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Russia’s Sanaa pullout is a sharp rebuke to the Houthis

There has yet to be a clearer indication of Russia’s opposition to the Houthis than Moscow’s diplomatic withdrawal from Sanaa following the group’s assassination of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Andrew Korybko

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Negating The Narrative

Right off the bat, any reader who frequents the Alt-Media Community needs to leave aside what they think they know about Russia’s policy towards Yemen before continuing with this article. There have been several misleading but “politically correct” narratives spreading through this information space since the beginning of the 2014 War on Yemen, one of which is the very nature of this conflict itself. The prevailing notion is that it’s an international war, which is true in some regards, but overlooks the civil war dynamics that drove it in the first place. More specifically, this is the regional conflict between the Houthis and President Hadi in what was previously known as North Yemen, and then the overspill of this conflict into the former territory of South Yemen after the Houthis captured Aden. It was only then, when the rest of the country was on the verge of coming under the Houthis’ control, that the Saudi-led coalition intervened and began its merciless bombing campaign and naval blockade of Yemen.

The War on Yemen is thus a multidimensional conflict with both domestic and international components, and this should have been clear to all objective observers from the outset.

Nevertheless, there is a strong disposition in the Alt-Media Community to take narrative cues – both stated and implied – from Iran when formulating analytical angles in addressing events such as this one, and it’s for that reason why the myth has pervaded that the Houthis are a National Liberation Movement for all of Yemen. It’s indeed true that they function in this regard when it comes to the old realm of North Yemen, but they’re distinctly seen as invaders by many of the people in South Yemen. The author himself, prior to learning more about the deeper nuances of this conflict, was admittedly under a similar spell in only seeing the short-term and subjective “positives” of the movement, but the passing of time and intense research has revealed that the Houthis aren’t the “picture perfect” National Liberation Movement that they’re made out to be by Iran and its friendly supporters in the Alt-Media Community. As a case in point, the Houthis slayed Saleh and showed the world that they won’t accept a “compromised” peace agreement with the coalition.

Haunted By The Houthis

The assassination of the former Yemeni President removed any hope for state-level “international legitimacy” that the Houthis could have ever dreamed to receive from Russia, and with this militia now fully in control of the capital after carrying out its “deep state” coup against its former General People’s Congress (GPC) allies (to be fair, they claim it was in response to them “backstabbing” the Houthis first), it’s understandable why Moscow wouldn’t consider this as a safe environment for its diplomats. Just like ousted President Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia, so too are the Russian diplomats going there as well, at least until the situation stabilizes, which might imply the Houthis reaching a real power-sharing agreement with Saleh’s GPC or another group as opposed to essentially sidelining the former after their leader was killed off. Also, it might have escaped the notice of most Alt-Media readers, but Russia has always continued to recognize Hadi as Yemen’s legitimate President, and recently signed an arms deal with coalition leader Saudi Arabia that included grenade launchers and heavy flame systems that could eventually see battlefield use in Yemen.

However, for as much as Russia has remained pro-Hadi, it hasn’t been anti-Houthi either. Russia did, in fact, retain a diplomatic presence in Sanaa despite the forces of what Moscow officially considers to be the country’s legitimate president not being in control of the capital. That, though, was during the time that Saleh was still alive and his GPC was in an actual alliance with the Houthis. Now that this wartime coalition is basically disbanded for all practical intents and purposes, Russia might fear that it can’t trust the Houthis to protect its diplomatic facility or personnel. After all, Russia and the Houthis’ hated nemesis Saudi Arabia are in the process of a fast-moving and comprehensive rapprochement, one which must been seen askance by them and their partners in Iran. Furthermore, considering that reports claim that Russian doctors saved Saleh’s life in mid-October after the historic visit of Saudi King Salman to Moscow, there’s a chance that the country’s diplomats might have feared that they’d become the target of Houthi retribution after the group’s former ally “betrayed” them.

