Category - Arabia

Saudi Arabia Leads Air Assault in Yemen

New York Times, By Mark Mazzetti & David D. Kirkpatrick, March 25

Washington – Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday night that it had begun military operations in Yemen, launching airstrikes in coordination with a coalition of 10 nations.

The strikes came as Yemen was hurtling closer to civil war after months of turmoil, as fighters and army units allied with the Houthi movement threatened to overrun the southern port of Aden where the besieged president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, has gone into hiding.

The rapid advances by the president’s opponents included the seizure of a military air base and an aerial assault on his home. There were unconfirmed reports that the president had fled the country by boat for Djibouti, the tiny Horn of Africa nation across the Gulf of Aden.

NPR: U.S. Confirms It Is Supporting Saudi Military Operations In Yemen
Moon of Alabama: The Wahhabis’ War On Yemen

U.N. envoy warns Yemen is ‘on the edge of civil war’

Al Arabiya, March 23

The U.N. special envoy for Yemen warned an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday that events appear to be leading the country “to the edge of civil war” and urged all parties to step back from the brink and resolve the conflict peacefully.

Jamal Benomar stressed repeatedly in a video briefing from Qatar that “peaceful dialogue is the only option we have.”

That view was echoed by the Security Council in a presidential statement which reaffirmed the readiness of the U.N.’s most powerful body to take “further measures” against any party impeding the road to peace in Yemen. That could mean new sanctions, or possibly other actions.

US special forces evacuated from Yemen as security situation deteriorates

The last remaining US troops have left Yemen as Sunni and Shia forces wage an increasingly lethal battle.

The Telegraph, By Harriet Alexander, March 21

America withdrew its remaining 100 special forces troops from Yemen on Saturday, in a sign of the rapid unravelling of the country – which on Friday was hit by one of its worst ever terrorist attacks.

The US soldiers left their base near Al-Houta, after al-Qaeda seized the city.

The US commandos, including Green Berets and Navy Seals, have been training Yemeni military forces in counterterrorism operations, but the Americans have not been involved in direct ground combat maneuvers against militants.

Sources told NBC News that the US Special Operations Forces have been based in remote areas of Yemen and considered relatively secure from enemy threats. But one source said that with this week’s deadly surge in sectarian violence, evacuating American commandos makes sense.

US shuts down Saudi embassy amid security fears

BBC, March 15

The US embassy in the Saudi capital Riyadh has cancelled all consular services for Sunday and Monday due to “heightened security concerns”.

In a statement, the embassy said consular services in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran would not be available.

It urged US citizens to take extra precautions when travelling in Saudi Arabia and to keep a low profile.

On Friday, the embassy warned that Western oil workers could be the target of militant attacks.

It said it had information that “individuals associated with a terrorist organisation” could be targeting people working in the oil-rich Eastern Province.

Embassy of the United States of America Riyadh,Saudi Arabia:
Security Message for US Citizens, March 13
Security Message for US Citizens, March 14

Saudis Said to Aid Israeli Plan to Bomb Iran

Exclusive: As the Obama administration is rushing to complete a nuclear agreement with Iran and reduce regional tensions, the Israeli media is reporting on a deal with Saudi Arabia to let Israeli warplanes transit Saudi airspace en route to bombing Iran, reports Robert Parry.

Consortium News, By Robert Parry, February 25

According to an Israeli media report, Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli warplanes fly over Saudi territory to save fuel while attacking Iranian nuclear sites, the latest indication of how the two former enemies have developed a behind-the-scenes alliance that is reshaping geopolitics in the Middle East.

“The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran,” a European official in Brussels told Israel’s Channel 2 in a report broadcast on Tuesday and described in other Israeli media outlets.

Riyadh’s only condition was that Israel make some progress in peace talks with the Palestinians, a stipulation that may be mostly cosmetic so the Saudis can save face with other Arab states without really interfering with an Israeli flyover to strike Iran.

Disclosure of this Israeli-Saudi military cooperation comes as the United States and five other world powers rush to finish an agreement with Iran to curtail but not eliminate its nuclear program, which Iran says is only for civilian purposes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to appear before the U.S. Congress on March 3 to undercut President Barack Obama’s negotiations.

