Saturday, 10 September 2016

What Does Saudi Arabia Want in Yemen?

The Carnegie Endowment for Intenational Peace asked the question  'What Does Saudi Arabia Want in Yemen?' and published four differing assessments. Here I offer an alternative simplistic viewpoint, in less than 700 words. Note that this discussion does not address the cause of the internal conflict within Yemen, but concentrates just on the motivations of Saudi Arabia regarding their "intervention". I am a peace activist, not a political expert. My comments are intended to provoke debate and I welcome constructive criticism.

Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the youngest minister of defence in the world, is the driving force behind the Saudi bombardment of Yemen. He is described as the power behind the throne of his father, King Salman, and is considered likely to jump the succession line to be the next to claim the throne.

He is considered by some to be a dangerous, calculating megalomaniac; such characteristics are qualities to be found in leaders of genocide. He is ambitious in his plans to rise to power and exert his influence, both within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and also regarding Saudi Arabia's influence on the world.

In the eyes of Prince Mohammad, Yemen is an inconvenience, that he would rather was a part of his own future land. It acts as a hurdle between Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Sea for Saudi's oil exports. Currently Saudi Arabia depends on exports via the Red Sea constricted by the Bab-el-Mandab, or via the Persian Gulf constricted by the Strait of Hormuz, when ideally it would just run a pipeline down through the centre of Yemen. The rise and spread of power in Yemen of northern Yemen's Houthis, long established enemies of the Kingdom, is problematic for Prince Mohammad's plans for Saudi's future.

In addition, there is a paradox in the invincible mindset of this young prince, in that the Saudi royal family feels their hold on power threatened, due to the rise of democracy and calls for equality, as well as a preoccupation with perceived increasing Iranian influences in their vicinity. Driven by the need to exert influence and power, and carried by the fears of the Saudi population who had been led to believe a border invasion was imminent, Prince Mohammed initially thought he could easily bomb Yemen into submission, thus imposing his puppet of choice to run the country. The desired result would have seen a victory awarded to his name, which would have served him well in his ascent to the throne. However, Yemen proved more difficult to conquer than he had imagined, so realizing he could not win this war as initially planned, he has set about destroying all of Yemen's infrastructure in order to weaken the country until it is no longer a threat and is entirely dependent on the generosity of Saudi Arabia in order to survive.

An unfortunate consequence of this global power game is the thousands of civilians who are killed by the bombing and the thousands more who die from starvation and untreated disease. Saudi Arabia feigns its concern for the protection of civilians in order to placate the increasing voices of outrage from parts of the international community, but one only has to look at the brutality the Saudi rulers display towards their own people to be totally unconvinced by any show of humanity from this autocratic regime.

The objectives of Saudi Arabia in regards to Yemen are clear: to squeeze the life out of it, through the blockade of food, destruction of water resources, bombing of  bridges, health facilities and all educational establishments, until it is so weakened that it is no longer considered any threat to Saudi Arabia and submits entirely to Prince Mohammad's vision for the region.

What remains to be asked is: what are the objectives of the UK and USA? For without their continued support, the bombardment of Yemen would prove to be logistically impossible, and with their continued support, Saudi Arabia is unlikely to stop its destruction.

Few are convinced by Western expressions of desire to restore any so called 'legitimate government', but instead believe that Western objectives are those of profiting from war, securing lucrative contracts that arise out of Yemen's destruction and the exploitation of natural resources of this impoverished nation. In addition, one may wonder if the long term goal of some powers may actually be the weakening of Saudi Arabia by enabling it to bomb itself into debt and instability. One consequence of the Saudi led bombardment is that whereas the Houthis were not threatening the border of Saudi Arabia before the bombardment, they most certainly are now.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

An Open Letter to Members of the Parliamentary Labour Party

Dear Member of Parliament,

I am a British citizen that is an active campaigner on social media regarding matters of injustice, in particular I have campaigned against the blockade and coalition airstrikes on Yemen over the past year, the persecution of the stateless Rohingya in Myanmar, the bombardment and blockade of Gaza, as well as the oppression, imprisonment and torture of many innocent people including medics in Bahrain.

