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American Resistance To Empire

Trump Sending Army and Air Force Air Defense Teams To Saudi and UAE

[Zarif Says Gulf Arabs Ready To Fight Iran ‘To The Last American’ ; Gates: Saudis want to fight Iran to the last American–2010/12/01]

U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks to members of the press during his first joint press conference with Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 2019. (DoD/Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks to members of the press during his first joint press conference with Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 2019. (DoD/Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said late Friday that small units of U.S. troops would deploy to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with air defense capabilities, likely Patriot missile batteries, to protect against Iranian threats to commerce and oil production in the region.

“It’s fair to say not thousands” would deploy, Dunford said at a Pentagon news conference, indicating the number would be in the hundreds. The presser followed a White House meeting with President Donald Trump and his national security team at which Esper and Dunford provided military “options” to counter Iran.

Esper went through a list of Iranian provocations in the region, culminating with the Sept. 14 attack with drones and cruise missiles on Saudi Arabian oil production facilities allegedly carried out by the Tehran regime or its proxies, and said a limited and defensive response was required.

Related: Saudi Arabia Says Iran Missiles, Drones Attacked Oil Sites

Esper said Trump, who earlier announced additional economic sanctions on Iran, had approved the deployment to “protect our citizens and interests in the region.”

The announcement by Esper and Dunford eased concerns that the U.S. was considering a retaliatory strike that could spark a regional war. But, Esper said, other “options” were under consideration should they become necessary.

“This is a first step” in sending a “clear message that the U.S. supports our partners in the region,” Esper said.

Dunford declined to discuss details on the defensive assets being sent to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, and said they would be worked out over the weekend with U.S. Central Command.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

UN Afghan Aid Program In Peril After US Scrubs Mission Statement, Deleting China’s Belt and Road Project

China May Veto UN Afghan Mission Over Belt and Road Project

The 15-member Security Council must renew UNAMA’s mandate.

A US-China confrontation is threatening the fate of the UN’s mission to Afghanistan, known as UNAMA. The mission, whose mandate is due to expire on Tuesday, needs a resolution to be passed without vetoes, and the current resolution does not include provisions for China’s Belt and Road project. While threatening a veto, China has also proposed a “short draft resolution,” which would keep UNAMA temporarily running, but this stopgap measure might not get the necessary nine votes, because some members may abstain.

The UN mission, which was established in 2002, is currently helping Afghanistan prepare for the Sept. 28 elections and is advocating for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

UNAMA’s previous renewals all included encouragement for efforts like China’s Belt and Road initiative, because the project would aid trade and transportation.

But in March, the US and other council members wanted the language regarding the Belt and Road initiative removed, which triggered the stand-off with China. Currently, the mission is sustained by a temporary six-month provision.

Acting US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen accused China of holding “the resolution hostage” by “making it about Chinese national political priorities rather than the people of Afghanistan.” He referenced the initiative’s “known problems with corruption, debt distress, environmental damage, and lack of transparency.”

The Belt and Road initiative, which would link China with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, recently received pledges of support from Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Regional Economic Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA). A cooperative agreement described as “China-Afghanistan-Pakistan plus” was discussed by all three nations, and China expressed readiness to support construction of refrigeration storages, clinic centers, drinking water supply schemes and immigration reception centers at crossing points between Afghanistan and Pakistan to facilitate the movement of people and trade activities among the two countries.

Afghanistan’s Delusional President Thinks That Peace Is “Closer Than Ever”

[ Suicide Attack at Ghani Campaign Rally Kills 26, Wounds 42 ]

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In a message honoring Saturday’s International Day of Peace, President Ashraf Ghani stated: “Afghanistan is closer to peace than ever, despite despicable agendas against security and stability.”

He credited the National Unity Government for its large effort over the past five years toward a “durable, dignified and just peace,” saying that the result has been a peace-focused “consensus among countries in the region, and beyond the region.”

For Ghani, celebrating the International Day of Peace signals a “fundamental human desire for harmony, dignity and prosperity,” but he added that making a durable peace requires “precision, courage and sincerity.”

