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An excellent article on the present situation in Yemen by Patrick Cockburn.

Professor Mekonen Haddis

Making the Houthis Even More Dependent on Iran
Saudi Airstrikes in Yemen Fuel the Fire in the Gulf
Foreign states that go to war in Yemen usually come to regret it. The Saudi-led military intervention so far involves only air strikes, but a ground assault may follow. The code name for the action is Operation Decisive Storm, which is probably an indication of what Saudi Arabia and its allies would like to happen in Yemen, rather than what will actually occur.
In practice, a decisive outcome is the least likely prospect for Yemen, just as it has long been in Iraq and Afghanistan. A political feature common to all three countries is that power is divided between so many players it is impossible to defeat or placate them all for very long. Saudi Arabia is backing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi but the humiliating speed of his defeat shows his lack of organised support.
The threat of further intervention by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council may be intended to redress the balance of power in Yemen and prevent the Houthis winning a total victory. But Saudi actions and those of the Sunni coalition will be self-fulfilling if the Houthis – never previously full proxies of Iran – find themselves fighting a war in which they are dependent on Iranian financial, political and military backing.
Likewise, the Houthis, as members of the Zaidi sect, were not always seen by Shia in other countries as part of their religious community. But by leading a Sunni coalition Saudi Arabia will internationalise the Yemen conflict and emphasise its sectarian Sunni-Shia dimension.
The US position becomes even more convoluted. Washington had sought to portray its campaign in Yemen against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as a success. Drone attacks were supposedly wiping out important AQAP operatives, but the humiliating end result of America’s covert war in Yemen came last week when US Special Operations personnel blew up their heavy equipment and fled the country for the US base at Djibouti. AQAP is becoming a stronger force as the shock troops of the Sunni.
US policy across the Middle East looks contradictory. It is supporting Sunni powers and opposing Iranian allies in Yemen but doing the reverse in Iraq. On Thursday US aircraft for the first time started pounding Islamic State (Isis) positions in Tikrit, 87 miles north of Baghdad. The city has been under assault for four weeks, with 20,000 Shia militia and 3,000 Iraqi soldiers pitted against a few hundred Isis fighters. The Shia militiamen are now reported to have withdrawn but they do not appear to have gone far. Effectively, the battle for Tikrit is being waged by Iranian-directed Shia militia backed by US air power, even if the two sides are rivals as well as allies.
Ultimately, the US may not have much choice. If it refuses to back anti-Islamic State combatants for whatever reason it will be to the benefit of Isis. The numbers tell the story: there are between 100,000 and 120,000 Shia militiamen in Iraq compared with only 12 brigades in the Iraqi army capable of fighting, about 48,000 soldiers, although this total may be inflated. Isis has been conscripting young men across its self-declared caliphate since last October and may have over 100,000 fighters. If the US relies on Iraqi government and Kurdish Peshmerga ground forces alone to put Isis out of business, it will be difficult.
Why did the US finally use its air power at Tikrit, formerly a city of 200,000? First, it was the only help the Baghdad government formally asked for this week. The US may have concluded, as it did with the 134-day siege of the town of Kobani last year, that it could not allow Isis to succeed in Tikrit. Second, if the city did fall, Washington did not want Iran and the Shia militia to get all the credit.
A further motive is that both the US and Iran want to restore some credibility to the Iraqi government and army after their crushing defeats by Isis forces last year. So far the Iraqi army has not recaptured a single city or substantial town from Isis since the fall of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad in January 2014. Such limited military successes as there have been were won by the militias in the provinces neighbouring Baghdad.
The US-led international coalition opposing Isis also needs to do something to bolster its own credibility. Despite some 2,500 coalition air strike launched against it since last August, the Islamic State has lost little territory. Isis may be battered but it shows no signs of being anywhere near to defeat.
The Independent conducted a series of interviews in February and March with people who had recently left Isis and, while none were sympathetic to it, there was nobody who believed it was going to be destroyed by mounting internal discontent or external military pressure. A prime reason for this is that the Sunni Arab communities in Iraq and Syria are not being offered an acceptable alternative to Isis rule. They are all terrified of becoming the victims of a pogrom that does not distinguish between Isis supporters and ordinary Sunni.
A further feature of life in the Isis caliphate that emerged from these interviews is that it is well organised: it taxes salaries and sales, it conscripts young men of military age, controls education and mercilessly strikes down any opponents. Its stability might be shaken if it suffered a string of military defeats but so far this has not happened.
