No one can doubt the baleful influence of the Russian Federation in south-eastern Europe and the Middle East. The annexation of Crimea and the British-style partition of mainland Ukraine sent out a powerful message to the country’s immediate neighbours, including several former territories of the old USSR and Warsaw Pact, that Moscow was once again a force to be reckoned with in Eurasia. Likewise, Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, turning the tide in favour of Bashar al-Assad’s despotic regime, heralded the Federation’s ambitions on a more global stage, giving it the kind of foothold in the region that the Cold War Soviets could only have dreamed of.
However, the naked and malignant ambition of Vladimir Putin should not blind us to other external misadventures in the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant. While being wary of false equivalency, in many cases the international actions of the United States of America since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 have been broadly comparable with those of the Russian Federation since the invasion of Georgia in 2008. Effectively so if not always intentionally so. While the USA’s own wars against Islamist militants get the headlines, its proxy campaigns are just as ruinous. Take the conflict in Yemen, where American-sold planes flown by American-trained pilots drop American-made bombs on American-targeted objectives. The results have been horrendous, most noticeably in the recent slaughter of some forty schoolchildren in an airstrike by Saudi Arabia. As the political historian and author Rajan Menon notes for TomDispatch:
Saudi and Emirati warplanes officially have killed — and it’s considered a conservative estimate — 6,475 civilians and wounded more than 10,000 others since 2015. Targets struck have included farms, homes, marketplaces, hospitals, schools, and mosques, as well as ancient historic sites in Sana’a. And such incidents haven’t been one-off attacks. They have happened repeatedly.
By April 2018, the Saudi-led coalition had conducted 17,243 airstrikes across Yemen, hitting 386 farms, 212 schools, 183 markets, and 44 mosques. Such statistics make laughable the repeated claims of the Saudis and their allies that such “incidents” should be chalked up to understandable errors and that they take every reasonable precaution to protect innocents. Statistics compiled by the independent Yemen Data Project make it clear that the Gulf monarchs don’t lie awake at night lamenting the deaths of Yemeni civilians.
And if the above military actions were not bad enough, the United States’ allies are currently engaged in a full-scale naval blockade of eastern Yemen which has:
…cut the number of ships docking in the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeida from 129 between January and August 2014 to 21 in the same months of 2017. The result: far less food and medicine entered the country, creating a disaster for Yemenis.
That country, the Arab world’s poorest, has long relied on imports for a staggering 85% of its food, fuel, and medicine, so when prices soared, famine spread, while hunger and malnutrition skyrocketed. Nearly 18 million Yemenis now rely on emergency food aid to survive: that’s an unbelievable 80% of the population. According to the World Bank, “8.4 million more are on the brink of famine.”
The blockade also contributed to a cholera epidemic, which the shortage of medicines only exacerbated. According to a World Health Organization report, between April 2017 and July 2018, there were more than 1.1 million cholera cases there. At least 2,310 people died from the disease, most of them children. It is believed to be the worst cholera outbreak since statistics began to be compiled in 1949.
Incredible. Read the whole article at the TomDispatch website.
Meanwhile, the veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk visits Occupied Palestine. Or is it segregated Israel? It’s difficult to tell these days as the diplomatic hope of establishing a two-state solution in the contested region is made impossible by the imposition of new demography on the ground. There is no longer any Palestinian territory to form a nation-state out of. Just a collection of dispersed enclaves, islands of otherness among an ever-expanding, evermore atavistic Jewish State. It’s utterly depressing, and all the more so for those of us with some sympathy for the founding principles of the Israeli revolutionary generation. However that sentiment has been stretched thin, to the point of translucence, through disgust at the actions of successive governments in Jerusalem. Though, of course, there are Palestinians enough who will tell you that it was also so and that the crimes of the Nakba give proof of that.
With the birthrates of domestic Arab and Palestinian populations outstripping those of Jewish Israelis it is only a matter of time before the American-propped country will have to choose one of three options if it is to survive. Abandon its ethno-religious nature and become a secular and democratic nation-state along conventional Western lines. Formalise the proto-apartheid system of governance and law which has emerged over the last three decades and segregate its non-Jewish communities. Or reduce or remove those communities altogether, through sustained socio-economic persecution and deprivation, land and property appropriation, and outright expulsion or exile.