Libya, Syria, Yemen: Sectarian conflict threatens entire Middle East

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 6.20.11 PM

A coalition of 10 Sunni Arab states is on a military offensive against Shiite Houthi militants in Yemen, recently proclaimed by America’s president as a brilliant example of war on terror, but now catapulting the Middle East into the inferno of battle.

Saudi Arabia has initiated an international military operation in Yemen that many experts are already calling a proxy war against Iran, since Houthi fighters are believed to have strategic backup from Tehran.

The internal Yemeni conflict has the potential to transform into a military standoff based on religious background between the Sunni monarchies of the Persian Gulf on one side and Shiites of the region supported by Iran on the other.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia bombs Yemen, launches coalition op against Houthi rebels

US President Barack Obama has authorized “logistical and intelligence support.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 6.22.37 PM

The coalition is bombing a country that used to have heavy American presence for years, since Washington used to station a fleet of assault UAVs in Yemen, waging drone warfare against militants of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 6.23.51 PM

“This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the frontlines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years,” said Obama as recently as September 10, 2014.

This longstanding fruitful cooperation between Sanaa and Washington has had a bitter ending, as Houthi fighters captured Yemen’s major cities and are offering a reward for US-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, while the US were forced to evacuate its embassy from Yemen along with diplomatic missions of other western countries in early February.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 6.24.49 PM

Yemen’s territory has become increasingly fragmented, with Sunni militant groups operating in the south of the country and AQAP becoming active again.

The base with deployed US killer drones remained operable until last week, when it was abandoned like all other US installations in the country.

READ MORE: US evacuates ‘special forces’ in Yemen as rebels seize third largest city

https://youtu.be/q__BkL6bBtU

The developments in Yemen have drawn attention to Obama’s policy of dealing with terrorism hot-beds around the world from Republican Senators John Mc Cain and Lindsey Graham.

They rebuked the Obama administration over Yemen’s descent into a regional proxy war threatening to engulf the Middle East, calling it “another tragic case of leading from behind.”

READ MORE: Yemen rebels gained access to secret US files – report

Yemen now in many ways resembles Libya, disintegrating after foreign intervention, or Syria, devastated by years of civil war, as fighter jets of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition are pouncing Yemeni military installations and infrastructure facilities.

The meltdown in Yemen is causing embarrassment in Washington, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, Abayomi Azikiwe, told RT.

“It is a very dangerous situation. What it represents is a total collapse of the US foreign policy in Yemen,” Azikiwe said, stressing that it was “clearly miscalculation” on the part of the Obama administration, which underestimated power of Houthi groups.

“It is clearly a failure of the US foreign policy in Yemen,” he said.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 6.27.15 PM

The US withdrawal from Yemen has revealed a massive property lost, as the US government is believed to have lost track of about $500 million worth of military aid provided to Yemen in recent years, beginning in 2007.

Officials acknowledge that they’re unable to account for more than a million rounds of ammunition, 160 Humvees (HMMWV) vehicles, 200 M-4 assault rifles and 250 body armor suits – and this is far from being the full inventory of lost property.

The US has no intention of stabilizing other nations, retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski told RT.

“What the US government is focused on is putting arms out there and creating bias for those arms. The US taxpayer subsidizes foreign weapon sales. So we’re always out there, our government is always out there looking for places to market our weapons,” Kwiatkowski said. US foreign policy is aimed at creating markets for the US weaponry and is good at it, not at solving crises, promoting good governments etc.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 6.28.16 PM

“That’s not our expertise. We don’t spend time and money on that. We spend time and money on creating consumers for our weapons,” she said.

Meantime Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Pakistan, Morocco, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain are bombing Yemeni territory using mostly US-made weapons and hardware, with a proclaimed objective to prevent President Hadi from losing power.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 6.29.09 PM

“We will do whatever it takes in order to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling,” Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, told a news conference while announcing the operation.

After the Iran’s advances in Iraq – which borders Saudi Arabia to the north – the kingdom is worried that Yemen, on its southern frontier, is going to become a proxy for Iran as well.

