Some Notes on the Conflict in Yemen

What is being reported right now The reporting on the conflict in Yemen, even within the peace and justice movement, has shifted significantly over the course of the Saudi bombing campaign.    The beginning is getting lost in the chaotic and politically fraught present.  Not surprisingly, all the latent factions in Yemen’s unstable past are now activated at cross purposes in […]

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The Saudi Proxy in the 21st Century

The United States relationship with Saudi Arabia is, on the surface, a mystery.   Saudi Arabia has been a U.S. proxy and a protectorate for nearly 100 years, yet it remains a very foreign  entity, which consistently engages in activities uncomfortable for US public sensibilities.   Wahabism, the state religion of Saudi Arabia, deeply meshed with the government, is the narrowest and most radical fundamentalism in the Muslim world.   Strict social limitations on women and a particularly harsh form of Sharia law are maintained by the Saudi regime.

Despite the fact that the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center was largely financed in Saudi Arabia, and 19 out of 21 hijackers were Saudi nationals, U.S. officials quitely flew a number of Saudi officials and some members of  the bin Laden family out of the country while the airspace was still technically closed.  In fact, Saudi Arabia is the single most generous financier of al Qaeda across the globe to this day.   Currently, the United States is supporting a barbaric Saudi bombing campaign against neighboring Yemen that has tkilled large numbers of civlians, destroyed much of the infrastructure and created severe shortages of food, water and medicine.

The Saudi regime, like Netanyahu in Israel, is dismayed by the Obama plan to reintegrate Iran with the global community through a comprehensive nuclear agreement.   And rightly so.

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Stop the War on Yemen

Even antiwar activists are now calling this a civil war.  But that is not the way it began.    This is a war against the people of Yemen, not between the political factions in Yemen.   Violence is self perpetuating so ever more factions will take up arms as long as the fighting continues.     Who will put an end to it?  I believe that instead of giving up on international institutions, we should demand that they do their job in a just and equitable manner.

I delivered this petition [Stop the Saudi War on Yemen], as advertised, to the UN Security Council in mid April.  I was very disappointed because the day before I delivered it, the United States was able to pass a resolution in the UN SC to condemn the Houthis rather than the  Saudi invaders.   There was, at the time of the Saudi aggression no reason why the political differemces in Yemen could not be resolved without destroying the country.  UN negotiatiors were working with the vaious parties and negotiations were ongoing when ex-President Hadi first resigned, and then fled to Aden in an attempt to assert supremacy from a new base, and then on to Ryadh, triggering the Saudi aggression.

Since then, Saudi led air attacks have not ceased but continued, resulting in thousands more civilian deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and the destruction of  the civil and material infrastructure of the country.  With western assistance, the Saudi regime has maintained a blockade that has driven the people of Yemen to the brink of famine, has left them without adequate supplies of water and medicine.

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Selling Out Greece

The Greek people were given an opportunity to say whether or not  they were willing to accept the toxic bailout offered by the EU.    The  result of the referendum was a solid NO!   The very next day, Yanou Varoufakis, Finance MInister and  the most dedicated, intelligent and articulate spokesman in the  Syriza government, who was focused on building an alternative solution, was driven out of his position as the pivotal negotiator.

Within a week, Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsiparas, took the deal the people had voted to reject.   The people of Greece, ceased to be news, and the EU package became the central topic of discussion.

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The Temple of the Storm God presides over the old city of Aleppo.

Postcards from Aleppo

I reached Aleppo yesterday (Tuesday) safely after a long trip. I just wanted to tell you so, no need for worries.
My father’s health is not so good. . . .

On the way, we saw many liberated towns.  However they were completely empty of people. The inhabitants had fled those areas after they were occupied by terrorists and never came back after they wre liberated   In Aleppo destroyed buildings are a pity to sight and heart. But it’s busy with people around and close by. The closer I came to home, the more memories came back to me. People have found alternative solutions for almost everything.

If corruption was 2-fold prior to the crisis, it’s 200 fold today.  Unfortunately this is a very bad personal experience and not a thing I’m proud of.

Sounds in the background of bombing, shelling, …etc. Not much, but they are at all times, day and night. All are from Syrian army against the others, as I’ve been told. It seems the terrorists carried out a big attack a few hours prior to my arriving, maybe a tunnel filled with explosives or something like that.

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Messages from Iraq: Refugees in Cankiri Turkey

As I write I am looking out a bus window at a beautiful landscape of rolling hills and mountains. Everything is green, and the trees are budding. It is hard to know where to begin. In the past week, I have traveled hundreds of miles by bus and train in order to visit Iraqi refugees living here. Eskisehir, Ankara, Bolu, Mersin and now Cankiri. Some of the families are refugees twice over, having fled to Syria where we first met them some years ago. Others fled more recently after ISIS took Mosel last June and then the surrounding villages. Some of them I was meeting for the first time. Muslims, Christians and Palestinians, all from Iraq.

Last night Iraqi friends, refugees themselves, took me to a family I had not yet met. I thanked them for receiving me and explained how many people come with me on this trip wanting to know how he and his family are doing.

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Messages from Iraq: Erbil

Last September I had hoped to travel to the village areas surrounding Mosel to hear their voices, so often neglected since the U.S.-led war on their country over a decade ago. And then as we know, in early June of 2014, ISIS took the city of Mosel. I write all of this to help explain the deep emotions that welled up in me as I entered one of the compounds for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Erbil just two days ago. The Sunday service had just ended and people were streaming out of the tent that serves as their church.

This compound, called Ozal city, in the Kasnizan area of Erbil in Kurdistan, houses approximately 900 Christian families, 400 Muslim families, and 35 Yazidi families. It is just one of many compounds in Erbil. Almost all of the Christians in this complex, if not all, come from the village of Qaraqosh, a Syriac Catholic enclave, outside of Mosel.

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Messages from Iraq: Karbala

I am presently in Karbala which is housing approximately 70.000 refugees, the majority from Nineveh (Mosel) and Anbar. As I traveled by car two days ago from Najaf to Karbala, the road was lined with makeshift tent-like structures, pieces of cloth to provide some privacy and shelter

Last night I attended a local home-meeting of volunteers who are trying to attend to the needs of the refugees. I was allowed to sit in to hear about the work they are coordinating. The group had been informed that I was from the U.S. and involved in humanitarian work.

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