“There is no doubt a real peace will be made, and will persist, when the people of Afghanistan achieve their rights without any discrimination,” Ghani said, reiterating that engagement in politics is essential: “The only way to solve decades of war is along a political path, and this requires investment in the political process, and support for the election and the government.”

He also stated that there is a need for a ceasefire first in order to achieve a “real peace.”

“We do not want to continue the war even for a minute if the Taliban wants peace,” Ghani said, because “war is not the solution.”

Nut-an-yahoo Faces Prison Term After Electoral Defeat

[ Israel’s Mossad chief prepares to become Netanyahu’s successor 

“Chief of Israeli Mossad, Yossi Cohen, is preparing to succeed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the head of the Likud party”]

Israel elections: Humbled Netanyahu ‘petrified at the prospect of prison’

Binyamin Netanyahu could face charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust

Binyamin Netanyahu could face charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trustAMIR COHEN/REUTERS 

Binyamin Netanyahu’s scramble to stay in office is largely motivated by a fear of ending up in jail, associates of Israel’s prime minister say.

“There’s one thing that petrifies Bibi,” claimed a veteran member of Israel’s ruling party Likud, who knows Mr Netanyahu well. “He keeps seeing in his mind the picture of Ehud Olmert going in to Maasiyahu prison.”

Mr Netanyahu faces similar charges to those his predecessor faced. Israel’s attorney-general announced in February that he was considering indicting Mr Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Mr Netanyahu’s lawyers will attend a pre-trial hearing on October 2. If they fail to convince the attorney-general of his innocence, as many in the legal establishment assume will happen, the next step is…

Yemeni Houthis Make Token Offer To Stop Bombing Saudi, Saudis Answer w/More Bombing

[Saudi-Led Coalition Initiates Operation on ‘Military Targets’ in Yemen – State TV]

Yemen’s Houthis say will stop all attacks on Saudi Arabia

Nearly a week after claiming drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities, Yemen’s rebels say will stop targeting the kingdom.

Yemen's Houthis say will stop all attacks on Saudi Arabia
Smoke seen following a fire at an Aramco facility in the Saudi city of Abqaiq on September 14 [File: Reuters]

An official with the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen has said it will stop aiming missile and drone attacks at Saudi Arabia, warning that a continuation of the war could lead to “dangerous developments”.

The announcement was made on Friday night by Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthi’s supreme political council, which controls the rebel-held areas in Yemen.

“We declare ceasing to target the Saudi Arabian territory with military drones, ballistic missiles and all other forms of weapons, and we wait for a reciprocal move from them,” Mashat said on the Houthi-run Al Masirah TV.

“We reserve the right to respond if they fail to reciprocate positively to this initiative,” he said, adding that the continuation of the Yemen war “will not benefit any side”.

The announcement by the Houthis came nearly a week after they claimed a major attack on Saudi oil facilities.

Despite the Houthis insisting they are responsible for the September 14 assault on Aramco sites that initially halved the kingdom’s production, the United States and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran.

Iran denies being involved, warning that any retaliatory strike on it by the US or Saudi Arabia will result in “an all-out war“.

‘Preserve blood of Yemenis’

“I call on all parties from different sides of the war to engage seriously in genuine negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive national reconciliation that does not exclude anyone,” said Mashat.

He added a major goal of the ceasefire was to “preserve the blood of Yemenis and achieve a general amnesty”.

The Saudi-led military coalition did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Houthi announcement.

Mashat also called for the reopening of Sanaa’s international airport and open access to Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah, a crucial entry point for imports and humanitarian aid that has been at the centre of United Nations-brokered talks.

The Western-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis removed the internationally recognised government in Sanaa in late 2014.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people so far and left millions on the brink of famine, sparking what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Houthi rebels have repeatedly targeted key Saudi infrastructure in recent months in cross-border attacks. Earlier this week, they said they had picked out dozens of sites in the UAE as possible targets for future attacks.

