A Champagne Socialist or the Darling of the Left

We only recorded this personal comment from the NCF Secretary General yesterday (a link here or above) but today on closer inspection we realise that they were all disloyal except for the lefty, Rebecca. And it is hard to stomach disloyalty. To be honest none of them are that good. It is the same problem the Democrats have in the USA. They simply have a weak field of choices to stand against the great beasts both sides of the pond: Trump/Boris.

So who will the new leader of the opposition in the UK parliament be?

 

Conservative parliamentarians call for comprehensive new Iran deal

The Conservative Friends of Israel sent us the following note on the call from Tory MPs for a new deal with Iran. The trouble with this kind of thinking is that it undermines the JCPOA which took the best part of ten years to negotiate. The JCPOA was and is flawed but it is the best we have got and reinventing the wheel never helped anyone. The video link above may be of interest to those of you that speak Arabic. It is of Catherine Shakdam, the Head of our Yemen Unit, talking on Iran on BBC Arabic.

In both the House of Commons and House of Lords this week, Conservative parliamentarians called for a new, more comprehensive deal with Iran, in light of the UK’s triggering of the dispute resolution mechanism of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. CFI Honorary President Lord Polak CBE called for a “complete redrafting” of the Iran deal, with “provisions to curtail Iran’s international aggression and financing of terror that were omitted from the original agreement”. He underlined: “One of the major criticisms of the JCPOA at the beginning was that it allowed Iran to continue its destabilisation of the region”. In a House of Commons debate following a statement on the JCPOA by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Rt. Hon. Mark Harper MP welcomed the Government’s decision to trigger the JCPOA dispute resolution mechanism and argued that the agreement should be widened “to encompass all of the other activities of Iran”. Philip Hollobone MP asked: “Isn’t it time for a truly comprehensive agreement covering both nuclear weapon technology, missile technology and Iran’s export of terror?” The new MP for Bury South, Christian Wakeford MP, raised concerns about Israel’s safety as a result of Iran’s deception over its nuclear programme. In response, Foreign Secretary Raab underlined: “We share Israel’s concern, not just about the nuclear ambitions that Iran has but also about the wider activities in the region”.

A reign dedicated to peace – Remembering Sultan Qaboos

The longest-serving monarch of the Arab world, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, passed away this January 10, 2020 at the age of 79, ceding power to his cousin and former culture minister: Haitham bin Tariq al-Said. While the smooth transition was welcomed by all – both foreign powers and Omanis, the loss of Sultan Qaboos will leave its mark on his people for years to come.

Made famous for his commitment to peace and his astute ability to maneuver through the most troublesome political waters, Sultan Qaboos is, to all intents and purposes irreplaceable. The new decade is forever poorer for such a loss …

Since news of the Sultan’s death became public, a litany of officials and world leaders made a point at highlighting the legacy he leaves behind, one, which, better than any eulogy could, speaks of the man he was, the world he aspired to build, and the lessons he hoped to impart.

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said,” said UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay. “He will be remembered for his wisdom and vision of peace and development for his country and his endeavors in building a more sustainable planet. His commitment for biodiversity and nature conservation, encapsulated in the UNESCO – Qaboos Prize established some 30 years ago, remains as a legacy for today’s generations and those to come.”

Speaking to the press Queen Elizabeth II noted warmly “Sultan Qaboos’ devotion to Oman, to its development and to the care of his people was an inspiration. He will be remembered for his wise leadership and his commitment to peace and understanding between nations and between faiths. He was a good friend of my family and of the United Kingdom, and we are thankful for all he did to further strengthen the bond of friendship between our countries. My State Visit to Oman in 2010 remains a cherished memory.”

Speaking at his swearing in ceremony the new Sultan of Oman’s tone was one of continuity. 

“The trust in us is great and the responsibilities are great … We will follow the same line as the late sultan and the principles that he asserted for the foreign policy of our country, of peaceful coexistence among nations and people, and good neighborly behavior of non-interference in the affairs of others.”

