Thursday 7th of July 2022

with love from saudi arabia……..

March 26th marks the seventh anniversary of the disastrous war in Yemen, which has resulted in almost half a million dead. ​​The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels has recently ramped up its attacks in this destabilizing conflict that, prior to the Ukraine war, was the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. 

Throughout the war, Saudi talking points have whitewashed the facts on the ground. The Kingdom has spent more than $100 million on lobbyists and public relations specialists in the U.S. to accomplish this, and to keep the arms sales flowing.

According to a brief by Dr. Annelle Sheline, Middle East Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute, the Saudi-led coalition has carried out more than 24,600 air raids since the beginning of the war in 2015, highlighting the asymmetrical nature of the war being waged in Yemen. In her  brief, Sheline notes that over 9,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed in Saudi coalition air raids, compared to 59 Saudi civilians killed by Houthi transborder attacks — putting to rest the narrative that somehow this war is warranted in the name of self-defense. 

The Yemen Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks data on the war in Yemen, found the Saudi-led coalition carried out approximately 700 air strikes in February 2022. The pace of last months bombings was higher than any month since 2018.

However, most Americans are blissfully ignorant of Saudi transgressions in Yemen and elsewhere, and that is by design. 

In many cases, the Saudi airstrikes responsible for the civilian deaths have either been preceded or followed by Saudi lobbyists’ talking points touting improvements in targeting, the Saudis commitment to peace, or Saudi humanitarian efforts in Yemen. For years the Saudi lobby has amassed an army of lobbyists, including former Members of Congress, that frame the war in Yemen as a humanitarian mission. On January 20, 2022, for example, Tripp Baird of Off Hill Strategies distributed a letter to Congressional offices that pointed the finger at Houthi rebels to justify the escalation. Baird linked to a press conference in which Ned Price, the State Department spokesperson, condemned Houthi attacks to justify their massively disproportionate response. 

“Iranian-backed Houthis are responsible for prolonging the suffering of the Yemeni people,” their email insisted. Baird closed the letter by painting Saudi Arabia as “committed to achieving a lasting peace in Yemen.” Just one day later, Saudi Arabia launched an airstrike at adetention center in Sa’adah, which left 91 civilians dead, including three children playing in a nearby field. 

The laser guided bomb used in that attack was made by Raytheon Technologies. Mere days after the attack, on January 5, Raytheon’s CEO celebrated rising tensions in the Middle East on an earnings call with investors saying, “we are seeing, I would say, opportunities for international sales.” 

Raytheon’s team of lobbyists isn’t afraid to seize those opportunities. According to their fourth quarter filing in the Senate Lobbying Disclosure database, Raytheon spent $2.7 million to lobby Congress on a range of issues, including lobbying against a joint resolution that would disapprove the previously approved sale of Raytheon-made sales to the Kingdom.

This isn’t an anomaly. On March 12, 2021, an airstrike killed 18 people in a residential area in Maqbanah. On March 15, just three days later, Hogan Lovells distributed letters reaffirming “the Kingdom’s unwavering commitment to achieve peace in Yemen,” many of which were sent by former Senator Norm Coleman. There was a noticeable spike in airstrikes that same day, with 178 air raids and as many as 12-15 strikes per raid.

A few weeks later, on May 7, 2021, an airstrike hit a residential area, killing 11 civilians in Sirwah. On May 11, 2021, Hogan Lovells distributed a letter saying that Saudi Arabia supported a “peaceful resolution to the conflict in Yemen.” Not even a week later, an airstrike at a medical center killed another seven civilians.

Lobbyists on behalf of Saudi Arabia routinely disseminated information purporting the Kingdom’s desire for peace even as deadly airstrikes escalated, and they have found a sympathetic ear in Washington. While President Biden once referred to Saudi Arabia as a “pariah,” his administration recently approved more arms sales to the Kingdom and coalition allies like the UAE. Statements like the one from Price are all the ammunition lobbyists need to press their case on Capitol Hill and with the administration.

As the seventh anniversary of the war approaches Saturday, Saudi Arabia wants you to think that it isn’t the aggressor, and they’ve paid handsomely to push this narrative in the U.S. But, the reality is vastly different from the picture these lobbyists paint, as air raids by the Saudi-led coalition have killed thousands of civilians, destroyed infrastructure, and prolonged the blockade at the heart of a humanitarian crisis that has left almost half a million people dead. No amount of money or lobbyists can change this reality, but ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen can.

 

READ MORE:

https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2022/03/25/saudi-bombs-drop-on-yemen-dc-lobbyists-whitewash-the-damage/

 

 

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a little war….

