Tuesday, March 31, 2015

الاتجاه المعاكس-إيران أم السعودية.. من المسؤول عن أزمات اليمن؟

"عاصفة الحزم" تستهدف اللواء 33 في الضالع

DNA 31/03/2015: إيران..البحر الأحمر..وعاصفة الحزم

The destructive legacy of Arab liberals

By Joseph Massad

Link

It has become commonplace to present Arab Islamists of all political stripes (liberals, conservatives, radicals, neoliberals, moderates, extremists, nonviolent, violent, etc.) as a most, if not the most, dangerous political force in the Arab world since the 1967 War.
In fact, and as the following will show, it has been a new brand of Arab liberals — secularists and Islamists (though the former have been far more dangerous) — who have been and continue to be a most dangerous and destructive political force in the post-1967 Arab world.
The Western, Israeli and Saudi war against Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasserand anti-imperialist Arab nationalism required the birth of a new liberal intelligentsia. Their emergence on the scene in the late 1950s and in the 1960s, before the war, was part of the American-sponsored “cultural Cold War,” which financed intellectuals across the world for the anti-communist and anti-socialist liberal imperial crusade that also targeted anti-imperialist Third World nationalisms.
This was part and parcel of the Eisenhower Doctrine, which the Americans inaugurated in 1957 to intervene militarily and in every other way in the Middle East to fend off Soviet influence. It was in this context that the US intervened in Lebanon in 1958 against Arab nationalism with Saudi- and US-funded Lebanese liberals cheering on in the liberal press.
Many of these liberal Arab intellectuals were lackeys of US intelligence and they and their newspapers were financed by the US and Gulf regimes, especially the Saudis. They would exalt the virtues of the liberal West against Soviet and non-Soviet forms of communism and socialism and would attack Nasserist Arab nationalism.
While some would argue that Arab liberals are not true to the liberal tradition, I am less concerned with how well they approximate an imaginary Western liberalism, or whether they are “true” or “false” liberals, than with the fact that they present themselves and are presented by others as adhering to “liberal” principles. These include free parliamentary and executive elections, freedom of expression and of the press, freedom of association, civilian control of government and the military, a capitalist economy and varying degrees of separation between government and religious authorities.

Out of Egypt

In the post-1967 War period, the emergence of this new brand of Arab liberals was seen as confined to the Egyptian Sadatist intelligentsia whose main aim was to combat Nasserism in both its socialist and nationalist aspects and promote pro-Americanism. As the new century dawned, the Egyptian example became widely generalized across the entire Arab world.
The 1970s Egyptian liberals sang the praises of American power and imperialist capitalist penetration of their country and pushed for full surrender to the Israeli Jewish settler-colony under the banner of the “peace” negotiated by Nasser’s successor, President Anwar Sadat.
They insisted that Israel should be forgiven all its sins and that rendering Egypt its lackey and the lackey of the US would bring about many economic and political benefits to Egyptians. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose liberal transformation in the 1970s allowed them a seat at the Sadatist table, would join the political contest on the side of the liberal secularists against the Nasserist legacy.
Aside from state intellectuals, prominent litterateurs and artists pushed for this campaign. These extended from writers Yusuf Sibai to Naguib Mahfouz, and lesser figures like playwright Ali Salem, not to mention famous composer and singer Mohammed Abdel Wahab, intellectuals and academics of the ilk of Anis Mansour and Saad Eddin Ibrahim and many others. While Mahfouz and Abdel Wahab belong to an earlier generation of Egyptian liberals that have little in common with the post-1960s liberals, including mediocre state functionaries like Mansour, who edited the state-owned magazine October, they all joined the Sadatist ideological project in one way or another.
In this context, it should be mentioned that while the earlier generation of Arab liberals that emerged in the early part of the twentieth century and prospered in the 1920s and 1930s were mostly pro-European in their “civilizational” outlooks, they were not always pro-colonial, though a good number of them were. Indeed some, like Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, the “father of Egyptian liberalism” and anti-Arab Egyptian nationalism, were even friendly to Zionism. Al-Sayed would go as far as attending the celebrations of the opening of Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1925.
While the Sadatist liberals were condemned and excommunicated across the Arab world (indeed Sibai, who served as minister of culture under Sadat, was assassinated by the Abu Nidal group on account of his visit to Israel and his support for the Sadatist surrender), their alliance with the US and Israel and their promotion of the selling out of Egypt to a new business class would not bring prosperity. Rather, it brought enormous poverty to most Egyptians and destroyed whatever achievements in education and healthcare the pre-liberal Nasserist order had achieved.
The only thing that increased and became more advanced in this liberal-supported Egypt was the level of political and economic repression for decades to come and the alienation of millions of Egyptians who lost even the possibility of an economic future, except for the hundreds of thousands (later upwards of four million Egyptians) whose employment was subcontracted to neighboring countries — Libya, Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf states. Meanwhile, tens of millions of Egyptians languished at home in dire poverty.

