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UK supports Saudi led bloodbath in Yemen, strikes trade deal

Meanwhile, other nations are given ultimatums about handling their alleged human rights violations before any talks take place

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The Saudi led military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen has already led to the loss of nearly 10,000 lives, 50,000 wounded, and the worst Cholera outbreak in history. Domestically, Saudi Arabia has been home to a host of human rights violations, many of which are still ongoing, despite some reforms.

But all of this not particularly important to the British government, which is presently in a pinch to secure new trade deals as its participation in the EU comes to a close. The New Arab reports:

The foreign minister of Britain has defended the brutal Saudi-led military intervention in neighbouring Yemen, which has killed more than 9,300 people and wounded more than 50,000.

“Britain supports Saudi Arabia’s right to defend its national security against missile attacks from Yemen, many of which have targeted the Kingdom’s cities, including Riyadh,” Boris Johnson said.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson made the remarks in a statement on Thursday, as the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman makes a controversial visit to the UK.

Britain and Saudi Arabia have meanwhile agreed to strengthen inspections for shipments to Yemen to allow humanitarian aid to reach the war-torn country.

“Today we have agreed to strengthen the UN inspection of shipping in order to ensure that all Yemeni ports remain open to the humanitarian and commercial supplies that Yemen’s people so desperately need,” Johnson said.

Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a military intervention in Yemen in 2015 with the aim of rolling back Houthi rebels who had seized the capital and restoring the government to power.

Foodstuff imports have been restricted for months after Saudi Arabia and its allies blockaded Yemen’s ports, accusing Iran of supplying the rebels with ballistic missiles.

Prince Mohammed is on a three-day visit to Britain, which began with a lunch with Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday, and will see him hold the second of two meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May later Thursday.

Around 200 demonstrators lined up outside the gates of Downing Street on Wednesday evening to condemn Riyadh’s involvement in the brutal war in Yemen.

“Bin Salman is a war criminal,” the crowd shouted while holding up placards saying: “Hands off Yemen” and “Stop Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE”.

The UK has licensed £4.6 billion ($6.3 billion) worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since it began the intervention in neighbouring Yemen.

Meanwhile, the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman is in the midst of historic meetings with Queen Elizabeth, and also with Prime Minister Theresa May.

As the queen met with bin Salman, a heated argument went down in the British parliament, spearheaded by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, just prior to May’s own meeting with the crown prince to secure a 65 billion pound trade agreement. Which meeting seems to demonstrate that trade deals and profits are far more important than human lives, especially when they’re not British lives. France24 reports:

Prime Minister Theresa May defended Britain’s links to security ally Saudi Arabia on Wednesday as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Queen Elizabeth for lunch on a high-profile visit that drew protests over Riyadh’s human rights record.

A fiery exchange in parliament between May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn underlined tension in Britain over Prince Mohammed’s trip, which was aimed at building a broader economic partnership between the two countries, but has sparked anger about alleged human rights abuses and the war in Yemen.

“The link that we have with Saudi Arabia is historic, it is an important one, and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people in this country,” May said, pausing her answer briefly as opposition lawmakers cried “Shame!”. She was alluding to intelligence-sharing on Islamist militant suspects.

The debate took place as Prince Mohammed lunched with the British monarch on the first leg of a trip packed with displays of diplomatic affection designed to help widen long-standing defence ties into a more far-reaching partnership.

May later met Prince Mohammed at her Downing Street office, extending a warm diplomatic welcome to the conservative kingdom’s heir apparent and agreeing a 65 billion pound ($90.29 billion) trade and investment target.

Britain is looking for trading partners as it exits the European Union, and energy powerhouse Saudi Arabia needs to convince sceptical investors about its domestic reforms.

“This is a significant boost for UK prosperity and a clear demonstration of the strong international confidence in our economy as we prepare to leave the European Union,” a spokeswoman from May’s office said after the meeting.

But demonstrators gathered outside May’s office amid a heavy police presence to protest at both countries’ role in Yemen, where war has killed around 10,000 people. A Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily in Yemen in 2015 and critics say Riyadh has been using British-supplied weapons in devastating strikes.

