Progressive Surge Propels Turning Point in US Policy on Yemen

This article appears in The Fight For Yemen, the Winter 2019 issue of Middle East Report, the magazine of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)

Protesters call for an end to US involvement in the war in Yemen, November 2018 in Chicago. The blue backpacks stand for the 40 children killed in an air strike on a school bus that used an American-made bomb. CHARLES EDWARD MILLER [CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE BY SA 2.0]

The US House of Representatives passed a potentially historic resolution on February 13, 2019, calling for an end to US military support for the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen that began in 2015. Although the US government has never formally declared its involvement in the war, it assists the coalition with intelligence and munitions and supports the aerial campaign with refueling and targeting. The United States is therefore complicit in the myriad atrocities the coalition has committed against Yemeni civilians, which Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have characterized as war crimes. [1]

What is already historic about the resolution (introduced by Democratic Representatives Ro Khanna of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin) and its Senate counterpart (introduced by Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Republican Mike Lee of Utah and Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut) is their invocation of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which restrains a president’s capacity to commit forces abroad. Aimed to prevent “future Vietnams,” the act gives Congress the authority to compel the removal of US military forces engaged in hostilities absent a formal declaration of war.

The House resolution was the first time Congress flexed its War Powers muscle in the 45 years since that resolution’s passage. The Senate passed a parallel resolution in December, but the measure died when the Republican leadership refused to bring it to a vote. These congressional moves not only register opposition to US involvement in this war but also strike a major blow against unlimited executive power when it comes to launching war. This long overdue Congressional action to constrain executive war-making, however, would not have been possible without a tremendous grassroots mobilization against US involvement in this disastrous war and the surging progressive tide that is raising deeper questions about US foreign policy.
Continue reading “Progressive Surge Propels Turning Point in US Policy on Yemen”

Trump, the Saudi-Iranian Rivalry and the Geopolitics of Sectarianization

US President Donald Trump (R) looks at a defence sales chart with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Nader Hashemi and I have an essay titled “Playing with Fire: Trump, the Saudi-Iranian Rivalry, and the Geopolitics of Sectarianization in the Middle East” in the Mediterranean Yearbook 2018published by the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed). We examine the deterioration of sectarian relations in the Middle East in recent years, with a focus on the escalation of the Saudi-Iranian regional rivalry. We show how the Trump administration in particular has exacerbated these already volatile dynamics and suggest a shift in the policies of Western governments toward the region aimed at defusing the sectarianization process. Download the PDF.

UAE’s ‘for-profit, no-Muslim’ army of repression

The Nation’s brilliant Jeremy Scahill on the Rachel Maddow show discussing Blackwater CEO Erik Prince’s new UAE venture. (For more see Scahill’s post on his blog).

UAE “torture” scandal and cover-up sparks outrage in the U.S.

Glenn Greenwald’s delightfully ironic take on the UAE torture scandal. A must read.

As more videotapes emerge documenting the torture inflicted on numerous victims by Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a prince of the United Arab Emirates, the controversy is beginning to jeopardize the UAE’s relationship with the United States, a country that absolutely loathes torture and demands real accountability for those who do it:

“I have more than two hours of video footage showing Sheikh Issa’s involvement in the torture of more than 25 people,” wrote Texas-based lawyer Anthony Buzbee in a letter obtained by the Observer.

The news of more torture videos involving Issa is another huge blow to the international image of the UAE . . . . The fresh revelations about Issa’s actions will add further doubt to a pending nuclear energy deal between the UAE and the US.  The deal, signed in the final days of George W Bush, is seen as vital for the UAE.  It will see the US share nuclear energy expertise, fuel and technology in return for a promise to abide by non-proliferation agreements. But the deal needs to be recertified by the Obama administration and there is growing outrage in America over the tapes. Congressman James McGovern, a senior Democrat, has demanded that Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, investigate the matter and find out why US officials initially appeared to play down its significance.

The U.S. is a very tolerant nation, but the one thing we simply cannot abide is when a government fails adequately to investigate allegations of torture on the part of key officials and fails to hold them accountable.  That’s where we draw the line.

Continue reading “UAE “torture” scandal and cover-up sparks outrage in the U.S.”

Sheikhs, lives and videotape

‘A member of the UAE royal family is accused of torture – but is there any chance of justice when the country’s rulers are the law?’ asks Brian Whitaker.

The atrocities of Abu Ghraib caused much rightful indignation – and nowhere more so than in Arab countries where the sadistic torture of prisoners at the hands of their American jailers was viewed as symbolising the rape of Iraq by a foreign power.

I remember discussing this at the time with Hisham Kassem, a newspaper editor in Cairo who – contrary to the prevailing Arab view – described the coverage of Abu Ghraib by the Egyptian press as “shameless”.

“They talk about American monstrosities as if their own governments have never practised anything similar,” he said. “It’s nothing in comparison to what’s happening in Arab prisons.”

Continue reading “Sheikhs, lives and videotape”

Torture Tape Implicates UAE Royal Sheikh

Police in Uniform Join In as Victim Is Whipped, Beaten, Electrocuted, Run Over by SUV. An ABC exclusive by Vic Walter, Rehab El-Buri, Angela Hill and Brian Ross.

What Clash of Civilizations? They say the East and West meet in UAE. For once I’m inclined to believe it. We aren’t so different after all! There is a warning here for readers of Sheikh-themed romances. Watch out! This is what you might end up with.

(UPDATE: The Observer reports that the Sheikh has been accused of 25 other similar attacks)

A video tape smuggled out of the United Arab Emirates shows a member of the country’s royal family mercilessly torturing a man with whips, electric cattle prods and wooden planks with protruding nails.

A man in a UAE police uniform is seen on the tape tying the victim’s arms and legs, and later holding him down as the Sheikh pours salt on the man’s wounds and then drives over him with his Mercedes SUV.

In a statement to ABC News, the UAE Ministry of the Interior said it had reviewed the tape and acknowledged the involvement of Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, brother of the country’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed. Continue reading “Torture Tape Implicates UAE Royal Sheikh”