I Never MENA Hurt You; I Never MENA Make You Cry 2017 (Middle East, North Africa, and Other Geopolitical Hotspots)

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2017 deserves a new MENA thread.

BREAKING: Israeli news channel (Channel 2) reporting that Trump will announce the move of US embassy to Jerusalem - @IsraelHatzolah

I didn't think he'd do it but if the last year has taught me anything it's that I shouldn't trust my gut when it comes to forecasting the future; especially when it comes to Trump-related things.

imho it's a great decision. I never understood why the US withheld moving the embassy to West Jerusalem. I suppose they were trying to appease Arab countries + orgs that find the idea intolerable however it sent a poor signal - as if West Jerusalem were actually negotiable. That Arab countries refused to accept West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel gave lie to the contention that they 'accepted' Israel, and that the US refused to move the embassy there challenged the notion that they were in Israel's pocket. Moving the embassy there doesn't prejudge the status of East Jerusalem (which imho should not be divided or become the capital of Palestine but I think it's reasonably open to other opinions) and the argument that because Israel said the city was undivided means that moving the embassy to WJ confirmed that assertion is self-evidently absurd. One can have the embassy in West Jerusalem and still believe East Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine.

Anyway, should be an interesting year in the region. Presumably big developments re Syria, re ISIS, new Iranian elections coming up, not sure if status quo for gulf states or Yemen will change dramatically. Settlement construction in the WB set to speed up under new Presidency. Any other major issues coming to a head in 2017?

Mordy, Sunday, 22 January 2017 18:00 (nine months ago) Permalink

From prior thread:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/18/iraq-has-retaken-east-mosul-from-isis-says-army-general

2 days old news. Not yet on the internet is that ISIS is giving up because Trump said "radical Islamic terrorism" and said he would "eradicate them from the face of the earth"

― curmudgeon, Friday, January 20, 2017 10:04 AM

The Mosul offensive was designed to reduce the threat of ISIS and give the new president some breathing room, who, when the operation was planned, was assumed to be Clinton. Thanks, Obama.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Sunday, 22 January 2017 19:00 (nine months ago) Permalink

Looking forward to discussing MENA et al with you guys here this new year. Think you covered the biggest events. It's odd having a new US president of whom we've no clue what he'll do in foreign affairs. I'm 'interested' to see how the power grabbing Erdogan will play his cards wrt Syria and minorities, and whether or not his brittle 'understanding' with Russia can survive the year. Syria is Putin's call, in the end.

Israel to build nearly 600 settlement homes in East Jerusalem

Le Bateau Ivre, Sunday, 22 January 2017 19:01 (nine months ago) Permalink

my extremely low confidence guess is that this year we see syria start to move from a civil war into an occupation/insurrection stage as russian draws down participation and assad begins to try and reconsolidate as much of his broken country that he can. always lots of speculation about whether russian/iranian patrons will force him to resign but after all of this i can't imagine him agreeing to that and despite what it might appear he has significant leverage - too much invested at this pt for his patrons to just abandon him. it might be more convenient to reconstitution/rebuilding if he stepped down but imo it's not a dealbreaker.

Mordy, Sunday, 22 January 2017 19:03 (nine months ago) Permalink

Xp to Aimless: that's rather harsh on the YPG, Peshmerga and Iraqi army. They staged the Mosul op because they didn't have a choice. It wasn't a US-plan,

(Or am I missing your sarcasm here?)

Le Bateau Ivre, Sunday, 22 January 2017 19:04 (nine months ago) Permalink

Think you are right about Syria, Mordy. Though lots depends on how Assad, assuming he will be in near full control again, will treat the 'Rebels' and anyone else who disagrees with him.

Le Bateau Ivre, Sunday, 22 January 2017 19:06 (nine months ago) Permalink

Retaking Mosul was always going to require massive air support, which was always going to require US participation and a ton of US money, so even though it was jointly planned and is jointly run, the US had more than enough leverage to steer the overall plan. The "thanks, Obama" was intended as sarcasm.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Sunday, 22 January 2017 19:14 (nine months ago) Permalink

I don't get the sarcasm. Retaking Mosul is still a good thing?

What is happening with the Bibi scandal? Is he still in charge in 2018?

Frederik B, Sunday, 22 January 2017 19:52 (nine months ago) Permalink

who knows. when i first saw it i thought he'd for sure be out & israeli justice hasn't shown any reticence about jailing a PM before for corruption but idk he's an extremely savvy politician. also if u aren't counting there are now two separate scandals. case 2000 is the newspaper coverage related one. case 1000 is a standard bribes for favors case.