Liberalism spreads to Palestine

Soon, and by the late 1980s, the political and economic line the Egyptian liberals pushed for, let alone the international alliances they favored, would be adopted wholesale by a new class of Palestinian, Iraqi and, to a much more limited extent, Algerian intellectuals, who had until then been solid anti-imperial leftists and socialists.
In this vein, West Bank and Gaza-based Palestinian intellectuals pushed for a two-state solution that would grant those territories an independent state at the expense of diaspora Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel.
It was the rights of the latter two groups of Palestinians that these intellectuals, under the sponsorship of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), wanted to barter for an independent state granted exclusively to the one-third of the Palestinian people that lives in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Indeed, many began to predict that the US-sponsored “peace process,” which they supported, would turn the West Bank and Gaza into a new “Singapore,” an economic miracle that would transform the lives of these Palestinians at the expense of the rest.
Once the PLO adopted this line of thinking fully, Palestinian liberal intellectuals became advisors, consultants, negotiators and ministers in the Palestinian Authority and brought about more massive poverty across the West Bank and Gaza, the erosion of international support for Palestinian rights and multiplied the forces of repression of the Palestinians by adding the PA security forces to the Israeli occupation army. This has led to the squandering of Palestinian political and economic achievements during thefirst intifada.

Imperial invasions

Simultaneous with the rise of this liberal intellectual class among Palestinians, the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait unleashed a new class of Iraqi liberals who were allied with American imperial geostrategic interests and who immediately called, in the name of democracy and the end of dictatorship, for an imperial invasion of Iraq.
The US-led invasion in 1991 expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait, but left Saddam Hussein’s government in place, albeit under sanctions that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives — a price US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright notoriously deemed “worth it” to pursue American aims.
The 2003 US-led invasion, under the pretext of locating “weapons of mass destruction,” finally granted the liberals’ wish, and as a consequence cost the lives and livelihoods of untold millions and destroyed the entire country while enriching this class of comprador intellectuals and the new and old business classes they serve.
Indeed, many of them went into service for the US occupation of the country and the ensuing regime it established. While the Iraqi liberals were the first Arab liberals to call openly for an imperial invasion of their country, one could point to the precedent of Gibran Khalil Gibran and pro-French Lebanese liberal expatriates based in New York who had called in 1918 for a French invasion or “protection” of Syria to liberate it from the Turks.
Concomitant with these developments was the Algerian military coup against the elected Islamists in early 1992, which unleashed a massive civil war and military violence that led to upwards of 200,000 dead Algerians. Some of the extremist liberal secularists, like the Rally for Culture and Democracy party, supported the army’s “eradication” of the Islamists.

Sectarian incitement

Ironies abound. Terrified by the popular Arab schadenfreude expressed in massive demonstrations across the Arab world in solidarity with Iraq, demonstrations that did not sympathize with Kuwait and other oil-producing Gulf countries, the illiberal Saudis launched pan-Arab newspapers and satellite channels that bombarded the Arab world with pro-Saudi and pro-US liberal propaganda to reverse this Arab anti-imperial nationalist tide that also opposed the Arab regimes allied with US imperialism.
Intellectuals from across the Arab world joined the effort, abandoning old leftist, communist, Nasserist and Islamist positions and adopted the much, much more profitable pro-US and pro-Israel liberal line politically, and the neoliberal economic order being globalized. By the dawn of the new century, the Saudis and the Americans issued new orders to their media and agents to spread an unprecedented sectarian campaign against Shiites inside and outside the Arab world.
The campaign would be first articulated in 2004 by the new and neoliberal King Abdullah of Jordan, a self-styled “liberal” monarch who possesses absolute and unchecked power. The king expressed his and others’ fear of the rise of a “Shiite crescent” in the region.
It is in this regional context that Syrian liberals joined the fray. Upon the long-awaited death of President Hafez al-Assad in 2000, they launched what they called a “Damascus Spring” from intellectual salons and from the halls of the US embassy in Damascus, whose cultural attaché was a main sponsor of their “Spring.”
While they would soon be suppressed by the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad, Syrian liberals would re-emerge in 2011 claiming to speak for “revolutionary” forces that have, with the full participation of the repressive Assad regime, caused the death of hundreds of thousands and destroyed the country.
The US ambassador would also aid in their efforts by making appointments and assigning roles within the Syrian exile opposition. Not unlike their Iraqi counterparts, the Syrian liberals — secularists and Islamists alike — called for imperial intervention in the name of democracy and to end the Syrian dictatorship. They got what they wished for in the form of the draconian Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS — also known as ISIL or just “Islamic State”).
Not to be outdone, Lebanese liberals and former Lebanese leftists, communists and Arab nationalists would also have their own “Spring” following the assassination of the corrupt and corrupting neoliberal billionaire, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005. They would help launch a local sectarian anti-Shiite campaign in the country and would call for more imperial intervention to save them from their powerful Syrian, but not their more dangerous Israeli, neighbor. They would also relaunch anti-Palestinian campaigns by cheering the Lebanese army’s destruction of the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in 2007. While their country was under heavy Israeli bombardment in 2006, many of these liberals cheered on the Israelis privately and publicly and prayed for the destruction of Hizballah fighters to restore a “liberal” Lebanese order that they longed for.

