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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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Macron pisses off Merkel as he tries to sabotage Nord Stream 2 pipeline (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 177.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss an EU compromise for Nord Stream 2 where EU member states, the EU Parliament, and its Commission will give the bloc more oversight on gas pipelines, with one caveat…the Nord Stream 2 project with Russia will not be threatened by the new regulations in the agreement.

Macron pushed hard to have the new regulations include (and derail) Nord Stream 2, an action which annoyed Angela Merkel, who eventually got her way and delivered another blow to Macron’s failing French presidency.

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Via The Express UK

Angela Merkel hit back at Emmanuel Macron over Russia and Germany’s pipeline project, declaring it would “not be a one-sided dependency”. The German Chancellor explained that Germany will expand its gas terminals with “liquified gas”. Speaking at a press conference, Ms Merkel declared: “Do we become dependent on Russia because of this second gas pipeline? I say no, if we diversify. Germany will expand its gas terminals with liquefied gas.

“This means that we do not want to depend only on Russia, but Russia was a source of gas in the Cold War and will remain one.

“But it would not be one-sided dependency.”

Via DW

The EU parliament and its Council are set to adopt new regulations on gas pipelines connecting the bloc members with non-EU countries, the EU Commission announced early on Wednesday.

The upcoming directive is based on a compromise between EU member states and EU officials in Brussels. The bloc leaders agreed to tighten Brussels’ oversight of gas delivery and expand its rules to all pipelines plugging into the EU’s gas distribution network.

“The new rules ensure that… everyone interested in selling gas to Europe must respect European energy law,” EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said in a statement.

For example, owners of pipelines linking EU and non-EU countries would also be required to allow access for their competitors. Brussels would also have more power regarding transparency and tariff regulations.

Russian ambassador slams US

Brussels has repeatedly expressed concern over the controversial Nord Stream 2 project which would deliver Russian gas directly to Germany through a pipeline under the Baltic Sea. Many EU states oppose the mammoth project, and the US claims it would allow Moscow to tighten its grip on the EU’s energy policy.

Berlin has insisted that the pipeline is a “purely economic” issue.

Speaking to Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung daily, Russian ambassador to Berlin, Sergey Nechayev, slammed the US’ opposition as an attempt to “push its competition aside” and clear the way for American suppliers of liquefied gas.

“It’s hard to believe that a country that is destroying the rules of free and fair trade, that is imposing import tariffs on its competition, that is flying slogans like ‘America First’ on its flags and often threatens biggest European concerns with illegal sanctions, is now really concerned about European interests,” the Russian envoy said in remarks published in German on Wednesday.

Last week, France unexpectedly rebelled against the project, but Berlin and Paris soon reached a compromise. Thanks to their agreement, the latest deal is not expected to impede the ongoing construction of Nord Stream 2.

Citing sources from negotiators’ circles, German public broadcaster ARD reported that the deal left room for Germany to approve exceptions from the EU-wide rules.

According to the EU Commission, however, exceptions are “only possible under strict procedures in which the Commission plays a decisive role.”

The Gazprom-backed pipeline is set to be completed by the end of the year.

 

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UK Defence Secretary looking for a fight with both China and Russia (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 87.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s idea to deploy hard power against China and Russia, starting with plans to send Britain’s new aircraft carrier to the tense sea routes in the South China Sea.

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“Britain’s Gavin Williamson places Russia & China on notice, I’m not joking,” authored by John Wight, via RT

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is itching for conflict with Russia and China. He’s not mad. Not even slightly. But he is stupid. Very.

Unlike former fireplace salesman Gavin Williamson, I am no military expert. But then you do not need to be one to understand that while Britain going to war with Russia and China might work as a video game, the real thing would be an exceedingly bad idea.

So why then in a speech delivered to the Royal United Services Institute in London, did Mr Williamson’s argument on the feasibility of the real thing elicit applause rather than the shrieks of horror and demands he be sacked forthwith it should have? This is a serious question, by the way. It is one that cuts through British establishment verbiage to reveal a country ruled not by the sober and doughty political heavyweights of years gone by, but by foaming fanatics in expensive suits

Placing to one side for a moment the insanity of the very concept of Britain deploying hard power against Russia and/or China, the prospect of fighting a war against two designated enemies at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Not satisfied with that, though, Mr Williamson is actually contemplating a conflict with three different enemies at the same time – i.e. against Russia, China, and the millions of people in Britain his government is currently waging war against under the rubric of austerity.

“Today, Russia is resurgent,” Mr Williamson said, “rebuilding its military arsenal and seeking to bring the independent countries of the former Soviet Union, like Georgia and Ukraine, back into its orbit.”

