The Middle East’s Forgotten Civil War

The Middle East’s Forgotten Civil War

ABDEL RAHMAN ABDALLAH/AFP/Getty Images

It is important to remember the utter destructiveness of civil war, especially in a region rife with conflict and repeat offenders.

It is “probably one of the biggest crises in the world,” according to Jamie McGoldrick, a United Nations humanitarian coordinator. “[I]t’s like a silent crisis, a silent situation and a forgotten war,” he added. “People are dying … the infrastructure is falling apart … and the economy is on the brink of the abyss,” warned another UN official, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

Up to 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, more than 500 of whom were children. Nearly 37,000 Yemenis have been injured. About 182,000 Yemenis have fled to neighboring countries, and 2.5 million people have been internally displaced.

Yemen has become the new Syria.

Close to 80 percent of the nation’s population desperately needs health services—that’s about 21 million people. Almost 7.4 million of these are children. Yet, nearly half of Yemen’s health facilities have been damaged in the war. Authorities fear that disease epidemics could further ravage the battered nation.

How did things get so bad in Yemen?

More Than an Arab Spring

Of the six Middle Eastern nations that were scourged by the Arab Spring of 2011, Yemen and Syria are the only two that have since descended into full-scale civil war. These nations have become battlefields of an all-too-common proxy war between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The primary agitator of the conflict in both of these nations is Iran.

A Shiite theocracy ruled Yemen until it was toppled in a revolution in 1962. The country then became the only democratic nation on the Arabian Peninsula.

In 2004, the Houthis, the main rebel group in Yemen, revolted against the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Saleh government had begun counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, and the Houthis were allegedly incensed with that collaboration. They frequently disseminated anti-American and anti-Israeli vitriol.

At that time, the Saleh government accused the Houthis of attempting to reinstate Shiite theocracy.

According to a 2009 report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Saleh’s government assessed that the Houthi “secessionist movement … represent[ed] threats to the very survival of the state”—far more than al Qaeda did.

The report noted that “throughout the conflict, the Yemeni government has sought to link the rebellion to the larger ‘war on terrorism’ and has accused the Iranian government of supporting the [Shiite] guerrillas. To date, there is no public evidence to support the allegations of Iranian meddling.”

Time would reveal blatant and alarming public evidence of Iranian meddling.

The Yemeni “Arab Spring” of 2011 began as an uprising against the economic mismanagement and corruption of President Saleh’s three-decade reign. To the Houthis, the revolt was a stepped-up version of its antigovernment movement. Thousands protested on Yemen streets to demand Saleh’s resignation. Those streets eventually became bloody battlefields, and Saleh himself sustained minor injuries during the conflict.

In the chaos that ensued, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council compelled Saleh to transfer power to Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in February 2012. However, the transition of power was a chaotic process that further plunged Yemen into a severe political crisis that went on for two years.

The Houthis’ moment had finally arrived.

In what is now called the September 21 Revolution of 2014, Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanaa. “The Houthi forces’ entry into the capital was accompanied by calls of ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to the Jews,’ imprecations heard frequently from the Iranian regime,” Lt. Col. Michael Segall (Ret.) wrote for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Nov. 3, 2014).

In the same month of the Houthi revolution, an Iranian member of parliament with close ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted by the state’s Rasa News Agency as saying, “Three Arab capitals [Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad] have today ended up in the hands of Iran and belong to the Islamic Iranian revolution.” He reportedly boasted that the fourth was Sanaa.

Four months later, in January 2015, Houthi rebels forced the resignation of the Hadi government and took over the presidential palace.

Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Houthi/Iran Coalition

The Houthi rebels placed President Hadi under house arrest, but in February 2015, he fled to Yemen’s coastal city of Aden, rescinded his resignation, and requested foreign intervention.

Wary of the hostile takeover of its southern neighbor, Saudi Arabia partnered with President Hadi’s supporters, assembled a coalition of Arab nations on March 25, 2015, and attempted to rout the Houthis from Sanaa.