Liberal extremism

The proliferation of Arab liberals through the good offices of their US and Saudi patrons would lead to more liberal extremism. Saudi-financed newspapers (both print and electronic, like Asharq Al-Awsat and Elaph) began to espouse openly Zionist and pro-Israeli positions without apology.
Arab liberals would also abet an anti-democratic Palestinian Authority coup in 2007against the democratically elected Hamas, a coup that was successful in the West Bank but failed in Gaza. This Palestinian liberal and comprador class of intellectuals also sought to fully submit to US and Israeli political, military and economic diktat (then neoliberal Prime Minister Salam Fayyad best exemplified this submissiveness) and hoped that the 2008-2009, 2012 and the 2014 Israeli invasions of Gaza would finish off Hamas, a hope that would be dashed by the steadfastness of Hamas and other groups committed to military resistance.
It is with this as background that Arab liberals — secularists and Islamists among them — would emerge during the so-called Arab “Spring” of 2011 as leaders of the revolts of Egypt and Tunisia (and Syria and Libya, Bahrain and Yemen). In the telling case of Tunisia, the liberal Islamists’ (mainly the al-Nahda party) and secularists’ infighting brought about a modus operandi that led to the partial restoration of the ancien régime.
In Egypt, the secularist liberals were transformed into outright fascists overnight and allied themselves openly with the Mubarakist forces, both in government, the military and the business sector against the liberal and neoliberal Muslim Brotherhood, which was only able, during its brief stint in power, to ally itself with the Mubarakist army, which ended up toppling its government.
The communists and the Nasserists joined the liberal ranks by transforming themselves, like the liberals, into fascists who fancy their fascism as a form of “liberalism.” They argued tirelessly and still argue that supporting a military coup against the elected and liberal Muslim Brotherhood, and the massive massacres that the coup authorities committed, were the epitome of liberalism and the restoration of a liberal order.
Arab liberals have gone as far as launching a war against European Muslims and Arabs, demanding that they ought to assimilate into their “host” Christian and secular societies. The liberal Sheikh of al-Azhar, the chief cleric of this central Muslim institution, demanded that French Muslim women abide by French laws and not wear the hijab. Yet it is the same Arab and Muslim liberals who demand that Arab Christians must not be made to submit to the majority Muslim culture of their societies and that respect by Muslims and Muslim states must be accorded to their differing Christian religious traditions.
One is dumbfounded by what Saudi and US money and political power (and the crucial Israeli role) can do in a short period of time. The proliferation of US- and European-funded nongovernmental organizations across the Arab world since the early 1990s (as is the case elsewhere around the globe) has successfully conscripted whole armies of Arab intellectuals and technicians into US-, Israeli- and Saudi-style liberalism.
It is these Arab liberals — especially and mostly the secularists among them — who helped bring about and justify such massive levels of destruction across the Arab world. The Islamist liberals in turn called for and cheered NATO intervention in Libya, which took place directly, and in Syria, which took place indirectly through massive infusions of cash and weapons. These levels of destruction are unprecedented in scope even in colonial times.
Tallying these Arab liberal achievements, we find that the horror they visited or helped visit on the Arab world is enormous. The death and injury of millions from Iraq to Syria, to Algeria, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt, to Yemen and Libya, the complete destruction of Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Libya and now Yemen, the massive poverty in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and Syria, let alone in Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan, among others, have all been abetted by a majority of Arab liberals.
In fact, many of these events came about as a direct result of policies that liberals in government service or in the opposition and among intellectuals called for and helped bring about. These liberals continue to work assiduously to justify the destruction and shift the blame for these crimes onto others and to justify all sorts of crimes committed by their patrons.
Neither the radical and extremist ISIS nor its precursor al-Qaida can lay claim to such a stellar record of destruction and misery. The destruction wrought by and with the backing of liberals has been so immense that even the horrors that the Baath party, in its Iraqi and Syrian versions, has visited on Syria and Iraq and on their neighbors, is smaller in comparison. Yet it is these same liberals who continue to speak of freedom, peace and prosperity while they bring about more repression, war and poverty.
Arab liberals and Arab liberalism have been a principal enemy of social, political and economic justice across the Arab world during the last half-century. To claim otherwise would be to ignore their criminal record and to remain oblivious to the horrific reality they helped engender.
Joseph Massad is professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University in New York. He is the author most recently of Islam in Liberalism (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

A joint Arab force to fight the Arab Spring

AN IMPORTANT ANALYSIS

By: Wael Kandil

Link

Comment: The Palestinian resistance, which used to be seen as a key issue worthy of Arab support, has now become the enemy.
When Abdul Fattah al-Sisi launched air strikes on Libya, his media came out to say: "Finish what you have started: Strike Hamas and pound Gaza."