The reported Saudi permission for Israeli warplanes to take a shorter route to bomb Iran also suggests that Netanyahu may be laying the groundwork for his own plans to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international negotiations are successful. Netanyahu has denounced a possible deal as an “existential threat” to Israel.

Al Qaeda’s Bookkeeper Spills the Beans

RINF, By Eric Zuesse, February 11

Zacarias Moussaoui was the bookkeeper for Al Qaeda, but the U.S. intelligence services have been keeping this fact secret as much as they can, because what he knows about the crucial financial backers of Al Qaeda can be very damaging to the U.S. aristocracy, which is heavily oil-based and closely allied with the Saudi royal family, which created Al Qaeda in order to please the Saudi clerics, who are Wahhabist Muslims who constantly threaten the royals with exposure of their economic and sexual corruption unless the royals finance the spread of the Wahhabist sect (such as by Al Qaeda), and thereby finance the spread of those clerics’ own international influence and power.

Or, so says the former bookkeeper of Al Qaeda, who was selected by Al Qaeda’s military chief, Abu Hafs (also known as “Mohammed Atef”), to serve Osama bin Laden in that capacity: Zacarias Moussaoui. This is his testimony, in brief.

US, UK and France announce closures, evacuations of embassies in Yemen

Fox News, February 11

The State Department announced late Tuesday that the U.S. Embassy in Yemen had been closed and evacuated after much of the country was taken over by Shiite rebels last month.

Hours later, Britain and France followed suit and ordered their citizens to leave Yemen as soon as possible.

The U.S. embassy had already been operating with severely reduced staff for several weeks. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said remaining diplomatic personnel had been relocated “due to the ongoing political instability and the uncertain security situation.”

Al Arabiya: France, Britain suspend embassy work in Yemen

Yemen Is Tearing Itself Apart Over Water

Newsweek, By James Fergusson, January 20

The ancient city of Sana’a is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities on the planet. Its astounding street markets, almost unchanged since the time of the Prophet, used to attract hordes of Western tourists. Not any more. The risk of kidnap has become too great; the British Embassy advises its nationals to leave the country if possible, and if not, to keep any movement around the capital to an absolute minimum. Walking anywhere in the city these days raises hairs on the back of the neck.

The kidnap of foreigners, usually by hill tribes seeking leverage over the Sana’a government, has a long history in Yemen. It used to be considered bad for business to harm the victims, who were traditionally released unhurt – that has changed too. In a sign of the resurgence of Islamic extremism in the region, kidnappers have started selling their victims to al-Qaida and abducted foreigners increasingly end up dead.

For the last year or more, the West’s fear and attention has been focused on the emergence of Isis in Syria and northern Iraq. The Islamic State’s ideology, the brutality of its methods, and the success of its territorial campaign have eclipsed al-Qaida, the movement that spawned Isis, but which also formally disavowed them a year ago. Since the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida has seemed divided, directionless; a diminished force.

[…]

As in Pakistan and elsewhere, the accuracy of the drone strikes used in Yemen has been called into question. A recent study by Reprieve, the New York–based human rights group, which was widely circulated on Yemeni social media, suggested that strikes aimed at 17 named men have so far killed 273 people, at least seven of them children; while at least four of the targets are still alive. “You know, those drones are very expensive,” Al-Gauli observes bitterly. “Yet in our village, it takes a 2km donkey ride to fetch water from a well. If someone spent a tenth of the cost of a missile on a well for our village, maybe no-one would pay attention to al-Qaida and they would go away.”

Saudi King Salman issues major royal orders

Al Arabia, January 29

Saudi Arabia’s newly inaugurated King Salman bin Abdulaziz has issued a series of landmark orders that ushered in fresh new faces into state institutions and awarded financial support for many Saudis.

And the king ordered a total of $30 billion (112 billion Saudi Riyals) spending in the oil rich kingdom.

The king ordered a lavish payout to all state employees on Thursday and reshuffled some top government jobs while keeping in place the oil, foreign, finance, defense and interior ministers.

