Thursday, May 28, 2015

Yemen Back in the News + Three Million Internally Displaced Iraqis and Rising + French Move to Torpedo P5+1 + Bum Rush on for Renewal of Russian Sanctions

Recent ISIS victories in Ramadi and Palmyra crowded news of the Saudi terror bombing of Yemen not only off the front page of the newspaper but out of the Gray Lady altogether. Today's report from Mohammed Ali Kalfood and Kareem Fahim, "Medical Need Climbs Alongside Death Toll in Yemen," is the first full story to appear in The New York Times in ten days.

And the news is not good. The Saudis and the Houthis are engaged in cross-border clashes in Yemen's north; Saudis continue their aerial bombardment of Sana, regardless of the civilian death toll; and the basic infrastructure of the country is being thoroughly demolished, to the point now that it is estimated that one-third of Yemen's inhabitants are in need of urgent medical care. As Kalfood and Fahim report,
In the absence of negotiations, the military conflict has grown in intensity. Areas in northern Yemen near the Saudi border have become a fiercely contested front in recent weeks, with both the Houthis and the Saudis mounting a series of deadly cross-border attacks. 
The airstrikes in the capital on Wednesday morning followed a familiar pattern, with Saudi-led attacks against military targets in populated areas setting off secondary explosions that sent shrapnel hurtling toward civilian homes nearby. 
Witnesses said the airstrikes hit the headquarters of a counterterrorism unit that had received training and financing from the United States before the conflict. The attack occurred around 10:30 a.m., as Houthi recruits were gathering there to receive weapons. Explosions in the area continued for hours afterward, witnesses said. 
In a statement on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said that nearly 2,000 people had been killed in the fighting since March, including “hundreds of women and children.” Out of a population of 24 million, the organization said, some 8.6 million people “are in urgent need of medical help,” both for war-related injuries and for common medical conditions. 
Hospitals around the country have closed because of shortages of staff members and fuel, and medicines for diabetes, cancer and hypertension are no longer available. The organization added that “outbreaks of polio and measles are also serious risks.”
In Iraq, there are three million internally displaced persons. The UN estimates that number will grow by an additional one million as the Iraqi counteroffensive to retake Anbar builds momentum. Tim Arango, a rare Gray Lady reporter not known to peddle USG infowar talking points, toes the anti-Shiite line this morning with "Sunnis Fleeing ISIS Find Few Doors Open Elsewhere in Iraq." The gist of the story is that the Shiite-controlled Iraqi government is being ruthlessly sectarian by requiring refugees from Anbar to have a sponsor in Baghdad if they want to settle in the city.

Arango does include a modest one paragraph demurrer where he mentions that the Kurds are also loath to wave through refugees from the Sunni heartland:
Even in the northern Kurdish region, long a haven for civilians fleeing Iraq’s turmoil, the authorities are reluctant to accept large numbers of Arabs, worsening the country’s ethnic divisions and adding to the sense that the very cohesion of Iraq is being pulled apart.
The reason the government has some sort of policy in place on the internally displaced is to prevent jihadi suicide bombers from gaining unfettered access to Baghdad. Reasonable. One would expect far worse in the United States if it were facing similar pressures.

In any event, the United Nations has burned through the $500 million the Saudis donated last year to deal with the humanitarian crisis that their jihadis unleashed in Iraq. Now an additional $700 million is needed. I wonder what the total UN humanitarian budget for Yemen, Syria and Iraq is. Who is going to pay it?

The P5+1 negotiations seem to be going off the rails with French foreign minister Laurent Fabius demanding that any final deal must include "anytime, anywhere" inspections, something that Ayatollah Khamenei ruled out in a May 20 statement.

It seemed to me that the Israelis responded with unusual calm when Obama announced at the beginning of April a tentative accord with Iran on its nuclear program. The fact that AIPAC-ally Bob Corker worked so diligently with the administration to pass compromise legislation allowing a congressional role in reviewing the agreement without killing it also seemed odd to me.

All of which makes sense if the Netanyahu government has a fail safe in the form of a French veto. The Hollande government is truly one of the worst; it almost makes Cameron's Tories look bright and shiny.

Then there is the latest outbreak of incitement against Russia. Apparently the Kiev junta is blocking all cargo shipments from Russia to Crimea. This coincides with the latest infowar volley asserting Russian military penetration of Ukraine. Both I'm sure are meant to build support in the EU for a re-authorization of Russian sanctions set to sunset in July.

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