For the first time in four decades Oman will sit under the reign of another. Sultan Qaboos rose to power in a bloodless coup against his father in 1970. Educated in the UK, he oversaw something of a revolution in Oman during his reign, guiding the Gulf state in its development from an isolated loner to active member in the Arab League, the United Nations and eventually the World Trade Organization, as well.

Omanis will now have to navigate an unforgiving region without their Sultan, the only leader most of them have ever known. Needless to say that the challenges laid down before the new sultan are as formidable as they are many and protracted, both at home and abroad.

Even more consequential than the sultan’s passing, however, is the fate of his temperate model and dedication to implementing change gradually through regional cooperation. A man defined in tolerance and moderation, Sultan  Qaboos understood more than most how to mitigate risk in a region plagued by instability.

As Bruce Riedel, a U.S. diplomat noted in an article published by Brookings: “Qaboos was the 14th generation of his family ruling Oman. His shoes will be difficult to fill. No successor has the decades of legitimacy and leadership that Qaboos enjoyed, nor the training needed. The disruption in the region due to the crisis over the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani adds to the concerns about the future of the sultanate. He had a unique view toward the Arab-Iranian and Sunni-Shia divide in the Gulf, one that stressed engagement with everyone. I remember seeing Iranian Navy ships in Muscat harbor not far from vessels from the U.K. Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy. That unique viewpoint is much needed today. Let’s hope his successor can help us find a way out of the dangerous waters we have recklessly blundered into with Iran.”

 

Is everything about Netanyahu?

The assassination of General Qassim Soleimani may or may not have been a risky strategy on the part of the US President intended to boost his chances in forthcoming US elections; however, it certainly distracted Iraqis from the anger they were feeling against Tehran’s perceived culpability for encouraging the shooting of young Shiite demonstrators in Iraq. And it also helps Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu strengthen his position in Israel. 

Regardless of Trump’s eloquent claim that Iran “was looking to blow up our [US] embassy”, there is no evidence to prove that was the case. Nor was the killing of Soleimani motivated by the need to retaliate for events directly preceding the strike – the demonstrations at the US embassy in Baghdad and the death of Iraq born American contractor Nawres Hamid in a rocket attack on 27 December 2019. Information shared with the Next Century Foundation makes it clear that the assassination was actually planned prior to 24th December.

Whether or not the US had any long-term interest in killing Soleimani, the Quds Force leader was certainly previously targeted for assassination by Israel’s forces at least once, in 2015. Prior to that Soleimani barely escaped an Israeli air-strike while in Lebanon in 2006. In any case Netanyahu considered him responsible for many of the actions of Iranian proxies taken against Israel in recent years. As leader of the Quds Force (the Iranian military presence outside Iran) Soleimani was said to be in charge of the missile strikes on Israel fired from Iranian positions in Syria in 2018. Even more importantly, Soleimani had enormous influence over Hezbollah (whose salaries are subsidised by Tehran) and was a powerful figure in Beirut. He is now publicly mourned by many Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon.

Netanyahu was one of a small number of Mid East political leaders informed in advance by the US about the plan for Soleimani’s assassination. Claims that Israel provided intelligence necessary to carry out the strike are less credible, and if they did so they have much to answer for since the US had such flawed intelligence that it knew nothing of the presence of key Iraq Militia Leader Mohandis in the kill zone. In any case, Israel had one of its arch-enemies effortlessly eliminated. Had Soleimani been assassinated by Israeli forces, it would have been dangerous for Israel, with direct retaliation from Hezbollah likely to take place. While Israel, as an American ally, might theoretically be targeted by Iran in revenge, the risk involved is now much lower. 

Even though, Iran has “concluded” its retaliation, the airstrikes on American bases in Iraq hardly seem to be an adequate response. Regardless of which, it is still possible that elements in Iraq have not finished their retaliation for the killing of Mohandis. But any such retaliation will be directed against the USA and will not target Israel.

