Three Quick Items About West Asia
I’m currently in travel mode, so I don’t have the time to prepare longer works. But good items don’t wait for me and get published just the same. The first I’ll copy/paste because some can’t access Al-Mayadeen and the crucial item Crooke wrote for his column, “ICJ Contests Assertions of Unassailable Moral Purpose, Shaking Western Power-Structures,” that was published January 31. That will be followed by Crooke’s earlier than usual SCF essay published February 2nd, “The Three Strands to the ‘Swarming of Biden,’” and at the end is an excellent essay from The Cradle, “Yemenis ditch UAE–Saudi coalition for Gaza,” published February 1st. Yes, there were a flurry of important events in Russia that will appear Monday after I’ve returned home. I actually have much to say regarding these three items, but those words will also need to wait. Crooke’s Al-Mayadeen:
The cornerstone to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rulings made this Friday is that they revoke the ‘Israeli’ project’s assertion of unassailable moral rectitude.
Judged by the West’s own ‘Rules-Based Order’, an overwhelming majority of international judges found that there is first, plausible evidence that "Israel" has the intent to commit genocide; and secondly, that there is plausible evidence that "Israel" is committing genocide. The ICJ did not make a final decision (yet) on the charge of genocide, but stated that there was sufficient substance to order "Israel" to cease those acts that plausibly appear genocidal.
This is a stunning outcome that ultimately will shift the global power-balance. The asserted unassailability and moral irreproachability to Israeli conduct finally has been judged to be (plausibly) genocidal -- and illegal.
The ‘Israeli Project’ has been planted at the very core of Western foreign policy. The subsequent ‘industrialisation’ of the notion of unassailable moral rectitude drew on this (imputed) incontestability to justify, not just Israeli actions per se, but to spawn proxy power-structures across the Westernised world.
The latter essentially took the centrality of the moral rightness of the Israeli State to project a moral superintendency over the US and European Western political matrix. This power-structure -- loosely called the ‘Lobby’ -- inserted itself into the wider polity, assuming disproportionate influence through conflating US interests as congruous with -- and participating in -- the probity of the Israeli ‘cause’.
The moral unassailability claim by key Western power-centres has been punctured, perhaps for good by the ICJ. This has profound implications: The Global South can now voice feelings, and articulate their own histories of repression, that in an earlier era would have been disallowed and whose utterance would have ensured severe penalties.
In Western states, there has come about an informal ‘Holy Inquisition’: Prominent figures in the US are similarly ‘Put to the Question’: Have you ever aligned with unrighteousness? Have you publicly denounced Hamas?
Should the response be equivocal or insufficient, the respondents -- be they Presidents of prestigious US universities or other public figures -- will no longer be tortured (the early ‘lie-detector’ test) and burned alive should they fail; but yet they will be denounced, humiliated and have their careers destroyed (for their near heresy).
Of course, in the Western sphere, the ICJ orders are being ‘disappeared’ from public discourse, and a deaf ear is turned. Politics will not change overnight. Yet everyone in the non-West, and millions in Western societies, owning one of the five billion of extant smartphones, will have had access and watched the succinct and clear rulings handed down by the ICJ’s supreme justice.
The rulings may turn to be absent from the pages of Western MSM, yet they will return, for there is the thirty-day time limit by which "Israel" is required to report back to the Court on the actions taken to prevent all aspects of conceivable genocide. If the report-back is inadequate, the rulings likely will make their appearance at the UN Security Council.
This is a devastating occurrence for certain power-structures in the West: In the wake of the ICJ ruling, people will feel freer to speak-out on sensitive issues, where repression of speech has been in practice. And no one can miss the symbolism of Gaza: Whatever rights or wrongs that have occurred there (maybe plenty), a tiny people are standing defiantly against the overwhelming might of powerful states, seeking liberation.