By that point, Yemen had become far more complicated: Iranian meddling and military support of the Houthis had increased; the Houthis had partnered with supporters of former President Saleh, their former enemy, to continue their power grab in Yemen; and competing rebel groups like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had taken advantage of the chaos and carved out safe havens for themselves in southern Yemen.

Ynet News Arab affairs commentator, Dr. Yaron Friedman, lauded the Saudis for demonstrating “an impressive ability to unite the Sunni states: Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.”

That ability to coalesce into a force that, if nothing else, slowed down the Houthi onslaught, may very well be the only impressive accomplishment by Saudi Arabia and its allies. That’s primarily because the Saudi coalition committed transgressions that many considered unpardonable in modern warfare.

‘Significantly Reduced Support’ for Saudi Arabia

According to the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, “The war in Yemen is proving to be costly for the Saudi economy, which is facing serious financial strain due to low oil prices. The intervention is all the more problematic because it has failed to resolve the Yemeni standoff while aggravating the humanitarian crisis.”

According to Amnesty International, both sides have violated international humanitarian laws and human rights.

Between April and November, the Houthis reportedly intercepted 34 humanitarian aid boats at Yemen’s Port of Hodeida. They have also been accused of arresting and killing aid workers and other civilians.

But the Houthis are rebels supported by the world’s foremost state-sponsor of terrorism, and the Saudi coalition consists of bona fide governments supported by the United States.

In some regards, the Saudi coalition has committed even worse atrocities. It has reportedly fired cluster bombs which are banned under international law. The Yemen Data Project claims that a third of its air strikes have targeted civilians, including hospitals, schools, mosques, markets, farms and funeral ceremonies.

On October 8, the Saudi coalition bombed a funeral ceremony for the father of a politician in the Houthi-Saleh alliance. Initially, Saudi Arabia denied responsibility for the air strike, but it later apologized for the attack, saying it resulted from wrong intelligence and from a violation of protocol.

The air strike killed 140 people and injured more than 500 others. It was the single worst attack on civilians in Yemen. The United Nations called it “horrendous and heinous,” and Human Rights Watch called it an apparent war crime. It drew strong condemnation from Saudi allies, enemies and those in between.

Some Yemeni tribes that were neutral in the war before the attack became inimical toward the Saudi coalition ground troops and denied them passage through their lands. Al-Monitor noted on October 25 that this likely denied the coalition an opportunity to capture the Sirwah District, approximately 55 miles east of Sanaa. “Taking control of Sirwah would have been a military achievement for the Saudi-led coalition with the aim of besieging Sanaa from the east,” it wrote. “[T]he coalition forces’ march toward Sanaa from that direction is no longer possible after the funeral attack.”

The United States was “deeply disturbed by reports of [the] air strike on a funeral hall in Yemen,” White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said on the day of the attack. The airstrikes, “if confirmed, would continue the troubling series of attacks striking Yemeni civilians. U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check.”

Price added: “Even as we assist Saudi Arabia regarding the defense of their territorial integrity, we have and will continue to express our serious concerns about the conflict in Yemen and how it has been waged. In light of this and other recent incidents, we have initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led coalition and are prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with U.S. principles, values and interests ….”

According to Reuters, some senior U.S. officials said the attack killed some politicians who were important to the Yemen reconciliation process.

Following this funeral attack, the U.S. not only hardened its stance toward the Saudi Arabian alliance, but it also softened its position toward the Houthis. On October 15, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the U.S. had made an arrangement with the Houthis and neighboring sultanate of Oman: The U.S. airlifted some wounded Yemenis to Oman, and the Houthis, in exchange, released two captive Americans. A State Department spokesman referred to the release of the Americans as a “humanitarian gesture by the Houthis.”

Houthis: Stronger and Bolder

On November 6, Secretary Kerry recognized another “positive gesture by the Houthis.” The rebels released a former American marine who had been captive for more than a year and a half.