Mordy, Sunday, 22 January 2017 19:55 (nine months ago) Permalink

Sputnik claims Russia wants to include the US in negotiations but Iran is protesting.

Mordy, Sunday, 22 January 2017 20:16 (nine months ago) Permalink

If so, Russia must be feeling pretty confident of their good standing with the US government rn.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Sunday, 22 January 2017 20:18 (nine months ago) Permalink

Not really. It puts the US government in a very difficult position either way. Say yes and they 'legtimise' the talks and acknowledge they're playing second fiddle to Russia - only there because they allow them to be. Say no and they're cut out altogether. They would have done the same with Clinton, i'm pretty sure. Simply being in a position to be handing out the party invitations is the main goal.

Bubba H.O.T.A.P.E (ShariVari), Sunday, 22 January 2017 20:35 (nine months ago) Permalink

Gotcha Aimless.

Le Bateau Ivre, Sunday, 22 January 2017 20:36 (nine months ago) Permalink

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/20/middleeast/palmyra-isis-theater/

Damn, I thought Isis had already destroyed all of the ancient sites in Palmyra.

curmudgeon, Sunday, 22 January 2017 21:24 (nine months ago) Permalink

@haaretzcom
Israeli defense minister doesn't rule out occupying Gaza Strip in next conflict

http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.767283

Supercreditor (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 25 January 2017 02:29 (nine months ago) Permalink

rumors Assad suffered a stroke?

Mordy, Tuesday, 31 January 2017 15:13 (nine months ago) Permalink

if it happened, but wasn't fatal, then I doubt would change much in Syria any time soon. his policies would run along on simple inertia.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Tuesday, 31 January 2017 19:42 (nine months ago) Permalink

Stephen Walt:

Or consider this. For the past 15 years or more, people like me have been consistently and at times powerfully critical of American neoconservatives. I still regard their views on U.S. grand strategy and U.S. Middle East policy as dangerous and wrong, and I believe they bear considerable responsibility for the continuing fiasco we are dealing with in the Middle East. If William Kristol, Eliot Cohen, or David Frum got close to wielding power again, I’d worry that their advice might be taken seriously and I’d do what I could to challenge their analysis and their prescriptions. But as of today we’re on the same side, because the threat that Trump, Bannon, and their incompetent cronies pose to our constitutional order and core political values overrides our continuing differences on other foreign-policy questions. The neocons may change their tune if Trump does decide to attack Iran — we’ll see — but for now their concerns are justified and their warnings should be heeded.

It takes a danger of considerable magnitude to get realists and neoconservatives to agree on anything, but we agree on Trump. And you can add to that unlikely coalition the traditional left, the largely apolitical civil service, the heads of a growing number of major corporations, and many dedicated foreign-policy professionals Trump might have won over but didn’t even bother to try.

Mordy, Saturday, 4 February 2017 16:44 (nine months ago) Permalink

Assad appears to be still alive, and he has allegedly had executed 13,000 opponents who were detained in jails in recent years

the Amnesty International report says the magnitude and severity of abuse has "increased drastically" since 2011. Citing the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, the report says "at least 17,723 people were killed in government custody between March 2011 and December 2015, an average of 300 deaths each month." The victims — political dissidents, journalists, doctors and aid workers — were perceived opponents of the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On the basis of its own investigation, Amnesty International estimates that between September 2011 and December 2015, between 5,000 and 13,000 people were executed without legitimate trials at Saydnaya.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/06/513804240/amnesty-international-reports-organized-murder-of-detainees-in-syrian-prison

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 7 February 2017 13:45 (nine months ago) Permalink

But will he agree to a trade deal with the UK and has Theresa May offered him a state visit yet?

Eats like Elvis, shits like De Niro (Tom D.), Tuesday, 7 February 2017 13:53 (nine months ago) Permalink

Mass murder was always going to be the result of an Assad victory.

Eallach mhór an duine leisg (dowd), Tuesday, 7 February 2017 14:38 (nine months ago) Permalink

I was listening to a v grisly + depressing report on this earlier, people are often notified of their death penalty within minutes of the hanging - which is sometimes taking up to 15 minutes to kill them, often executioners are having to pull their legs to finish off the job. I think I'd rather take a bullet than go through such an horrific death as that.

calzino, Tuesday, 7 February 2017 14:46 (nine months ago) Permalink

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-turkey-idUSKBN15N02J

The Turkish sources said Pompeo would discuss both the YPG and steps against the network of U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating last July's coup attempt. Gulen denies any involvement.

Turkey has been frustrated by what it considers to be Washington's reluctance to hand over Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.

"As you know, we have two fundamental issues with the U.S. administration inherited from Obama’s period. One is the support given to YPG and the other is the (Gulen) problem," Kalin said.