“In the absence of the Americans, who have temporarily quit the field, the Saudi’s will think they have no choice but to go in pretty hard. We are going to see redesign of the region,” President of the Australia Institute of International Affairs John McCarthy told Reuters.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 6.30.18 PM

The key to the unwinding military conflict is going to be reaction of Iran, which has its finger in many ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

If Tehran decides to play big, oil exports from the region – crucial to the world economy – could fall victim to the regional conflict. That in turn will threaten energy supplies of many countries, particularly China, Japan and South Korea.

READ MORE: Oil surges 6% on Saudi airstrikes in Yemen

Saudi Arabia moves heavy arms to border with chaos-stricken Yemen

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 6.49.38 PM

Saudi Arabia is deploying a significant task force to the border with neighboring Yemen, where Houthi Shiite rebels allegedly forced the president to leave the country. President Hadi has been asking the UN to approve the use of foreign forces in Yemen.

The situation in Yemen remains murky, with Houthi militants claiming capture of the southern seaport of Aden, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s stronghold. The fighters say the city of Aden is now under their control and they’re arresting the president’s supporters there.

The rebels claim Hadi has fled the country, and announced a 20 million riyal ($100,000) reward for Hadi’s capture, Lebanese-based Al-Manar TV reported, citing the rebels’ representatives. While two of the president’s aides have said he remains in Aden and has no intention of leaving the country, later reports claim he has left Yemen.

Yemen’s president has left the country on a boat from Aden, officials told AP. Hadi is now traveling by sea to the neighboring country of Djibouti, Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s secretary told RIA Novosti.

Local residents informed Reuters that Houthi fighters have overrun Al-Anad airbase and entered Aden, arresting the defense minister.

Elements of the Yemeni army who have sided with the rebel fighters have seized control of the Aden international airport, according to Al Mayadeen TV. The airport representatives told AP it was closed with flights canceled for security reasons and the worsening situation in the city.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 6.52.17 PM

The objective of the Saudi Arabian troops remains uncertain and even the US, Riyadh’s major ally, is not sure what the House of Saud has on its mind regarding the long-lasting political turmoil of its southern neighbor.

The opinions of US officials contacted by Reuters on the issue are divided. Two said that the concentration of artillery systems and armor on the Saudi border with Yemen have defensive purposes, while other government sources were not so sure.

A US source that described the concentration of Saudi troops as “significant” made a guess that Riyadh might be getting ready to strike the Houthis if they attempt to seize the residence of Yemen’s legitimate president. It cannot be excluded that Saudi Arabia might use its Air Force to strike rebels near Aden.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 6.53.21 PM

Hadi has been seeking support from the United Nations Security Council for military action against Houthi militias by “willing countries,” Reuters reports.

The president wants the UNSC to adopt a resolution authorizing “willing countries that wish to help Yemen to provide immediate support for the legitimate authority by all means and measures to protect Yemen and deter the Houthi aggression.”

Hadi has also asked the League of Arab States to immediately interfere in the situation in Yemen, Al Arabiya TV reported, citing a statement by Yemen’s foreign minister, Riad Yassin. A “joint Arab slant” is needed to coordinate and decide on an “immediate military intervention,” Yassin said.

The Arab League’s foreign ministers will meet Thursday to discuss possible military involvement, Reuters reported, referring to the League’s deputy chairman.

Meanwhile, the militants in Yemen have called for all neighboring states to “keep the peace” and “side with the people of Yemen,” an official representative of the Ansar Allah armed group said, as cited by Tass.

Read more

US evacuates ‘special forces’ in Yemen as rebels seize third largest city

Some Yemeni military officers don’t like the idea of foreign intervention.

“We express our total and utter rejection of any external interference in Yemeni affairs under any pretext and in any form and from any side,” Reuters cited statement of a group of officers calling themselves Higher Committee to Preserve the Armed Forces and Security.

“All members of the armed forces and security and all the sons of the proud people of Yemen with all its components will confront with all their strength and heroism any attempt to harm the pure soil of the homeland, its independence or its sovereignty or to threaten its unity and territorial integrity,” the military group announced on a website.

In late February, Yemen’s Shiite rebel leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi accused Saudi Arabia of attempting to divide Yemen along sectarian lines.