There are those in Hezbollah who  – given the current economic and political crisis in Lebanon – would like the distraction of being engaged in a conflict with Israel or even a full-scale war. After all, in 2008 after the punishingly harsh (for both countries) 2006 Israel / Lebanon war, Hezbollah had just 2,000 rockets left – whereas currently Hezbollah has amassed a stockpile of some 40,000 missiles. However the humiliation Iran suffered in the international arena after mistakenly downing a Ukrainian civilian airplane, means that de-escalation is more likely to follow. 

All the recent developments shift the focus in Israel away from the indictments filed against Netanyahu. The assassination of Soleimani seems to be a confirmation that the PM was effective in forming an even more robust alliance with the US. A growing military threat at the hands of Tehran only strengthens the position of Netanyahu before the upcoming election. 

Trump’s assassination of Soleimani did not make the Middle East a safer place, but at least it allowed Bibi to change the topic of the public debate from an unfortunate one – his corruption charges – to what the PM deals with best: a potential war. 

 

What’s the Endgame of Sanctions?

Stafford Clarry, Senior NCF Member in Northern Iraq, sends the following comment on moves to further increase US sanctions on Iran:

It’s hard to imagine the purpose of increasing sanctions being other than pure punitive. What exactly are they expected to achieve? 

If Iraq could survive thirteen years of UN-authorized international sanctions, Iran can likely survive, under its current leadership,  unilateral sanctions for at least a few more years.

Arguably, Iran has far more capacity than Iraq had to withstand economic sanctions that may only irritate the Iranian leadership but deeply hurt ordinary Iranians.

What is the endgame expected by increasing sanctions – chaos, anarchy, the implosion of Iran?

What are the criteria that must be met in order for sanctions to be lifted? What are the measurable behaviors to be observed?

It’s hard to imagine that whatever the criteria and observable behaviors may be, they cannot be attained without regime change. If that is the case, how will the regime change process play out and what and who will replace it?

Regime change in Iran could result in another deadly dystopian country like Iraq, which, nearly seventeen years after regime change, has yet to become a “normal” country peacefully pursuing a prosperous future for all its citizens.

The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)

The JCPOA (or Iran Nuclear Agreement) was negotiated to keep Iran from possessing nuclear weapons for at least 15 years, with some provisions being extended for longer periods. Monitoring centrifuge production would continue for 20 years, monitoring of uranium mines and mills for 25 years, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) enhanced access indefinitely.

Other than Iran, the JCPOA was signed by China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, and US. These other signatories are known as the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council + Germany), and EU+3 (EU members France, Germany, UK + China, Russia, US).

Unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA and application of severe economic sanctions are unlikely to generate regime change in Iran as initially promoted and not (yet) taken off the table, despite words to the contrary. All other signatories to the JCPOA continue to support the agreement.

What would be gained if all six signatories withdrew from the JCPOA? The 2018 White House withdrawal from the JCPOA plus the other five signatories, if they withdraw, would cut short all provisions of the agreement from a minimum of 15 years to less than five years!

Michael R. Pompeo statement on 10 January

MICHAEL POMPEO: Today, the United States is taking a series of actions in response to Iran’s attacks against U.S. forces and interests, and to deprive the Iranian regime of revenue to conduct its violent foreign policy. We will continue to hold individuals and entities accountable for supporting the Iranian regime’s many fronts of terror.

We are sanctioning eight senior Iranian leaders, including Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Gholamreza Soleimani, the Commander of the Basij, and six other senior officials pursuant to Executive Order 13876 (E.O. 13876) for being appointed by, or acting for or on behalf of, the Supreme Leader.  These individuals have carried out Iran’s terror plots and campaigns of mayhem across the region and are complicit in the recent murders of around 1,500 Iranians protesting for freedom.