"Our president spoke about these openly and clearly. Trump was informed on these and, without going into too much detail, he said let’s ask our teams to work on this and let’s give the necessary instructions."

curmudgeon, Thursday, 9 February 2017 16:24 (nine months ago) Permalink

freezing out the Kurds

curmudgeon, Thursday, 9 February 2017 16:24 (nine months ago) Permalink

Wouldn't be the first time the Kurds were encouraged to shed blood at the behest of the USA and then left hanging out to dry when backing up our words with actions became inconvenient.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Thursday, 9 February 2017 16:27 (nine months ago) Permalink

I'm thinking the US military has different ideas on this, then the US politicians in the White House and CIA have on this. That's why the latter dropped the Obama plan mentioned upthread

curmudgeon, Thursday, 9 February 2017 19:17 (nine months ago) Permalink

ugh the whole Gulen thing is so 1984 it makes me sick.

ridiculous perm ban decision (voodoo chili), Thursday, 9 February 2017 19:23 (nine months ago) Permalink

erdogan is a fool if he really wants to get his hands on gulen. dude is obviously so much more valuable as a distant scapegoat than he could ever be in custody

Mordy, Thursday, 9 February 2017 19:25 (nine months ago) Permalink

Targeting the Gulenist movement would continue even if Gulen himself was in jail. Öcalan is in prison.

Bubba H.O.T.A.P.E (ShariVari), Thursday, 9 February 2017 19:31 (nine months ago) Permalink

http://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/liberman-offers-gaza-seaport-airport-40000-jobs-asks-for-disarmament-hostages-soldiers-bodies/

he must only be offering this bc he knows hamas will never agree to disarmament

Mordy, Thursday, 16 February 2017 21:04 (nine months ago) Permalink

this is still insane btw just making the offer is kinda boggling my mind.

...thanks trump?

Mordy, Thursday, 16 February 2017 21:05 (nine months ago) Permalink

AN AIRPORT.

if i were hamas - and assume i'm 100% committed to staying armed - i'd accept, disarm, and then just BRING IN ALL THE WEAPONS I WANTED THROUGH MY BRAND NEW AIRPORT.

Mordy, Thursday, 16 February 2017 21:06 (nine months ago) Permalink

I am sure that Hamas views itself as the legitimate government of Gaza and it should be obvious to any neutral party that they have very solid factual grounds for this view. Legitimate governments everywhere are 100% committed to arming themselves. If I were Hamas, I would need a hell of a lot more than an airport to pursue disarmament. I'd need a very detailed and comprehensive peace deal with Israel.

So not gonna happen.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Thursday, 16 February 2017 21:34 (nine months ago) Permalink

and it should be obvious to any neutral party that they have very solid factual grounds for this view

lol tell me aimless when was the last time they held elections

Mordy, Thursday, 16 February 2017 21:38 (nine months ago) Permalink

terrible suicide bombing in pakistan today
http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/16/asia/pakistan-shrine-bombing/index.html

Mordy, Thursday, 16 February 2017 23:31 (nine months ago) Permalink

Mordy, the factual basis for thinking Hamas is a legitimate government rests on the fact that they do in fact attempt to administer to the civil needs of the population and provide a stable and predictable set of services in return for the taxes it levies. Elections are not the only measure of legitimacy, and given the ease and frequency with which they are manipulated, should not be the most salient measure.

If you want to apply liberal political ideals to the notion of legitimacy, the number of nations admissible to the UN would take a pretty drastic hit.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Thursday, 16 February 2017 23:48 (nine months ago) Permalink

You're glossing over a lot like the fact that they run a totalitarian dictatorship within Gaza and engage in numerous crimes against their citizens including torture, religious enforcement, etc, not to mention the war crimes they commit - firing at Israeli civilian targets is not even the worst of it since now there's the Iron Dome, but it seems clear to me that there's firm evidence that they do use hospitals, schools, children, civilian apartment buildings, etc as shields against counter strikes on missile sites. Which is to say that they are legitimate as much as any theologic authoritarian gov that has led its people into poverty and misery can be. More important I think is that they see themselves as the military vanguard against Israel and it would deconstruct their entire identity to disarm (not to mention would injure their legitimacy among even more radical splinter groups in Gaza like Islamic Jihad and ISIS-offshoots and would likely lead to their demise either through a coup or a people's revolution).