With the announcement of Operation Decisive Storm and Sisi "jumping on the bandwagon", his media repeated: "Let us strike Gaza and liberate it from the Palestinian resistance." This time the appeal was not addressed to the Egyptian military only, but was an appeal for an Arab war against Palestine, simultaneously with the insistence on the 'joint Arab force' plan".

In reaction, Tawfik Okasha, a controversial Egyptian TV commentator who does not say anything they don't like, said "God willing, Hamas will be defeated and toppled, and the armed forces will strike the outposts of terrorism and Hamas in Gaza."

The true enemy
This was an appeal for an Arab war against Palestine.
In one of the media units in the coup government's arsenal, Major General Ahmed Rajaei Atiyah, who was presented on 27 March by Al-Qahirah wal-Naas (Cairo and People) TV as "founder of the armed forces' 777th Division", spoke. What did he say? He literally said, according to al-Shurouk newspaper, that it was time to identify the true enemy threatening the security and safety of the Arab region.

He noted that those with regional ambitions are the true enemies of the Arabs, chiefly Turkey, Iran, and some Western countries. Without the slightest equivocation, the Zionist enemy, according to Egyptian military categorisation, gets off the enemies' list, while Turkey and Iran are added to it, in just one sentence.

If you take into consideration that the cycle of coups and counterrevolutions in the Arab region stemmed from a systematic link between "terrorism" and the "Arab Spring revolutions", the direct outcome in this case would be that the concept of 'war against terror' means a war on whatever is left of the manifestations of life in the Spring revolutions. Therefore, the goal behind the joint Arab force would be to combat the Arab Spring, not to confront the Israeli occupation.

You migh be surprised by this audacious attack on established values. The attack has shifted from the platforms of the states that witnessed revolutions and counterrevolutions to that of the "Palestinian Authority's beys", who bask in the warmth of the counter-revolutions.

Mahmoud al-Habbash, advisor to the Palestinian Authority president for religious and Islamic affairs, took up the platform of animosity towards the resistance. He underlined the need for Operation Decisive Storm to target anyone who stages a coup against legitimacy in any Arab country, starting from Palestine. He, of course, was referring to Hamas.

In a Friday sermon at al-Darih Mosque at the Palestinian Authority's headquarters in Ramallah, al-Habbash went further, performing the role of promoter for Sisi's plan for a joint Arab force. 

"Protecting legitimacy in any Arab country is the responsibility of all Arab leaders [the Arab League], who should take the reins of the initiative and strike with an iron fist at those rebelling against legitimacy - regardless of the time, place, and situation - starting from Palestine."

He based his argument on the assumption that "what happened in Gaza is a coup, not division, and it should be dealt with firmly, for there should be no dialogue with the coupists, who should be struck with an iron fist."

Shortly before that, Palestinian media outlets carried a translation of a report posted on the Israeli online newspaper Inyan Merkazi. The report said Egypt received pledges of significant funding from some Gulf states, which it did not identify, to topple Hamas and hand over the Gaza Strip to the men of Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah leader the movement dismissed.

An earth-shattering shift
It is a new doctrine that aims at protecting Israel's strategic interests by redirecting the cannons of the Arabs toward Ankara and Tehran.
So you are before an earth-shattering shift in the doctrine of Arab countries. It is a new doctrine that obviously aims at protecting Israel's strategic interests by redirecting the cannons of the Arabs toward Ankara and Tehran and taking advantage of the dust of the storm against the Iran-backed Houthists' coup to promote new concepts and equations in the Arabs' relations with the region.

Yes, Iran made a mistake when it worked to empower a sectarian coup in Yemen, and it was incumbent on the Arab regime to stand up to this belligerency. All this, however, should not be used as a tunnel through which new evil concepts are smuggled - new concepts that drop Israel off the enemies' list and encourage a war against Iran and Turkey with the ultimate goal of burning the Arab Spring and ending the dream of change.

The most important thing is to avoid a recycling of coups to be used in confronting other coups. This is against logic and science, not to mention the fact that it gives a kiss of life to all those who plan coups and those who, like Habbash, are little more than street vendors in the alleys of the Zionist project.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Monday, March 30, 2015

في العمق-عاصفة الحزم ومستقبل المنطقة

الواقع العربي- دور صالح فيما وصلت إليه الأوضاع باليمن

DNA 30/03/2015: خطاب نصرالله..وفلسطين

ANOTHER GREAT SEGMENT!!