The Iranian regime exploits revenue from its metals industry to fund its destabilizing activities.  Accordingly, the Department of State is sanctioning Pamchel Trading (Beijing) Co., Ltd. pursuant to section 1245 the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act for transferring 29,000 metric tons of steel from an Iranian firm that is a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.  The Department of the Treasury is similarly sanctioning twenty-two entities and three vessels pursuant to E.O. 13871, for operating in the iron, steel, aluminum, or copper sectors of Iran, and related activities.

The President will also issue an Executive Order authorizing the imposition of sanctions with respect to additional sectors of the Iranian economy, including: construction, manufacturing, textiles, and mining.  This action will significantly expand the United States’ ability to target this regime’s various revenue streams.

As President Trump said yesterday, our sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior. The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: Iran’s campaign of terror, murder, and mayhem will not be tolerated any longer.  The United States calls on all nations to stand against the Iranian regime’s ideology of terror and to hold Iran accountable for its violence.

Remarks by President Trump on 8 January

THE PRESIDENT:  As long as I am President of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.

Good morning.  I’m pleased to inform you: The American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime.  We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.

Our great American forces are prepared for anything.  Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.

No American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken, the dispersal of forces, and an early warning system that worked very well.  I salute the incredible skill and courage of America’s men and women in uniform.

For far too long — all the way back to 1979, to be exact — nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and beyond.  Those days are over.  Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world.  We will never let that happen.

Last week, we took decisive action to stop a ruthless terrorist from threatening American lives.  At my direction, the United States military eliminated the world’s top terrorist, Qasem Soleimani.  As the head of the Quds Force, Soleimani was personally responsible for some of the absolutely worst atrocities.

He trained terrorist armies, including Hezbollah, launching terrorist strikes against civilian targets.  He fueled bloody civil wars all across the region.  He viciously wounded and murdered thousands of U.S. troops, including the planting of roadside bombs that maim and dismember their victims.

Soleimani directed the recent attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq that badly wounded four service members and killed one American, and he orchestrated the violent assault on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.  In recent days, he was planning new attacks on American targets, but we stopped him.

Soleimani’s hands were drenched in both American and Iranian blood.  He should have been terminated long ago.  By removing Soleimani, we have sent a powerful message to terrorists: If you value your own life, you will not threaten the lives of our people.

As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime.  These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior.

In recent months alone, Iran has seized ships in international waters, fired an unprovoked strike on Saudi Arabia, and shot down two U.S. drones.

Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.  Instead of saying “thank you” to the United States, they chanted “death to America.”  In fact, they chanted “death to America” the day the agreement was signed.

Then, Iran went on a terror spree, funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.  The regime also greatly tightened the reins on their own country, even recently killing 1,500 people at the many protests that are taking place all throughout Iran.

The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout.  Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism.  The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality.

They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal -– or JCPOA –- and we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.  We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper, and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential.  Iran can be a great country.

Peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as Iran continues to foment violence, unrest, hatred, and war.  The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: Your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer.  It will not be allowed to go forward.

Today, I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process.  Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence.  These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities.  These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible.  And options in the Middle East became available.  We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.  We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil.

The American military has been completely rebuilt under my administration, at a cost of $2.5 trillion.  U.S. Armed Forces are stronger than ever before.  Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal, and fast. Under construction are many hypersonic missiles.

The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it.  We do not want to use it.  American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent.

Three months ago, after destroying 100 percent of ISIS and its territorial caliphate, we killed the savage leader of ISIS, al-Baghdadi, who was responsible for so much death, including the mass beheadings of Christians, Muslims, and all who stood in his way.  He was a monster.  Al-Baghdadi was trying again to rebuild the ISIS caliphate, and failed.

Tens of thousands of ISIS fighters have been killed or captured during my administration.  ISIS is a natural enemy of Iran.  The destruction of ISIS is good for Iran, and we should work together on this and other shared priorities.

Finally, to the people and leaders of Iran: We want you to have a future and a great future — one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home, and harmony with the nations of the world.  The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.