Piecing Together The Proof

Altogether, Russia’s support for ousted President Hadi, its rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, and previous medical intervention in saving  the life of former President Saleh come together in such a way that it would be both “diplomatically inappropriate” and possibly even outright dangerous for Moscow to retain its diplomatic presence in the Houthi-controlled capital of Sanaa after Saleh’s slaying. So as not to be misunderstood, there are no credible reports that the Houthis threatened Russia’s diplomats, but it might have just been enough for Russia’s Saudi partner to hint as much in order for Moscow to take preventative action in avoiding what it could have been fear mongered to think could become its own Benghazi, especially bearing in mind how four journalist hostages – one of whom might be a Sputnik freelance correspondent – apparently died under Houthi captivity. At the same time, however, Russia is coordinating its peacemaking efforts in Syria with the Houthis’ Iranian partner, so Moscow had to announce its diplomatic withdrawal from Sanaa in a sensitive manner so as to not risk Tehran’s ire and inadvertently jeopardize the deep level of trust that undergirds their joint Astana efforts.

It should be self-evident at this point that Russia does not, never did, nor ever will support the Houthis, and that Moscow simply tolerated them so long as they were allied with Saleh and the former (and at one recent point, possibly hoped-for future) state figure was alive. As a result of “EuroMaidan”, Russia is reluctant to ever recognize what it views to be the unconstitutional overthrow of any national leader, no matter how valid the motives for opposing that individual may have been, but Alt-Media has hitherto had a tendency to pretend that this wasn’t the case, possibly out of fear that emphasizing a lack of agreement with Iran on any issue at all would somehow undermine their cooperation in Syria. Should that have been the reason, though, then it would be silly and self-deluded because it suggests that passive information consumers outside of any of the relevant countries’ decision-making (“deep state”) apparatuses are somehow capable of deciding the course of international partnerships at the state-to-state level, which isn’t true but remains a popular Alt-Media delusion.

The Art Of “Balancing”

By withdrawing from Sanaa, Russia is showing the world in an indirect way (per the political sensitivities of its partnership with Iran) that it doesn’t feel safe keeping its diplomats in the capital after the Houthi takeover of Sanaa, the execution of former President Saleh by the group, and the possible death of four of the 41 journalists (one of whom might be a freelance Sputnik correspondent) that were taken hostage by them in the aftermath, with the unsaid message being that the Houthis might constitute a very real security threat to Russia’s citizens. This conclusion contradicts the prevailing narrative spread across many Alt-Media platforms for nearly the past three years and reveals it to have either been deliberately self-serving or terribly short-sighted, either of which were proven at the end of the day to be wrong. No matter what might have been alleged in the past, it’s now obvious that Russia was only tolerating the Houthis because of Saleh, not as part of some tacitly executed “master plan” with Iran to irk Saudi Arabia, the second of which is now a very close Russian partner.

In fact, Russia and Saudi Arabia are now on such close terms with one another nowadays that it wouldn’t be surprising if Riyadh warned Moscow about an imminent bombing campaign against the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital, which could have been all that it took to convince any second-guessing Russians of the need to withdraw from Sanaa as soon as possible. Nonetheless, it should be remembered that Russia isn’t inherently anti-Houthi by any stretch of the imagination, and is likely involved in backstage diplomatic efforts to encourage the application of its Syrian model to the Yemeni conflict, which could entail third-party-brokered (Russian) peace talks, the categorization of non-state militias into “moderates” and “terrorists”, “de-escalation zones”, constitutional “reform”, and new internationally supervised elections, all of which are key elements of UNSC Res. 2254 and the Astana peace process. Russia wouldn’t preclude pragmatically incorporating the Houthis into a “political solution” to the War on Yemen, but nor will it ever favor them when it has more to gain by “balancing” between all parties instead, with Russia’s policy being guided solely by realpolitik and not in any way influenced by Alt-Media’s “wishful thinking” fantasies.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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I think the assassination came about because Saudi Arabia corrupted Russia at gun deal profit point when Russia sold its arms to Saudi Arabia, it was too good a deal: Russia could not turn it down [blackmail], part of that corrupt deal required Russia to lean on Saleh to become a Saudi coalition puppet, it really was just like the white house Saudi Puppet MBS tried to do in arresting and detaining the PM of Lebanon (Saad al-Hariri) both events happened at about the same time,, .. http://www.mirror.co.uk] mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/hezbollah-leader-accuses-. When the Hauthis discovered Russia would deal with Iran to invoke… Read more »