The explosive issue at the focus of the ICJ rulings likely will become the pivot to the new era -- likely one of struggle and schism in the West -- as the forces of repression continue to impose their régime over those forces against them. The essentials to this conflict will, as it were, go global.
Crooke’s SCF Essay:
“The Iranians have a strategy, and we don’t”, a former senior U.S. Defence Department official told Al-Monitor: “We’re getting bogged down in tactical weeds – of whom to target and how – and nobody’s thinking strategically”.
The former Indian diplomat MK Bhadrakumar has coined the term ‘swarming’ to describe this process of non-state actors miring the U.S. in the tactical attrition – from the Levant to the Persian Gulf.
‘Swarming’ has been associated more recently with a radical evolution in modern warfare (most evident in Ukraine), where the use of autonomous swarming drones, continuously communicating with each other via AI, select and direct the attack to targets identified by the swarm.
In the Ukraine, Russia has pursued a patient, calibrated attrition to drive hard-Right ultranationalists from the field of battle (in central and eastern Ukraine), together with their western NATO facilitators.
NATO attempts at deterrence towards Russia (that recently have veered off into ‘terrorist’ attacks inside Russia – i.e. on Belgorod) notably have failed to produce results. Rather, Biden’s close embrace of Kiev has left him exposed politically, as U.S. and European zeal for the project implodes. The war has bogged down the U.S., without any electorally acceptable exit – and all can see it. Moscow drew-in Biden to an elaborate attritional web. He should ‘get out’ quick – but the 2024 campaign binds him.
So, Iran has been setting a very similar strategy throughout the Gulf, maybe taking its cue from the Ukraine conflict.
Less than a day after the attack on Tower 22, the military base ambiguously perched on the membrane between Jordan and the illegal U.S. al-Tanaf base in Syria, Biden promised that the U.S. would provide a quick and determined response to the attacks against it in Iraq and Syria (by what he calls ‘Iran-linked’ militia).
Simultaneously however, White House National Security spokesman John Kirby stated that the U.S. doesn’t want to expand military operations opposite Iran. Just as in Ukraine, where the White House has been loath to provoke Moscow into all-out war versus NATO, so too in the region, Biden is (rightly) wary of out-right war with Iran.
Biden’s political considerations in this election-year will be uppermost. And that, at least partly, will depend on the fine calibration by the Pentagon of just how exposed to missile and drone attacks U.S. forces are in Iraq and Syria.
The bases there are ‘sitting ducks’; a fact would be an embarrassing admission. But a hurried evacuation (with overtones of the last flights from Kabul) would be worse; it could be electorally disastrous.
The U.S. seemingly aims to find a way to hurt Iranian and Resistance forces just enough to show that Biden is ‘very angry’, yet without perhaps doing real damage – i.e. it is a form of ‘militarised psychotherapy’, rather than hard politics.
Risks remain: bomb too much, and the wider regional war will ignite to a new level. Bomb too little, and the swarm just rolls on, ‘swarming’ the U.S. on multiple fronts until it finally caves – and finally exits the Levant.
Biden thus finds himself in an exhausting, ongoing secondary war with groups and militias rather than states (whom the Axis seeks to shield). In spite of its militia character, however the war has been causing major damage to the economies of states in the region. They have fathomed that American deterrence has not been showing results (i.e., with Ansarallah in the Red Sea).
Some of those countries – including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – have initiated ‘private’ steps that were not coordinated with the U.S. They are not only speaking with these militia and movements, but also directly with Iran.
The strategy to ‘swarm’ the U.S. on multiple fronts was plainly stated at the recent ‘Astana Format’ meeting between Russia, Iran, and Turkey on 24-25 January. The latter triumvirate are busy preparing the endgame in Syria (and ultimately, in the Region as a whole).