Yemen and Iran

What's really going on? 

Link

By Brian Whitaker

The words "Iranian-backed" and "Houthi" are now coupled together in virtually every media report about the conflict in Yemen. Nobody – least of all, the Iranians – would deny that Iran supports the Houthis. But how extensive is that support and what forms does it take?
Where some kinds of support are concerned, Iran makes no attempt at disguise, as the International Crisis Group (ICG) noted in report last week:
"Since a Houthi delegation visited Tehran in March, Iranian support has become more vocal, promising economic aid that includes expanding ports, building power plants and providing fuel."
But while "Iranian-backed" can be a factually accurate description (at least up to a point), it is also being used emotively to muster support for the Arab military intervention in Yemen. In their scaremongering about Iran, the Saudis in particular are now singing from Netanyahu's song sheet. Writing in the New York Times, for example, Saudi propagandist Nawaf Obeid holds Iran – rather than the Saudi government – responsible for most of the kingdom's ills. The Saudi leadership faces a number of issues," he writes, "but most of them stem from Iranian aggressiveness."
Some Saudis go so far as to assert that the conflict in Yemen is not about Yemen at all. Saudi Arabia needs to have a war with Iran, one of them coldly informed me last week – so it's better to have the war on Yemeni soil than Saudi soil.
In the midst of all this, claims about Iranian involvement have a receptive audience and often pass unchallenged. The New York Times reports:
"Saudi officials argue that Iran has orchestrated the Houthi military advance so they can exert influence on yet another Middle Eastern capital and destabilise Saudi Arabia’s southern border. Adel al Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, told reporters Thursday that there was evidence that Iranian Revolutionary Guard operatives and Hezbollah fighters had embedded with the Houthis."
Now it may be true that members of Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard are "embedded" in Yemen. Or it may not. Until the Saudis produce the evidence they claim to possess, we only have their word for it.
Iranian involvement in Yemen also has to be judged alongside the involvement of other players. In that regard, Saudi Arabia's meddling in Yemen, over a long period, has been – and still is – far more persistent and pervasive than that of any other country, including Iran. The recent ICG report also points out that the beleaguered Yemeni president (or perhaps ex-president now) Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his allies are more dependent on Riyadh than the Houthis are on Tehran.
Furthermore, in terms of fighting on the ground, Iran is not the Houthis' most important ally; former president Ali Abdullah Saleh is. Without the support of Saleh and his forces, the Houthis would never have been able to take over so much of the country. The Saudis have tacitly acknowledged this in their targeting of airstrikes, since many have been directed against Saleh's forces and included attacks on Sanhan, Saleh's home district.
The Saudis have "overestimated what the Iranian role in all of this is", Barbara Bodine, a former US ambassador to Yemen, said in a recent radio interview. "The Iranian involvement is very new. Exactly how strong it is in terms of materiel is unclear," she continued, but added that Iran's "fundamental deep interest in Yemen is marginal".
In the current hothouse atmosphere, however, questioning whether Iran's actual involvement in Yemen justifies the hype is liable to be viewed as heresy or a sign of support for Iran. The worrying thing about this is that few of the claims are based on independent evidence and the unquestioning way they are lapped up and regurgitated is very reminiscent of the propaganda surrounding Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the 2003 war.
Regarding specific claims, a Reuters report from last December, citing various officials, said "Iran has supplied weapons, money and training to the Shi'ite Houthi militia," though it adds: "Exactly how much support Iran has given the Houthis ... has never been clear."
The report continued:
A senior Yemeni security official said Iran had steadily supported the Houthis, who have fought the central government since 2004 from their northern stronghold of Saadah.
“Before the entrance into Sanaa, Iran started sending weapons here and gave a lot of support with money via visits abroad,” the official, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Reuters.
A second senior Yemeni security official said “weapons are still coming in by sea and there’s money coming in through transfers”.
Reuters went on to quote "a western source familiar with Yemen" who also said the Houthis had been getting training and money:
“It’s been happening for over a year. We’ve seen Houthis going out to Iran and Lebanon for military training.
“We think there is cash, some of which is channelled via Hezbollah and sacks of cash arriving at the airport. The numbers of those going for training are enough for us to worry about,” the source said. 
Although the Houthis denied this, the claim was at least partly supported by an Iranian source:
A senior Iranian official told Reuters that the Quds Force, the external arm of the Revolutionary Guard, had a “few hundred” military personnel in Yemen who train Houthi fighters.