Yemen Seen as Only a Minor Issue in US-Saudi Split

 

Disagreements are built around oil policy

 

by Jason Ditz 

 

Posted on April 22, 2022

 

 

Disagreements and conflicting interests are stretching US relations with Saudi Arabia to what some are warning could be a breaking point yet, ironically, what are seemingly the most visible issues rarely register.

The US wants to steer Saudi oil production in favorable ways. Most recently, its been to help the US with lower prices and undercut the Russian economy by competing with them.

There are disagreements on Yemen, with Biden talking up extricating the US from the war. The Saudis are at least somewhat interested in getting out of the war, but US officials openly say they envision a post-war Yemen to remain heavily influenced by the Saudis. Yet when the US-Saudi split is discussed, that disagreement is hardly getting serious discussion.

The Yemen disagreement resonates with a lot of Americans, but US leadership would be more comfortable just dictating energy policy with more success. The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government is, similarly, an issue that at the time seemed important, but which US leadership is loathe to push to deeply on.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan brought up Khashoggi to the crown prince, who reacted with furious shouting. He was meant to get an oil production boost, and he didn’t get that.

Nothing in the history of Saudi relations would suggest that they couldn’t quietly get rid of a political liability with a kill team. The US seemed uncomfortable that this wasn’t maybe as quiet as it could’ve been, but objection to the summary murder of a journalist was, in the grand scheme of things, not something that threatened US-Saudi ties.

That is was brought up at all was likely the result of media colleagues of Khashoggi pushing for it to be brought up. In practice, though, making with the oil is probably all the administration really needs from the kingdom.

 

READ MORE:

https://news.antiwar.com/2022/04/22/yemen-seen-as-only-a-minor-issue-in-us-saudi-split/

 

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US fiddles in lebanon….

 

The most reliable pollster in Lebanon reports interesting trends ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections, writes As`ad AbuKhalil.

 

By As`ad AbuKhalil


Special to Consortium News

 

As Lebanon heads toward a parliamentary election next month,  Western and U.N. diplomats insist the election be held exactly on its four-year schedule.  It makes you wonder: why don’t Western embassies ever insist on elections at all in Gulf countries?

They can’t stand Lebanon being late, but never call for the people to vote in tyrannies supported and armed by the U.S.  What is the secret American fascination with ballots in countries that aren’t their client states?

The U.S. demands elections in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon but not in Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Oman.  In Lebanon, Washington insists on elections because it thinks they will benefit. But the George W. Bush administration insisted on elections in Gaza and the West Bank in 2006 and then rejected the results because they went against U.S. interests when Hamas won. 

In 2005, right after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the U.S. rushed for a new election in Lebanon. It knew the results would be convenient to its pro-U.S. faction (the March 14 coalition).  From the Lebanese peoples’ point of view, Lebanon should never have held an election then because after the massive bomb that killed Hariri, Western embassies started working overtime to exploit the political climate for its client politicians.

The same thing happened after the economic collapse of 2019. The U.S. again exploited a crisis.  It essentially produced and funded various civic groups (under different names) and urged them to make disarming Hizbullah their key demand.

At the start of the 2019 crisis, most political and civic groups agreed that disarming Hizbullah wouldn’t solve Lebanon’s economic problems and did nothing to address the underlying cause of the crisis.

But two years later, many of the political parties and civic groups (funded by Western and Gulf governments) are still propagating the fanciful notion that the only reason for Lebanon’s economic collapse was that Hizbullah’s arms scare Israel.

In fact, the financial and political elites responsible for the collapse are mostly — if not exclusively — allies and clients of the U.S. The man who is actually most to blame for the economic crisis is the governor of the Central Bank, a tool of the U.S. Treasury, namely, Riad Salameh.

He expelled Hizbullah and its members from the Lebanese banking system.  Actually, Hizbullah — while aligning itself with corrupt groups, like the Amal Movement and its leader, the parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri — extracted the least from the cash cow of the Lebanese treasury.  It rarely held essential ministries and none of its ministers were ever accused of corruption.  But the U.S. wants Hizbullah to be blamed and urged its clients to insist on it.

What the Polls Say

The election will be held on time in mid-May and I spoke to the most reliable pollster in Lebanon who conducts comprehensive surveys, face-to-face, throughout the country.  He reports interesting trends. 

Only 7 percent of the population consider Hizbullah’s arms as the top priority for the public. Most are concerned with economic bread-and-butter issues.

The strategic location of Lebanon is also of little concern to them,  despite U.S. and Gulf propaganda.  

The U.S., EU and the Gulf together (it’s nice how the tyrannical Gulf forms a solid bloc with the “democratic” West) hope Hizbullah and its allies will pay the heaviest price from the economic collapse. 