“is a remarkable document predicated almost entirely on an end to the U.S. occupation of Syria. It indirectly urges Washington to give up its support of terrorist groups and their affiliates “operating under different names in various parts of Syria” as part of attempts to create new realities on the ground, including illegitimate self-rule initiatives under the pretext of ‘combating terrorism.’ It demands an end to the U.S.’ illegal seizure and transfer of oil resources “that should belong to Syria””.
The statement thus spells out the objectives starkly. In sum, patience has run out over the U.S. weaponising the Kurds and attempting to revitalise ISIS in order to disrupt the tripartite plans for a Syria settlement. The trio want the U.S. out.
It is with these objectives – insisting that Washington give up its support of terrorist groups and their affiliates as part of attempts to create new realities on the ground, including illegitimate self-rule initiatives under the pretext of ‘combating terrorism’ – that the ‘Astana’ Russian and Iranian strategy for Syria finds common ground with that of the Resistance’s strategy.
The latter may reflect an Iranian strategy overall – but the Astana Statement shows the underlying principles to be Russia’s too.
In his first substantive statement after 7 October, Seyed Nasrallah (speaking for the Axis of Resistance as a whole) indicated a strategic Resistance pivot: Whereas the conflict triggered by events in Gaza was centrally connected with Israel, Seyed Nasrallah additionally underlined that the backdrop to Israel’s disruptive behaviour lay with America’s ‘forever wars’ of divide-and-rule in support of Israel.
In short, he tied the causality of America’s many regional wars to the interests of Israel.
So, here, we come to the third strand to the ‘swarming of Biden’.
Only it is not regional actors that are contriving to box-in Biden – it is America’s own protégé: Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Netanyahu and Israel are the principal target of the bigger regional ‘swarm’, but Biden has allowed himself to be enmeshed by it. It seems that he cannot say ‘no’. So here Biden is: boxed-in by Russia in Ukraine; boxed-in in Syria and Iraq, and boxed-in by Netanyahu and an Israel that fears the walls closing-in on their Zionist project.
There is likely no electoral ‘sweet-spot’ to be found here for Biden, between inserting America into an unpopular and electorally disastrous, all-out Middle East war, and between ‘green-lighting’ Israel’s huge gamble on victory over war against Hizbullah.
The confluence between the failed Ukrainian ploy to weaken Russia, and the risky ploy for Israel’s war on Hizbullah, is unlikely to be lost on Americans.
Netanyahu too is between a rock and a hard place. He knows that ‘a victory’ that boils down to just the release of the hostages, and confidence-building measures to establish a Palestinian state, would not restore Israeli deterrence – inside or outside the state. On the contrary, it would erode it. It would be ‘a defeat’ – and without a clear victory in the south (over Hamas), a victory in the north would be demanded by many Israelis, including key members of his own cabinet.
Recall the mood within Israel: The latest Peace Index survey shows that 94% percent of Israeli Jews think Israel used the right amount of firepower in Gaza – or not enough (43%). And three-quarters of Israelis think the number of Palestinians harmed since October is justified.
If Netanyahu is boxed in, so is Biden.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu said:
“We will not end this war with anything less than the achievement of all its objectives … We will not withdraw the IDF from the Gaza Strip and we won’t release thousands of terrorists. None of that is going to happen. What is going to happen? Total victory.”
“Is Netanyahu capable of veering strongly to the left… entering into an historic process that will end the war in Gaza and lead to a Palestinian state – coupled with an historic peace agreement with Saudi Arabia? Probably not. Netanyahu has kicked over many other similar buckets before they were filled”, opined veteran commentator, Ben Caspit, in Ma’ariv (in Hebrew).
Biden is making a huge bet. Best to wait on what Hamas and the Gaza Resistance answers to the hostage proposal. The omens, however, do not look positive for Biden —
Senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials responded yesterday to the latest proposal:
“The Paris proposal is no different from previous proposals submitted by Egypt … [The proposal] does not lead to a ceasefire. We want guarantees to end the genocidal war against our people. The resistance is not weak. No conditions will be imposed on it” (Ali Abu Shahin, member of Islamic Jihad’s political bureau).