For Mr Williamson and his ilk a resurgent Russia is a bad thing. Much better in their eyes if Russia, after the Soviet era in the 1990s, had remained on its knees as a free market desert; its state institutions in a state of near collapse and tens of millions of its citizens in the grip of immiseration. Yes, because in that scenario Western ideologues like him would have had free rein to rampage around the world as they saw fit, setting fire to country after country on the perverse grounds of ‘saving them’ for democracy.

As it is, he and his still managed to squeeze in a considerable amount of carnage and chaos in the years it did take Russia to recover. The indictment reads as follows: Yugoslavia destroyed; Afghanistan turned upside down; Iraq pushed into the abyss; Libya sent to hell.

By the time they turned their attention to Syria, intent on exploiting an Arab Spring that NATO in Libya transformed into an Arab Winter, Russia had recovered and was able to intervene. It did so in concert with the Syrian Arab Army, Iran and Hezbollah to save the day – much to the evident chagrin of those who, like Gavin Williamson, prefer to see countries in ashes rather than independent of Western hegemony.

As to the facile nonsense about Russia trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine back into its orbit, both countries happen to share a border with Russia and both countries, in recent years, have been used by the UK and its allies as cat’s paws with the eastward expansion of NATO in mind.

It gets worse though: “The Alliance must develop its ability to handle the kind of provocations that Russia is throwing at us. Such action from Russia must come at a cost.”

“Provocations,” the man said. Since British troops have been taking part in exercises on Russia’s doorstep, not the other way round, one wonders if Gavin Williamson wrote this speech while inebriated.

It is Russia that has been on the receiving end of repeated provocations from NATO member states such as the UK in recent times, and it is Russia that has been forced to respond to protect its own security and that of its people where necessary. Furthermore, not only in Russia but everywhere, including the UK, people understand that when you have political leaders intoxicated by their own national myths and propaganda to such an extent as Britain’s Defence Secretary, danger ensues.

The most enduring of those national myths where London is concerned is that the British Empire was a force for good rather than a vast criminal enterprise, that Britain and America won the Second World War together alone, that Iraq had WMDs, and that international law and international brigandage really are one and the same thing.

Perhaps the most preposterous section of the speech came when Mr Williamson tried to fashion a connection between Brexit and Britain’s military strength: “Brexit has brought us to a moment. A great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality, and increase our mass.”

Reading this, you can almost hear Churchill turning in his grave. Britain’s wartime prime minister had such as Gavin Williamson in mind when he famously said, “He has all the virtues I dislike, and none of the vices I admire.”

Mr Williamson obviously misread the memo talking up not the opportunity for increased conflict with China after Brexit but trade.

This was not a speech it was a linguistic car crash, one that will forever command an honoured place in compendiums of the worst political speeches ever made. As for Gavin Williamson, just as no responsible parent would ever dream of putting an 10-year old behind the wheel of car to drive unsupervised, no responsible British government would ever appoint a man like him as its Defence Secretary.

In years past, he would have struggled to find employment polishing the brass plate outside the building.

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The Birth Of A Monster

The banking establishment welcomed the Fed with open arms. What gives?

The Duran

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Authored by David Howden via The Mises Institute:


The Federal Reserve’s doors have been open for “business” for one hundred years. In explaining the creation of this money-making machine (pun intended – the Fed remits nearly $100 bn. in profits each year to Congress) most people fall into one of two camps.

Those inclined to view the Fed as a helpful institution, fostering financial stability in a world of error-prone capitalists, explain the creation of the Fed as a natural and healthy outgrowth of the troubled National Banking System. How helpful the Fed has been is questionable at best, and in a recent book edited by Joe Salerno and me — The Fed at One Hundred — various contributors outline many (though by no means all) of the Fed’s shortcomings over the past century.

Others, mostly those with a skeptical view of the Fed, treat its creation as an exercise in secretive government meddling (as in G. Edward Griffin’s The Creature from Jekyll Island) or crony capitalism run amok (as in Murray Rothbard’s The Case Against the Fed).

In my own chapter in The Fed at One Hundred I find sympathies with both groups (you can download the chapter pdf here). The actual creation of the Fed is a tragically beautiful case study in closed-door Congressional deals and big banking’s ultimate victory over the American public. Neither of these facts emerged from nowhere, however. The fateful events that transpired in 1910 on Jekyll Island were the evolutionary outcome of over fifty years of government meddling in money. As such, the Fed is a natural (though terribly unfortunate) outgrowth of an ever more flawed and repressive monetary system.

Before the Fed

Allow me to give a brief reverse biographical sketch of the events leading up to the creation of a monster in 1914.