But early polling doesn’t show that; the aforementioned pollster reports to me that Hizbullah remains solidly popular in the South while its ally the Amal Movement is registering less than 20 percent — a major shift (downward) from the last election.

The uprising that erupted all over Lebanon in 2019 started with massive protests, including in the predominantly Shiite South, where people chanted against Nabih Berri, the speaker of the parliament and Amal leader, and his wife. But when Hizbullah feared that Amal might be switching to the other side, it relented and withdrew its supporters from the streets and provided support for Berri.

The notion, however, that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia can take seats in parliament away from Hizbullah and turned them to its Shiite candidates is laughable. The U.S. and Saudi supported candidates (like Ibrahim Shams Ad-Din) only received a handful of votes in the last election in May 2018. Shams Ad-Din got 62 votes while other candidates like him received 300 votes. 

Compare that to the more than 40,000 votes garnered by the Hizbullah candidate, Muhammad Ra`ad. It was the most votes by any candidate in all of Lebanon (and Hizbullah as a party received the largest number of votes of any political party in the country).

Only in Baalbak, Yahya Shamas scored thousands of votes, but fell short of winning a seat despite glowing coverage in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal although he is a known drug trafficker.

The U.S. and the Gulf are focusing all their energies on the chief Christian ally of Hizbullah, the Tayyar Al-Watani Al-Hurr Party of Michel Awn, the president of Lebanon.

Since 2019, the U.S. and the Gulf have invested in demonizing the leader of Tayyar, Gibran Basil. The man is neither sympathetic nor progressive and there is little that one can admire about him.

The exclusive focus on his person (he was subjected to U.S. sanctions) is clearly motivated in breaking his alliance with Hizbullah.  So many of the U.S./Gulf funded youth and civic groups chanted obscenities against his mother during street protests that  they made him a symbol of the corruption of the state. 

Yet, the real (pro-U.S.) beneficiaries of corruption, and the architects of the corrupt system — people like Walid Jumblat, Rafiq Hariri, Fu’ad Sanyurah, Amin Gemayyel, Riad Salameh — were spared public wrath.

The U.S. is willing to go far in shielding its clients from any attacks, accountability or prosecution.  Former U.S. Undersecretary of State David Hale made a point during the economic crisis to have lunch with Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and even denied that there is any evidence of his corruption despite various investigations of money laundering by him and his brother in several European countries. 

Saudi Role Unclear

It is unclear what role Saudi Arabia will play next month. Normally, the West and the Gulf throw ten times the money that Iran throws at a Lebanese election.  The West is clearly funding various civic groups, and former Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East David Schenker met with many of those “leaders” who worked for Rafiq Hariri or Saudi media.

But Saudi Arabia, ever since its kidnap and abuse of Saad Hariri in 2017, all but gave up on Lebanon publicly.  It is said in the Lebanese daily Al-Alkhbar that only the right-wing Lebanese Forces (of war criminal and Israeli trainee, Samir Ja`ja`) continues to receive Saudi funding. In the last week, MPs from the Lebanese Forces and from Walid Jumblat’s PSP, were invited to a meeting with the Saudi intelligence chief.

Those meetings are usually facades for the disbursement of funds.  Gulf political funding in Lebanon has been coordinated with Western governments for many years as democratic and enlightened rulers are in agreement over which reactionaries to support in Lebanon.

It is likely that the U.S. will be disappointed by the results. To be sure, the Tayyar may suffer the most losses over Lebanon but the unique electoral system (which combines regional proportional representation with preferential voting) may soften the losses.  By aligning with its Shiite party, the Tayyar may still win over ten parliamentary seats.

Early polling indicates that many Christians are disillusioned and fed up with all the parties in power, but it is not sure whether those voters will vote or stay home.  The most surprises in the election will likely occur in predominantly Sunni and Christian areas.

Saad Hariri (at Saudi urging) will not be running and he ordered members of his Future Movement to follow his example.  Hariri is banned (by Saudi Arabia) until further notice from being a candidate, while his brother, Bahaa is trying to succeed him (from Monaco, mind you) but without securing Saudi support. Civic groups may obtain around 10 seats in predominantly Christian areas where the competition seems most acute.

Thus the Sunni political scene is the most mysterious and it is unclear which way the mood will go especially since Saad Hariri remains in Dubai without a role in this election.

 

 

As`ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002) and The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004). He tweets as @asadabukhalil

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

 

 

READ MORE:

https://consortiumnews.com/2022/04/25/the-angry-arab-the-us-middle-east-elections/

 

 

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