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FBI recommended Michael Flynn not have lawyer present during interview, did not warn of false statement consequences

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

Washington Examiner

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Via The Washington Examiner…


Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who arranged the bureau’s interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 — the interview that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea on one count of making false statements — suggested Flynn not have a lawyer present at the session, according to newly-filed court documents. In addition, FBI officials, along with the two agents who interviewed Flynn, decided specifically not to warn him that there would be penalties for making false statements because the agents wanted to ensure that Flynn was “relaxed” during the session.

The new information, drawn from McCabe’s account of events plus the FBI agents’ writeup of the interview — the so-called 302 report — is contained in a sentencing memo filed Tuesday by Flynn’s defense team.

Citing McCabe’s account, the sentencing memo says that shortly after noon on Jan. 24 — the fourth day of the new Trump administration — McCabe called Flynn on a secure phone in Flynn’s West Wing office. The two men discussed business briefly and then McCabe said that he “felt that we needed to have two of our agents sit down” with Flynn to discuss Flynn’s talks with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

McCabe, by his own account, urged Flynn to talk to the agents alone, without a lawyer present. “I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between [Flynn] and the agents only,” McCabe wrote. “I further stated that if LTG Flynn wished to include anyone else in the meeting, like the White House counsel for instance, that I would need to involve the Department of Justice. [Flynn] stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

Within two hours, the agents were in Flynn’s office. According to the 302 report quoted in the Flynn sentencing document, the agents said Flynn was “relaxed and jocular” and offered the agents “a little tour” of his part of the White House.

“The agents did not provide Gen. Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. 1001 before, during, or after the interview,” the Flynn memo says. According to the 302, before the interview, McCabe and other FBI officials “decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport.”

The agents had, of course, seen transcripts of Flynn’s wiretapped conversations with Russian then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “Before the interview, FBI officials had also decided that if ‘Flynn said he did not remember something they knew he said, they would use the exact words Flynn used … to try to refresh his recollection. If Flynn still would not confirm what he said … they would not confront him or talk him through it,'” the Flynn memo says, citing the FBI 302.

“One of the agents reported that Gen. Flynn was ‘unguarded’ during the interview and ‘clearly saw the FBI agents as allies,'” the Flynn memo says, again citing the 302.

Later in the memo, Flynn’s lawyers argue that the FBI treated Flynn differently from two other Trump-Russia figures who have pleaded guilty to and been sentenced for making false statements. One of them, Alexander Van der Zwaan, “was represented by counsel during the interview; he was interviewed at a time when there was a publicly disclosed, full-bore investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election; and he was given a warning that it is a federal crime to lie during the interview,” according to the memo. The other, George Papadopoulos, “was specifically notified of the seriousness of the investigation…was warned that lying to investigators was a ‘federal offense’…had time to reflect on his answers…and met with the FBI the following month for a further set of interviews, accompanied by his counsel, and did not correct his false statements.”

The message of the sentencing memo is clear: Flynn, his lawyers suggest, was surprised, rushed, not warned of the context or seriousness of the questioning, and discouraged from having a lawyer present.

That is all the sentencing document contains about the interview itself. In a footnote, Flynn’s lawyers noted that the government did not object to the quotations from the FBI 302 report.

In one striking detail, footnotes in the Flynn memo say the 302 report cited was dated Aug. 22, 2017 — nearly seven months after the Flynn interview. It is not clear why the report would be written so long after the interview itself.

The brief excerpts from the 302 used in the Flynn defense memo will likely spur more requests from Congress to see the original FBI documents. Both House and Senate investigating committees have demanded that the Justice Department allow them to see the Flynn 302, but have so far been refused.

