera causes severe diarrhea, which in turn can lead to dehydration. If not remedied in time, dehydration will lead to shock and death in just a few hours.

The International Committee of the Red Cross predicts that a million people will become victims of the cholera epidemic by the end of this year. Disease and starvation are weapons of choice Saudi Arabia and its partners in crime are deploying against their enemies in Yemen, whom they regard as proxies of their major regional foe—Iran. To prevent the spread of Shia Islam in its own backyard, the Sunni regime of Saudi Arabia  is waging total war on the people of Yemen, now suffering from severe, life-threatening shortages of food and medicine.

These shortages are not the results of an earthquake or other natural disaster. They are the intended consequences of the bombing and shelling of Yemen’s civilian infrastructure by Saudi Arabia, and its imposition of a nearly total air, sea, and land blockade that has made an estimated 70% of Yemen’s population dependent on imported food and other forms of humanitarian aid, which the blockade has severely restricted—with the consent and active participation of the most indispensable nation on the face of the planet—the United States. We can thank Saint Obama for getting the ball rolling when his Administration authorized the shipment of more than $100 billion worth of weapons to the Saudi military, a largess that Trump has continued in the form of an additional $110 billion in weapons sales to the most despotic regime in the Middle East and the heart and soul of Wahhabism, a perversion of Islam that has brought nothing but suffering to the people of the region.

Our role in the crisis is not limited to the provision of high-tech weapons and munitions; the military has been waist-deep in the Big Muddy of turning Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, into a nation of widows and orphans. As former Green Party vice presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka rightly points out:

This is a war that could not then or today have been launched and executed without direct support from the U.S. military. The United States provided critical support in the form of intelligence sharing and targeting, air-to-air refueling, logistics support, participation in the naval blockade, and billions of dollars in weapons sales.

So let us bow our heads and give thanks for America’s continuation of the war of conquest that began five centuries ago and has evolved into the imperium’s onslaught against the poor and defenseless elsewhere in the world and its ruthless drive for hegemony, even when this means supporting the likes of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and other heartless rulers as long as our interests and theirs are closely aligned.

It’s an old story. Not that long ago, the U.S. and Iraq were bedfellows until Saddam Hussein broke the rules and had to be “taken out.” I wager the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is well-acquainted with the story of Saddam’s rise and fall, and the means by which the U.S. brought Iraq to its knees. In the first Persian Gulf War (1991), the U.S. military targeted Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, including water- and sewage-treatment plants, and the electrical system. And for over a decade, successive U.S. Administrations maintained a comprehensive embargo, allowing in only a trickle of humanitarian supplies. What we’re seeing in Yemen in year three of the war with Saudi Arabia is not that far a cry from what the Iraqi people endured under sanctions, imposed by the UN but enforced by the U.S. and UK. Severe malnutrition, the rise of communicable, water-borne diseases, and high rates of infant and maternal mortality were all directly related to the near-total destruction of Iraq’s civilians infrastructure and the continuation of a sanctions regime which prevented Iraq from importing necessary spare parts, restoring its electrical system to full capacity, and keeping the water-treatment plants running. Thanks largely to the role of the U.S. in making the Iraqi people pay for their leader’s intransigence, hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings, mostly the old, the young, and the poor, died.

According to Save the Children, disease and starvation—the poison fruits of the war between Yemen and Saudi Arabia—could very well claim the lives of more than 50,000 Yemini children by the end of the year. Right now, the Saudi-imposed and U.S.-condoned blockadeis killingan estimated 130 Yemeni children each and every day. One thing you can say for sure about the U.S. is that no matter which party is in power, geopolitical interests and objectives will almost always trump the need for compassion and humanity. I am thankful that Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy had the courage to stand up on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, November 14 to denounce U.S. support for the war in Yemen and to hold up photos of starving Yemeni children as graphic evidence of the suffering our support has enabled. And I am also thankful that the day before Senator Murphy’s address, “the House of Representatives voted 366-30 in favor of a non-binding resolution that said the U.S. role in the war had not been authorized by Congress.”