I want to thank you, and God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Moving Beyond the Good Friday Agreement

Northern Ireland stands at a crossroads; one road leads to a future in an ever more precarious United Kingdom, the other charts the path to a united Ireland. In a parallel universe, one where the UK opted to remain in the European Union, this choice could be delayed, perhaps for a few decades; alas the choice must be made now.

The Good Friday Agreement was predicated on the UK remaining within the EU meaning upon its departure, parliament will have to decide whether to uphold the agreement. Failing to do so will leave Northern Ireland in the wilderness as Stormont has been, as of this writing, closed for 1,079 days. The Conservatives will want to avoid creating such a power vacuum as they paint, in broad brush strokes; the country’s trading relationship with the rest of the world. Failing to pass the necessary laws will cause the easel to collapse leaving Northern Ireland in uncharted territory particularly as the Nationalists hold the majority of seats in Stormont for the first time in its history and the Unionists are sharply divided on how to deal with this sudden change in fortunes. This change in the topography is not merely due to the growing Catholic, normally Nationalist, community bolstering Sinn Féin and the SDLP support but the advent of growing dissatisfaction within the Unionist movement as a whole with their traditional parties.

The DUP and UUP’s base largely voted in favour of remaining in the EU and they are far more socially liberal than the Arlene Fosters of this world indicating a growing disconnect between Unionist politicos and their erstwhile supporters. This scene is eerily similar to that which hung like a scepter over the Labour heartlands in the last election and could indicate a similar implosion in Unionist support is yet to come.

Perhaps it is time to take Frost’s “road less travelled by” and make plans for the border poll necessary for reunification as it appears unification is more inevitable than ever. However, the finished painting will be more Picasso than Rembrandt.

Picture: Stormont, the Northern Ireland Assembly

 

2020 – good, bad or hopeful?

William Morris, Secretary General of the Next Century Foundation, shares some thoughts in the aftermath of a year that included every conceivable divisive issue from Brexit and Trump as we move into the new decade.

 

Yemen’s exiles … millions live in limbo unable to return home

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch called on the United States government to extend and redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Yemen, which expires on March 3, 2020, so that those Yemenis who found themselves stranded in the US when the war broke out in late March 2015 would not end up being forcibly deported back home – which home it needs to be said has become a thing of nightmare.

“Given the US role in the Yemen conflict, it would be particularly cruel not to extend TPS for Yemenis in the US,” said Andrea Prasow, acting Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “Washington needs to make clear that it won’t send people back to a country wracked by war and famine.”

While few people will need to be reminded that Yemen remains in the throes of a devastating and brutal war, it is seldom the press has spoken of the millions of Yemenis stuck in exile across the world, more often than not, in abominable conditions due to governments’ refusal to offer due protection and status. In Turkey where many managed to escape due to a kinder visa policy, immigration officials have so far refused to allow Yemeni refugees to obtain work visas, making it virtually impossible for families to meet their needs.

Forced into poverty, tens of thousands have had to rely on hand-outs and work on the black market – a euphemism for human exploitation. 

Refugees in Turkey and Malaysia have reported back-breaking work conditions in factories which equate to slavery to the full knowledge of the local authorities.

Ali Ahmed, a former student in engineering at Sana’a University who escaped to Turkey in early 2016 claims that Turkish local officials are playing the refugee crisis to their advantage, using undocumented migrants to ‘furnish’ rich industrial factories for a fraction of the cost of local labour, in exchange for handsome backhanders. “This is human exploitation at its most basic … we have no choice but to accept whatever work and whatever pay they will give us. And if we refuse there is always the fear of deportation,” said Ali. “It’s not like we can say or do anything. I tried to file a complaint at the UN refugee agency but no one is listening to us, we are invisible,” he added.

Since 2015, reports and investigations have exposed poor wages, discrimination, and child labour by refugees working in the Turkish garment industry. Apart from the widespread use of casual labor, Turkey’s garment industry heavily relies on migrant workers. Long before Syrians and Yemenis arrived in Turkey, garment workshops employed Azeris, Afghans, Uzbeks, and other (domestic and international) migrants who were willing to accept jobs unattractive to local workers. 