He said about 100 Houthis had travelled to Iran this year for training at a Revolutionary Guards base near the city of Qom. It was not immediately possible to verify this claim.
The official said there were a dozen Iranian military advisers in Yemen, and the pace of money and arms getting to the Houthis had increased since their seizure of Sanaa.
“Everything is about the balance of power in the region. Iran wants a powerful Shi’ite presence in the region that is why it has got involved in Yemen as well,” said the Iranian official.
So there does seem to be a consensus that some Iranians are present on the ground in Yemen, though nobody appears to be claiming that their numbers are particularly large.
A few suspected members of Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard have been arrested in Yemen – and later released. At least three Iranians were freed last September, apparently as a result of Omani mediation. Two suspected Hezbollah members were released around the same time. A Yemeni official told Reuters the Hezbollah suspects had been held for two to three years in the city of Aden where they had been captured on suspicion of planning to provide military training to the Houthis. Why they were released is unclear, though it may have been a move to appease the Houthis.
There have been several publicised cases where alleged arms shipments to the Houthis have been intercepted at sea – one in 2009 and two others in 2013 involving vessels known as Jihan I and Jihan II.
The 2009 interception of an Iranian vessel reportedly took place in the Red Sea, off the far north-western coast of Yemen. The Yemeni government said it was laden with weapons, "mostly anti-tank shells", which were being delivered to the Houthis. Very little information was made public. The Iranians claimed the vessel was empty and had been heading for the Caspian Sea after repairs in the UAE.
In January 2013, an Iranian vessel, Jihan I, was reportedly intercepted in Yemen's territorial waters in a joint operation by the Yemeni coastguard and the US Navy (here is an Israeli account). The following March, a second vessel, named as Jihan II, was also said to have been seized (reports here and here).
subsequent report for the UN Security Council by a panel of experts left very little doubt that the weapons on board Jihan I were indeed being smuggled from Iran, in violation of UN sanctions. It was less clear, though, that they were really intended for the Houthis. In July 2013, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea produced a confidential report (which was seen by Reuters) suggesting that diesel found in the cargo aboard Jihan I could have been destined for al-Shabab militants in Somalia rather than the Houthis in Yemen.
According to Reuters, the UN report "did not explicitly say that weapons on the ship were headed for Somalia, but one UN Security Council diplomat said that if it was true that the diesel was intended for Somalia, it could not be ruled out that other items on the ship, including weapons, might also have been intended for there".
Reuters added:
"A western diplomat said that the fact that there were 16,716 blocks of C4 explosive on the Jihan I suggested a potential connection between Iran and al-Shabab in Somalia, as Houthi rebels, unlike al-Shabab, were not known to use C4."
Although it's possible that Iran is supplying the Houthis with weapons, there is a lack of solid evidence to support such claims and other factors suggest they should be treated with caution.
The Houthis are by no means the only potential customer for weapons in Yemen. In 2009, for example, a "Chinese arms ship" was discovered at Hodeida port but the Houthis were not the suspected recipients. The cargo was initially said to be supported by forged defence ministry paperwork but the Chinese importer claimed the paperwork was genuine (implying corruption in the defence ministry).
Yemen is, of course, already rife with weapons and the most prominent illegal arms supplier inside the country is Faris Mana'a who – interestingly – once headed a committee mediating between the Houthis and the Yemeni government.
It's likely, therefore, that the Houthis don't have much need to import weapons directly from Iran. Most if not all of their needs can probably be met locally, by buying them (perhaps with Iranian money) or stealing them. According to the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, when the Houthis established control over Sana'a last September they were using arms "seized from government military bases".
One possible interpretation of Iran's behaviour is that while it is certainly stirring things in Yemen it is doing so on the cheap, perhaps as a diversionary tactic. In the words of former US ambassador Barbara Bodine:
"I think the Iranian interest in this is that the Saudis, as we know, are very much involved in trying to unseat Assad, who is extraordinarily important to Iran, and Iran coming in [to Yemen] and providing support to fellow Shia is a way of distracting the Saudis – and in that sense the Iranians have been terribly successful because we have reports of 150,000 Saudi troops on the border, large numbers of aircraft and ships and everything being pulled into Yemen. "Everything that's being pulled into Yemen [by the Saudis, etc] is not being focused on Syria or, for that matter, ISIL. So, as an Iranian gambit to pull the Saudis away from what they consider more important, it was a very good gambit."
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Monday, 30 March 2015


