A recent surge in fighting in southern Yemen is part of an overarching Saudi-UAE strategy to keep the Arab world’s most impoverished nation in a perpetual weak state in order to serve their own objectives, according to analysts.
The battles this month in the city of Aden between government forces loyal to Saudi Arabia-based President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the United Arab Emirates-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) have added another layer of complexity to Yemen’s already multifaceted war.
Billions of dollars’ worth of gold is being smuggled out of Africa every year through the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East – a gateway to markets in Europe, the United States and beyond – a Reuters analysis has found.
The Sudanese democracy demonstrators were the first to protest at Saudi Arabia’s interference in their revolution. We all knew that the Saudis and the Emiratis had been funnelling millions of dollars into the regime of Omar al-Bashir, wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court and now chucked out of power by a Sisi-like military cabal. But it was the sit-in protesters who first thought up the slogan: “We do not want Saudi aid even if we have to eat beans and falafel!”
It was shouted, of course, along with the more familiar chants of ‘revolution of the people”.
Few noticed this little development – save, to give it credit, The Washington Post – but the dozens of waterlogged bodies being dragged from the Nile should focus our attention on the support which the Emiratis and especially the Saudis are now lavishing upon the pseudo-transitional military government in Sudan.
Suakin sits along Sudan’s Red Sea coast, a small grouping of faded
buildings and historical ruins containing a proud fishing community. The
town is a coastal village and the main attraction is the ancient
ruins—some dating back to the fifteenth century—as well as the outer
shell of a British fort that persists as a symbol of Sudan’s colonial
past. In its prime, Suakin was a key transit point for African Muslims
on the pilgrimage to Mecca, but with the advent of air travel the town
has fallen from prominence, an abandonment only made worse by the
collapse of Sudan’s tourist industry.
Yet in January
2018, Suakin was at the center of a rapid deterioration of diplomatic
relations between Sudan and its northern neighbor Egypt, triggering talk
of possible war between the two nations. In December 2017 Turkish
President Recep Erdoğan visited Suakin ostensibly to inspect the
large-scale restoration of the historical town financed by the Turkish
government. Then a few weeks later, in January 2018, Erdoğan returned to
Sudan to sign among many other agreements, a deal to hand over Suakin
to Turkey altogether—just for tourism, both governments maintain—which
Sudan’s neighbors have interpreted as an act of aggression.
The situation in Suakin is emblematic of increasingly complicated geopolitical relations in Africa’s northeast corner. From Egypt to Tanzania, decades of political ambivalence around unsettled borders, access to the sea, and ambiguous agreements about the waters of the Nile are flaring up. Much of this tension is left over from Britain’s colonial history in the region, but some is entirely new, aggravated by simmering conflicts in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. There are also centuries of connection between the various states as well as internal realignments that complicate the situation further.
Iran has been hit by yet another terrorist attack. At least 29 people were killed in the southwestern city of Ahvaz when gunmen opened fire on a crowd watching a military parade on Iran’s equivalent of Memorial Day. But unlike previous terror attacks, this one may spark a much larger regional conflagration – involving not just regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, but also the United States. In fact, it may have been designed to trigger just that.
The terrorist attack, which was first claimed by an Arab separatist group with alleged connections to Saudi Arabia, the Ahvaz National Resistance, did not occur in a vacuum. Iran’s regional rivals, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have increasingly taken their decades-long behind-the-scenes pressure on the US to bomb Iran into the open.
What used to be said in private is now increasingly declared in public. Moreover, these monarchies are no longer limiting themselves to pushing the US to take military action, but are announcing their own readiness to attack Iran.
Monsoon season has almost arrived on the Socotra archipelago.
Overnight on Thursday, the first storm of the year, Cyclone Sagar, began forming over the Gulf of Aden. As the winds picked up to 80kph (50mph) and the water began to churn, fishermen were warned not to take their boats out.
For the next two months, the Arabian Sea will be too dangerous to cross and the isolated Yemeni island will be almost completely cut off from the outside world.
Women aren’t often seen in public on the Yemeni island of Socotra; their voices certainly don’t carry through the streets.
But everything is changing on the island at the moment. “My blood, my soul, for you, Yemen,” around two dozen women shouted as they marched through the main town of Hadibo on Saturday, carrying Yemeni flags the size of bed sheets.
Since Socotra has become the focus of an unprecedented power struggle between Yemen’s government and its supposed ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the red, white and black of the mainland flag is no longer a given on the isolated Arabian Sea island. Emirati green and Socotran separatist blue flags also shimmer during counter-protests as Egyptian vultures coast on thermal currents overhead.
Legend has it the otherworldly dragon’s blood tree first grew on the spot where two brothers, Darsa and Samha, fought to the death. In Arabic, it is known as dam al akhawain – “the blood of the two brothers”.
The unique tree, with its crimson resin and dense crown of prehistoric leaves, is a beloved symbol of the Arabian Sea island of Socotra and its parent country of Yemen.
But like the ancient Darsa and Samha, Yemen is a country of two halves once again at war with each other. The conflict places Socotra at the centre of a new power struggle between the weakened Yemeni government and the geopolitical ambitions of its ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Metropolitan Police in London will in a few hours’ time find themselves involved in the Gulf crisis when UK lawyers for three prominent Qataris submit their evidence of alleged torture and illegal imprisonment for which they blame up to 10 senior officials of the United Arab Emirates – including a cabinet minister and a high-ranking security adviser.
Human Rights lawyer Rodney Dixon QC will hand the Met details of alleged beatings, torture and illegal imprisonment of the three Qataris, one of them close to the head of Qatar’s own State Security Service, under the terms of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act – which allows British police to investigate and arrest foreign nationals entering the UK if they are suspected of war crimes, torture or hostage-taking anywhere in the world.
The women were brought into the Abu Dhabi apartment in abayas.“Pick who you want,” the men were told, and she would be theirs until noon the next day.Roman Paschal recalled about seven women to choose from. They dropped their long cloaks, he said, revealing “nightclub clothes” underneath. He picked a woman who turned out to be from Romania.Paschal had been flown to the United Arab Emirates by his friend Yousef Al Otaiba, in whose apartment they were gathered. It was the winter of 2003-2004, and Otaiba was a rising star in the UAE, though still a few years away from becoming the nation’s ambassador to the United States.He had recently befriended Otaiba at a Washington, D.C., strip club, quickly becoming a charter member of a tightknit crew that the Emirati once affectionately referred to as “team ‘Alpha.’” This was Paschal’s introduction to the high-flying life Otaiba led. And it wouldn’t be his last. For four years, he partied with Otaiba in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, and Abu Dhabi, with Otaiba footing the eye-popping bills.Paschal dropped out of the group of friends in 2007, but the lifestyle from their days together would eventually collide with Otaiba’s public life. In 2008, Otaiba hired an original member of his partying crew, his college buddy Byron Fogan, to run a personal foundation with millions of dollars in UAE funding. He also arranged for Fogan to be simultaneously employed by the embassy as a legal adviser, and by the Washington public relations firm, The Harbour Group, working on behalf of the UAE.