The Houthis have seemingly outperformed the Saudi coalition in the art of “positive” and “humanitarian” gestures. Their most significant attacks have not created a stir on a humanitarian level, but they certainly have on a geopolitical level.

One week before the funeral attack, the Houthis fired a Chinese-designed C-802 missile at a United Arab Emirates-operated hsv-2 Swift advanced transport vessel near the Yemeni port of Mokha. Security experts believe Iran purchased the antiship missile from China and then reverse-engineered it into its own variant called the Noor.

Stratfor reported on October 5 that the C-802 missiles have a 75-mile range that sets “a sizable stretch of the area near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden in the line of fire.”

Approximately 7 percent of global seafaring traffic passes through this Red Sea passageway. That includes about 4.7 million barrels of oil every day.

According to Stratfor, the attack “indicate[s] that the group has acquired new capabilities, raising questions about the security of shipping in the waters off the Yemeni coast and the effectiveness of an arms embargo against the Houthis. If not the sign of a new weapon, the attack could suggest a shift in the group’s tactics that may equally threaten ships in the Red Sea.”

One day after the funeral air strike, the Houthis fired a ballistic missile toward Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd Air Base, about 40 miles from Mecca, which is where U.S. military advisers in this conflict are stationed. The same day, they fired two missiles at the uss Mason, an American destroyer operating just north of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Three days later, on October 12, the 16th anniversary of the attack on the uss Cole while docked in Yemen’s Aden harbor, Houthi rebels fired again on the Mason, though the warship was undamaged. The U.S. retaliated by firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at some Houthi military installations.

The Iranian Connection

“[T]here is a well-documented history of [Iranian] support for the Houthi [rebels], including in various State Department reports—money, weapons—support for a very long time,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters in April 2015.

What is rarely well documented is the exact nature of Iran’s relationships with its proxies. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy explained: “Houthi relations with the Islamic Republic resemble the Iran-Hamas relationship more than the Iran-Hezbollah relationship—that is, the Houthis are autonomous partners who usually act in accordance with their own interests, though often with smuggled Iranian arms and other indirect help” (October 12).

Houthi autonomy and Iranian influence are not mutually exclusive!

Over the past year and a half, U.S. warships intercepted five shipments of Iranian weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen. On October 20, Reuters reported that Iran was using Yemen’s eastern neighbor, Oman, as a transit point for shipping sophisticated weaponry to the Houthis.

On November 12, Saudi-led coalition air strikes hit two boats carrying weapons for Houthi rebels in Yemen from Iran. The boats had just arrived at Yemen’s northern port city of Salif. Then, on November 14, the Saudi-led coalition intercepted two boats loaded with weapons and communications equipment.

Al-Arabiya wrote that “surveillance and investigative operations revealed that militias are using a number of islands, such as Zagar and Hanish, to smuggle arms and equipment with the help of Iran.”

The Washington Institute noted on October 6 that Iranian belligerence via the Houthis was happening “at a time when Iranian naval provocations in the Strait of Hormuz are becoming far more regular—approximately twice as frequent as last year [2015].” It assessed that Iran “may … be hoping to widen the war to international shipping lanes and foreign territories such as Eritrea.

“The Houthis’ takeover of Yemen was not just a grassroots revolution,” warned Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his April 2015 article titled “Iran Gets a Stranglehold on the Middle East.” “It was a part of a deliberate and calculated Iranian strategy to conquer the Red Sea. This strategy is revealed in a powerful prophecy in the biblical book of Daniel.”

The Bible identifies a Middle Eastern power, a king of the south, that gains significant influence over the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. Iranian-led radical Islam is that power, and it will use its clout to terrorize other nations in the region and beyond. The Bible also identifies another Middle Eastern power, a group of nations that “confederate” for a common cause. Saudi Arabia and some of its fellow Sunni states will be part of that power. Everything is shaping up precisely as the Bible indicates. Mr. Flurry explains these developments in his booklet The King of the South. It’s free upon request.