It will take much more than a non-binding resolution and a Senator’s act of conscience to stop the bloodshed in Yemen and bring an end to the war. I mourn for the victims of this war and when I sit down with friends on Thanksgiving day, I will think of the children in Yemen and in other parts of the world where there is not enough food or no food at all not because of drought or other natural causes, but because of the inhumanity that passes for leadership and the policies that come from men and women whose own hearts must have broken long ago, and who cannot feel the pain of their brothers and sisters, and take no responsibility for putting an end, once and for all, to this suffering.

I will be thankful that my wife and I have created a lasting marriage in which we honor and support each other’s choices, and I will be thankful for the friends with whom I will share the Thanksgiving meal, and for the many fine and courageous individuals in every part of the world who are doing everything in their power to build a truly revolutionary new world order founded upon the principles of justice and equality; men and women struggling to preserve and enhance the beauty of our all-too fragile planet and safeguard its riches for generations to come, and to oppose all those who would trample this beauty to death in the name of maximizing profits and controlling the lion’s share of Earth’s natural resources.

If Jonathan Swift were alive today, I can well imagine him considering the tragedy that is unfolding in Yemen. I don’t doubt for a moment that he would mourn the dying of so many innocents. Perhaps his satirical gifts would inspire him to pen another “modest proposal,” this time in response to the sight of so many starving, emaciated children. He would understand that their suffering and the suffering of their families are not accidental but rather the consequences of political stratagems in which the safety, health, and well-being of ordinary people have little or no value. He might also determine that the root cause of the conflict is Saudi Arabia’s fear and hatred of Shia Islam and its most powerful advocate—Iran. The solution to this conflict, therefore, would be to completely block the transmission of this religious doctrine and practice to the Kingdom and its neighboring countries, or so Swift might conclude.

To that end, I can well imagine him proposing the creation of the world’s largest mosque—a structure that would encompass the entire Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Construction would begin with the building of a wall around the country. While the wall is being built, a selection of the finest artists in the Arab world would design the qubba, or dome, large enough to sit comfortably on top of all sides of the wall. Skylights cut into the dome would allow ample sunlight into the Kingdom, and a massive air conditioning system would keep Saudi Arabia’s temperature at a moderate 75° Fahrenheit, or 24° Celsius.

Using its vast wealth, the Royal Family could afford to provide each of its citizens with a lifetime of financial support under one condition—that they would never question the authority of their rulers or conspire to foment revolution. With the Saudi version of Sunni Islam under lock and key, so to speak, the Kingdom would have no reason for waging war against its neighbors. The very idea would eventually be seen as ludicrous, irrational, unnecessary. To control the population of Shia Muslims and other minority groups living within the Kingdom, the offspring of these groups could be easily converted into kebab for the Royal Family, and its vast network of sycophants and tribal members.

Best of all, to keep the people happy and carefree, in addition to providing an indestructible, lifelong safety net, the Kingdom could install the latest laser technology to turn the country’s vast deserts into an awe-inspiring mirage of ocean vistas. The oceans, of course, would be hologram projections, as true to life as possible, complete with frolicking dolphins, breaching whales, boats under sail, and so forth.

With the entire country transformed into one vast prayer hall, all of human life, from its most humdrum tasks to its highest pursuits, would be an exercise in devotion. If they were so inclined, the Royal Family might also purchase naming rights from the Disney corporation and call their land the Magic Kingdom by the Sea (the Red Sea, actually). Tourists from all over the globe would flock to Saudi Arabia, thus generating an income stream equal to what it derives from its oil wealth. It’s quite likely that the country would be designated as one of the new Wonders of the World.

Granted, what Jonathan Swift might propose, were he alive today, does sound “over the top.” Personally, I would propose at the very least a moratorium on all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies, an unconditional end to the blockade, a major relief effort bringing in tons of life-saving supplies, and an independent investigation into war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition, its supporters—the U.S. and UK—and Houthi forces. And I would ask my fellow Americans to consider the plight of the people of Yemen, particularly the children, and do whatever is in their power to bring this tragedy to an end, starting perhaps with the use of social media or direct conversations with friends, co-workers, family members—informing them about the nature of this war and reminding them (gently, of course) that, as citizens of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful enabler, we have a responsibility to speak out against the violence, stand in solidarity with the victims of this violence, and advocate for Congressional action on behalf of the Yemeni people.

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on A Less than Modest Proposal to End the War in Yemen. “I am Writing This on Thanksgiving Eve”


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