For refugees like Ali, exile has become a daily battle for survival. Charities have been overwhelmed by the ever-expanding refugee situation. It is becoming increasingly clear that disinterest is driving the bus.

For all the promises of humanitarian aid the United Nations and other international agencies vowed to deploy in Yemen, few officials have looked into Yemen’s exile crisis. There are an estimated three million Yemenis in exile, of those three million too few were offered asylum under the UNHCR. 

Let me rephrase that … of the 3 million refugees currently waiting for their status to be legalised, the United States accepted only 50 since 2015, and about zero since President Donald Trump entered the White House.

The issue is not merely bureaucratic or political, it stems from complete and utter disinterest in Yemen’s plight. Forgotten and abandoned by a system which ought to have offered refuge and safety, Yemen’s exiled population has been relegated to the shadows.

In Djibouti where the UNHCR erected make-shift camps in a baboon-infested area, families have had to fend for themselves as their tents are regularly torn apart and their food stolen by the wild animals.

To say that the international community is failing its mandate is a gross understatement – at what point should carelessness qualify as a crime against humanity?

Because countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Malaysia systematically refuse to revisit Yemenis’ application for work and residence thousands of families have been made vulnerable to human traffickers, prostitution rings and other criminal organisations – not to mention religious radicals who would love nothing more but to coerce a few more souls to their dogmatic ways.

Several families in Malaysia are said to have contemplated selling their organs to make ends meet. The Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking, a Sanaa-based non-governmental organisation documented 300 cases of organ sales in Egypt as of September 2017. Malaysian sources have claimed this number to run to several thousands as of September 2019. 

While organ trafficking largely predates Yemen’s war, it is clear that desperation and the ever-pressing need for cash has forced many exiles to resort to such measures to survive. Elham al-Dulaimi, a doctor at the University of Science and Technology Hospital in Sanaa, told Al Jazeera in an interview back in 2017 that he has documented cases in which Egyptian hospitals have bought organs from Yemenis for $5,000 and then sold them to affluent customers from the Gulf or Western countries for nearly $100,000. 

Those stories of course have seldom pierced through the thick screen of self-censorship which seems to become the new ‘normal’. After all Yemen’s holds a mirror to the international community few officials have dared looked into …

This article was published first in the New Eastern Outlook

The Depletion of Yemen’s cultural capital

There is an important aspect of the war in Yemen has been so far ignored – under sustained bombing Yemen, an important world historical, religious and cultural landmark has seen its patrimony and its heritage disappeared, exploded and overall annihilated.

Whether such a campaign is by design or by default remains to be determined. It is nevertheless important at this stage to recognise that such loss of national cultural capital will gravely, and irrevocably affect the future of the impoverished nation – and beyond, that of the entire region.

The loss of historical landmarks – mosques, shrines, UNESCO listed landmarks, museums and other precious reminders of Yemen’s rich and buoyant cultural makeup will weigh heavy on both the economy and the country’s socio-religious fabric. Without a past to hold on to and associate with, without landmarks to remind a people of the bonds which unite them and make them who they are as a nation-state, Yemen could be claimed, and re-invented by such groups as al Qaeda, or ISIS.

Yemen, a country with three UNESCO world heritage sites – the Historic Town of Zabid, the Old City of Sana’a and the Old Walled City of Shibam – and a further ten on the organisation’s tentative list, has suffered greatly since March 2015. As well as the large-scale loss of life, important historic sites have been severely damaged, more often than not, intentionally.

Countless other sites and cities are at risk of annihilation: Al Qahira Castle in Taiz, (10th century) which suffered damage during an airstrike in June 2015 according to UNESCO. And then Taiz museum in 2016 when a fire engulfed the premises.