“The Houthi takeover in Yemen proves that Iran is implementing a bold strategy to control the vital sea lane from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea,” Mr. Flurry wrote in his 2015 article. “We need to understand the gravity of this new situation in Yemen!”

The Collapse of the Soviet Union and No More Delay

The Collapse of the Soviet Union and No More Delay

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Listen to the Trumpet Daily radio program that aired on December 19, 2016.

When the Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991, the anti-Communist coalition wildly celebrated its stunning collapse. But as former chess champion Garry Kasparov pointed out in a recent opinion piece, authoritarian regimes are again thriving in the world of 2016. Some 2.7 billion people on Earth live under the tyrannical rule of a dictator. In Russia, the bloodthirsty Vladimir Putin has made great gains in his bid to restore the glory of imperial Russia! And this time around, there is no anti-Communist coalition resisting him. Many in the West even praise the likes of Putin for being strong and authoritative. For more on this distressing turn of events, listen to Stephen Flurry on today’s Trumpet Daily Radio Show.

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Will Brexit Solve All of Britain’s Problems?

Will Brexit Solve All of Britain’s Problems?

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A look at the optimism of Britain’s vindicated euroskeptics

Recently I was given the privilege of attending a Bruges Group event celebrating the string of efforts that culminated in Brexit. Many of the original Maastricht Rebels, a group of politicians who opposed the treaty to establish the common euro in 1992, attended the event.

Nearly all those who attended the event had something in common: They believed Brexit has saved Britain from disaster.

Andrew Roberts, a brilliant historian who has written histories of the 20th century and World War ii, gave the main speech. Mr. Roberts pointed to the fact that he was part of a small minority of historians who supported the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. In the month before the referendum, over 300 historians signed a letter declaring Brexit would “condemn Britain to irrelevance.” Mr. Roberts proudly pointed out that he put his signature on a letter declaring the opposite. But only four historians signed it with him.

Trying to put Brexit in its historical context, Mr. Roberts dealt with the issue from multiple angles. He talked about Europe’s right-wing movements gaining popularity; whether Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill would have been “Brexiteers” (Roberts’s answer being an emphatic “Yes!”); a possible new canzuk Union (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom); Antonio Gramsci and the left’s hold on universities; and, invoking Godwin’s law, a comparison between the 1930s and now (“appeasers now read remainers”). Even fake news got a mention.

But the main point was this: Great Britain had a “separate historical architecture” than the rest of Europe.

In 1848, revolutions spread across the European continent. Republicans from Germany, Italy and Austria rose up against their rulers demanding more liberal constitutions. Karl Marx’s famous essay The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon discussed the most notable of these uprisings, which happened in France: the February Revolution.

In Britain, there was no 1848 revolution. It was separate. Magna Carta had been written in 1215, and England’s Glorious Revolution had happened nearly 200 years earlier, in 1688.

So in a room full of euroskeptics and campaigners for Brexit, the mood was as optimistic as could be. They had been vindicated! Finally the people were fighting back against the establishment, rejecting the rule of bureaucratic elites who made their decisions on a different continent, and pushing for a free Britain. Against the pollsters, media outlets, overseas banks, conservative Tories, accusations of racism, and even the appearance of United States President Barack Obama, the people had gone to the ballot box and voted for self-governance.

While some details remain to be settled (new trade deals, new alliances and the thousands of small details involved in actually leaving the EU), the main battle had been won. The mood in the room was that Britain would leave the EU to arrive in a utopia of trade partnerships, economic freedom and the chance to solve every problem the stuffy EU Parliament had imposed on them. It was the enlightenment all over again—Britain free to govern with reason!

It’s not that the Trumpet doesn’t acknowledge many of the reasons why Britain would benefit from leaving the EU. Britain did have a history different from mainland Europe, and the EU was never designed to put Britain’s interests first.