“Our elder sister, the Saudi kingdom, doesn’t respect the Yemenis and wants to impose here in Yemen the sequence of events and divisions that happened in Libya,” al-Houthi said, as cited by the AP.

A brief war between Houthis and Riyadh resulted in deaths of about 200 Saudis four years ago.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 6.54.33 PM

There were plans for an observer mission or a local ceasefire with the Houthi rebels, but due to the fact that Saudi Arabia borders Yemen and Yemen is now posing a security threat to Saudi Arabia, the US is more likely to advocate any sort of intervention in Yemen,” Middle East researcher Danny Makki told RT.

As the US is fighting Al-Qaeda militants within Yemen, “now the problem is that the Al-Qaeda militants that Americans are fighting are actually fighting the Houthi rebels, who America is un-allied to,” Makki added, saying that such a situation results in a “geopolitical war of mirrors.”

READ MORE: ‘No Arab, GCC country has time or capacity to save situation in Yemen’

Sunni Saudi Arabia believes that Shiite Houthi rebels are supported by Riyadh’s arch-enemy Iran. The kingdom’s richest oil deposits are in the Eastern Province bordering Yemen and inhabited by Shiites. Given that the power in Saudi Arabia’s neighbor Iraq is also in the hands of Shiites, Sunni Riyadh could find itself between rock and a hard place and in a state of proxy war with Tehran.

The porous 1,800km border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, used by local tribes for illegal trade and contraband, has always been a headache for Riyadh. In 2004, Saudi Arabia even initiated construction of the so-called ‘Saudi–Yemen barrier’ with control towers and electronic detection equipment. Although the multi-billion project was only partially implemented, talks about construction’s renewal reappeared on many occasions and came up with a bang after Houthi rebels’ success in seizing power in Yemen.

In August 2014, Houthi rebels swept down from their stronghold in the mountains, demanding economic and political reforms. In September they seized key state installations in the capital, Sanaa.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 6.56.46 PM

After Hadi left the capital, Houthis continued advancing to the south of the country, seizing cities one by one. All Western embassies were evacuated from Yemen.

READ MORE: Marines ‘smashed’ weapons before evacuating US embassy in Yemen

When last weekend Shiite rebels seized Yemen’s third largest city Taiz, the US announced the evacuation of remaining special forces involved in a drone campaign against Al-Qaeda.

READ MORE: Dozens dead in Yemen mosques bombings, ISIS ‘claims’ responsibility (GRAHIC IMAGES)

Last Friday a suicide bomber attack on two mosques in Sanaa became one of the worst terror acts in Yemen’s history. At least 126 people were killed and some 250 more were wounded in the bombings. Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for the deadly suicide bomb attack, according to their statement cited by Reuters.

Here’s the single most convincing reason to vote for Ted Cruz in the Republican primary *(SAY NO TO ANOTHER BUSH.)*

Capture

BY KEVIN BOYD

Texas Senator Ted Cruz officially entered the presidential race on Monday. His decision to run was greeted by his friends and attacked by his foes.
One of those who was pleased was Red State’s editor in chief Erick Erickson, who wrote a post welcoming him.
The hyperbolic Jennifer Rubin was less enthused. She wrote a blog post calling his candidacy “absurd” and said it was important for conservatives like Scott Walker to reject the “libertarianish, conspiracy mindset that opposes the NSA program.”
Perhaps the strongest opposition to Cruz thus far has come from Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.). But in attacking Cruz, King may have also provided the single best reason Cruz should receive your support.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked King about comments he made comparing Cruz to a carnival barker. According to Mediaite, here’s what King said:
“We need intelligent debate in the country. Ted Cruz may be an intelligent person, but he doesn’t carry out an intelligent debate,” King said. “He oversimplifies, he exaggerates and he basically led the Republican Party over the cliff in the fall of 2013. He has shown no qualifications, no legislation being passed, doesn’t provide leadership and he has no real experience. So, to me, he is just a guy with a big mouth and no results.”
But would King support Cruz if he ended up becoming the Republican Party nominee for 2016?
“I hope that day never comes,” King told Blitzer. “I will jump off that bridge when we come to it.”
Many of the same people who talk about a “big tent” in the Republican Party threaten to “jump off a bridge” if called upon to support a conservative candidate.
There are reasons Peter King, who has developed a reputation for being an authoritarian bully, should be ignored. The first and foremost is that he is a hypocrite on fighting terrorism.
King has emerged as a supporter of the NSA’s domestic surveillance program that is troubling to civil libertarians. King has also called for the arrests of journalists such as Glenn Greenwald for publishing the documents stolen by former contractor Edward Snowden, which showed the NSA had been conducting surveillance on the phone calls and e-mails of the American people.
But King was and still is a supporter of the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland. The IRA, which was backed by Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya, was responsible for the deaths of 1,823 people between 1969 and 2001.
As Michael Moynihan documented for Reason in 2011, Peter King is not sorry about his support for the IRA, despite the group’s record of murdering civilians in bombing attacks throughout the United Kingdom.
Another reason Peter King should be ignored is that he doesn’t believe in limited government. King’s lifetime rating from FreedomWorks is a pathetic 55 percent, his lifetime rating from the Club for Growth is an even more awful 50 percent, and his lifetime Heritage Action score is an abysmal 39 percent.
Is this man even in the right political party?
If Ted Cruz running for president will make hawks and other big-government Republicans go crazy, that’s reason enough to consider supporting him.