“I don’t believe that someone like Mohammed bin Salman should be welcomed in Britain,” said Hassan Yassine, a 25-year-old customer service worker from London. “It is definitely not ethical, bearing in mind what is going on in Yemen every single day, every single second, even as we speak.”

Corbyn said British military advisers were “directing the war” in Yemen. May’s spokesman said British personnel had no role in carrying out coalition air strikes, and were not involved in Saudi targeting decisions.

Strategic partnership

Police said a man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage after an egg was thrown at a police vehicle as bin Salman’s motorcade arrived in Downing Street.

Wednesday’s first official engagement was a trip to Buckingham Palace to see Queen Elizabeth – a rare honour usually reserved for heads of state.

The Saudi delegation then met May at her offices to launch a UK-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council.

The meeting set out the mutual trade and investment target, which would include direct investment in Britain and new Saudi public procurement with British companies. This would be spread across sectors including finance, education, healthcare, renewable energy and defence, May’s office said.

Britain is vying to land the stock market listing of state oil firm Saudi Aramco, but no decision is expected this week.

“We would like the Aramco share option to be issued in the United Kingdom and we will continue to suggest the City would be the best place for it,” junior foreign office minister Alistair Burt told parliament.

Later this month Prince Mohammed visits the United States, which also wants the lucrative listing, although sources said both countries might miss out.

British officials were privately delighted at the decision by Prince Mohammed, 32, to choose Britain as the major Western destination on his first foreign trip since becoming heir to the Saudi throne last year.

The British government is keen to develop a two-way trade and investment relationship, eyeing both an expanded market in Saudi Arabia for service sector exports, and attracting Saudi cash to finance domestic projects.

For his part, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious heir wants to show that “shock” reforms have made his country a better place to invest and a more tolerant society.

Photographs posted online showed London taxis displaying advertising graphics welcoming Prince Mohammed, and electronic billboards around the capital promoted pro-Saudi messages with the hashtag #anewsaudiarabia.

Business deals are possible with British defence group BAE Systems and European weapons maker MBDA, and initial agreements could be concluded on gas exploration, petrochemicals and other industries, according to British and Saudi sources.

Royal treatment

The three-day visit will include a second Royal audience – dinner with Prince Charles and Prince William on Wednesday – and a prestigious visit to May’s country residence on Thursday.

The prime minister intends to use the private dinner at Chequers, a 16th-century manor house 40 miles (60 km) northwest of London, to further press her concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, her spokesman said.

The Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Iran-allied Houthi movement in Yemen in a campaign to restore its internationally recognised government, generating what the United Nations said in January is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Demonstrators are protesting against Britain for licensing 4.6 billion pounds of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since 2015.

May said all arms sales were strictly regulated, that Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the conflict was backed by the U.N. Security Council and her government supported it.

“The prime minister and crown prince agreed on the importance of full and unfettered humanitarian and commercial access, including through the ports, and that a political solution was ultimately the only way to end the conflict and humanitarian suffering in Yemen,“ the statement from May’s office said.

Meanwhile, other nations are given ultimatums about handling their alleged human rights violations before any talks take place, whether it be Iran, North Korea, Syria, etc, but not the Saudis. Any time they feel that their regime could be facing a threat, whether real or imagined, they are justified in whatever actions they take.

If it’s a nation that UK leaders don’t have the fondest relations with, they are not allowed to defend their sovereignty, they are bad guys, and a change in regime would be utterly fantastic, as we saw in Syria. If NATO claims that they support terrorists, then there is another reason to invade or blockade, but when NATO’s friends do it, well, just don’t pay attention to that.

This sort of behaviour leads to the conclusion that the concerns about human rights that some western nations yell so loudly about, even as an excuse to invade and topple regimes, is more of a political stunt to reshape the map in their favour than a peace keeping organization, or force for the protection of human life and liberty.

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Major Syrian Army Assault On Southeast Idlib As Sochi Deal Unravels

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months. 