“Our position is a ceasefire, the opening of the Rafah crossing, international and Arab guarantees for the restoration of the Gaza Strip, the withdrawal of the occupation forces from Gaza, finding a housing solution for the displaced and the release of prisoners according to the principle of all for all … I am confident that we are heading for victory. The patience of the American administration is running out because Netanyahu is not bringing achievements” (Senior Hamas official, Alli Baraka).
And The Cradle’s Mohammed Moqeibel:
While the Red Sea military operations of Yemeni resistance movement Ansarallah have shaken up geopolitical calculations of Israel’s war on Gaza, they have also had far-reaching consequences on the country's internal political and military dynamics.
By successfully obstructing Israeli vessels from traversing the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait, the Ansarallah-led Sanaa government has emerged as a powerful symbol of resistance in defense of the Palestinian people – a cause deeply popular across Yemen's many demographics. Sanaa's position stands in stark contrast to that of the Saudi and Emirati-backed government in Aden, which, to the horror of Yemenis, welcomed attacks by US and British forces on 12 January.
The US–UK airstrikes have offended Yemenis fairly universally, prompting some heavyweight internal defections. Quite suddenly, Sanaa has transformed into a destination for a number of Yemeni militias previously aligned with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, now publicly declaring their allegiance to Ansarallah.
I am Colonel Hussein al-Qushaybi, I declare my resignation from my rank and my defection from the Legitimacy Army [army backed by Saudi-led coalition] that did not allow us, as members of the Ministry of Defense, to show solidarity with Palestine.
My message to army members: Go back to your homes, for our leaders have begun to protect Zionist ships at sea and support the [Israeli] entity, even if they try to deceive, but their support has become clear and it is still there.
Qushaybi claims he was incarcerated in Saudi prisons for 50 days – along with other Yemeni officers – for his outspoken defense of Gaza, during which he endured torture and interrogation by an Israeli intelligence officer.
Major Hammam al-Maqdishi, responsible for personal protection of Yemen's former Defense Minister in the coalition-backed government, has also arrived in Sanaa, pledging allegiance to Ansarallah.
Simultaneously, a leaked 'top-secret' document [Avilaible at original] from the Saudi-backed, UN-recognized Yemeni Ministry of Defense instructs military leaders to suppress any sympathy or support for Hamas or Ansarallah, as “this might arouse the ire of brotherly and friendly countries” – an implicit reference to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Defections and dissent
The wave of defections within the ranks of Saudi–Emirati coalition forces is not limited to officers. Many regular troops have openly rebelled against their commanders – abandoning their positions and pledging allegiance to Ansarallah – following the recent airstrikes on Yemen. Dozens of these soldiers have been arrested and detained for displaying solidarity with Gaza.
Yemeni news reports claim the US government, in a missive to the coalition's Chief of Staff Saghir bin Aziz, expressed “dissatisfaction” with the lack of solidarity among his forces and demanded action.
Last February, high-ranking coalition officers, including brigade commanders from various fronts, began a series of defections, though none as significant as the current rebellion.
These earlier defections were primarily driven by financial conditions and dissatisfaction with Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their dismissal of military commanders associated with the Islah Party (Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen), who were replaced by members of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) militias and those commanded by Tariq Saleh, nephew of pro-Saudi former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Most of these defections were by officer and troops associated with the Islah Party during a time when the foreign coalition began marginalizing the party's military and political leadership, and dismantling several military sectors under their control – in favor of the UAE-controlled STC.
Now, the Gaza war has the Islah Party leadership fully breaking with its old alliances. As party official Mukhtar al-Rahbi tweeted upon the launch of US-UK strikes:
Any Yemeni who stands with the US, UK, and the countries of the coalition protecting Zionist ships should reconsider their Yemeni identity and Arab affiliation. These countries protect and support the Zionist entity, and when Yemen closed the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea to the ships of this terrorist entity, this dirty alliance struck Yemen and punished it for its noble stance towards Gaza and Palestine.