Read more at http://rare.us/story/heres-the-single-most-convincing-reason-to-vote-for-ted-cruz/#CU2wT1rljIo2CKSC.99

NBC’S RICHARD ENGEL: YEMEN COULD BE THE NEXT SYRIA

Houthis can be forgiven for thinking that they’re receiving mixed signals from Washington

by NOAH ROTHMAN | HOT AIR | MARCH 23, 2015

It has become rote and tedious to observe that it was just six months ago that President Barack Obama held up Yemen as an example of how his administration’s approach to counterterrorism was bearing fruit. Just 24 weeks later, Yemen is a basket case, and the administration’s policy toward this key state on the Arabian Peninsula is in tatters.

In January, Shia-dominated Houthi rebels mounted an assault on the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and toppled the government of President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi’s government fled the capital and traveled to the Yemeni city of Aden where it established a government in exile. Last week, the Houthis launched a series of airstrikes on presidential targets in Aden, prompting the White House to condemn the action taken against the “legitimate government” of Yemen.

The Houthis can be forgiven for thinking that they’re receiving mixed signals from Washington. The Tehran-backed insurgent movement now in control of the Yemeni capital was, according to reports, the target of wooing by American diplomats. The administration’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran and their desire to ingratiate themselves with an organization opposed to the Sunni insurgent organizations ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula prompted the administration to hedge its bets in Yemen.

While Washington finds itself on both sides of a burgeoning civil war, the conflict in Yemen is taking on a distinctly chaotic character that does not so much resemble an unstable interregnum but the collapse of civil society. Some fear that Yemen could soon look become a failed state.

“About 100 U.S. Special Operations Forces have been ordered to evacuate Yemen because of a dramatic increase in sectarian violence,” NBC News reported over the weekend. “The move comes as al Qaeda fighters captured the capital of a southern Yemen province late Friday, leading to the deaths of about 20 soldiers, Reuters reported. Earlier, four suicide bombers hit a pair of crowded mosques in the capital of Sanaa, killing at least 137 people and injuring more than 300 others, officials said.”

Seizing and holding territory has never been a tactic favored by al-Qaeda, but the success of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria might have prompted the notorious terrorist organization to adapt its strategy. ISIS, too, has reportedly taken advantage of the chaos in Yemen to gain a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula.

With pro-government forces fighting Houthis rebels, and al-Qaeda fighting the Houthis, and ISIS fighting everyone, Yemen is starting to look more like Syria and Libya with each frightening hour. On Monday, NBC News foreign affairs correspondent Richard Engel made that observation.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 4.06.13 PM
“Yemen, which is right on the border of Saudi Arabia, could become the new Syria,” Engel warned. He noted that the battle between the Iranian-backed Houthis and the Western-backed Hadi government is complicated enough, but the fact that ISIS and AQAP have taken advantage of the opportunity to seize territory in the country should terrify American policy makers.

