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Big change in Yemen conflict as former President Saleh swaps sides

The Houthis are now officially alone, fighting every other faction–and they still appear to be holding everyone off.

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The current conflict in Yemen has been shaken by the apparent defection of Ali Abdullah Saleh to the Saudis and de-facto to the Aden based government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Initially, the apparent defection of Saleh resulted in troops personally loyal to him fighting Houthi rebels in the capital of Sana’a.

Arabic media initially reported that on the 2nd of December, forces loyal to Saleh were in control of most of Sana’a, but by early morning on the 3rd, Houthis claimed to have reversed their losses due to a new military push by Houthi fighters and defectors from Saleh’s forces who had decided to remain loyal to the Houhi’s.

To understand the significance of this, it is important to understand the background of both “Presdents” Saleh and Hadi.

1990 saw the neighbouring states of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen), unite as the Republic of Yemen, under the Presidency of North Yemeni Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The united state which was shaky from the beginning was torn apart in 1994 during the first of many civil conflicts in post-1990 Yemen. During that war, Southern born Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi sided not with southern rebels but with the Saleh government in Sana’a. Saudi Arabia notably broke with the United States to side with the leftist rebels of the South.

Ultimately, the Southern forces lost and Yemen became reunited. Hadi who had risen to the rank of Defence Minister during the conflict, was rewarded for his loyalty with the appointment of Vice President of Yemen.

Stability in Yemen however, was always tenuous due to the competing interests of various factions and individuals. 1994 saw the formation of a new opposition group, rallying around their leader Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi. After Hussein’s death in 2004, the group’s leadership fell to Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi. The Houthi movement officially known as Ansar Allah (Supporters of God), continued to make demands on the central government for a fairer distribution of wealth, less corruption and a more democratic representation for follows of Zaidi of Fiver Shi’a Islam. Zaidi Shias make up around 40% of Yemen’s population with most of the rest of Yemenis being Sunni. The Christian population of the country is comparatively negligible.

At the same time, after 2007, a group in southern Yemen called the Southern Movement formed. This group agitates for the re-creation of Southern Yemen and is made up of a combination of pan-Arabist socialists, hard-line Marxist-Leninist who seek to restore the Soviet model of their former state and also some Takfiri/Salafist elements. The movement in this sense while influential to a degree, is also far from a coherent political/ideological unit.

The Southern Movement and the ambiguities of the civil war in Yemen

In 2011, mass protests formed against President Saleh. As the poorest country in the Arab world, a diverse set of forces mobilised against Saleh accusing him of economic deprivation of the country, corruption and incompetence. Among participating groups in the protest were the Houthi movement and the Southern Movement. Other forces included al-Qaeda terrorists. ISIS formed syndicates in Yemen in subsequent years. Ultimately, the Houthis did not participate in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) brokered settlement.

In 2012, Saleh stepped down and was replaced by Vice President Hadi and his term was later extended by a GCC brokered accord.

Although the Houthis tentatively supported the changes in 2011, the subsequent reforms did not meet the expectation of the Houthi movement. In particularly, Houthis resented an attempt to create new federal units in the country.

Consequently in 2015, Houthis stormed the Presidential palace, ultimately forcing Hadi to flee. Since then Saleh, whom the Houthis once protested against, has become a supporter of the Houthi rebellion. Saleh was initially highly important to the Houthis. As the longest severing President of the Republic of Yemen (united Yemen), he instantly lent credibility to an otherwise localised movement. As a long serving former President who had conversations with leaders ranging from Bill Clinton to Vladimir Putin, Saleh was somewhat necessary to the Houthis in order to be taken seriously on an international level, not least because Yemen is often the ‘ignored country’ in an Arab world that for decades has been watched closely by major international powers.

At the same time, Hadi fled to the former Southern capital of Aden where he allied with a combination of Southern Movement leftists, Takfiri groups and ultimately with the GCC coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE (Qatar quit the coalition in 2017 and has subsequently criticised Saudi Arabia on state owned media outlets).

