Monday, January 11, 2016

The Criminal U.S.-Saudi Air War on Yemen: This is What Perpetual War Looks Like

If there was anything close to accountability or reciprocity in international relations one would think that there would be sanctions leveled against Saudi Arabia and all (principally the United States) nations that are participating in the Saudi war on Yemen. Yesterday Kareem Fahim reported ("Hospital Aided by Doctors Without Borders Is Bombed in Yemen") that another hospital has been destroyed.
CAIRO — A hospital in northern Yemen supported by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders was struck by ordnance early Sunday, killing at least four people and causing several buildings to collapse, the organization said in a statement. 
It was the third time in three months that a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Yemen had been damaged or destroyed. At least 10 people were wounded in the latest attack, including three staff members. 
The medical charity said it could not confirm which party in Yemen’s civil war had fired what it called a “projectile,” but said that “planes were seen flying over the facility at the time.”
A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia controls the skies over Yemen, and has carried out thousands of bombing runs in the country since entering the war last March. At least one other projectile fell near the hospital, Doctors Without Borders said.

The hospital, called Shiara, is in the northern Saada Province, in the Razeh District, near the border with Saudi Arabia. Fierce fighting along the frontier between Saudi troops and Yemen’s Houthi rebels has devastated many border towns and displaced thousands of people, according to aid workers. Attacks on clinics and hospitals have left the province with only one major medical facility, forcing people to travel hours to receive even basic treatment.

In October, coalition warplanes destroyed a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Haydan District, near Razeh. Then, in early December, the coalition bombed one of the group’s mobile clinics in southern Taiz Province. The Shiara hospital was bombed previously, in September, before Doctors Without Borders became involved with it, the group said.

“All warring parties, including the Saudi-led coalition, are regularly informed of the GPS coordinates of the medical facilities where M.S.F. works,” said Raquel Ayora, the director of operations for Doctors Without Borders, in the statement referring to the group by its French abbreviation.

“We are in constant dialogue with them to ensure that they understand the severity of the humanitarian consequences of the conflict and the need to respect the provision of medical services,” she said. “There is no way that anyone with the capacity to carry out an airstrike or launch a rocket would not have known that the Shiara Hospital was a functioning health facility providing critical services and supported by M.S.F.”

The Saudi-led coalition is fighting to restore the Yemeni president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was driven from power last year by the Houthi rebels, a group from northern Yemen. More than 2,800 civilians have been killed in the fighting so far, with the majority of people killed by coalition bombing, according to the United Nations.

The Saudi-led coalition, which is backed by the United States and Britain, came under renewed criticism last week for dropping cluster munitions on Sana, the Yemeni capital, killing at least one person.
U.S. officials have been keeping silent because they are providing targeting information to the Saudi air coalition; furthermore, the U.S. has shown a willingness of its own to a blow apart a Doctors Without Borders hospital and murder those seeking care, as it did in Kunduz in early October.