In stark contrast, the UAE-backed STC and the Tareq Saleh-led National Resistance Forces expressed readiness to protect Israeli interests. On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, STC President Aidarus al-Zoubaidi reaffirmed his support for the British attacks against Yemen, conveying this stance to British Foreign Secretary David Cameron.
Following these statements, an entire battalion under Saleh's command defected to Ansarallah, while many other fighters now refuse his authority because they reject supporting US–UK strikes against Sanaa and its resistance leaders.
A shift in public sentiment
In response to the latest western aggression against Yemen, media outlets affiliated with the STC and its supporters have launched a campaign against Ansarallah and the Palestinian resistance, casting doubt on the Yemeni resistance movement's capabilities and motives. But, their efforts have backfired badly, instead leading to widespread public fury in the country's southern regions controlled by the UAE and Saudi-backed government.
Their anger is directed at the Aden-based government's perceived alignment with Israel's regional projects, sparking both protests and symbolic acts, such as burning pictures of UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed and the Israeli flag.
According to Fernando Carvajal, a former member of the UN Security Council's Yemen expert team, Ansarallah have managed to leverage – to their benefit – the untenable position of Abu Dhabi, which normalized relations
with Israel as part of the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords. This, he argues, has helped them gain widespread support both within Yemen and internationally.
In the wake of this unexpected public outrage, the STC has experienced a further wave of defections within its ranks. Several leaders have joined the Southern Revolutionary Movement, and openly expressed their objective of liberating southern Yemen from what they see as "Saudi–Emirati occupation."
Amidst the wave of military realignments, prominent Al-Mahra tribal Sheikh Ali al-Huraizi – arguably the most influential figure in eastern Yemen – has come out to praise Ansarallah's military operations against Israel-bound shipping in the Red Sea, hailing its actions as a resolute and national response to the suffering of the Palestinian people.
Huraizi stressed that the US and British aggression against Yemen was launched to protect the Zionist state, because Ansarallah's targeted strikes were negatively impacting Israel's economy. Calling for unity among Yemenis, the tribal leader urged steadfast resistance against Israeli influence in the country. He also called on other Yemeni factions to follow the bold leadership of Abdul-Malik al-Houthi as a means to halt the genocide taking place in Gaza.
Countdown to the coalition’s collapse
Yemen's deteriorating economic conditions, currency collapse in coalition-ruled areas, and ongoing conflicts among southern militias have left many Yemenis disillusioned with Emirati and Saudi proxies, whom they had hoped would bring – at the very least – economic prosperity.
In contrast, the Ansarallah-led Sanaa government has managed to maintain a relatively stable economic situation in the areas under its control, despite the foreign-backed war aimed at toppling it. This disparity has led to a growing sentiment among UAE-aligned soldiers that they are merely pawns fighting for the interests of Persian Gulf Arab rulers, without receiving due recognition from these governments.
The contrasting stances on Palestine between the coalition and Ansarallah have deepened the Yemeni divide since the events of 7 October. Sanaa's support for the Palestinian cause has significantly boosted its domestic standing, while US–UK strikes on the country have complicated their Persian Gulf allies' position by prioritizing Israeli interests over all other calculations.
Disillusionment with the coalition will have profound political and military implications for Yemen, reshaping alliances, and casting the UAE and Saudi Arabia as national adversaries. Palestine continues to serve as a revealing litmus test throughout West Asia – and now in Yemen too – exposing those who only-rhetorically claim the mantle of justice and Arab solidarity.
The chemistry of the resistance is resolute, while the nations that that remain on the fence face vast problems because of their position and not being leaders of their people. In many ways, they are just as guilty as the Zionists for what’s been ongoing in Palestine—all for a Few Dollars More.
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