Arab nations alarmed by prospect of US nuclear deal with Iran

Middle East governments fear nuclear agreement will strengthen Tehran’s power and influence in the region

 
Middle East editor

Link

Arab governments are watching the endgame of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme with barely-concealed alarm, fearing that the US is bent on a rapprochement with Tehran, not so much at any price, but certainly at the expense of its long-standing Gulf allies.
Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main regional rival, has made clear its unhappiness with the emerging deal. Still, unlike Israel, which flatly opposes any agreement, Saudi Arabia has adopted a more subtle approach. Adel Jubeir, its ambassador to the US, pledged to wait to see the outcome before criticising it. Jubair also conspicuously refused to rule out the kingdom seeking its own nuclear weapons — a pointed reminder to Barack Obama of the nuclear proliferation risks if his Iran strategy does not succeed.
The Saudis have hinted for years that they would turn to Pakistan if they felt threatened by a nuclear Iran. Last year they displayed their Chinese-made intermediate-range ballistic missiles — capable of reaching Tehran — at a parade attended by the general who controls Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. It was, said the Brookings Institution analyst Bruce Riedel, “ a very calculated signal”.
But the Saudis have wider concerns: an American-Iranian rapprochement, they fear, will undermine their own influence and security. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, warned in London earlier this month that the romance was now “nearing consummation”.
The United Arab Emirates, which has a long-running dispute with Iran over three Gulf islands, is also concerned, suggesting a nuclear agreement will strengthen Tehran’s hand in other areas of Middle Eastern strategic competition that have a Sunni-Shia sectarian tinge - Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and more recently Yemen. “We see the nuclear issue as a tool of Iran’s foreign policy,” one senior official said.
Rather than directly confronting the US, the Saudis’ strategy is to improve unity in the Gulf. The obstacles to that are Oman, a long-standing mediator between the US and Iran, and Qatar, which also keeps carefully on the right side of Tehran.
The drama over the final stage of the nuclear talks has been heightened by Saudi military operations in Yemen against Houthi rebels it says are backed by Iran. Saudi sources say that obtaining US backing for that was the work of Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, the powerful Saudi interior minister, who is now second in line to the throne.
Sir William Patey, a former British ambassador to Riyadh, says some senior Saudis fear a return to the days of the shah before the 1979 Islamic revolution when Iran was America’s preferred regional ally. “Others realise that that is not what’s on offer,” he told the Guardian. “But a nuclear deal could lead to American accommodation to Iranian wishes and they find that worrying.The degree of Iranian support for the Houthis is, however, hotly disputed. Emile Hokayem, an analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, says there is a tendency in the Gulf to overstate Iran’s role and a tendency in the west to understate it. Tehran’s involvement has been “gradually opportunistic rather than causal,” he said
“On the nuclear issue they are on the horns of a dilemma. They don’t want Iran to become a nuclear power and they will be as sceptical as the Israelis are as to whether this is going to be a real deal. On the other hand they won’t want to be forced into making a difficult decision.
“They will be sceptical but they won’t be critical and they will learn to manage. Their worst fears won’t be realised. There will be all sorts of obstacles to the sort of Iranian-American relations that the Saudis fear. If Iran could be brought into a regional security arrangement that’s something they would learn to adjust to.”

Khashogji: King Salman will work with the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stem the Iranian expansion

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Jamal Khashogji
Jamal Khashogji

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashogji, who has close ties to the decision making circle within the Kingdom, has tweeted that King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz will strike a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood group, if he deemed it useful with stemming the Iranian expansion in the region.
In an attempt to justify the Kingdom's policy of dealing with the military coup in Egypt, although the coup authorities have been persecuting the Muslim Brotherhood there, Khashogji said: "King Salman has inherited the Egyptian condition", pointing to the legacy bequeathed by King Abdullah bin Abd Al-Aziz. He added: "Let us say that so much water has passed under the bridge in Egypt and that there is a certain status quo."
Some observers have concluded that if Khashogji's remarks do indeed express the conviction of the Saudi Authorities, this may be regarded as an attempt by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to evade bearing moral and international responsibility with regard to the undemocratic toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Khashogji went on to say: "King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz has, since assuming responsibility, been pumping a new policy in the region." He stressed that the King is preoccupied with two main issues: arresting the deterioration in the condition of the Arab east and putting an end to the Iranian hegemony across the region.
Khashogji added: "Stemming the Iranian hegemony and preventing it from spreading further in the Arab region requires freezing all disagreements with the current of political Islam." He pointed out that should dealing with the Brotherhood be useful for excluding the Houthis and restoring stability to Yemen, Saudi Arabia would do it; and if needed, he would do it in Syria too.
In an attempt by the Saudi writer to evade answering for the double standard exercised by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in dealing with the coup in Yemen and the coup in Egypt, Khashogji said: "Leave the Egyptian case aside, because King Salman inherited the Egyptian condition as it is, and this is not a Saudi priority at the present time."