Mordy, Thursday, 16 February 2017 23:54 (nine months ago) Permalink

as any theologic authoritarian gov that has led its people into poverty and misery can be

I'll freely grant they are theologic and authoritarian. iirc, the poverty and misery predate their creation, let alone their assuming the government of gaza.

it would deconstruct their entire identity to disarm

you agree with me, then: so not gonna happen.

lead to their demise either through a coup or a people's revolution

it seems internally contradictory to me to imply they do not represent a legitimate government because they have not held elections recently, yet think that their most central policy is so popular with the governed that changing it would lead to their overthrow by the general population. that's kind of a weird compartmentalization.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Friday, 17 February 2017 00:20 (nine months ago) Permalink

Maybe I spoke poorly because I think you misunderstood me. Hamas is not popular afaict in Gaza. However they have many weapons which can be useful for staying in control. Without those weapons they will leave themselves open to a coup or a people's revolution that they might otherwise be able to fend off through their [pseudo]-monopoly on armed resistance. With regard to these splinter groups, I think a combination of Hamas' militant superiority and at least some tolerance of Hamas' level of antagonism keeps them in check. But only just barely - they are constantly threatening Hamas (normally by firing weapons at Israel and daring the IDF to strike back at Hamas as punishment) and pushing for even more militant strategies. So I think Hamas is not popular, and that if they were put in a weaker position there are both other militant groups as well as the general populace who would be interested in pushing them out. In terms of their identity, I see this more as an existential issue relating primarily to their self-conception. Is this a clearer explanation? I see no compartmentalization at all in this diagnosis.

Mordy, Friday, 17 February 2017 00:28 (nine months ago) Permalink

However they have many weapons which can be useful for staying in control.

Since you seem to be saying this in the context of a discussion of why hamas won't even begin to consider disarming itself in return for a big airport (which is what both of us are saying, but from different perspectives), I can only read "weapons" in that context as referring to literal armaments, since those would be the only weapons they would be divesting themselves of, not the apparatus of governance.

I do not imagine any government anywhere on earth would agree to disarming to the extent they could no longer police their population, or prevent an armed "splinter" from overthrowing them, nor disarming to the point where they would be defenseless against an invasion by their larger, more powerful neighbor, without a comprehensive, detailed and internationally enforced peace treaty with that neighbor. An airport is a piddling bribe and a dismally stupid offer.

We got into this little tussle because you lolled at the idea that hamas was a legitimate government and by extension lolled at my posting that included that statement. You seem to have stopped lolling. You want to sign an armistice?

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Friday, 17 February 2017 00:45 (nine months ago) Permalink

Yeah, I wasn't trying to be cruel - I just thought it was a somewhat funny way of putting things since from my perspective their need for weapons comes directly from their essential illegitimacy. Maybe I'm revealing a tad naiveté but of course as a Western I like to believe that my government's legitimacy comes from the people and from the consent granted by the ruled. Hamas, like many dictatorships, rules through might and oppression. When you wrote that no legitimate government would give up their weapons my mind immediately went to the legitimacy of representative governments in maintaining weaponry in order to protect their citizenship. Even with a comprehensive peace with Israel (something that ending the blockade would suggest at least an opening towards) Hamas cannot afford to disarm, and it has nothing to do with their neighbors. In the end I was just quibbling and I'm sorry if you were annoyed.

Mordy, Friday, 17 February 2017 00:54 (nine months ago) Permalink

If Hamas did have a sincere interest in ending the blockade perhaps they could make a counter offer to disarm their rocket arsenals and other weapons clearly intended for waging war against Israel, but get to keep their more conventional arms that they need to suppress internal dissent. I suspect they will not, though, for the first reason I gave. Their entire raison d'etre is refusing to compromise with Israel. (On a least overt level I believe this existential reason is responsible for much of the conflict between Israel and Palestinian nationalism but that's a huge conversation I'm not really interested in getting into atm.)

Mordy, Friday, 17 February 2017 00:57 (nine months ago) Permalink

Remember Aleppo. Curious about what's happening there lately I googled and just found this--

Less than 20 hours after water supply was fully restored in the eastern Aleppo countryside, ISIS shut it down once more after a month-long outage in the Al-Khafseh area.

This region represents an area which has seen the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) capture over a dozen villages from ISIS in the past month; effectively, the water shutdown can be seen as a infrastructural way for the Islamic State to retaliate.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/islamic-state-cuts-off-water-supply-aleppo/

curmudgeon, Friday, 17 February 2017 12:11 (nine months ago) Permalink

The Saudis have obviously figured out that flattery is essential when approaching trump.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Sunday, 19 February 2017 19:05 (nine months ago) Permalink

The U.S. military commander in Iraq has said he believes

U.S.-backed forces will retake both of IS's urban bastions - Mosul and Raqqa in neighboring Syria - within the next six months, which would end the jihadists' ambitions to territorial rule three years after they declared a "caliphate".

...