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Via Zerohedge


The Syrian Army unleashed a major assault across the southeastern part of Idlib province on Saturday, a military source told Middle East news site Al-Masdar in a breaking report. According to the source, government forces pounded jihadist defenses across the southeast Idlib axis with a plethora of artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles.

This latest exchange between the Syrian military and jihadist rebels comes as the Sochi Agreement falls apart in northwestern Syria, and in response to a Friday attack by jihadists which killed 22 Syrian soldiers near a planned buffer zone around the country’s last major anti-Assad and al-Qaeda held region. The jihadist strikes resulted in the highest number of casualties for the army since the Sochi Agreement was established on September 17th.

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months.

The Al-Masdar source said the primary targets for the Syrian Army were the trenches and military posts for Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in the towns of Al-Taman’ah, Khuwayn, Babulin, Haish, Jarjanaz, Um Jalal, and Mashirfah Shmaliyah. In retaliation for the Syrian Army assault, the jihadist rebels began shelling the government towns of Ma’an, Um Hariteen, and ‘Atshan.

Damascus has been critical of the Sochi deal from the start as it’s criticized Turkey’s role in the Russian-brokered ceasefire plan, especially as a proposed ‘de-militarized’ zone has failed due to jihadist insurgents still holding around 70% of the planned buffer area which they were supposed to withdraw from by mid-October. Sporadic clashes have rocked the “buffer zone” since.

Russia itself recently acknowledged the on the ground failure of the Sochi agreement even as parties officially cling to it. During a Thursday press briefing by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova admitted the following:

We have to state that the real disengagement in Idlib has not been achieved despite Turkey’s continuing efforts to live up to its commitments under the Russian-Turkish Memorandum of September 17.

This followed Russia also recently condemning  “sporadic clashes” and “provocations” by the jihadist group HTS (the main al-Qaeda presence) in Idlib.

Likely due to Moscow seeing the writing on the wall that all-out fighting and a full assault by government forces on Idlib will soon resume, Russian naval forces continued a show of force in the Mediterranean this week.

Russian military and naval officials announced Friday that its warships held extensive anti-submarine warfare drills in the Mediterranean. Specifically the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s frigates Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen conducted the exercise in tandem with deck-based helicopters near Syrian coastal waters.

Notably, according to TASS, the warships central to the drill are “armed with eight launchers of Kalibr-NK cruise missiles that are capable of striking surface, coastal and underwater targets at a distance of up to 2,600 km.”

Since September when what was gearing up to be a major Syrian-Russian assault on Idlib was called off through the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement, possibly in avoidance of the stated threat that American forces would intervene in defense of the al-Qaeda insurgent held province (also claiming to have intelligence of an impending government “chemical attack”), the war has largely taken a back-burner in the media and public consciousness.

But as sporadic fighting between jihadists and Syrian government forces is reignited and fast turning into major offensive operations by government forces, the war could once again be thrust back into the media spotlight as ground zero for a great power confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

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Trump Quietly Orders Elimination of Assange

The destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government.

Eric Zuesse

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On June 28th, the Washington Examiner headlined “Pence pressed Ecuadorian president on country’s protection of Julian Assange” and reported that “Vice President Mike Pence discussed the asylum status of Julian Assange during a meeting with Ecuador’s leader on Thursday, following pressure from Senate Democrats who have voiced concerns over the country’s protection of the WikiLeaks founder.” Pence had been given this assignment by U.S. President Donald Trump. The following day, the Examiner bannered “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms” and reported that the White House had told the newspaper, “They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.”

On August 24th, a court-filing by Kellen S. Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, stated: “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure [than sealing the case, hiding it from the public] is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged. … This motion and the proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.” That filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. On November 15th, he posted an excerpt of it on Twitter, just hours after the Wall Street Journal had reported on the same day that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange. However, now that we know “the fact that Assange has been charged” and that the U.S. Government is simply waiting “until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” it is clear and public that the arrangements which were secretly made between Trump’s agent Pence and the current President of Ecuador are expected to deliver Assange into U.S. custody for criminal prosecution, if Assange doesn’t die at the Ecuadorean Embassy first.