The Old City of Sa’ada – founded in the 9th century and on UNESCO’s list – has also seen a number of its historic buildings destroyed. Sa’ada, like Sana’a, is of worldwide cultural importance due to the extensive survival of its medieval architecture – including its city wall and 16 gateways, houses, palaces and mosques – and its importance as an early centre of Islamic learning. Sa’ada has almost completely disappeared under Saudi fire.

In July 2015, an emergency action plan for the safeguarding of Yemen’s heritage was announced by UNESCO, with the goal of raising awareness, gathering information and providing technical assistance to heritage experts in Yemen.

In July 2015 the Old City of Sana’a and the Old Walled City of Shibam were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in Danger – in reaction to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war.

The UNESCO-listed residential neighbourhood of Fulayihi quarters has been hit by airstrikes.

A study conducted by the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies in collaboration with the Islamic Heritage Foundation established disturbing bombing patterns leading them to the conclusion that sites were being systematically targeted.

Speaking to the Middle East Eye in September 2015, Anna Paolini, UNESCO’s representative for the Gulf countries and Yemen slammed the kingdom for its intentional targeting of historical sites, warning that unless stopped such systematic destruction could claim more precious and irreplaceable sites.

In August 25, 2016, the ninth-century mosque of the Prophet Shuaibi in the Bani Matar area of Sana’a, was destroyed by an air strike. The country’s General Organization of Antiquities and Museums and the General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities confirmed the destruction.

Beyond the evident loss of patrimony, questions pertaining to the intent behind such campaign beg answering. Should Yemen’s cultural, religious and historical heritage had been declared war on, as part of asymmetrical military campaign strategy, such actions might be categorised under war crimes.

Movable heritage has also suffered severe losses, as in the case of the Dhamar Museum, which used to host a collection of 12,500 artifacts, and which was completely destroyed in May 2015.

Taiz National Museum also suffered many attacks – ancient manuscripts were damaged and and historic documents were burned.

More troubling still is the long term impact and social repercussions such a loss will carry to Yemen the nation-state. If we bear in mind that such radical groups as Daesh aka ISIL/ISIS or al Qaeda have been worked to erase History so that they could rise their own dystopian and warped religious and socio-cultural markers, Yemen could be made ready for a re-engineering of sort.

In August 2016 the Director General of UNESCO, Irana Bokova described Yemenis’ plight accurately saying: “It is evident that the destruction of their culture directly affects the identity, dignity and future of the Yemeni people, and moreover their ability to believe in the future.”

It has been unable so far to assess financial losses as such as teams have yet to investigate the extent of the damage. Economically speaking, Yemen is expected to suffer a dramatic income loss on its tourism industry for years to come – maybe permanently in some cases.

In an interview Amin Jazilan, former director general of Ibb tourism office confirmed that prior up until March 25, 2016 Yemen tourism industry was well set to exceed yearly expectations. “According to Yemen Tourism Ministry, the tourism industry generated an annual income of $848 million in 2012 as opposed to $780 million in 2011,” he noted.

The war in Yemen has cost so far an average of $6 billion per month or $200 million per day. If such resources were spent towards reconstruction Yemen’s future would be secured.

The Yemen War: capitalism and the rise of a Black economy

Yemen has become yet another domino to fall in a well-organised terrorist system in which human misery is a tradable commodity. Take a look at the broader region, particularly those countries which have suffered at the hands of  radicals, and we see a disturbing pattern emerging: Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and now Yemen, all these countries have seen vulnerable communities targeted by sex traffickers and their children sold into a system which profits and draws satisfaction from child abuse and dehumanisation.

Systemic sexual abuse is conducted by terrorist militants for three purposes: to strike fear into the heart of communities, for self-gratification, and for financial gain.  Behind every abuse and every abuser has towered a system which has strived for, benefited from and leaned on sexual enslavement to assert its dominance.

As world powers continue to argue Yemen’s future – often by speaking over Yemenis, rather than to them – a great tragedy has unfolded, unspoken and unchallenged.