"This is the grim choice for children in western Mosul right now: bombs, crossfire and hunger if they stay – or execution and snipers if they try to run," the Save the Children humanitarian agency said in a statement. It added that children comprise about half the population in the city's western sector.

Up to 400,000 civilians could be displaced by the offensive, with western Mosul suffering food and fuel shortages and markets closed, according to the United Nations.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 21 February 2017 19:26 (eight months ago) Permalink

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/new-houthi-weapon-emerges-a-drone-boat

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The Houthi boat that attacked and hit a Saudi frigate Jan. 30 in the Red Sea, reported earlier as a suicide boat, was instead carried out by an unmanned, remote-controlled craft filled with explosives, the US Navy’s top officer in the Mideast said.

“Our assessment is that it was an unmanned, remote-controlled boat of some kind,” Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet and head of US Naval Forces Central Command, told Defense News in an interview here Saturday.

The attack on the frigate Al Madinah appears to be the first confirmed use of the weapon which, Donegan said, represents a wider threat than that posed by suicide boats and shows foreign interests are aiding the Houthis.

goole, Tuesday, 21 February 2017 22:51 (eight months ago) Permalink

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/20/rockets-fired-into-southern-israel-from-egypts-sinai

Isis being driven up north, this seems a 'logical' attack from their side. I don't believe ISIS can do any real damage in Israel, luckily, but I do wonder if stuff like this will get Bibi (even) more on board with Trumps supposed plans to "fight ISIS" more? Stingy for Israel to get involved with ISIS imho.

Le Bateau Ivre, Wednesday, 22 February 2017 00:27 (eight months ago) Permalink

Saw something about a missile from Yemen, then this?

Wow lot of big news out of Saudi tonight. Reports of big names being taken into custody (Waleed bin Talal, Khaled Tuwaijri, Waleed Ibrahim).

— Tobias Schneider (@tobiaschneider) November 4, 2017

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 4 November 2017 21:03 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Reuters: Saudi Arabia detains princes, ex-ministers in anti-corruption drive

Saudi Arabia has detained 10 princes and dozens of former ministers through its newly formed anti-corruption committee, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV reported, citing unnamed sources.

The new committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was formed by royal decree hours earlier on Saturday.

Then again, anti-corruption drives in autocratic regimes are not always anti-corruption drives.

Sanpaku, Saturday, 4 November 2017 22:15 (two weeks ago) Permalink

on top of that,

Yemeni rebels on Saturday targeted an airport in Saudi Arabia's capital with a ballistic missile, according to Yemen's Houthi-controlled Defense Ministry.

But the missile was intercepted over northeast Riyadh, the Saudi Ministry of Defense said in a statement carried on government-backed Al-Arabiya television.

Yemen's Defense Ministry said the missile attack "shook the Saudi capital" and the operation was successful. The attack was conducted using a Yemeni-made, long-range missile called the Burqan 2H, it said.

The Riyadh airport tweeted that it hadn't been affected.

"Travelers across King Khalid international airport in Riyadh, we assure you that the movement is going on as normal and usual, and trips going according to time," the airport said on Twitter.

Airstrikes later in the day targeted Yemen's capital Sanaa, shaking homes and breaking windows. This is the first night attack on Sanaa in weeks, according to CNN's Hakim al-Masmari from Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of states against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who toppled Yemen's internationally recognized government in 2015.

The missile launch on King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh was the first time the heart of the Saudi capital has been attacked and represents a major escalation of the ongoing war in the region.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/04/middleeast/saudi-arabia-ballistic-missile/index.html

Karl Malone, Sunday, 5 November 2017 01:42 (two weeks ago) Permalink

...and now?

A plane transporting eight Saudi officials including Prince Mansour Bin Muqrin, reportedly crashed near Abha #KSA

— Michael Horowitz (@michaelh992) November 5, 2017

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 5 November 2017 20:25 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Lots of rumours that Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd, who was arrested a few weeks ago, is also dead - though not clear if it is the same incident.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Monday, 6 November 2017 00:05 (two weeks ago) Permalink

KSA now saying Lebanon has declared war against them.

Note: Lebanon has not declared war against them.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Monday, 6 November 2017 20:58 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Still no clarity on whether Abdulaziz bin Fahd is dead, btw. Some press reports indicate he may have been killed resisting arrest but nothing wholly credible.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Monday, 6 November 2017 21:04 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I hardly know how to think about politics in an autocratic context... is consolidation of power for Mohammed bin Salman a good thing all things considered? It seems like he's advancing an agenda that we want for Saudi Arabia.

jmm, Monday, 6 November 2017 22:15 (two weeks ago) Permalink

He is currently fighting a murderous war in Yemen, on the verge of declaring war with Lebanon, leading a largely arbitrary blockade of Qatar - in part because he doesn’t like one of their TV stations, is pushing anyone who is hesitant of doubling down in Syria out, etc. Obviously ymmv as to the agenda we want KSA to have but I am not sure the signs are exactly positive.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Monday, 6 November 2017 22:32 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Mohammed bin Salman is a total idiot who is going to end up starting a huge war hey?