Mahmoud Abbas calls for Arab military intervention against Hamas in Gaza

By Ali Abunimah

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Abdulfattah al-Sisi, the general who led the military coup against Egypt’s elected president in 2013, welcomes the Palestinian Authority’s de facto leader Mahmoud Abbas to Sharm al-Sheikh, 27 March.
(Egyptian Presidency)
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas issued a thinly veiled call for an Arab military intervention to overthrow Hamas in Gaza, along the lines of the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen.
But the kind of intervention Abbas may be setting the stage for would likely consist of ground troops rather than airstrikes.
Abbas made the suggestion at the Arab League summit hosted by the Egyptian military regime in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh on Saturday.
Abbas’ speech indicates that a similar call by his religious affairs advisor in a Friday sermon in Ramallah represented official PA policy, and not the views of a maverick. Hamas has condemned the PA leader’s statements.

“Security means”

Toward the middle of his hour-long address, Abbas warned of the “dangers of division which we must confront culturally, religiously and in addition to treating it through security means.”
He welcomed a suggestion by Abdulfattah al-Sisi, the head of the military junta that overthrew Egypt’s elected president in 2013, that Arab states form a “joint Arab force to protect Arab national security.”
Abbas suggested that the Arab League “troika” – its current, past and next chairs – put forward “an Arab vision to solve the wars, crises, discords and divisions” in several Arab states.
“The need is urgent to find practical and constructive solutions built on an Arab vision and based on legitimacy, that guarantee the territorial unity of every Arab country without any foreign intervention, and whose decisions are binding on all,” Abbas said.
In this context, Abbas’ use of “foreign” means “non-Arab.”
“In Yemen right now, there is an Arab intervention that is acceptable and advisable,” Abbas said.
“There are other cases, there are other countries suffering from division and discord. We suffer from division. We were the first to suffer from division,” Abbas said in reference to the split between his Fatah movement, which rules with Israeli support in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas which has governed the interior of the besieged Gaza Strip since 2007.
“We hope that there will be united Arab positions and an Arab vision and we are bound by anything that is decided by this summit,” Abbas said.

Plausible scenario

The kind of scenario Abbas may have in mind would not likely include airstrikes. Israel would not permit foreign aircraft to operate over Gaza and as Israel’s experience shows, airstrikes cannot dislodge Hamas.
Arab states would also not want to be seen repeating the kinds of massacres Israel carries out in Gaza.
However, Egypt and Gaza share a border, which the Egyptian regime has kept tightly closed to Palestinian travelers. The Egyptian army has demolished the homes of thousands of Egyptian families along the border to further isolate Gaza.
This border could provide an entry point for the joint Arab military force agreed in principle by the summit to invade Gaza.
This would be done under the cover of the Arab League and with the pretext of helping Palestinians and restoring “legitimacy.”
But its effect would be to restore Abbas’ Israeli-backed rule to Gaza so that he could crack down on Palestinian resistance as he has done in the occupied West Bank.

Hamas condemnation

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri called Abbas’ comments “dangerous and unpatriotic” and urged Arab states to rebuke him for “attitudes that are consistent with the [Israeli] occupation’s desire to strike the Palestinian people.”
More than 100,000 people are still living without permanent shelter in Gaza after Israel’s devastating summer assault that left more than 2,200 people dead and thousands more injured.
Hamas recently released recordings which it claims prove Abbas’ intelligence apparatus was helping Israel to gather information it used to plan the attack.
But in line with Hamas’ policy of working with Abbas despite his constant incitement against the movement, Abu Zuhri stopped short of calling for the removal of the PA leader whose legal term of office expired five years ago.
Hamas “confirms that Mahmoud Abbas lost his legal legitimacy and that his presence in the presidency is linked to the extent of his commitment to the Palestinian national consensus,” Abu Zuhri said. “He has no mandate to take any decisions or make any declarations that depart from the national consensus or national constants.”
In a twist of irony, Hamas has itself given its blessing to the Saudi-led air raids on Yemen which, according to Amnesty International have killed dozens of civilians, among them a number of children.
Saudi Arabia says the attacks are intended to drive back the Houthis, predominantly Shia rebels who advanced on Sanaa in recent weeks effectively deposing Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the US- and Saudi-backed president.

Whose coup?

On Friday, Mahmoud al-Habbash the PA’s chief Islamic judge and an advisor to Abbas, called on Arab states to “strike” Gaza, following the example of the Saudi-led bombing raids on Yemen.
“What happened in Gaza was a coup, not a division, and it must be addressed with firmness,” added al-Habbash. “There can be no dialogue with coup-makers; they must be hit with an iron fist.”
Abbas and other officials of his Ramallah-based, Western-supported PA regularly accuse Hamas of carrying out a “coup” when it took over the interior of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
This is a reversal of the well-documented reality that Hamas was acting against a coup attempt by forces loyal to Abbas, after Hamas won legislative elections the previous year.
The coup, which was supported at the highest levels of the US government, succeeded in the West Bank, where Abbas consolidated his Israeli-backed regime.
Meanwhile, the democratically elected Hamas-led government was isolated and besieged in Gaza.