Air strikes have made it revert to semi-guerrilla tactics, not holding ground against superior forces backed by airpower but counter-attacking briskly when they have moved on or their lines of communication have become longer and more vulnerable. Given the difficulty in capturing Tikrit, it does not look as if an assault on Mosul will be possible for a long time. There seems to be no enthusiasm on the government side retake Fallujah, although it is so much closer to the capital.
Whatever happens in Iraq and Yemen, the political temperature of the region is getting hotter by the day. Looked at from a Saudi and Gulf monarchy point of view, Iran and the Shia are on the advance, becoming either the dominant or the most powerful influence in four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. The Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Syria have linked their futures inextricably and fatally to Isis and other al-Qaeda type organisations. These have military strength, but they make many powerful enemies.
The confrontations between Sunni and Shia, and between Saudi Arabia and its allies and Iran and its allies, is becoming deeper and more militarised. Conflicts cross-infect and exacerbate each other, preventing solutions to individual issues. Thus Saudi intervention in Yemen reduces the chance of a US-Iranian agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme and sanctions. As these conflicts and divisions spread, the chances of creating a common front that is capable of destroying the Islamic State are getting fewer by the day.
Patrick Cockburn

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skyIV

At regional consultation towards the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. Addis, July 2015.

At regional consultation towards the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. Addis, July 2015.

Splitting the Atlantic Alliance
NATO Lies and Provocations
“The war has been provoked to destroy the Russian World, to draw Europe into it, and to surround Russia with hostile countries. Unleashing this world war, America is trying to deal with its own internal problems.”
– Sergei Glazyev, Advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin
The fabrications of NATO’s top commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, have driven a wedge between Germany and the United States that could lead to a collapse of the Atlantic Alliance. According to the German news magazine, Der Spiegel, Breedlove has repeatedly sabotaged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine by spreading “dangerous propaganda” that is misleading the public about Russian “troop advances on the border, (and) the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks.” But while the unusually critical article singles out Breedlove for his hyperbolic exaggerations of so-called Russian aggression, the real purpose of the Spiegel piece is to warn Washington that EU leaders will not support a policy of military confrontation with Moscow.
Before we explain what’s going on, we need to look at an excerpt from the article. According to Spiegel:
“…for months now, many in the Chancellery simply shake their heads each time NATO, under Breedlove’s leadership, goes public with striking announcements about Russian troop or tank movements … it is the tone of Breedlove’s announcements that makes Berlin uneasy. False claims and exaggerated accounts, warned a top German official during a recent meeting on Ukraine, have put NATO — and by extension, the entire West — in danger of losing its credibility.
There are plenty of examples….At the beginning of the crisis, General Breedlove announced that the Russians had assembled 40,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and warned that an invasion could take place at any moment. The situation, he said, was “incredibly concerning.” But intelligence officials from NATO member states had already excluded the possibility of a Russian invasion. They believed that neither the composition nor the equipment of the troops was consistent with an imminent invasion.
The experts contradicted Breedlove’s view in almost every respect. There weren’t 40,000 soldiers on the border, they believed, rather there were much less than 30,000 and perhaps even fewer than 20,000. Furthermore, most of the military equipment had not been brought to the border for a possible invasion, but had already been there prior to the beginning of the conflict. Furthermore, there was no evidence of logistical preparation for an invasion, such as a field headquarters.
Breedlove, though, repeatedly made inexact, contradictory or even flat-out inaccurate statements.”…
On Nov. 12, during a visit to Sofia, Bulgaria, Breedlove reported that “we have seen columns of Russian equipment — primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops — entering into Ukraine.” It was, he noted, “the same thing that OSCE is reporting.” But the OSCE had only observed military convoys within eastern Ukraine. OSCE observers had said nothing about troops marching in from Russia.
Breedlove sees no reason to revise his approach. “I stand by all the public statements I have made during the Ukraine crisis,” he wrote to SPIEGEL in response to a request for a statement accompanied by a list of his controversial claims.”
(Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine, Der Spiegel)
While it’s easy to get swept up in the Spiegel’s narrative of a rabid militarist dragging Europe closer to World War 3, the storyline is intentionally misleading. As anyone who’s been following the Ukraine fiasco for the last year knows, there’s nothing particularly unusual about Breedlove’s distortions. Secretary of State John Kerry has made similar claims numerous times as have many others in the major media. The lies about “Russian aggression” are the rule, not the exception. So why has the Spiegel decided to selectively target Breedlove who is no more deceitful than anyone else? What’s really going on here?