-_- (jim in vancouver), Monday, 6 November 2017 22:40 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Okay, I was simply looking at some of the purported social reforms. I don't know this area very well.

jmm, Monday, 6 November 2017 22:41 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Lebanon's PM suddenly resigning is quite mind blowing, too:

Lebanon's outgoing prime minister who unexpectedly resigned during a trip to Saudi Arabia met with Saudi King Salman on Monday as speculation continued to swirl over his surprising move.

You don't say. Him stepping back will give way for new elections. Which will put Hezbolah (Iran backed) in the spotlight again, much to KSA's dismay. But it could also be he got a head start, and gave in because he knows what's coming (both for his country - Lebanon is practically bankrupt - and him personally).

If you want 4D political chess, look no further.

Le Bateau Ivre, Monday, 6 November 2017 23:31 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Mohammed bin Salman is a total idiot

He consorts with noted geopolitical expert, Jared Kushner.

I recommend the Nov 5 Background Briefing with Ian Masters for expertise here.

MBS+Kushner+Trump could get the US into fighting on the losing side of the Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict. An ostensibly isolationist political movement behind Trump would project us into a centuries old conflict.

Sanpaku, Tuesday, 7 November 2017 16:52 (one week ago) Permalink

Kushner's security detail isn't remotely large enough.

Sanpaku, Tuesday, 7 November 2017 16:54 (one week ago) Permalink

A blockade on basic supplies to war-ravaged Yemen is threatening millions of people and should be lifted immediately, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The call follows a reported decision on Saturday by Saudi Arabia, which is leading the coalition fighting Houthi separatists in the country, to close air and sea ports in Yemen.


http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58044#.WgIb_NIUlYU

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 7 November 2017 20:49 (one week ago) Permalink

this saad al-hariri story is crazy

the late great, Friday, 10 November 2017 23:21 (one week ago) Permalink

i have no idea what to make of it

Mordy, Friday, 10 November 2017 23:23 (one week ago) Permalink

are the saudis going to attack lebanon? that seems impossible right?

Mordy, Friday, 10 November 2017 23:24 (one week ago) Permalink

Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for Saudi Arabia's foreign policy debacles over the past few years (v. Syria, Yemen, and Qatar). Seems following his tête-à-tête with Jared Kushner, he decided to double down on the arrogance.

Ian Master's interviews with David Hearst (editor, Middle East Eye) and Thanassis Cambanis (Beirut journalist) from Nov 5 shed some light.

Sanpaku, Friday, 10 November 2017 23:41 (one week ago) Permalink

Oops, I posted this already. Guess memory impairment is one of the side effects.

Sanpaku, Friday, 10 November 2017 23:43 (one week ago) Permalink

are the saudis going to attack lebanon? that seems impossible right?

― Mordy, Friday, November 10, 2017 3:24 PM (twenty minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

i don't think they'll attack, but ratchet-up tensions, put in place trade restrictions, give israel a nudge (and maybe some financial inducements) to deal with hezbollah while they're presumably weakened by their involvement in the syrian civil war?

-_- (jim in vancouver), Friday, 10 November 2017 23:47 (one week ago) Permalink

Saudis probably want Israelis to fight Lebanon, but I don't think the Israelis want that now, as much as they despise Hezbollah

curmudgeon, Saturday, 11 November 2017 05:59 (one week ago) Permalink

Greenwald and others like him are blaming the US for this. Predicting more famine and death

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 15 November 2017 13:35 (five days ago) Permalink

I talked to a friend who lived Beirut a long time (and speaks Arabic but isn't Arab) and her view is that KSA is sidelining Hariri in order to make Lebanon *more* unambiguously a Hezbollah govt so they (the Saudis) can have a freer political hand to intervene there militarily; I don't really see how that makes sense but neither does any other theory I've heard

Guayaquil (eephus!), Wednesday, 15 November 2017 13:41 (five days ago) Permalink

I've actually been hearing that theory a lot tbf

Le Bateau Ivre, Wednesday, 15 November 2017 13:44 (five days ago) Permalink

me2 thus my question above - it's hard to imagine SA really intends to conduct a military operation in Lebanon unless they plan on ramping up + turning the tide in Syria...