In the memo, Flynn’s lawyers say that he made a “serious error in judgment” in the interview. Citing Flynn’s distinguished 30-plus year record of service in the U.S. Army, they ask the judge to go along with special counsel Robert Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn be spared any time in prison.

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Macron offers crumbs to protestors in bid to save his globalist agenda (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at French President Macron’s pathetic display of leadership as he offers protestors little in the way of concessions while at the same time promising to crack down hard on any and all citizens who resort to violence.

Meanwhile France’s economy is set for a deep recession as French output and production grinds to a halt.

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Via Zerohedge


As if Brussels didn’t have its hands full already with Italy and the UK, the European Union will soon be forced to rationalize why one of its favorite core members is allowed to pursue populist measures to blow out its budget deficit to ease domestic unrest while another is threatened with fines potentially amounting to billions of euros.

When blaming Russia failed to quell the widespread anger elicited by his policies, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the increasingly violent “yellow vests” protesters who have sacked his capital city by offering massive tax cuts that could blow the French budget out beyond the 3% budget threshold outlined in the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Given the concessions recently offered by Italy’s populists, Macron’s couldn’t have picked a worse time to challenge the bloc’s fiscal conventions. As Bloomberg pointed out, these rules will almost certainly set the Continent’s second largest economy on a collision course with Brussels. To be clear, Macron’s offered cuts come with a price tag of about €11 billion according to Les Echos, and will leave the country with a budget gap of 3.5% of GDP in 2019, with one government official said the deficit may be higher than 3.6%.

By comparison, Italy’s initial projections put its deficit target at 2.4%, a number which Europe has repeatedly refused to consider.

Macron’s promises of fiscal stimulus – which come on top of his government’s decision to delay the planned gas-tax hikes that helped inspire the protests – were part of a broader ‘mea culpa’ offered by Macron in a speech Monday night, where he also planned to hike France’s minimum wage.

Of course, when Brussels inevitably objects, perhaps Macron could just show them this video of French police tossing a wheelchair-bound protester to the ground.

Already, the Italians are complaining.  Speaking on Tuesday, Italian cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said Italy hasn’t breached the EU deficit limit. “I repeat that from the Italian government there is a reasonable approach, if there is one also from the EU a solution will be found.”

“France has several times breached the 3% deficit. Italy hasn’t done it. They are different situations. There are many indicators to assess.”

Still, as one Guardian columnist pointed out in an op-ed published Tuesday morning, the fact that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) organizers managed to pressure Macron to cave and grant concessions after just 4 weeks of protests will only embolden them to push for even more radical demands: The collapse of the government of the supremely unpopular Macron.

Then again, with Brussels now facing certain accusations of hypocrisy, the fact that Macron was pressured into the exact same populist measures for which Italy has been slammed, the French fiasco raises the odds that Rome can pass any deficit measure it wants with the EU now forced to quietly look away even as it jawbones all the way from the bank (i.e., the German taxpayers).

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

While we look forward to how Brussels will square this circle, markets are less excited.

Exhausted from lurching from one extreme to another following conflicting headlines, traders are already asking if “France is the new Italy.” The reason: the French OAT curve has bear steepened this morning with 10Y yields rising as much as ~6bp, with the Bund/OAT spread reaching the widest since May 2017 and the French presidential election. Though well below the peaks of last year, further widening would push the gap into levels reserved for heightened political risk.

As Bloomberg macro analyst Michael Read notes this morning, it’s hard to see a specific near-term trigger blowing out the Bund/OAT spread but the trend looks likely to slowly drift higher.

While Macron has to fight on both domestic and European fronts, he’ll need to keep peace at home to stay on top. Remember that we saw the 10Y spread widen to ~80bps around the May ’17 elections as concerns of a move toward the political fringe played out in the markets, and the French President’s popularity ratings already look far from rosy.

And just like that France may have solved the Italian crisis.