In recent months, following a trend of the last year or so, Saleh has become increasingly dispensable to the Houthis. As a political leader Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi has proved himself to be not only capable but inspiring, while Saleh has been exposed as something of an opportunist, simply trying to align himself with that he felt was the winning side so that he could act as President of the country he formally ruled between 1990 and 2012.

Now though, it would appear that Saleh has switched sides after doing a deal with the Saudis. While the details or even the existence of the deal cannot be fully confirmed. Saleh recently appeared on television urging for a truce with what he called “our Saudi brothers”.

The rise of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) in Saudi Arabia, has seen him eager to end the war in Yemen which he fuelled as Saudi Arabia’s Defence Minister. The war has been uniformly disastrous from all perspectives. Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombings have caused a humanitarian crisis, the likes of which have not been seen in the 21st century. The Saudi led blockade of Houthi controlled Yemen has caused a Cholera outbreak, mass starvation and untold deaths, especially among children.

From the Saudi perspective, Riyadh and MBS in particular faces the embarrassing situation of not being able to subdue a Houthi fighting force whose weapons are technically no match for Saudi Arabia’s ultra-modern US made jets and missiles.

In order to justify this embarrassment, Saudi media regularly claims that Houthis are being armed by Iran or even more absurdly by Lebanon’s Hezbollah. However, this is logistically impossible as Iran would have to either airlift weapons to Yemen or else break the Saudi naval blockade and this simply hasn’t happened. Hezbollah of course, has neither an air force nor a navy. Others have claimed that Houthis are being supplied via arms dealers working in Oman. This claim is vehemently denied by the Omani authorities and because there is no credible evidence of Houthis being armed via Oman, this would appear to be another Saudi lie designed to excuse their military incompetence.

The inevitable Houthi falling out with Saleh has come at a time with Houthis have exploited political instability in Saudi Arabia with more frequent missile attacks. The missiles used are medium to short range ballistics that Houthis have seized from Yemeni military bases. They are far cruder than modern Iranian operated weapons, but still occasionally land hits on Saudi territory in spite of Saudi’s advanced US anti-missile defence systems. The accuracy of such missiles is still not entirely clear as frequently, Houthis claim to have struck Saudi targets, while the Saudis typically claim they intercepted the missiles. In the fog of a war which few reporters have access to, it is anyone’s guess who is being more honest in this respect, although on many occasions, Houthis do post videos which appear to confirm their narrative of success against the richest country in the Arab world.

Saleh’s defecting to the Saudi side appears to be engineered by Riyadh and agreed upon by Saleh who was almost certainly offered a large cash incentive to turn on the Houthis. While in public, Saudi Arabia is now claiming to welcome a truce offered by Saleh, in reality, a personal deal between Saleh and Riaydh is the far more likely expiation before Saleh’s offer.

Subsequent to this development, Houthi online social media outlets have been quick to discredit Saleh. Claiming to have taken Saleh’s compound in Sana’a, they released a photograph showing a table filled with luxury alcoholic drinks, something which would infuriate the pious followers of Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi.

This all leads one to conclude that where the Yemeni conflict once was between factions loyal to one of two Yemeni Presidents (Saleh and Hadi), now the conflict is officially one where the Houthis are fighting everyone else, including Hadi’s forces, Saleh’s forces who have turned on the Houthis and more importantly, the military of Saudi Arabia.

The Houthi star among the wider Islamic Resistance has grown due to their ability to see off a vastly more powerful Saudi led onslaught ever since 2015.

If the Houthis are able to continue holding off Saudi Arabia, even without Saleh on their side, the embarrassment for Saudi Arabia will be all the more apparent. The Houthis do not need to “win”, they simply need Saudi to lose, in order to claim a meaningful victory. The Saudis on the other hand, need to take Sana’a in order to justify their aggressive war to their own side which is experiencing an onset of war fatigue.

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Beijing Threatens “Severe” Retaliation Against Canada If Huawei CFO Is Not Released

China’s warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony.

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Via Zerohedge


Canada’s extraordinary arrest one week ago of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder and billionaire executive Ren Zhengfei, and its decision to charge her with “multiple” counts of fraud – a preamble to her likely extradition to the US to face charges of knowingly violating US and EU sanctions on Iran – has elicited widespread anger in Beijing, which declared Meng’s detention a “violation of human rights” during a bail hearing for the jailed executive on Friday.