Clearly, the Spiegel is doing Merkel’s work, that is, undermining the credibility of Washington’s chief commander in Europe in order to discourage further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. But while Merkel wants to humiliate Breedlove to show that Germany will not sit on its hands while Washington plunges the region into the abyss; she has also shown considerable restraint in limiting her attack to the General while sparing Kerry and Obama any embarrassment. This is quite an accomplishment given that –as we said earlier–virtually everyone in the political establishment and the media have been lying nonstop about every aspect of the conflict. Merkel doesn’t want to discredit these others just yet, although the Spiegel piece infers that she has the power to do so if the “bad behavior” persists.
The Spiegel article is part of a one-two punch designed to force Washington to change its confrontational approach. The second jab appeared late Sunday afternoon when EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that Europe needed to field its own army. Here’s the story from Reuters:
“The European Union needs its own army to face up to Russia and other threats as well as restore the bloc’s foreign policy standing around the world, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper on Sunday…
“With its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighboring state.
“One wouldn’t have a European army to deploy it immediately. But a common European army would convey a clear message to Russia that we are serious about defending our European values.” (Juncker calls for EU army, says would deter Russia, Reuters)
Can you see what’s going on? On the one hand, the Spiegel delivers a hammer-blow to the credibility of NATO’s top officer and on the other, the President of the EU Commission blindsides US powerbrokers by announcing a plan to create an independent EU fighting force that will render NATO redundant. These are big developments that have undoubtedly left the Obama troupe reeling. This is a full-blown assault on NATO’s role as the primary guarantor of EU regional security. Maybe the European people are gullible enough to accept Junker’s absurd claim that an EU army will “send an important message to the world”, but you can be damn sure that no one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue believes that nonsense. The move is clearly designed to send a message to Washington that Europe is fed up with NATO and wants a change. That means it’s “shape up or ship out time” for Breedlove and his ilk.
Ironically, these developments align Merkel with Putin’s view of things as stated in his famous Munich speech in 2007 when he said:
“I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security. And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue … The United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way … And of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasize this — no one feels safe.” (Russian President Vladimir Putin, 43rd Munich Security Conference, 2007)
How can the US possibly cast itself as “steward of the global security system”, when its interventions have left a trail of decimated failed states from the southernmost border of Somalia to the northern tip of Ukraine, a chaotic swathe of smoldering ruin and agonizing human suffering that rivals the depredations of the Third Reich.
Europe’s security requirements cannot be met by a belligerent, warmongering US-controlled entity that acts solely in Washington’s interests. At present, NATO gets 75% of its funding from the US, which is why the alliance is less interested in peacemaking and security than it is in internationalizing its imperial war of aggression across the planet. Prior to the crisis in Ukraine, European leaders didn’t see the danger of this idiotic arrangement (even though interventions in Serbia, Libya and Afghanistan should have brought them to their senses) But now that NATO’s recklessness could vaporize Europe in a nuclear firestorm, leaders like Merkel and Hollande are starting to change their tune. Keep in mind, the ideal scenario for the US would be a limited war that levels large parts of the European and Asian continents, thus restoring the US to its post WW2 heyday when the “rubblized” world was Washington’s oyster. That would be just fine for genocidal maniacs and armchair warriors who rule the globe from the safety of their well-stocked DC bunkers. But for Europe, this is definitely not a winning strategy. Europe doesn’t want a war, and it certainly doesn’t want to be used as cannon fodder for the greater glory of the dystopian NWO.
Putin advisor, Sergei Glazyev, figured out what Washington was up to long before Kiev launched its wretched “anti terrorism” campaign against federalist rebels in the East. Here’s how he summed it up:
“The main task the American puppet masters have set for the (Kiev) junta is to draw Russia into a full-scale war with Ukraine. It is for this purpose that all of these heinous crimes are committed – to force Russia to send troops to Ukraine to protect the civilian population…
The bankruptcy of the US financial system, which is unable to service its foreign debt, the lack of investments to finance a breakthrough to a new technological order and to maintain America’s competitiveness, and the potential defeat in the geopolitical competition with China. To resolve these problems, Americans need a new world war.” (Sergei Glazyev)
Bingo. The steadily-declining empire, whose share of global GDP continues to shrivel with every passing year, has wanted a war from the get go. That’s the only way that the US can reverse its precipitous economic slide and preserve its lofty spot as the world’s only superpower. Fortunately, EU leaders are beginning to pull their heads out of the sand long enough to grasp what’s going on and change their behavior accordingly.