But there was something wrong with the overly optimistic attitude of dedicated, passionate and now successful Brexit campaigners. It’s the notion that mankind is able to successfully govern himself.

For a group of conservatives, who would be most likely to fall into the school of realism, it was surprising that there was no mention of human nature. Two prominent political ideologies exist in the Western world: realism and idealism. The realist views the world as a stage of conflict among actors seeking power. The idealists believe that progress is possible, and that the world is capable of becoming more peaceful.

There was no indication that Britain’s governance problems would continue even after it left the EU. There was no talk of the fundamental problems in Britain’s society: crime, immorality, selfishness, corruption, liberalism and all the rest. Britain, simply by virtue of cutting ties to the Continent, would suddenly solve all its problems. Years of cultural and societal decay would be wiped away. Human nature was limited to Brussels; Britain, only, had the moral qualities to lead itself.

In his magnum opus, Mystery of the Ages, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote of the continual failures of man’s forms of governments. In the process of describing the only alternative, he wrote:

It will not be so-called democracy. It will not be socialism. It will not be communism or fascism. It will not be human monarchy, oligarchy or plutocracy. It will not be man’s government over man. Man has proven his utter incapability of ruling himself.

It’s not that Brexit may not be the better alternative. It’s not that Britain couldn’t do a better job ruling its citizens from home than politicians in Brussels. It’s that mankind has always failed to establish lasting, successful government, and he always will fail.

We know this, not because of theories or intellectual hunches, but because every family, city, nation and empire shows daily that it is imperfect. Man, on his own, fails to produce peace in his own domestic life, but thinks he can find it on a national scale. Man, without the guidance of God, has continually proven that human nature prevents him from ruling other men in a way that is just and peaceful.

In another of Mr. Armstrong’s books, The United States and Britain in Prophecy, he put forward the biblical view of America and Britain’s future. In fact, all the way back in 1956, Mr. Armstrong predicted that Britain would not be part of the EU: “Germany is the economic and military heart of Europe. Probably Germany will lead and dominate the coming United States of Europe. But Britain will be no part of it.”

Britain and the United States, Mr. Armstrong wrote, would decline because of their immorality and rejection of God. He said these previously blessed nations were having their blessings removed.

Will Brexit solve all of Britain’s problems? No. But not for the reason many think. It’s because the nation will still have government by humans, and no matter how hard we try, we humans consistently show that we can’t govern ourselves in a way that solves all our problems.

Will Brexit Solve All of Britain’s Problems?

A look at the optimism of Britain’s vindicated euroskeptics
From the February 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

Recently I attended a Bruges Group event celebrating the string of efforts that had culminated in Brexit. Many of the original Maastricht Rebels, a group of politicians who opposed the treaty to establish the common euro in 1992, attended the event. Nearly everyone there had something in common: They believe Brexit has saved Britain from disaster.

Andrew Roberts, a brilliant historian, delivered the main speech. He said he was part of a small minority of historians who had supported the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. Just before the vote, over 300 historians signed a letter declaring Brexit would “condemn Britain to irrelevance.” Roberts proudly revealed that he had signed a letter declaring the opposite. But only four historians did so with him.

Roberts tried to put Brexit in its historical context from multiple angles. He talked about Europe’s right-wing movements gaining popularity; whether Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill would have been “Brexiteers” (his answer was an emphatic “Yes!”); a possible new canzuk Union (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom); Antonio Gramsci and the left’s hold on universities; comparisons between the 1930s and now (“appeasers now read remainers”).

But Roberts’s main point was that Great Britain had a “separate historical architecture” from Europe. In 1848, revolutions spread across the Continent. Germans, Italians and Austrians rose up against their rulers demanding more liberal constitutions; the most notable uprising happened in France: the February Revolution. But in Britain, there was no 1848 revolution. Magna Carta had been drafted in 1215, and England’s Glorious Revolution had happened nearly 200 years earlier, in 1688.