Earlier on Friday, Saudi officials brought journalists to the site of the Abqaiq oil processing facility, one of the two locations hit in drone and missile attacks on September 14.

The Yemen conflict is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Patriot Missile Myth

Saudi Patriot Missile Launched To Intercept Missile Crash in own Capital Riyadh

[SEE:  Patriot Missiles Are Made in America and Fail Everywhere]

The Patriot Missile is a myth

The American public and the rest of the world have been sold the myth that the Patriot missile system is effective, and top of it’s tier. Here’s where this was proven wrong.

“The US army has announced its intent to procure a limited number of Iron Dome weapon systems,” said Colonel Patrick Seiber, spokesman for Army Futures Command, on Wednesday.

The choice to acquire the Israeli missile defence system marks a significant shift from US reliance and the global emphasis on the effectiveness of the Patriot Missile System of the same class.

Research and development of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system were partly funded by a $429 million US investment.

Missile defence remains a contentious issue in the 21st Century. While global powers develop state-of-the-art missile systems to counter stealth aircraft on battlefields shaped by raging electronic and cyber warfare, their track records for shooting down missiles leaves much to be desired.

Israel’s Iron Dome has allegedly shot down more than 1,200 projectiles since going operational in 2011, catching the attention of some countries including Saudi Arabia, and more recently the United States.

The system is unique in that not only does it feature a reliable rate of interception, but it can tell if the incoming projectile is going to miss a target, saving a $100,000 interceptor from being fired altogether.

But given that the United States is already the owner of cutting-edge missile defence systems for its forces – also widely used by most of its NATO allies – the decision to acquire the Iron Dome System to “fill a short-term need” is questionable.

Why the Patriot Missile doesn’t work

The US 2019 Missile Defense Review cited the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defence system’s “proven combat record”.

US officials inflated its success during Operation Desert Storm significantly, however, surrounding the missile system with a mythical reputation for effectiveness.

During the 1991 Gulf War, the American public was informed that the Patriot missile had a near-perfect record, intercepting a total of 45 out of 47 Scud missiles.

This estimate was later revised down by the US army to about 50 percent. Even then, it noted “higher” confidence in only about 25 percent of the cases.

A Congressional Research Service employee commented that if the US army had consistently and accurately applied its assessment method, the number would be far lower. Reportedly, this number was one Scud missile shot down.

 Following a House Committee on Government Operations investigation, not enough evidence was found to conclude that there had been any interceptions at all.

There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War,” the investigations concluded.

“There are some doubts about even these engagements,” it added.

The report, which called for declassifying more information on the Patriot missile and an independent evaluation of the missile defence programme, was crushed under a lobbying campaign by the US army and Raytheon, leaving only a summary publically available.

Seeking options

More recently, however, Saudi Arabia put its Patriot defences to the test and found them severely lacking, with outright failures.

In repeated missile strikes from Houthi rebels using unsophisticated ballistic missiles, the Patriot missile failed, at times spectacularly.

Despite Saudi Arabia claiming a high success rate for the missile system, it discussed obtaining advanced S-400 missile defences from Russia following the Patriot failures.

A diplomatic source also claimed in mid-September that Saudi Arabia had purchased the Israeli Iron Dome defence system to defend itself against Houthi rebel missile attacks.

Saudi Arabia isn’t alone in pursuing better options for the sake of national security. NATO allies such as Turkey also entered into discussions to bolster their missile defences by acquiring the Russian missile system, causing significant friction with the US, triggering a trade war and leading to threats that F-35 stealth fighter deliveries to Turkey would be cut off altogether.

Incoming, Incoming

During late March 2018, Yemeni Houthi rebels launched seven ballistic missiles towards Saudi Arabia, which were intercepted, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The National, an English-language news outlet from the United Arab Emirates, reported that “one person died and two others were injured” by shrapnel over Riyadh.

But Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said on Twitter that in video footage of the missiles, it appeared that one defence system had ‘failed catastrophically’, while another ‘pulled a U-turn’ and exploded in Riyadh.”