It’s worth noting, that no one in the Merkel administration or anyone else for that matter, has publicly challenged the allegations in the Spiegel article. Why is that, do you think?
Doesn’t their silence suggest that they knew all along that all the anti-Putin propaganda hullabaloo was pure bunkum; that “evil” Putin didn’t send tanks and soldiers across the border into Ukraine, that Putin didn’t shoot down Malaysian Airline 17, that Putin didn’t have a political opponent gunned down gangland style just a few hundred yards from the Kremlin? Isn’t that what their silence really says?
Of course, it does. The reason no one in power has spoken out is because –as the Spiegel cynically admits–“A mixture of political argumentation and military propaganda is necessary.”
“Propaganda is necessary”?
Whoa. Now there’s an admission you’re not going to see in the media too often. But it’s the truth, isn’t it? The Euro-leaders have been going along with the lies to keep the public in line. In other words, it’s a healthy dose of perception management for the sheeple, but the unvarnished truth for our revered overlords. Sounds about right. Only now these ame elites have decided to share the facts with the lumpen masses. But, why? Why this sudden willingness to share the truth?
It’s because they no longer support Washington’s policy, that’s why. No one in Europe wants the US to arm and train the Ukrainian army. No one wants them to deploy 600 paratroopers to Kiev and increase US logistical support. No one wants further escalation, because no one wants a war with Russia. It’s that simple.
For the first time, EU leaders, particularly Merkel, understand that the United States’ strategic objectives (the pivot to Asia) do not align with those of the EU, in fact, Washington’s geopolitical ambitions pose a serious threat to Europe’s security. Regrettably, it’s not enough for Merkel to simply understand what is going on. She needs to huddle with her EU colleagues and take positive steps to derail Washington’s plan now, otherwise the US will continue its incitements and false flags until Putin is forced to respond. Once that happens, a broader and, perhaps, catastrophic conflagration will be unavoidable.
MIKE WHITNEY

What Next for Europe?
The Greeks Have Shaken the Pillars of the Temple
In the aftermath of last month’s Greek election that vaulted the left anti-austerity party Syriza into power, armies of supporters and detractors—from Barcelona to Berlin—are on the move. While Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble was making it clear that Berlin would brook no change in the European Union’s (EU) debt strategy that has impoverished countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, left organizations from all over Europe met in Barcelona to drew up a plan of battle.
As Schaueble was stonewalling Greek Finance Minister Yanis Karoufakis, the Party of the European Left (PEL), along with assorted Green parties, gathered for the “1st European South Forum” in Catalonia’s capital to sketch out a 10-point “Declaration of Barcelona” aimed at ending “austerity and inequality,” and promoting “democracy and solidarity.”
At first glance, the past two weeks look ominously like September 1914, with opposing forces digging in for a massive bloodletting.
On one hand the European Central Bank (ECB)—one of the “Troika” members, that includes the European Commission (EC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—brusquely denied Greece the right to sell government bonds to raise money. Representatives of the Greek government also got little support from other leaders of EU member countries to reduce Athens’ unsustainable $360 billion debt. Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Osborne, grimly opined that “The standoff” between the Eurozone and Greece was “endangering the global economy.”
On the other hand, the Syriza government made it clear that Greece was finished with the austerity policies that crashed its economy, made more than a quarter of the population jobless, and shredded essential social services. And the Barcelona Declaration is a direct challenge to the economic formulas of the Troika and German Chancellor Andrea Merkel: “Merkelism is not invincible. Austerity can stop. Europe can change,” reads the document.
Behind the trenches, however, the situation was far more complex than two sides bunkered down in a winner-take-all battle, and the politics around economic policy more fluid than one might initially conclude.
While Greece will certainly not go back to the failed formula of selling off state-owned enterprises, huge budget cuts, layoffs and onerous taxes, neither is it eager to exit the Eurozone. The latter is composed of 18 out of the 28 EU members that use a common currency, the euro.
For all the sturm und drang coming from Berlin and EU headquarters in Brussels, Syriza’s program is anything but radical, more social democratic than Bolshevik. And a growing number of economists and Europeans are concluding that taking a hard line on Greece might, in the end, endanger the entire EU endeavor.
As a strategy for getting out of debt, austerity has an almost unbroken track record of failure, starting with Latin American in the late 1980s. It has certainly been catastrophic for Greece and, to a lesser extent, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, and virtually no European country has dodged its impact on employment and social services.
“Austerity” is not just about cutbacks and budget tightening. By increasing unemployment, and introducing “temporary” labor contracts, it severely weakens unions and the ability of workers to bargain for higher wages and improved benefits. Indeed, according to the International Labor Organization, since 2007 wages have either stalled or fallen in most EU countries.