Unlike many controversial laws and policies of the American government — such as the Affordable Care Act, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or the War on Terror — the Federal Reserve Act passed with very little public outcry. Also strange for an industry effectively cartelized, the banking establishment welcomed the Fed with open arms. What gives?

By the early twentieth century, America’s banking system was in a shambles. Fractional-reserve banks faced with “runs” (which didn’t have to be runs with the pandemonium that usually accompanies them, but rather just banks having insufficient cash to meet daily withdrawal requests) frequently suspended cash redemptions or issued claims to “clearinghouse certificates.” These certificates were a money substitute making use of the whole banking system’s reserves held by large clearinghouses.

Both of these “solutions” to the common bank run were illegal as they allowed a bank to redefine the terms of the original deposit contract. This fact notwithstanding, the US government turned a blind eye as the alternative (widespread bank failures) was perceived to be far worse.

The creation of the Fed, the ensuing centralization of reserves, and the creation of a more elastic money supply was welcomed by the government as a way to eliminate those pesky and illegal (yet permitted) banking activities of redemption suspensions and the issuance of clearinghouse certificates. The Fed returned legitimacy to the laws of the land. That is, it addressed the government’s fear that non-enforcement of a law would raise broader questions about the general rule of law.

The Fed provided a quick fix to depositors by reducing cases of suspensions of their accounts. And the banking industry saw the Fed as a way to serve clients better without incurring a cost (fewer bank runs) and at the same time coordinate their activities to expand credit in unison and maximize their own profits.

In short, the Federal Reserve Act had a solution for everyone.

Taking a central role in this story are the private clearinghouses which provided for many of the Fed’s roles before 1914. Indeed, America’s private clearinghouses were viewed as having as many powers as European central banks of the day, and the creation of the Fed was really just an effort to make the illegal practices of the clearinghouses legal by government institutionalization.

Why Did Clearinghouses Have So Much Power?

Throughout the late nineteenth century, clearinghouses used each new banking crisis to introduce a new type of policy, bringing them ever closer in appearance to a central bank. I wouldn’t go so far as to say these are examples of power grabs by the clearinghouses, but rather rational responses to fundamental problems in a troubled American banking system.

When bank runs occurred, the clearinghouse certificate came into use, first in 1857, but confined to the interbank market to economize on reserves. Transactions could be cleared in specie, but lacking sufficient reserves, a troubled bank could make use of the certificates. These certificates were jointly guaranteed by all banks in the clearinghouse system through their pooled reserves. This joint guarantee was welcomed by unstable banks with poor reserve positions, and imposed a cost on more prudently managed banks (as is the case today with deposit insurance). A prudent bank could complain, but if it wanted to use a clearinghouse’s services and reap the cost advantages it had to comply with the reserve-pooling policy.

As the magnitude of the banking crisis intensified, clearinghouses started permitting banks to issue the certificates directly to the public (starting with the Panic of 1873) to further stymie reserve drains. (These issues to the general public amounted to illegal money substitutes, though they were tolerated, as noted above.)

Fractional-Reserve Free Banking and Bust

The year 1857 is a somewhat strange one for these clearinghouse certificates to make their first appearance. It was, after all, a full twenty years into America’s experiment with fractional-reserve free banking. This banking system was able to function stably, especially compared to more regulated periods or central banking regimes. However, the dislocation between deposit and lending activities set in motion a credit-fueled boom that culminated in the Panic of 1857.

This boom and panic has all the makings of an Austrian business cycle. Banks overextended themselves to finance the booming industries during America’s westward advance, primarily the railways. Land speculation was rampant. As realized profits came in under expectations, investors got skittish and withdrew money from banks. Troubled banks turned to the recently established New York Clearing House to promote stability. Certain rights were voluntarily abrogated in return for a guarantee on their solvency.

The original sin of the free-banking period was its fractional-reserve foundation. Without the ability to fund lending activity with their deposit base, banks never would have financed the boom to the extent that it became a destabilizing factor. Westward expansion and investment would still have occurred, though it would have occurred in a sustainable way funded through equity investments and loans. (These types of financing were used, though as is the case today, this occurred less than would be the case given the fractional-reserve banking system’s essentially cost-free funding source: the deposit base.)

In conclusion, the Fed was not birthed from nothing in 1913. The monster was the natural outgrowth of an increasingly troubled banking system. In searching for the original problem that set in motion the events culminating in the creation of the Fed, one must draw attention to the Panic of 1857 as the spark that set in motion ever more destabilizing policies. The Panic itself is a textbook example of an Austrian business cycle, caused by the lending activities of fractional-reserve banks. This original sin of the banking system concluded with the birth of a monster in 1914: The Federal Reserve.

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