For the Saudis who are now surrounded by Iranian-proxy governments in control of failed or failing states on virtually all sides, preventing foreign destabilization efforts within their borders has become a markedly more pressing task. Some have observed that the Sunni-dominated Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates have taken a lead role in combatting ISIS in Syria and, in the UAE’s case, in Libya as well. A proposed Peninsula Shield Force may look like a tempting option to restore stability to Yemen, but it is a fraught prospect and the resources to undertake such a mission do not presently exist.

But the continuing chaos in Yemen could change that calculation. If Saudi Arabia’s choice becomes one of fortifying its borders and hoping for the best or intervention across its borders to forestall the establishment of a failed terror state, the latter choice might look like the only viable option for policy makers in Riyadh.

ISIS: Four Islamic extremists ‘had links to university in Liverpool’ (LET’S SEND ALL THESE SAVAGES BACK HOME!)*

BY JOSHUA TAYLOR

The four are believed to have had links to Liverpool’s John Moores University

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 6.27.36 PMJihadists: Anil Khalil Raoufi is believed to have died fighting with ISIS in Syria and Abid Naseer (below) is serving a jail term in the US for plotting terror attacks

Four former students from a university in Liverpool have links to Islamist terrorism, it has been claimed.

It is believed two former students of Liverpool’s John Moores University have been killed fighting for ISIS in Syria, the Liverpool Echo reports.

Another was jailed earlier this month for plotting terrorist atrocities on both sides of the Atlantic.

The university has declined to comment on the allegation.

Meanwhile, a fourth was named at the weekend as a senior ISIS commander who left behind a wife and child to wage jihad in the Middle East.

Abid Naseer, 28, was extradited to the US where he was recently sentenced to life in prison for plotting terror attacks in Manchester, New York and Denmark.

It emerged he was one of five men arrested as Special Branch anti-terror officers conducted raids across the North West, including at John Moores University, in April 2009.

A suspect was photographed being forced to the ground by anti-terror cops during one of the raids on the John Moores campus.

Naseer is understood to have briefly enrolled at the university to get a visa.

He was born in Pakistan and came to England to study computer science.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 6.29.17 PMJihadi: It is believed Anil Khalil Raoufi died fighting with ISIS in Syria

He was found guilty by a New York jury earlier this month and told he would spend the rest of his life in prison, but is now thought to be preparing an appeal.

The other men with links to the university include 22-year-old married dad-of-one Raphael Hostey, believed to be a senior ISIS commander.

His name was among 140 handed to western intelligence agencies by ISIS fighter-turned-double agent Mohammed al-Rashed.

Hostey, from Fallowfield, Manchester, went to John Moores before travelling to Syria two years ago.

He was injured in battle at the end of 2013 and spent several weeks in hospital, according to reports.

Mohammed Javeed, 21, who studied mechanical engineering at John Moores, also travelled to Syria in 2013.

He and a friend, Anil Khalil Raoufi, flew to Turkey – where they met up with Hostey – before sneaking across the border into neighbouring Syria.

Javeed, originally from Manchester, is believed to have been killed while fighting for the so-called Islamic State.

His older brother, chemistry teacher Jamshed, 30, was jailed for six years earlier this month for planning to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS against the Assad regime.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 6.30.51 PMStudent: Abid Naseer is understood to have briefly enrolled at the university to get a visa

Raoufi, a keen amateur boxer, also studied at John Moores University and was originally from Didsbury, Manchester.

It is believed he was killed in February last year, the day after his 20th birthday, after a gunfight with Syrian government forces.

He regularly uploaded chilling photographs of himself from Syria, including one in which he brandished a handgun while staring out at the sea.

Terrorism expert Mubin Shaikh, who has given university lectures on the psychology of radicalisation, said: “I do think the structures of academic institutions allow extremism to fester because of the very nature of the freedom of speech available in such environments.

“The issue is not of free speech per se, but of allowing speech that is clearly supportive of very extreme and violent interpretations of Islam.”

Founded in 1825 and granted university status in 1992, LJMU employs 3,000 staff and has 25,000 students studying from a range of 250 degree courses.

Its website boasts that it is committed to equality and diversity and has “consistently been one of Stonewall’s Top 100 employers and the highest-ranking university”.

The university declined to be interviewed about the issue.