Mordy, Wednesday, 15 November 2017 13:58 (five days ago) Permalink

Which also doesn't make sense, given the recent [Russia-Saudi arms deal](http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-king-salman-visit-saudi-arabia-moscow-vladimir-putin-a7985161.html).

Sanpaku, Wednesday, 15 November 2017 15:26 (five days ago) Permalink

But on other issue...Is anyone working to resolve Saudi vs Houthi in Yemen war, and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen for civilians?

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 15 November 2017 15:28 (five days ago) Permalink

certainly not the u.s., canada, or uk who are happy to sell the saudis weaponry/send them military advisors

-_- (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 15 November 2017 17:37 (five days ago) Permalink

the fact that we hear so much about the humanitarian crisis in syria and even say the rohingya but the yemeni catastrophe is barely covered by western media makes me feel kinda greenwald lol

-_- (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 15 November 2017 17:38 (five days ago) Permalink

Yemen has the special position of being both dirt fucking poor and Muslim, so nobody in the US gives a shit

officer sonny bonds, lytton pd (mayor jingleberries), Wednesday, 15 November 2017 17:55 (five days ago) Permalink

There are a bunch of wars going on that receives less attention than Yemen, though. South Sudan, for instance. And the opportunity to put blame on the US is one of the main reasons that people like Greenwald care, which is sorta racist in it's own way.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 15 November 2017 18:28 (five days ago) Permalink

oh ffs.. yemen is arguably the biggest humanitarian disaster that's happening right now with the potential for millions of deaths from starvation. greenwald's american. it is actually his government's fault to a large extent. why should he not care? i'm a british person who lives in canada, i'm disgusted at the governments of both countries as i think it's natural to be. yet our press could not be more obsequious regarding the arms/military assistance to saudi arabia.

-_- (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 15 November 2017 18:33 (five days ago) Permalink

Sure, but compared to the other three countries in this article, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, Yemen isn't underreported: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/11/world-faces-worst-humanitarian-crisis-since-1945-says-un-official

And some of the coverage is frankly abhorrent, as when some old email was dug up to blame the whole war on Hillary Clinton. That is not about moral disgust, that's about using dead yemeni to score political points.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 15 November 2017 19:13 (five days ago) Permalink

the fact that our governments are directly responsible for the yemen crisis and could end it if they wanted would be the key point to me. but I'm just trying to score political points.

-_- (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 15 November 2017 19:39 (five days ago) Permalink

That is not a fact. Unless you live in Saudi Arabia?

Frederik B, Wednesday, 15 November 2017 19:58 (five days ago) Permalink

the US is providing arms + intelligence it's kinda silly to quibble over whether that equals "directly" or not. would SA prosecute this war w/out US help? i'd think so (surely they are more committed to fighting Iran through proxy conflicts than the US is). but they wouldn't be able to do as much damage.

Mordy, Wednesday, 15 November 2017 20:06 (five days ago) Permalink

The US and the West clearly has blood on our hands in Yemen, but so do we in South Sudan, Somalia, Syria, etc. The idea that somehow the US could stop the humanitarian crisis in Yemen if we wanted to is, well, not a fact. If anything, the lack of a regional power behaving like a lunatic might mean the West could do a hell of a lot more good wrt humanitarian help in Somalia or Nigeria.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 15 November 2017 20:14 (five days ago) Permalink

u.s. provides logistical and intelligence support to saudis in yemen. u.s., along with canada, uk, france etc. provided the majority of planes, bombs (including cluster bombs) and missiles that have been used to enforce blockade of yemen and destroy civilians (packed public places such as markets have been deliberately targeted) and civilian infrastructure. the u.s. weapons deal is to saudi arabia in the time leading up to the war is the largest weapons deal in u.s. history.

-_- (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 15 November 2017 20:17 (five days ago) Permalink

leading up to and during i should have said

-_- (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 15 November 2017 20:17 (five days ago) Permalink

Part of the reason the weapons deal is so large is because Saudi Arabia is a really really rich country that isn't on any sort of sanctions list. They can get enough weapons they want for a number of genocides. Which is not to say that the West is without guilt in this case, our relationship with Saudi Arabia has been cynical and disgusting for decades. But we're not 'directly responsible' for the war in Yemen, and we could not just end it if we wanted to. Saudi Arabia is a big regional power, a rich and powerful country, and they can pretty much do what they want to. The responsibility for the Yemen disaster lies with them, and especially with crown prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 15 November 2017 20:56 (five days ago) Permalink

What Saudi Arabia and its allies are doing in Yemen is abhorent, but Yemen has topped my list of Malthusian basket cases for a some time. Population has more than doubled since 1990, according to the FAO it imported 95% of it cereal in 2011-13, and the cost for this equaled a third of its exports. A few years ago Guardian reported Yemen had nearly drained the aquifer under Sana'a, with 45% having gone to grow the narcotic qat.