This was not reported by Saudi news agencies, which continued to claim that all incoming missiles were shot down.

Lewis believes that it was “entirely possible” that it was the defence system failure, instead of the incoming missiles themselves, that caused casualties or injuries.

This raises critical questions not just about Saudi Arabia’s use of the missiles, but of the United States, which sold Saudi Arabia  — and its elected public — a false representation of the missile defence system.

A closer look

More recently, experts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies closely studied two different missile attacks on Saudi Arabia from both November and December 2017.

In both cases, they found it highly unlikely that the missiles were intercepted, despite official statements.

In their study, they examined where resulting debris, including the missile airframe and warhead, fell and where the interceptors were located.

In the two cases, a clear pattern was visible. The Patriot missile itself falls in Riyadh, while the incoming missile separates, passes defences and lands near its target.

One such missile warhead landed within a few hundred metres of a terminal at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport. The second warhead, fired weeks later, nearly destroyed a car dealership.

In both cases, the report concluded that in spite of official Saudi claims, neither missile was shot down and that Saudi Arabia may not have even tried to shoot down the first missile in November.

With little evidence that Saudi Arabia shot down any missiles fired by the Houthi rebels during the Yemen conflict, and the United States’ own failed experience with Patriot missiles during the first Gulf war, a more serious question is posed: who is to say that the Patriot system even works?

While the US army’s statement announcing the acquisition of the Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system clarified that it would be a short-term solution while the US reviews its options, by purchasing an Israeli system and overlooking a US system with a questionable past, the US may be admitting to the failings of its own missile defence.

 

Saudis Should Talk w/Their Neighbors While They Still Can

It’s in Saudi Arabia’s interest to achieve by diplomacy what it constantly failed to achieve with its weak military

Portraits of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Illustration by Mohamad Elaasar/MEE)

 

As images of this week’s attacks on the Saudi Ubqaiq-Khurais oil production facilities circulated around the globe, they may have looked like an apocalypse.

While the real damage is yet to be fully assessed and understood, the attack exposed Saudi political – and above all – military vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are the culmination of both erratic regional foreign policies and mismanagement.

They are also a symbol of Saudi Arabia’s unnecessary high military spending that has often privileged the purchase of fighter jets and other advanced technology when the real threat can actually come from low-key missiles and drones produced at a fraction of what Saudi Arabia spends on its armaments.

Erratic moves

The attacks are a culmination of five years of erratic and undiplomatic moves that put the whole Arabian Peninsula including the small Gulf statelets in danger.

The biggest miscalculation that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman made was to think that his new US-made jet fighters would launch devastating attacks on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, thus pre-empting an Iranian takeover of its poor, southern neighbour.

The attacks are a culmination of five years of erratic and undiplomatic moves that put the whole Arabian Peninsula including the small Gulf statelets in danger

The stated rationale behind the Saudi air strikes on Yemen was to prevent the rise to power of a Hezbollah-like militia patronised by Iran.

The second rationale was to enforce Yemen’s subservience to Riyadh at a moment when its political factions were fighting an internal battle to control the country after the vacuum created by the fall of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the new rule of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

The third rationale was to protect the southern borders from Houthi penetration and asymmetric attacks.

A coalition was established to achieve these objectives but the main actors in the Yemen saga remained Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

A military vulnerability

However, nearly five years since the onslaught on Yemen began, none of these objectives have been achieved. In fact, Saudi military vulnerabilities proved to be a crippling obstacle to achieving these goals. Yemeni Houthi attacks have expanded and reached as far as the capital and major cities.

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The recent attack on the oil fields was a culmination of a Houthi war of attrition that has truly succeeded in crippling Saudi oil production, with hardly any casualties, while Saudi aggression on Yemen has killed over 50,000 Yemeni civilians.

While the damage that this war has inflicted on Yemen is now well-documented, its impact on Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities and reputation is irreparable.

If the Saudi military wanted to test its capabilities in Yemen, with the war becoming a training field for its soldiers and pilots, then the whole world can now see how it is badly trained and unfit to conduct a war – even with all the US and British guidance and equipment.