[…]

He removed two of the late king’s sons from big jobs, making Faisal bin Bandar Riyadh governor instead of Turki bin Abdullah and reinstating Khaled al-Faisal as Mecca governor less than two years after he was replaced by Mishaal bin Abdullah.

The two jobs are usually held by senior princes and have sometimes been stepping stones to higher positions.

King Abdullah, Who Sought to Modernize Saudi Arabia, [has died] at 90

AP, January 22

Riyadh — Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, the powerful U.S. ally who joined Washington’s fight against al-Qaida and sought to modernize the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom with incremental but significant reforms, including nudging open greater opportunities for women, has died, according to Saudi state TV. He was 90.

More than his guarded and hidebound predecessors, Abdullah assertively threw his oil-rich nation’s weight behind trying to shape the Middle East. His priority was to counter the influence of rival, mainly Shiite Iran wherever it tried to make advances. He and fellow Sunni Arab monarchs also staunchly opposed the Middle East’s wave of pro-democracy uprisings, seeing them as a threat to stability and their own rule.
Read More

Yemen rebels seize TV station, surround PM residence amid clashes in capital

AP, January 19

Sana’a – As Yemeni Houthi fighters and army troops waged gun and mortar battles near the presidential palace in Sanaa, the rebels captured the country’s state news agency and TV station. Monday marked the country’s most intensive clashes since September.

“The Houthis have taken the state information agency SABA,” Information Minister Naser Taha Mustafa told Al Arabiya TV. “The takeover is a step toward a coup.”

The clashes were focused on an area near the presidential palace and the residence of the national security chief. The diplomatic compound in southern Sanaa was also affected. It was not immediately clear whether President Abd-Rabbu MansourHadi was in his residence at the time.

Saudi Arabia constructing 600-mile wall to keep ISIS out

Newsweek, January 15

Saudi Arabia is building a 600-mile long wall along its northern border with Iraq in order to keep ISIS at bay, the Telegraph newspaper reported today.

Once completed, the wall will consist of a ditch and a triple-layered steel fence, with 40 watchtowers spread out along it. Each watchtower will be equipped with high-tech surveillance radars that are capable of detecting low-flying helicopters and approaching vehicles, as well as being able to spot a human from the range of about 20km.

There will also be 38 separate communication towers in place and 32 military response stations, as well as 240 armed rapid response vehicles which will patrol the wall.

Saudi terrorism court ‘to try women drivers’

BBC, December 25

Two Saudi women who were detained for defying a ban on female drivers are to be tried in a terrorism court, activists say.

Loujain al-Hathloul, 25, and Maysa al-Amoudi, 33, have been in detention for nearly a month.

The women’s cases had reportedly been transferred over comments they had made on social media – rather than for their driving, according to activists.

U.A.E. Sees OPEC Output Unchanged Even If Oil Falls to $40

Bloomberg, By Anthony DiPaola & Mahmoud Habboush, December 14

OPEC will stand by its decision not to cut crude output even if oil prices fall as low as $40 a barrel and will wait at least three months before considering an emergency meeting, the United Arab Emirates’ energy minister said.

OPEC won’t immediately change its Nov. 27 decision to keep the group’s collective output target unchanged at 30 million barrels a day, Suhail Al-Mazrouei said. Venezuela supports an OPEC meeting given the price slide, though the country hasn’t officially requested one, an official at Venezuela’s foreign ministry said Dec. 12. The group is due to meet again on June 5.

“We are not going to change our minds because the prices went to $60 or to $40,” Mazrouei told Bloomberg at a conference in Dubai. “We’re not targeting a price; the market will stabilize itself.” He said current conditions don’t justify an extraordinary OPEC meeting. “We need to wait for at least a quarter” to consider an urgent session, he said.

OPEC’s 12 members pumped 30.56 million barrels a day in November, exceeding their collective target for a sixth straight month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait this month deepened discounts on shipments to Asia, feeding speculation that they’re fighting for market share amid a glut fed by surging U.S. shale production. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries supplies about 40 percent of the world’s oil.

3bb1012ca7881a903f6bb688401857a5453d3be4