Austerity also accelerates economic inequality. According to the credit Suisse Research Institute, the top 1 percent now control 48.2 percent of the world’s wealth, and inequality in Europe is the highest it has been in a half century. More people are poorer than they were a decade ago, while a few are richer than ever. The latter will be reluctant to moderate the policies that have given them a half-decade of unalloyed profit making.
The Greek election was a shot across the bow for this strategy and a warning that, while wealth and political power may be related, they are not the same thing: Governments can be overturned.
But compromise on the Troika’s side will be difficult, in part because the austerity strategy has been so lucrative for the EU’s elites, in part because the intransigence of many EU leaders is driven by multiple devils.
There is the “why not us?” devil. The ruling parties in Ireland, Portugal and Spain are spooked, because if Syriza gets a deal on the Greek debt that doesn’t involve crucifying most its population, their own impoverished constituents are going to be asking some hard questions and demanding something similar.
Spain’s right-wing Popular Party is nervously looking over its shoulder at the growing strength of the anti-austerity Podemos party. It was no accident that the ELP chose Spain for its conference: Podemos is drawing 24 percent in national polls and is the only party in the country currently growing. It is now the second largest in Spain. With local and national elections coming up this year—the former in May, the latter in December—Spain’s two mainstream parties are running scared.
So, too, are the governments in Portugal and Ireland that went along with the austerity demands of the troika and now face expanding anti-austerity parties on their left.
Another devil is the right, although last May’s European parliamentary elections demonstrated that when the left clearly articulated an anti-austerity program, voters picked it over the right. What those elections also showed, however, is that when the center-left went along with austerity—as it did in Britain and France—the right made gains.
German Chancellor Andrea Merkel is apprehensive about losing votes to the right-wing, anti-EU Alternate Party for Germany. British Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to fend off the rightist United Kingdom Independence Party, and French President Francois Hollande is running behind Marine Le Pen of the anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic National Front Party.
There are strong right-wing parties in Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, although, in the latter two, their poll numbers fell in the European parliamentary elections.
What those last May elections suggest is that any effort to co-opt the right’s politics or base by moving in its direction does little more than feed the beast. Greece’s experiences are instructive. The neo-Nazi New Dawn Party is also anti-austerity, but Syriza trounced them in last month’s election. At the same time, Syriza’s warning that austerity fuels the politics of the right is almost certainly true. In an economic crisis there are always those who turn to the dark side and its simplistic explanations for their condition: immigrants, Roma, Jews, and “slackers.”
While the European right is worrisome, it has generally lost head-on battles with the left, because the right has little to offer besides the politics of racism and xenophobia.
And Europe needs answers. The Greek crisis is a crisis of the entire EU. To one extent or other, every country—even Germany, the EU’s engine—is characterized by falling or anemic wage growth, increasing economic inequality, spreading deflation, and an overall decline in living standards. It is this general malaise that the Barcelona Declaration is taking aim at.
Pierre Laurent, head of the French Communist Party and president of the ELP, told the Barcelona forum that “2015 is a decisive year, the year of change,” and that Syriza’s victory will “have a huge impact throughout Europe because for the first time since the crisis, it will force all European governments to discuss and alternative to austerity.”
The Declaration proposes a program for relieving unemployment, creating sustainable development, expanding credit, resisting “racism and xenophobia,” and a European debt conference along the lines of the 1953 London Debt Agreement that relieved Germany of half its post-World War II debts.
How the Greek debt crisis will play out over the next few months is not clear.
The troika may take a hard line, in which case Greece may be forced to leave the Eurozone, a move that Berlin claims would have little impact. Other analysts are not so certain.
“The predominant German view” that a Greek exit would be a “minor shock for the Eurozone and a non-event for the global economy” says Financial Times analyst Wolfgang Munchau, “could not be more wrong.”
Faced with a possible meltdown of the European Union or the Eurozone and a growing insurgency on its left, the Troika may blink and give the Greeks part of what they want: a reduction in the interest rate on the debt—maybe even a write-down on some of it—and an extension of the payment schedule. What they will not get—because the Greek electorate has made it clear they will not accept—is more austerity.
That is the contagion—sometimes called the “Greek virus””—that is already spreading to Spain, Portugal and Ireland and which is likely to jump to Italy, France and Central Europe.
The Greeks have shaken the pillars of the temple. Inside the mighty tremble.
Conn Hallinan

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