That anger has apparently only intensified after the hearing adjourned without a decision (it will resume on Monday, allowing Meng’s defense team to argue for why she should be released on bail, contrary to the wishes of government attorneys who are prosecuting the case).

And with Canada insisting that it will prosecute Meng to the full extent of the law over allegations that she mislead banks about the true relationship of a Huawei subsidiary called Skycom, angry Chinese officials have decided to issue an ultimatum directly to the Canadian ambassador, who was summoned to a meeting in Beijing on Saturday and told in no uncertain terms that Canada will face “severe consequences” if Meng isn’t released, according to the Wall Street Journal.

China’s foreign ministry publicized the warning in a statement (though Canadian officials have yet to comment):

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, John McCallum, on Saturday to deliver the warning, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The statement doesn’t mention the name of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, though it refers to a Huawei “principal” taken into custody at U.S. request while changing planes in Vancouver, as was Ms. Meng. The statement accuses Canada of “severely violating the legal, legitimate rights of a Chinese citizen” and demands the person’s release.

“Otherwise there will be severe consequences, and Canada must bear the full responsibility,” said the statement, which was posted online late Saturday.

Phone calls to the Canadian Embassy rang unanswered while the Canadian government’s global affairs media office didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment.

The warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony. A federal judge issued a warrant for Meng’s arrest back in August. Though after she was made aware of the warrant, Meng avoided travel to the US. She was arrested in Vancouver last Saturday while traveling to Mexico.

Aside from breaking off trade talks, some are worried that Beijing could seek to retaliate in kind by arresting a notable US executive. While the threats of Chinese bureaucrats might not amount to much in the eyes of US prosecutors, threatening a US executive with long-term detention in a Chinese “reeducation camp” just might.

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The trials of Julian Assange

Eresh Omar Jamal interviews Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi in relation to the situation of Julian Assange.

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Authored by Eresh Omar Jamal for The Daily Star (Bangladesh):


Stefania Maurizi is an investigative journalist working for the Italian daily La Repubblica. She has worked on all WikiLeaks releases of secret documents and partnered with Glenn Greenwald to reveal the Snowden Files about Italy. She has authored two books—Dossier WikiLeaks: Segreti Italiani and Una Bomba, Dieci Storie. In an exclusive interview with Eresh Omar Jamal of The Daily Star, Maurizi talks about the continued arbitrary detention of Julian Assange, why powerful governments see WikiLeaks as an existential threat, and the implications for global press freedom if Assange is prosecuted for publishing secret government documents.

You recently had the chance to visit Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. When was this and can you describe the state he is in?

I was able to visit him on November 19, after 8 months of failed attempts, because last March the Ecuadorian authorities cut off all his social and professional contacts, with the exception of his lawyers, and in the preceding 8 months, I had asked for permission to visit him nine times without success—the Ecuadorian authorities didn’t reply at all to my requests.

When I was finally granted permission to visit the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy in London last November, I was literally shocked to see the huge impact his isolation has had on his health. Because I have worked as a media partner with him and his organisation, WikiLeaks, for the last nine years, I have met him many times and can tell when there are any changes in his body and mind. I wondered how his mind could keep working; but after talking to him in the embassy for two hours, I have no doubt that his mind is working fine. I still wonder how that’s possible after six and a half years of detention without even one hour of being outdoors. I would have had a physical and mental breakdown after just 6 months, not after 6 years.

Detention and isolation are killing him slowly, and no one is doing anything to stop it. The media reports, the commentators comment, but at the end of the day, he is still there; having spent the last six and a half years confined to a tiny building with no access to sunlight or to proper medical treatment. And this is happening in London, in the heart of Europe. He is not sitting in an embassy in Pyongyang. It is truly tragic and completely unacceptable. And I’m simply appalled at the way the UK authorities have contributed to his arbitrary detention, and have opposed any solution to this intractable legal and diplomatic quagmire.

Having bravely defended Assange for years, the Ecuadorian government in late March cut off almost all his communications with the outside world. What prompted this turnabout and what is its purpose?