So in a room full of euroskeptics and campaigners for Brexit, the mood was as optimistic as could be. They had been vindicated! Finally the people were fighting back against the establishment, rejecting the rule of bureaucratic elites on a different continent, and pushing for a free Britain. Against the pollsters, media outlets, overseas banks, conservative Tories and accusations of racism, the people had voted for self-governance.

While details remained to be settled (new trade deals, new alliances and thousands of other matters involved in leaving the EU), the main battle was won. The mood in the room was that Britain would now enjoy a utopia of trade partnerships, economic freedom and the chance to solve every problem the stuffy EU Parliament had imposed on them. It was the Enlightenment all over again—Britain free to govern with reason!

The Trumpet acknowledges many of the reasons Britain would benefit from leaving the EU. Britain’s history is different from mainland Europe’s, and the EU was never designed to put Britain’s interests first. But there is something the optimistic Brexiteers are overlooking.

For a group of conservatives, it was surprising that there was no mention of human nature at the conference. Two prominent political ideologies in the Western world are realism and idealism. The realist views the world as a stage of conflict among actors seeking power; the idealist believes that progress toward peace is something close to inevitable.

There was no acknowledgment that Britain’s governance problems will remain after leaving the EU. There was no talk of the fundamental problems in British society: crime, immorality, selfishness, corruption, liberalism and all the rest. Britain, simply by virtue of cutting ties to the Continent, would suddenly solve all its problems. Years of cultural and societal decay would be wiped away. Human nature was limited to Brussels; Britain, only, had the moral qualities to lead itself.

In his book Mystery of the Ages, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote of the continual failures of man’s forms of governments. In the process of describing the only alternative, he wrote: “It will not be so-called democracy. It will not be socialism. It will not be communism or fascism. It will not be human monarchy, oligarchy or plutocracy. It will not be man’s government over man. Man has proven his utter incapability of ruling himself.”

It’s not that Brexit may not be the better alternative. It’s not that Britain can’t rule its citizens from home better than politicians in Brussels can. It’s that mankind has always failed to establish lasting, successful government, and it always will fail.

Families, cities, nations and empires prove this truth daily. Man, on his own, fails to produce peace in his own domestic life, but thinks he can find it on a national scale. Without God’s guidance, man has continually proven that human nature prevents him from ruling other men in a peaceful, just way.

Mr. Armstrong explained the biblical view of America and Britain’s future. In fact, back in 1956, Mr. Armstrong predicted that Britain would not be part of the EU: “Germany is the economic and military heart of Europe. Probably Germany will lead and dominate the coming United States of Europe. But Britain will be no part of it.”

Britain and America, Mr. Armstrong wrote, would decline because of their immorality and rejection of God. He said these previously blessed nations were having their blessings removed.

Will Brexit solve all of Britain’s problems? No. But not for the reason many think. It’s because the nation will still have government by humans, and no matter how hard we try, we humans consistently show that we can’t govern ourselves in a way that solves all our problems.

Superpower Europe

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What to expect when Europe assumes the role of a global superpower

Listen to the Trumpet Daily live each day at 7:00 am (CST) on Trumpet Radio.

With the dust now settling on the recent United States presidential election, many prominent voices in Europe are calling for the European Union—and for Germany in particular—to step up and fill the void left by an increasingly isolationist America. For nearly a century, the U.S. has been the undisputed leader of the free world. But with America abdicating this global role, it is now Europe’s turn to step forward.

Hebert W. Armstrong warned about the rise of a German-led united Europe as far back as the 1950s. He was able to make that bold forecast due to detailed Bible prophecies about the Holy Roman Empire.

Europe’s rapid ascent as a global superpower is leading to the fulfillment of the most dramatic and exciting prophecy in the Bible. On this episode of the Trumpet Daily, we explore where events in Europe today are leading.

Hidden Danger in Keeping Christmas?

Family time together and the life of Jesus Christ are both wonderful. But does God want us to celebrate these things by keeping Christmas?