On November 3rd (which, of course, preceded the disclosures on November 15th), Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, described in detail what has happened to her son since the time of Pence’s meeting with Ecuador’s President. She said:

He is, right now, alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, and being tortured in the heart of London. … He has been detained nearly eight years, without trial, without charge. For the past six years, the UK Government has refused his requests to exit for basic health needs, … [even for] vitamin D. … As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. … A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes. … They will stop at nothing. … When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador, a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He said that because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally…   to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. … The extradition warrant is held in secret, four prosecutors but no defense, and no judge, … without a prima-facie case. [Under the U.S. system, the result nonetheless can be] indefinite detention without trial. Julian could be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison, or face the death penalty,” for “espionage,” in such secret proceedings.

Her phrase, “because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high” refers to the worry that this new President of Ecuador has, of his cooperating with the U.S. regime’s demands and thereby basically ceding sovereignty to those foreigners (the rulers of the U.S.), regarding the Ecuadorian citizen, Assange.

This conservative new President of Ecuador, who has replaced the progressive President who had granted Assange protection, is obviously doing all that he can to comply with U.S. President Trump and the U.S. Congress’s demand for Assange either to die soon inside the Embassy or else be transferred to the U.S. and basically just disappear, at Guantanamo or elsewhere. Ecuador’s President wants to do this in such a way that Ecuador’s voters won’t blame him for it, and that he’ll thus be able to be re-elected. This is the type of deal he apparently has reached with Trump’s agent, Pence. It’s all secret, but the evidence on this much of what was secretly agreed-to seems clear. There are likely other details of the agreement that cannot, as yet, be conclusively inferred from the subsequent events, but this much can.

Basically, Trump has arranged for Assange to be eliminated either by illness that’s imposed by his Ecuadorean agent, or else by Assange’s own suicide resulting from that “torture,” or else by America’s own criminal-justice system. If this elimination happens inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, then that would be optimal for America’s President and Congress; but, if it instead happens on U.S. soil, then that would be optimal for Ecuador’s President. Apparently, America’s President thinks that his subjects, the American people, will become sufficiently hostile toward Assange so that even if Assange disappears or is executed inside the United States, this President will be able to retain his supporters. Trump, of course, needs his supporters, but this is a gamble that he has now clearly taken. This much is clear, even though the rest of the secret agreement that was reached between Pence and Ecuador’s President is not.

Scooter Libby, who had arranged for the smearing of Valerie Plame who had tried to prevent the illegal and deceit-based 2003 invasion of Iraq, was sentenced to 30 months but never spent even a day in prison, and U.S. President Trump finally went so far as to grant him a complete pardon, on 13 April 2018. (The carefully researched docudrama “Fair Game” covered well the Plame-incident.) Libby had overseen the career-destruction of a courageous CIA agent, Plame, who had done the right thing and gotten fired for it; and Trump pardoned Libby, thus retroactively endorsing the lie-based invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast, Trump is determined to get Julian Assange killed or otherwise eliminated, and even Democrats in Congress are pushing for him to get that done. The new President of Ecuador is doing their bidding. Without pressure from the U.S. Government, Assange would already be a free man. Thus, either Assange will die (be murdered) soon inside the Embassy, or else he will disappear and be smeared in the press under U.S. control. And, of course, this is being done in such a way that no one will be prosecuted for the murder or false-imprisonment. Trump had promised to “clean the swamp,” but as soon as he was elected, he abandoned that pretense; and, as President, he has been bipartisan on that matter, to hide the crimes of the bipartisan U.S. Government, and he is remarkably similar in policy to his immediate predecessors, whom he had severely criticized while he was running for the Presidency.

In any event, the destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government; and, just like in Khashoggi’s case, the nation’s ruler controls the prosecutors and can therefore do whatever he chooses to do that the rest of the nation’s aristocracy consider to be acceptable.