Politics has completely changed in Ecuador, and more in general, in Latin America, since 2012, when Ecuador granted Julian Assange asylum. I have never had any interviews with the current Ecuadorian President, Mr Lenin Moreno, but based on his public declarations, it’s rather obvious to me that he does not approve of what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks do.

With all his problems, Rafael Correa (former president of Ecuador) protected Assange from the very beginning, whereas Lenin Moreno considers him a liability. Moreno is under pressure from the right-wing politicians in Ecuador, and also from very powerful governments, like the US and UK governments, who will leave no stones unturned to jail Assange and destroy WikiLeaks. I am not sure how long Lenin Moreno will hold out against this immense pressure, provided that he wants to hold out at all.

Assange was vindicated not so long ago as to why he cannot leave the embassy when the US Department of Justice “accidentally” revealed in November that the founder of WikiLeaks had been secretly charged in the US. What do you think those charges are for?

It’s hard to say unless the charges get declassified and I really appreciate how the US organisation, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is fighting before the court in the Eastern District of Virginia, US, to have the charges declassified.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the US authorities have always wanted to charge him for WikiLeaks’ publications. They have wanted to do so from the very beginning, since 2010, when WikiLeaks released its bombshell publications like the US diplomatic cables.

But the US authorities have been unable to do so due to the fact that WikiLeaks’ publication activities enjoy constitutional protection thanks to the First Amendment. So it will be very interesting to see how they will get around this constitutional protection in order to be able to charge him and other WikiLeaks journalists and put them all in jail.

Why have some of the most powerful governments and intelligence agencies invested so much resources to attack Assange and WikiLeaks?

You have to realise what it meant for the US national security complex to witness the publication of 76,000 secret documents about the war in Afghanistan, and then another 390,000 secret reports about the war in Iraq; followed by 251,287 US diplomatic cables and 779 secret files on the Guantanamo detainees; and to watch WikiLeaks save Edward Snowden, while the US was trying everything it could do, to show the world that there is no way of exposing the NSA’s secrets and keep your head attached to your neck having done so.

You have to realise what this means in an environment like that of the US, where even the most brilliant national security reporters didn’t dare to publish the name of the head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, Michael D’Andrea, even though his name and the abuses committed by his centre were open secrets within their inner circles. Although the New York Times finally did, later on. But this was and still is the reality in the US, and even though it may not be as bad in the UK, it’s still quite bad. Look at what happened with the arrest of Glenn Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, at the Heathrow Airport during the publication of the Snowden Files. Look at what happened with The Guardian being forced to destroy its hard drives during the publication of those files.

There are different levels of power in our societies and generally in our western democracies, criticism against the low, medium and high levels of power via journalistic activities is tolerated. Journalists may get hit with libel cases, have troubles with their careers; however, exposing those levels is permitted. The problem is when journalists and media organisations touch the highest levels, the levels where states and intelligence agencies operate.

WikiLeaks is a media organisation that has published secret documents about these entities for years, and Julian Assange and his staff have done this consistently, not occasionally like all the other media organisations do. You can imagine the anger these powerful entities have towards WikiLeaks—they perceive WikiLeaks as an existential threat and they want to set an example that says, “Don’t you dare expose our secrets and crimes, because if you do, we will smash you.”

If Assange is prosecuted, what impact might it have on other publishers and journalists and on press freedom globally?

It will have a huge impact and that is why organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union are speaking out. Never before in the US has an editor and media organisation ended up in jail for publishing information in the public interest. If Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks’ staff end up in jail, it will be the first time in US history and will set a devastating precedent for attack on press freedom in the US, but actually, not only in the US. Because if a country like the US, in which the activities of the press enjoy constitutional protection, treats journalists this way, you can imagine how other countries where the press doesn’t enjoy such strong protection will react. It will send a clear message to them: “Your hands are free.”