For a country which has already lost too many of its sons and daughters to war, seeing its children and young people stolen by the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS is one abomination too many.

So far, and due to the nature of these crimes, communities have been reluctant to come forward. Stigma, fear of social exclusion, fear of repercussions, shame, and distrust of the media, have driven many families to keep silent.  Still, a few brave souls have now decided to break this unspoken code of silence, albeit under the cover of anonymity, so that abusers can be outed and victims rescued.

Hundreds of children – mainly young girls aged 6 to 15 – have been kidnapped across Yemen, to be sold as sex slaves by al-Qaeda’s trafficking network.

Tribal sources in Abyan – a former stronghold of al-Qaeda, which also happens to be President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s home province – have confirmed that children have been trafficked out of south Yemen through Mukalla and the seaport of Aden by militants affiliated to Al Qaeda.

Yemen’s run-in with human trafficking has run parallel to the rise of terrorism.

In 2014 the US State Department Trafficking in Persons report read:

“Yemen is a country of origin and, to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour, and women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Some Yemeni children, mostly boys, migrate to the Yemeni cities of Aden and Sana’a, or travel across the northern border to Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, to Oman, where they are subjected to forced labour in domestic service, small shops, or as beggars. Some of these children are forced into prostitution by traffickers, border patrols, other security officials, and their employers once they arrive in Saudi Arabia; some children are forced to smuggle drugs into Saudi Arabia.”

With the collusion of its patrons, Al Qaeda has built up an entire shadow economy generating millions of dollars through the exploitation of children.

As Yemen remains entrenched in a protracted and multi-fronted military conflict, socio-political dynamics as well as economic realities have evolved, and shifted to reflect needs – more often than not, to the detriment of civilian populations.

If war in Yemen has brought a litany of suffering, it has also opened-up financial “opportunities”; de facto allowing for the rise of a Black Economy.

While it has often been assumed that only the Houthis  have dabbled in less than holistic activities to sustain their war efforts, whereas all factions, on both sides of the fence, have had a hand in the looting of Yemen’s sovereign economy, in clear violation of the law – national and international.

Since war broke out, the Houthi-Saleh/GPC alliance [General People’s Congress, former ruling party) has transformed and evolved into a state-like construct whereby the two forces: comprised both of a para-military and political branches, joined together into an organic third entity, which purpose has been to survive the military onslaught by ensuring financial survival.

It is also worth noting that a certain fluidity has been observed between self-proclaimed warring factions as far as financial interests are concerned. Where very clear lines might have existed in the early stages of the conflict, in that individuals, tribal entities, political factions and coalition groups sat on very distinct shores, needs, and an imperious desire to generate money to overpower the opposition, have often led opposite sides to negotiate ‘access’.

For example: weapon dealers based in South Yemen – in those areas under tacit Saudi control – have smuggled weapons and ammunition to North Yemen via old tribal trading routes, as well as diesel, and other supplies. While such activities betray immediate military interests, it appears war has created too much of a lucrative space for any one party to ignore – safe maybe from those invested in peace.

Yemen’s descent into socio-economic, political, and to a greater extent: sovereign instability, since territoriality and national identity have been put under great stress as a result of a new rising narrative of war: sectarianism, tribalism and regionalism, has empowered radical elements within Yemen. The likes of Al Qaeda have been handed an ever-expanding space to thrive. Out of every vacuum this war has created, it is al-Qaeda and ultimately its patrons which have risen stronger still.

Yemen’s war has become too much of a liability to regional stability for parties to still entertain the notion that a further military entrenchment will generate positive results. War at this stage is a blessing for Al Qaeda and those parties benefiting from the annihilation of Yemen’s national sovereignty. Such an eroding of Yemen’s nation-state could have terrible repercussions, since it could allow for the rise of another socio-political system – that of the Islamic Caliphate.

Beyond all blame and culpability Yemen’s biggest threat remains Terror.