Sanpaku, Thursday, 16 November 2017 05:19 (four days ago) Permalink

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.823163

this doesn't augur particularly well for the people of lebanon

-_- (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 16 November 2017 17:18 (four days ago) Permalink

i disagree

Eisenkot said Israel has no intention of initiating an attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon. "We see Iranian attempts at bringing about an escalation, but I don't see a high chance for this at the moment."

i don't think israel has any motivation to start a conflagration in lebanon. the only possible motivation would be attempting to deny hezbollah strategic assets (primarily coming from iran) but bombing those transports in syria have proven sufficient (and garnered russian support). another asymmetrical counter insurgency quagmire would go against bibi's conservative status quoism and would produce no obvious benefits. this is a good read: https://ottomansandzionists.com/2017/11/16/are-israel-and-saudi-arabia-on-the-same-page/

Mordy, Thursday, 16 November 2017 17:25 (four days ago) Permalink

directly responsible for the yemen crisis and could end it if they wanted

I agree with the idea that the US and other western allies of KSA share a direct responsibility for some of the events in Yemen. I disagree with the idea that KSA's western allies could end it 'if they wanted'.

It's tempting to believe that the world dances to the tune the west decides to play, but KSA is a very wealthy country with its own regional and international interests and nothing short of full-scale military intervention by the west could force KSA to stop a war it views as necessary to its interests. I think we've had ample demonstrations since the Vietnam War that just because a western power "wants" a particular outcome to some conflict, is no guarantee that it gets what it wants.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 16 November 2017 19:22 (four days ago) Permalink

i disagree

Eisenkot said Israel has no intention of initiating an attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon. "We see Iranian attempts at bringing about an escalation, but I don't see a high chance for this at the moment."

i don't think israel has any motivation to start a conflagration in lebanon. the only possible motivation would be attempting to deny hezbollah strategic assets (primarily coming from iran) but bombing those transports in syria have proven sufficient (and garnered russian support). another asymmetrical counter insurgency quagmire would go against bibi's conservative status quoism and would produce no obvious benefits. this is a good read: https://ottomansandzionists.com/2017/11/16/are-israel-and-saudi-arabia-on-the-same-page/

― Mordy, Thursday, November 16, 2017 9:25 AM (two hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

i just meant israel further aligning itself with the increasingly reckless saudis -using their nonsense "shia crescent" slogan and all - and donald trump and the fact that hezbollah/lebanon seems like the most likely target if any of this rhetorical sabre-rattling is to turn into military action. admittedly (and this is a pretty huge admittedly) israel would need some sort of provocation from hezbollah to launch such an attack, if history is any indicator, and even with the war in syria winding down and assad's place looking assured i don't think hezbollah are going to be up to any shenanigans with israel any time soon.

-_- (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 16 November 2017 20:02 (four days ago) Permalink

That "Shia cresent" talk may be shaping U.S. military action. I've seen several leaked combat footage clips of U.S. SOF working with opposition Syrian militia along Syria route 2, the shortest route between Damascus and Baghdad. Reflected in the green blob extending from the Iraqi border at this war situation site, recently. It's not particularly relevant ground for the war against ISIS.

Sanpaku, Saturday, 18 November 2017 16:46 (two days ago) Permalink

the crescent isn't a joke imo. at least from israel's perspective it is a huge threat having iranian weapons on its border across lebanon + syria.

Mordy, Saturday, 18 November 2017 16:52 (two days ago) Permalink

Big story that's been underreported in the US.

Nov 14: Raqqa’s dirty secret

The BBC has uncovered details of a secret deal that let hundreds of IS fighters and their families escape from Raqqa, under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces who control the city.

A convoy included some of IS’s most notorious members and – despite reassurances – dozens of foreign fighters. Some of those have spread out across Syria, even making it as far as Turkey.

...

In light of the BBC investigation, the coalition now admits the part it played in the deal. Some 250 IS fighters were allowed to leave Raqqa, with 3,500 of their family members.

“We didn’t want anyone to leave,” says Col Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Western coalition against IS.

“But this goes to the heart of our strategy, ‘by, with and through’ local leaders on the ground. It comes down to Syrians – they are the ones fighting and dying, they get to make the decisions regarding operations,” he says.

Mike Lofgren asks:

Was there a diplomatic exchange between the Saudis and the United States over the Raqqa deal to preserve a Saudi “asset?”

Sanpaku, Sunday, 19 November 2017 16:20 (yesterday) Permalink


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