At the end of the day, I think there are two sides to this Assange and WikiLeaks saga: the US-UK national security complex, but more in general, I would say, the people within the national security complex, who want to destroy Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to send a clear message to journalists: “Don’t mess with us if you don’t want your lives to be destroyed.” While on the other side, there are the freedom of the press guys, meaning journalists like me, who want to demonstrate the exact opposite: that we can expose power at the highest levels, we can expose the darkest corners of governments and come out alive and well. And actually, we must do this, because real power is invisible and hides in the darkest corners.

Eresh Omar Jamal is a journalist for The Daily Star (Bangladesh). You can find him on Twitter: @EreshOmarJamal and Stefania Maurizi: @SMaurizi

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Diplomacy a Waste of Time with Washington

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

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Authored by Stephen Lendman:


The US is a serial lawbreaker, operating by its own rules, no others.

Time and again, it flagrantly breaches international treaties, Security Council resolutions, and other rule of law principles, including its own Constitution.

Diplomacy with Republicans and undemocratic Dems is an exercise in futility.

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s proposed US outreach to discuss INF Treaty bilateral differences is well intended – despite knowing nothing is accomplished when talks with Washington are held, so why bother.

It’s just a matter of time before the US breaches another promise. They’re hollow when made. Kremlin good intentions aren’t enough to overcome US duplicity and implacable hostility toward Russia.

“We are ready to continue the dialogue in appropriate formats on the entire range of problems related to this document on the basis of professionalism and mutual respect, without putting forward unsubstantiated accusations and ultimatums. Our proposals are well known and remain on the negotiating table,” said Zakharova, adding:

“We have admitted (US) documents for further consideration. This text again includes accusations in the form of unfounded and unsubstantiated information about Russia’s alleged violations of this deal.

Comments to Washington like the above and similar remarks are like talking to a wall. The US demands all countries bend to its will, offering nothing in return but betrayal – especially in dealings with Russia, China, Iran, and other sovereign independent governments it seeks to replace with pro-Western puppet ones.

Not a shred of evidence suggests Russia violated its INF Treaty obligations. The accusation is baseless like all others against the Kremlin.

“No one has officially or by any other means handed over to Russia any files or facts, confirming that Russia breaches or does not comply with this deal,” Zakharova stressed, adding:

“We again confirm our consistent position that the INF Treaty is one of the key pillars of strategic stability and international security.”

It’s why the Trump regime intends abolishing it by pulling out. Strategic stability and international security defeat its agenda. Endless wars and chaos serve it.

The US, UK, France, Israel, and their imperial partners get away with repeated international law breaches because the EU, UN, and rest of the world community lack backbone enough to challenge them.

It’s how it is no matter how egregious their actions, notably their endless wars of aggression, supporting the world’s worst tinpot pot despots, and failing to back the rights of persecuted Palestinians and other long-suffering people.

The only language Republicans and Dems understand is toughness. Putin pretends a Russian/US partnership exists to his discredit – a show of weakness, not strength and responsible leadership.

In response to the Trump regime’s intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty, he said Russia will “react accordingly” – precisely what, he didn’t say.

A few suggestions, Mr. President.

  • Recall your ambassador to Washington. Expel the Trump regime’s envoy from Moscow and other key embassy personnel.
  • Arrest US spies in Russia you long ago identified. Imprison them until the US releases all Russian political prisoners. Agree to swap US detainees for all of them, no exceptions.
  • Install enough S-400 air defense systems to cover all Syrian airspace. Warn Washington, Britain, France and Israel that their aircraft, missiles and other aerial activities in its airspace will be destroyed in flight unless permission from Damascus is gotten – clearly not forthcoming.
  • Publicly and repeatedly accuse the above countries of supporting the scourge of ISIS and likeminded terrorists they pretend to oppose.
  • Warn them in no uncertain terms that their aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic no longer will be tolerated. Tell them the same goes if they dare attack Iran.
  • Stop pretending Mohammad bin Salman didn’t order Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, along with ignoring the kingdom’s horrendous human rights abuses domestically and abroad – including support for ISIS and other terrorists.
  • Put observance of rule of law principles and honor above dirty business as usual with the kingdom and other despotic regimes for profits.
  • Do the right things at all times and damn the short-term consequences – including toughness on Washington, the UK, Israel, and their imperial partners in high crimes of war and against humanity.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

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