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Ed Webb

Saudi Arabia's long history of destructive intervention in Yemen | Middle East Eye - 3 views

  • With its mosaic of religious communities countering the Wahhabi call, cultural, tribal and historical ties to Saudi realms on its border, deep historical memory of civilizational achievement, and strategic location, Yemen was perceived as both threat and target. Keeping it split among political entities was a policy priority.
  • Subsidies to northern tribes were often another feature of the relationship
  • During Ali Abdullah Saleh’s years in charge in Sanaa Saudi cultural influence developed through Salafi proselytization. While it would be incorrect to reduce Salafism in Yemen to a Saudi implant, the Saudi connection is crucial to the spread of radical Sunni ideology and practice
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  • Saudi Arabia funds the government as well as tribal leaders to secure support for Saudi policies and prevent the emergence of a non-tribal, non-sectarian democratic culture. Yet although Saleh worked hard at building a close relationship with Riyadh, he and other Yemenis were still treated with disdain by the Saudi princes, often denied meetings with the recently deceased Abdullah for receptions with his crown prince Sultan, who handled the “Yemen file”.
Ed Webb

Yemen and Iran: What's really going on? - 2 views

  • 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.
  • in terms of fighting on the ground, Iran is not the Houthis' most important ally; former president Ali Abdullah Saleh is
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  • 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
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."

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    Very sound analysis, as usual, from Brian.
Ed Webb

How Yemen's US-backed ex-dictator is tearing his country apart - Telegraph - 2 views

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    Single-factor explanations rarely satisfy. Is this a sectarian conflict? An Iran/Saudi proxy war? Partly, maybe. But this is also the outcome of Saleh's regime survival strategy of divide and rule, manipulating the priorities of outside actors.
Ed Webb

Kuwaiti activists targeted under GCC security pact - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middl... - 0 views

  • Kuwaiti civil society is one of the most vibrant in the Gulf, hence its early rejection of the GCC Internal Security Pact, which was interpreted as yet another attempt to silence dissent in their own country. Many Kuwaiti activists resented Saudi hegemony, which the pact is meant to strengthen not only in the small emirate but the other ones, too. It is evident now that criticizing Saudi Arabia is taboo, the violation of which definitely leads to perhaps several years in prison. Kuwaiti apprehensions were not unfounded but they couldn't do much about the treaty that was ratified by their parliament. Several opposition groups boycotted the elections that eventually produced a docile body.

    On the other side of the border, there was no debate or controversy related to the pact as Saudis are completely disenfranchised. The only consultative council they have is appointed by the king and has no power to discuss security pacts with the GCC or other countries.

  • there is more to the recent detentions at the request of Saudi Arabia than simply freedom of speech. Regardless of their ideological affiliations, all the detainees belong to tribes that have historically lived between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Also all the detainees have gone beyond their Bedouin way of life to acquire education, political visions and determination to be part of states established when they were lacking skills. The governments of most GCC countries prefer the tribal Bedouin population to remain as part of folklore. Their ancient tents, camels and coffee pots are a reminder of a pure Arabian heritage, lost under the pressure of globalization, foreign labor populations and the ethnic diversity of the coastal states. So Gulf leaders, including the Kuwaitis and Saudis, prefer the Bedouin to be in the museum and the folklore heritage festivals rather than in public squares, demonstrating against corruption and calling for true citizenship
  • Today, not only Saudi Arabia but also Kuwait have to manage a different citizen, namely the "tribal moderns” who speak the language of human rights, freedom of speech, civil society, accountability, anti-corruption, elections and democracy. Such slogans are written on placards, chanted in demonstrations in Kuwait and virtually circulated in Saudi Arabia, as demonstrations are banned.
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  • The tribal moderns may endorse Islamism, or liberal democracy, but the fact of the matter remains constant. From the perspective of regimes, they are a dangerous bunch, simply because if they invoke tribal solidarities, they may be heeded by their fellow cousins, both imaginary and real.
  • No doubt, activists in Kuwait and other GCC countries will fall under the heavy weight of a pact designed above all to control, monitor and punish dissidents. The GCC itself may not move from cooperation to unification in the near future but it has certainly become yet another mechanism to silence peaceful and legitimate opposition across borders.

    Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/saudi-gcc-security-dissident-activism-detention-opposition.html

    Madawi Al-Rasheed
    Columnist 

    Dr. Madawi Al-Rasheed is a columnist for Al-Monitor and a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has written extensively about the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalization, religious trans-nationalism and gender. On Twitter: @MadawiDr

Ed Webb

Gulf states launch joint command to counter Isis and Iran - FT.com - 1 views

  • Bahrain’s foreign minister says Gulf states are launching a joint military command based in Saudi Arabia to counter threats from militant jihadis and Shia Iran.
  • Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa said the joint command force, which analysts say will eventually have several hundred thousand soldiers under its control, would begin military operations after a Gulf Co-operation Council summit due to take place later this month in Qatar.
  • “Look at the fragmentation in Iraq and the abominable situation in Syria,” Sheikh Khalid told the Financial Times in an interview. “If Afghanistan was a primary school for terrorists, then Syria and Iraq are a university for them – these are serious threats and lots of people from our country have gone and joined them.”
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  • The Qatari government declined to comment on the agreement.
  • According to the agreement, Qatar is to match Saudi and Emirati financial aid to the Egyptian government and is to end support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which Sheikh Khalid accused of carrying out terrorist attacks in Egypt.

    Qatar’s powerful media empire, centred around Al Jazeera television, is also expected to change its editorial stance, said Sheikh Khalid, which will “stop Al Jazeera putting bad coverage on events in Egypt or anti-Egyptian government coverage”.

  • Sheikh Khalid, a member of the Bahraini royal family, said the new military body, first mooted two years ago, would start “working from now” to co-ordinate against what he said was a growing threat from Iran and unrest in Yemen.
  • he conceded that Qatar may come back into the GCC fold “step by step”, and cited a “very unhelpful” report broadcast on Al Jazeera English on Bahrain’s parliamentary elections last month.
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