The sponsors of Saudi military must certainly be disappointed if they believed a disciplined and well-trained Saudi army and air force could deliver the desired outcome.

No ‘Desert warrior’

In comparison, many partners and allies of Saudi Arabia seem to be more satisfied by the UAE’s performance in Yemen. But all military might is relative. The recent rift between the two coalition countries over south Yemen indicates that even Saudi Arabia’s closest partner in the destruction of Yemen is having second thoughts about the war.

The damage to the UAE’s reputation in Washington is probably something that Abu Dhabi wants to mitigate and repair as soon as possible. Yet both Gulf countries have committed serious atrocities in Yemen that no realpolitik can justify.

Domestically the oil field attacks have punctured the narrative about invincible Saudi Arabia in the eyes of its citizens, although expressions of dissatisfaction are muted. Whether Iran or the Houthis launched the attacks, the fact remains that Saudi oil installations remain vulnerable to missiles and drones.

Also, Mohammed bin Salman is in no position to adopt the title “Desert Warrior 2” like his cousin Khalid bin Sultan did in the 1990s. Half a million foreign troops were assembled to evict Saddam Hussein from Iraq and prevent an imminent penetration of Saudi borders.

Khalid bin Sultan assumed the title and became a military legend, despite the fake courage and military prowess that were associated with his military leadership of the international force. Everybody knew that without US boots on the ground, most of Saudi Arabia’s eastern region would have been swallowed by Saddam’s army.

While Yemen cannot be compared to Iraq in terms of its military capabilities, the Saudis are yet to score a minor victory in the ongoing war.

Trump’s mixed messages

In a fully fledged war with Iran on behalf of Mohammad bin Salman, which the international community may not be ready to embark on, it is certain that the Saudis could fight alone. Whether the international community wants a war now remains to be seen, but King Salman and his son are now pleading to enlist Trump and others in a coalition of the willing.

Saudi leaders will find out that sooner or later the US will allow them to sink into oblivion, like the many dictatorships supported but later dropped by Washington

They are even proposing to launch an investigation to establish the source of the attack, which they definitely want to lead to Iran. But let’s not forget how Saudi Arabia blocked every UN initiative to investigate its war crimes in Yemen after civilian casualties reached a horrific figure.

The Saudis also resisted and rejected any international investigation of its crime of the century that resulted in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in its own consulate in Istanbul.

So far, Trump has given mixed messages in his Twitter diplomacy toward his Gulf allies. He oscillates between insulting Saudi and Gulf leaders when he constantly reminds them that US mercenary services to their regimes come at a high price, while expressing full sympathy and support for their erratic regional policies.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with US President Donald Trump on 29 June (Reuters)
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with US President Donald Trump on 29 June (Reuters)

Trump conducts a transactional foreign policy in which there are no durable partnerships or special relationships. US national interests as narrowly understood by him and his advisors are the primary driving force. For sure Trump is committed to projecting US power abroad but the recipient must pay for it.

Countries like Saudi Arabia may believe that there is in fact a special partnership with the US, but they are under the illusion of their amplified importance and relevance to the US.

Saving Saudi Arabia

The Middle East in general and Saudi Arabia in particular are not that relevant to this American administration, as their main focus is beyond the region and its old rivalries and intrigues. Trump neither respects Saudi leaders nor cares about their fate.

Saudi leaders will find out that sooner or later the US will allow them to sink into oblivion, like the many dictatorships supported but later dropped by Washington.

It is in the interest of Saudi Arabia to achieve by diplomacy what it constantly failed to achieve with its weak military. Saudi Arabia should end the Yemen war as soon as possible, pay for the reconstruction of Yemen, and open dialogue with Iran to save itself. The US will not come to its rescue.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Madawi al-Rasheed
Madawi al-Rasheed is visiting professor at the Middle East Institute of the London School of Economics. She has written extensively on the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalisation, religious transnationalism and gender issues. You can follow her on Twitter: @MadawiDr