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Watch: Democrat Chuck Schumer shows his East Coast elitism on live TV

Amazing moment in which the President exhibits “transparency in government” and shows the world who the Democrat leaders really are.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency was because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – against Democrat policy decisions and “stupid government” in general.

One of the reasons President Donald Trump is reviled is because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – in the American political scene.

In other words, there are two reactions to the same characteristic. On Tuesday, the President did something that probably cheered and delighted a great many Americans who witnessed this.

The Democrats have been unanimous in taking any chance to roast the President, or to call for his impeachment, or to incite violence against him. But Tuesday was President Trump’s turn. He invited the two Democrat leaders, presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and then, he turned the cameras on:

As Tucker Carlson notes, the body language from Schumer was fury. The old (something)-eating grin covered up humiliation, embarrassment and probably no small amount of fear, as this whole incident was filmed and broadcast openly and transparently to the American public. Nancy Pelosi was similarly agitated, and she expressed it later after this humiliation on camera, saying, “It’s like a manhood thing for him… As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

She didn’t stop there. According to a report from the New York Daily News, the Queen Bee took the rhetoric a step below even her sense of dignity:

Pelosi stressed she made clear to Trump there isn’t enough support in Congress for a wall and speculated the President is refusing to back down because he’s scared to run away with his tail between his legs.

“I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild,” Pelosi said of the Oval Office meet, which was also attended by Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

This represented the first salvo in a major spin-job for the ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat. The rhetoric spun by Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was desperate as they tried to deflect their humiliation and place it back on the President:

With reporters still present, Trump boasted during the Oval meeting he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t earmark cash for his wall before a Dec. 21 spending deadline.

Pelosi told Democrats that Trump’s boisterousness will be beneficial for them.

“The fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment.”

The press tried to characterize this as a “Trump Tantrum”, saying things like this lede:

While “discussing” a budgetary agreement for the government, President Donald Trump crossed his arms and declared: “we will shut down the government if there is no wall.”

While the Democrats and the mainstream media in the US are sure to largely buy these interpretations of the event, the fact that this matter was televised live shows that the matter was entirely different, and this will be discomfiting to all but those Democrats and Trump-dislikers that will not look at reality.

There appears to be a twofold accomplishment for the President in this confrontation:

  1. The President revealed to his support base the real nature of the conversation with the Democrat leadership, because anyone watching this broadcast (and later, video clip) saw it unedited with their own eyes. They witnessed the pettiness of both Democrats and they witnessed a President completely comfortable and confident about the situation.
  2. President Trump probably made many of his supporters cheer with the commitment to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall funding. This cheering is for both the strength shown about getting the wall finished and the promise to shut the government down, and further, Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be “proud” to shut the government down, taking complete ownership willingly, reflects a sentiment that many of his supporters share.

The usual pattern is for the media, Democrats and even some Republicans to create a “scare” narrative about government shutdowns, about how doing this is a sure-fire path to chaos and suffering for the United States.

But the educated understanding of how shutdowns work reveals something completely different. Vital services never close. However, National Parks can close partly or completely, and some non-essential government agencies are shuttered. While this is an inconvenience for the employees furloughed during the shutdown, they eventually are re-compensated for the time lost, and are likely to receive help during the shutdown period if they need it. The impact on the nation is minimal, aside from the fact that the government stops spending money at the same frenetic pace as usual.

President Trump’s expression of willingness to do this action and his singling out of the Dem leadership gives the Democrats a real problem. Now the entire country sees their nature. As President Trump is a populist, this visceral display of Democrat opposition and pettiness will make at least some impact on the population, even that group of people who are not Trump fans.

The media reaction and that of the Democrats here show, amazingly, that after three years-plus of Donald Trump being a thorn in their side, they still do not understand how he works, and they also cannot match it against their expected “norms” of establishment behavior.

This may be a brilliant masterstroke, and it also may be followed up by more. The President relishes head-to-head conflict. The reactions of these congress members showed who they really are.

Let the games begin.

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