The most serious repercussions so far was the spat that broke out at the end of last week between UN officials and officials of the Saudi-puppet Yemeni-government-in-exile of Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The top UN human rights official in Yemen, George Abu al-Zulof, was expelled from the country for criticizing the Saudis for using cluster bombs. Then Zulof's expulsion was quickly rescinded. Someone in the State Department probably got on the phone to Riyadh and said that this was a public relations fight the despotic monarchy could not behead their way out of. Colum Lynch reported on Friday in "U.N. Chief to U.S.-Backed Saudi Air Coalition: You May Be Committing War Crimes in Yemen" that
Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, warned Friday that a Saudi-led air coalition that is supported by the United States may have committed war crimes by using cluster munitions in heavily populated neighborhoods in Yemen.
The U.N. chief has “received troubling reports of the use of cluster munitions” in several Jan. 6 attacks in Sanaa, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at the world body’s headquarters in New York. “The use of cluster munitions in populated areas may amount to a war crime due to their indiscriminate nature.” [Of course this is a war crime. The use of "may" by Ban Ki-moon grants the U.S.-Saudi coalition permission to continue committing these crimes. The analogy here is to the Israeli "mowing the grass" in Gaza.]
The warning came one day after the exiled Yemeni human rights minister announced plans to expel the U.N.’s top human rights official in the country, George Abu al-Zulof, on charges that the mission had shown bias toward Houthi rebel forces. The move to expel Zulof — who was already outside Yemen when the announcement was made — came just days after the U.N. issued a tough statement criticizing the coalition’s recent use of cluster bombs.
But Yemen’s U.N. ambassador, Khaled Alyemany, reversed the minister’s decision, assuring the U.N. chief in a letter Friday that “there is no such decision from the government” to declare Zulof persona non grata, Alyemeny told Foreign Policy Friday evening.
In his letter to Ban, Alyemany said his government had only expressed “dissatisfaction” with Zulof’s performance in a January 6 letter to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, and asked that he be replaced, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by FP. But Alyemany insisted that his government had never demanded that Zulof be declared persona non grata.
“Because of the fuss created around the matter and caused by media reports…claiming that the Yemeni government government ordered the expulsion…,” he wrote. “The Yemeni government has decided to give more time to review the relationship with” the high commissioner’s office.
On Friday, Zeid had protested the Yemeni governments call for the removal of its U.N.’s senior rights advocate as “unwarranted” and called on Yemen to reverse the decision.
The latest crisis has proved particularly awkward for Washington, which has provided intelligence, targeting information, and logistical support to the air coalition. Dujarric said he could not confirm whether the munitions were American-made. But he said, “As a matter of principle, those who sell arms also bear some responsibility in how they are used.” 
The United States supplied the Saudi military with cluster bombs between 1970 and 1995. 
Dujarric said the U.N. “will not stop reporting” on Yemen’s human rights situation. To drive home the point, he read a statement from Ban describing deepening concern about the plight of Yemeni civilians.

The secretary-general, Dujarric said, “is deeply concerned about the intensification of coalition airstrikes and ground fighting and shelling in Yemen, despite repeated calls for a renewed cessation of hostilities.”

He said Ban is particularly worried about intense airstrikes, including those that reportedly hit the capital’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a wedding hall, and a center for the blind among residential and civilian targets in Sanaa.

The Obama administration has encouraged its coalition partners “to avoid civilians’ casualties” and stressed the importance of “precise targeting,” a State Department official told FP.

In a Jan. 7 report, Human Rights Watch again accused Saudi Arabia of dropping cluster bombs on Sanaa, including photographs of the munitions’ remnants. The State Department official said Foggy Bottom is reviewing the findings — though previous reports detailing Riyadh’s use of cluster munitions have failed to change U.S. policy.

The U.S. official declined to directly comment when asked whether the United States is at all culpable for Saudi Arabia’s use of cluster munitions, given the American arms shipments and political support for the bombing campaign. However, the official said, Washington has “encouraged coalition forces to investigate all credible accounts of civilian casualties as a result of coalition strikes” — and to publicly release those findings.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies intervened in Yemen last March to restore power to the country’s deposed leader, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was driven from power by Shiite Houthi separatists in January 2015 and placed under house arrest. On March 25, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia, one day after asking Gulf countries and the Arab League for military intervention in Yemen. The next day, a coalition of Gulf states — led by Saudi Arabia and with help from the United States — opened an air war against the Houthis.

U.N. officials have described intense suffering by Yemeni civilians who have either been killed or injured during airstrikes. The coalition also imposed a naval blockade on ports in Aden and Hudaydah, cutting off vital imports of food, fuel, medicine, and other essential supplies into the country.