The assault against truth isn’t only against Assange, but it is instead also closing down many of the best, most courageous, independent news sites, such as washingtonsblog. However, in Assange’s case, the penalty for having a firm commitment to truth has been especially excruciating and will almost certainly end in his premature death. This is simply the reality. Because of the system under which we live, a 100% commitment to truth is now a clear pathway to oblivion. Assange is experiencing this reality to the fullest. That’s what’s happening here.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Libya’s Peace Process Dies in Palermo

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet to sort out their differences.

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Authored by Richard Galustian for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:


“Resounding flop” was the verdict of Italy’s former prime minister Matteo Renzi on this week’s Libya peace conference held in Palermo. He’s not wrong. The conference hosted by Italy’s new government achieved the remarkable feat of making Libya’s tensions worse, not better. Acrimony broke out between the parties, and Turkey’s delegation walked out, its vice president Fuat Oktay accusing unnamed States of trying to “hijack the process.”

Some sources in Palermo suggested, yet to be verified, that the US thought the Conference was not too bad: a joke if true.

Moreover the mystery we might ask is what “process” is there to hijack? Because the truth is, the peace plan the conference was supporting is already dead.

That plan was the brainchild of the United Nations, launched more than a year ago with the aim of ending Libya’s split between warring Eastern and Western governments with elections in December.

Even before the first delegates set foot in the pleasant Sicilian city of Palermo this week, the UN admitted the election date of December 10 they had decided to scrap.

The eastern government, led by the parliament in Tobruk, had made moves in the summer to organize a referendum on a new constitution which would govern the elections. But no referendum was held, and most Libyans agree it would be pointless because Tripoli, home to a third of the country’s population, is under the iron grip of multiple warring militias who have the firepower to defy any new elected government. Hours after the delegates left Palermo, those militias began a new bout of fighting in the Tripoli suburbs.

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end of the talks was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet in a grand conference to sort out their differences – and this after four years of civil war. To say that chances of this are slim is an understatement.

Dominating the Palermo talks, and indeed Libya’s political landscape, was and is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, the country’s most powerful formation. In four years, the LNA has secured Libya’s key oil fields and Benghazi, its second city, ridding most of the east Libya of Islamist militias.

Haftar met reluctantly negotiators in Palermo, but insisted he was not part of the talks process. The Italian government press office said Haftar was not having dinner with the other participants nor joining them for talks. Haftar specifically opposed the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood champion, Qatar, at the event along with Turkey.

Haftar clearly only attended because he had a few days before visiting Moscow – which sent to Sicily Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – and because also of Egyptian President Sisi’s presence along with his allies.

Possibly Haftar was simply fed up. Twice in the past two years he has attended previous peace talks, hosted each time in Paris, giving the nod to declarations that Libya’s militias would dissolve. Yet the militias remain as strong as ever in Tripoli.

Haftar is detested by the militias and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) but supported by a large segment of the population – 68 percent, according to an opinion poll by America’s USAID. His popularity is based on a single policy – his demand that security be in the hands of regular police and military, not the militias.

Not everyone is happy, certainly not Turkey, which is backing Islamist, MB and Misratan forces in western Libya who detest Haftar. Yet Turkey’s greatest statesman, the great Kamal Ataturk, was a champion of secularism: After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War One Turkey faced the prospect of utter disintegration, and it was Attaturk who rose to the challenge, defending the country’s borders, while ordering that the mullahs, while responsible for spiritual welfare, have no political power.

Political Islam is not popular in Libya either. Libya is a Muslim country, its people know their faith, and most want government to be decided through the ballot box.

The problem for Libya is what happens next with the peace process broken. Haftar has in the past threatened to move on Tripoli and rid the militias by force if they refuse to dissolve, and it may come to that – a fierce escalation of the civil war.

The second possibility is that Libya will split. The east is, thanks to the LNA, militarily secure. It also controls two thirds of the country’s oil and operates as a separate entity, down to it banknotes, which are printed in Russia while the Tripoli government’s are printed in Britain. A formal split would be an economic boon for the lightly populated east, but a disaster for Tripolitania, its population losing most of the oil, its only source of export income.

Yet with the failure of peace talks, and no sign of Tripoli militias dissolving, military escalation or breakup seem more likely than ever.

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