I'm not a member of the Labour Party but what politicians refer to as a 'floating voter'. I voted for Labour before the Iraq war but said I would never vote for them again after Tony Blair's decision to go to war. Next I voted for the Lib Dems, who let us down badly over tuition fees, and then I voted for the Green Party, even though I knew my vote was going nowhere - they seemed the only honest group left around. I can't ever see myself voting for the Conservative Party, as it stands, but some of their politicians, such as Sarah Wollaston, I have great respect for - and actually, now I come to ask myself the question, if it was Conservative lead by Sarah Wollaston or Labour lead by Angela Eagle, I would probably actually vote Conservative. I'm not motivated by a political ideology, hence do not see myself as 'left' or 'right', but I am motivated by honesty and the call for social justice.

When Labour launched its last round of leadership elections I raised an eyebrow over the nomination of Jeremy Corbyn. I was aware that he was a good man of principals, having always been consistent in his campaigning against matters of injustice, and always taking a stand for peace, even when peace was unpopular. But honestly, I didn't think he stood any chance against the mass media who drive public opinion as they choose. For the simple fact that Corbyn had on numerous occasions raised his voice against the injustice towards the Palestinian people meant that Israel would be opposing his nomination. Never mind that he also voiced concern regarding the continued supply of arms to Saudi Arabia in the light of war crimes in Yemen and their terrible human rights record; never mind his opposition to spending billions on Trident and continued profiteering from wars across the Middle East. Jeremy Corbyn didn't stand a hope in Hell of his nomination going anywhere, I knew that, and sure enough as soon as his campaign began so did the start of what was to be surely the most hate filled, malicious and prolonged media campaign against any politician in this country.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see support for him increase, and slowly, slowly the public began to rally behind this honest man of principals, freeing their minds from the media spin, as they began to call for a different kind of politics. How much we all need an honest man to restore our faith in democracy once more. Jeremy Corbyn, a breath of fresh air in a filthy polluted political world of spin, corruption, broken promises and outright lies. And so I dared to hope, that this man stood a chance, and when he achieved the unachievable and was elected leader of the Labour Party, I realised that reconciliation was possible. The anger I felt towards the Labour Party for leading us into an unnecessary war subsided. Despite my resolution to never vote for Labour again, I realised that if Jeremy Corbyn was leader I definitely would.

It's not just British citizens looking for an honest leader, it's people worldwide. Do not underestimate that the decisions taken by the British in these coming years will have repercussions worldwide. The dictators and oppressors of this world, the corrupt, those who accumulate wealth at the expense of other people's suffering, know this only too well, and I have no doubt that some of them will be backing the campaign to take Jeremy Corbyn and his movement for social justice down before it takes root worldwide. But please think of the 21.3 million refugees in this world, in addition to the 65.3 million people displaced and the 10 million stateless people, as well as the additional 34,000 people forcibly displaced every day. The only politician that brings lasting hope to decreasing the number of refugees arriving in Europe is Corbyn since he seems the only leading politician right now with a true vision for peace, not more war. A stand for Jeremy Corbyn is a far greater issue than a matter of saving the Labour Party, this is a call for global change, and it is here in the UK where we have the freedoms to initiate this change.

How very sad for all the people who have dared to hope in a better future based on a different way of doing politics that Corbyn's political colleagues have focused on their own narrow vision of what they believe is best for their party, having been weakened by the drip drip of lies in the media, rather than listening to the heartbeat of a suffocating world. It is no exaggeration to say that the very principal of democracy is at stake here and the world is indeed watching; millions of people in countries that dream of a democracy are now questioning whether democracy even exists in the United Kingdom, since the votes and will of hundreds of thousands of people seem so easily dismissed by their elected representatives.

I'm writing this letter to ask you to do the right thing, to work through your own personal feelings of animosity, doubt or differences, to see through the spin, to resist political pressures from your colleagues and to stand behind Jeremy Corbyn, the elected leader of the Labour Party. In doing so you would give floating voters like myself the chance to vote for a real alternative in the next general election; but far greater than that, your support for Jeremy Corbyn would renew the people's trust in democracy as well as hope for a more peaceful future and social justice worldwide.

Thank-you for taking the time to read and consider my plea.
Yours sincerely,
Jamila Hanan

ps. if anyone wants to publish this anywhere, feel free