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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

Netanyahu campaign video: A victory for the Left means an ISIS invasion | +972 Magazine - 0 views

  • The video opens with bearded men traveling in a pickup truck, flying the black IS flag with its distinctive white calligraphy. The driver of the truck pulls up beside another car and honks for the other driver’s attention. The IS guy in the passenger seat leans out the window and asks him, in Hebrew with a comically exaggerated Arabic accent, “Hey bro, how do you get to Jerusalem?” The driver of the car shouts back (in Israeli Hebrew), “Take a left!”

    Then there’s the slogan, in red Hebrew letters emblazoned on a gray, bullet-marked background: “THE LEFT WILL SURRENDER TO TERROR.”

    One of the IS guys fires celebratory bullets skyward and the driver peels off, ostensibly in the direction of Jerusalem, as they all shout exultantly in Arabic, “Shukran, ya ward!” (“Thanks, bro!”). The camera pans briefly to the rear of the truck to focus on a popular Israeli bumper sticker that reads, “Anyone but Bibi.”

    The tagline: “It’s us, or them. Only the Likud. Only Netanyahu.”

    The snatch of Arabic rap lyrics is excerpted from a song by an Amman-based Palestinian group called Torabyeh: “I want to be buried in the same cemetery that my grandfather was buried in. And since my childhood I’ve been dreaming to be a soldier and as time passed I discovered who I want to belong to: Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah, Hamas or…Jabha …”

  • Netanyahu has for years been promoting his message about the threat to Israeli security posed by Islamic extremism, never missing an opportunity to list Hamas along with the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and even Fatah, mixing them all up so that the average Israeli Jew reflexively associates Arabs and Islam with terror. Like all accomplished populists, he understands the power of repeating a mendacious slogan, and he is an expert at exploiting popular fears and racism.
  • The popular Israeli narrative is so reactionary and confused these days, that if one were to walk the streets asking average citizens if there was a difference between Fatah and Al Qaeda, most people would be hard-pressed to answer coherently. Go ahead and try to explain to an Israeli audience that Hamas is a small offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, that it is basically a technocratic political party, that it is extremely unpopular in Gaza and that it has nothing to do with expansionist jihadism. Try telling people that if Israel would lift the siege on Gaza, disgruntled Palestinians in Gaza would probably kick Hamas out of power immediately. Just try. The best you can hope for is that you’d be told that you’re a traitor who should go live in Gaza.
Ed Webb

The Varnish of Vietnam | Foreign Policy - 2 views

  • Thirty years after the fall of Saigon, a new generation of policy-makers ignored the lessons of Vietnam and decided it would make fine policy and good politics to carry out regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq, to win those hearts and minds, to fight the insurgents, and to build democracy in sandy soil. They sent off a new generation — of professionals, not conscripts — to do the job, to the cheers of the home crowd and with the encouragement of the vast majority of the Congress, eager for vengeance, even if Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

    Once again, policy failed. We are now living with the unanticipated consequence of that war — widespread regional instability and conflict. And we have lost more than 6,700 soldiers with roughly 50,000 wounded Americans, along with another large number of post-combat stress disordered lives.

  • Leadership is not about "doing something." Leadership is not about "striking back." Leadership is about wisdom, knowing what you can change and what you cannot change. And it’s about speaking that truth in a clear, intentional way. American air strikes may save some Kurdish lives; they may defer the day the Iraqi government has to deal with its dysfunction; they may extend Basher al-Assad’s day of reckoning.

    But all they buy is time — and not a lot of time, at that.

    The real resolution of the mayhem in the Middle East is not in the hands of the United States.
    The real resolution of the mayhem in the Middle East is not in the hands of the United States. Striking IS, and failing to "destroy" them (a politically-chosen objective, if ever there was one) may lead, inexorably, to the commitment of more capability, resources, and, yes, American ground troops. It’s kind of a setup — in for a dime, in for a dollar; another broom, please.

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