“Conditions of life have become untenable for the vast majority of people in Yemen,” Zeid told the Security Council last month, detailing the needs of an estimated 21 million people — 80% of the population — that rely on humanitarian assistance. About half of Yemenis suffer from malnutrition, Zeid said, adding: “The combined impact of violence and artificial impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance has proved disastrous.”
Clearly the Saudis are out of control and the Obama administration has proven unwilling to confront them and unable to rein them in. Rebecca Gordon at the end of November wrote a story, "Home, Sweet Kleptocracy: Kabul in America," that goes some distance in explaining why:
. . . [A]ccording to the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International (TI), our country [the United States] comes in only 17th in the least-corrupt sweepstakes, trailing European and Scandinavian countries as well as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In fact, TI considers us on a par with Caribbean island nations like Barbados and the Bahamas. In the U.S., TI says, “from fraud and embezzlement charges to the failure to uphold ethical standards, there are multiple cases of corruption at the federal, state and local level.” 
And here’s a reasonable bet: it’s not going to get better any time soon and it could get a lot worse. When it comes to the growth of American corruption, one of TI’s key concerns is the how the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision opened the pay-to-play floodgates of the political system, allowing Super PACs to pour billions of private and corporate money into it, sometimes in complete secrecy. Citizens United undammed the wealth of the super-rich and their enablers, allowing big donors like casino capitalist -- a description that couldn’t be more literal -- Sheldon Adelson to use their millions to influence government policy.
Right now there is an unholy alliance between Zionist neocons and the Gulf sheikhs to destroy Iran. Between the two camps there is so much wealth and influence it is hard to imagine a scenario where war doesn't continue to spiral out of control. Certainly there are plenty of people in government who can see what is going on and know that it is wrong. The problem is that all the rules on "pay to play" have been rewritten. We are in an era of "no limits" to concentrated wealth.

With that in mind it is worth reading Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's interpretation, "Saudi Arabia’s Reckless Extremism" of al-Saud's recent bellicosity:
Let us not forget that the perpetrators of many acts of terror, from the horrors of Sept. 11 to the shooting in San Bernardino and other episodes of extremist carnage in between, as well as nearly all members of extremist groups like Al Qaeda and the Nusra Front, have been either Saudi nationals or brainwashed by petrodollar-financed demagogues who have promoted anti-Islamic messages of hatred and sectarianism for decades.
The Saudi strategy to derail the nuclear agreement and perpetuate — and even exacerbate — tension in the region has three components: pressuring the West; promoting regional instability through waging war in Yemen and sponsoring extremism; and directly provoking Iran. Riyadh’s military campaign in Yemen and its support for extremists are well known. Provocations against Iran have not grabbed international headlines, primarily thanks to our prudent restraint. 
The Iranian government at the highest level unequivocally condemned the assault against the Saudi embassy and consulate in Tehran on Jan. 2, and ensured the safety of Saudi diplomats. We took immediate measures to help restore order to the Saudi diplomatic compound and declared our determination to bring perpetrators to justice. We also took disciplinary action against those who failed to protect the embassy and have initiated an internal investigation to prevent any similar event.

By contrast, the Saudi government or its surrogates have over the past three years directly targeted Iranian diplomatic facilities in Yemen, Lebanon and Pakistan — killing Iranian diplomats and locals. There have been other provocations, too. Iranian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia have endured systematic harassment — in one case, Saudi airport officers molested two Iranian boys in Jeddah, fueling public outrage. Also, Saudi negligence was to blame for the stampede during the recent hajj, which left 464 Iranian pilgrims dead. Moreover, for days, Saudi authorities refused to respond to requests from grieving families and the Iranian government to access and repatriate the bodies.
This is not to mention the routine practice of hate speech not only against Iran but against all Shiite Muslims by Saudi Arabia’s government-appointed preachers. The outrageous beheading recently of Sheikh Nimr was immediately preceded by a sermon of hatred toward Shiites by a Grand Mosque preacher in Mecca, who last year said that “our disagreement with Shiites will not be removed, nor our suicide to fight them” as long as Shiites remained on the earth.
I think most Westerners, minus Zionists and those FOX viewers who cannot distinguish between a Sunni Salafist and a Hezbollah fighter, agree with Zarif. The problem is the U.S. government is controlled by concentrated wealth. So the 99% don't really have a say about the Saudis.

Conclusion? Whether a global war of Armageddon or several simultaneous but smaller theaters of conflict, there is nothing but war for as far as the eye can see.

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