Ye­men: Un­prece­dented Hu­man­i­tar­ian Cri­sis

People's Review - - LEADER - BY PRABASI NEPALI

The civil war be­tween the North and South in Ye­men rages on and now even a cholera epi­demic has bro­ken out rav­aging the war-torn coun­try. Over the past two years, more than 10,000 peo­ple have been killed and three mil­lion dis­placed amid the Saudi-led coali­tion's re­lent­less air cam­paign against Ye­men's Iran-backed Houthi Shi'ite rebels. The Saudi-led cam­paign is seek­ing to re­store Ye­men's in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment back to power. Un­for­tu­nately, civil­ian ca­su­al­ties have been hor­ren­dous be­cause air bomb­ings have been indis­crim­i­nate and no care has been taken to limit col­lat­eral dam­age.US Pres­i­dent Trump gave the green sig­nal to Saudi Ara­bia's Crown Prince Sal­man to in­ten­sify the con­flict, and the US and other Western coun­tries have been sup­ply­ing deadly weapons and mu­ni­tions to the Saudi-led coali­tion. An­other Saudi-led coali­tion (Bahrain, the United Arab Emi­rates and Egypt) have also started a con­flict with the small Emi­rate of Qatar in the Per­sian Gulf. On Fri­day, Saudi-led coali­tion's fight­er­jets rained bombs over the Yem­ini cap­i­tal, Sana'a, lev­el­ing houses packed with civil­ians and killing at least 14 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 8 mem­bers of a sin­gle fam­ily, rel­a­tives and wit­nesses said. The fam­ily's one-year-old baby was among those killed. The bomb­ing was the lat­estin a sig­nif­i­cant es­ca­la­tion in the Saudi-led coali­tion's air cam­paign in Ye­men. Just last Wed­nes­day, at least 41 peo­ple died when airstrikes bombed a small ho­tel in the town of Arhab, north of Sana'a. Thai­land: New Po­lit­i­cal De­vel­op­ment with Flight of Ex-PM Yingluck Ac­cord­ing to the Agence France Presse (AFP), Thai­land's former prime min­is­ter Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra has fled Thai­land, after she ab­sented her­self from a court ap­pear­ance that could have seen her jailed up to 10 years and a life ban from ac­tive pol­i­tics – at the same time that would have made her a mar­tyr and a ral­ly­ing point with glam­orous star power at home and abroad, just as the leg­endary Aung San Suu Kyi in neigh­bour­ing Myan­mar. Thai­land's gen­er­als could hardly have planned it bet­ter. There will now be no awkward ques­tions over why the mil­i­tary over­threw her in 2014. Nei­ther can she rally support for her party at elec­tions the army has promised for next year. In a day of high drama, thou­sands of sup­port­ers – out­num­bered by se­cu­rity forces – waited from dawn be­fore the court for a glimpse of the ex-PM, but she did not show up. A se­nior party source of her Pheu Thai party (backed by the “Red Shirts Move­ment”) told AFP: “she is def­i­nitely no longer here, she is likely in Sin­ga­pore now.” Yingluck joins her bil­lion­aire brother Thaksin in self-ex­ile – a tech­ni­cal knock­out for the fam­ily and their po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions. This leaves the pop­ulist move­ment that has dom­i­nated Thai pol­i­tics for a gen­er­a­tion lead­er­less and in de­spair. Thai­land's po­lit­i­cal scene is deeply di­vided. On one side are the Shi­nawa­tras and their po­lit­i­cal base, which is mainly drawn from the ru­ral poor from the North and North-East of the coun­try. On the other, the roy­al­ist army-aligned Bangkok elite loathe the Shi­nawa­tra clan for their po­lit­i­cal machi­na­tions and pseudo-demo­cratic pos­ture. Yingluck's brother Thaksin, also a former PM fled Thai­land in 2008 be­fore he was con­victed of cor­rup­tion and handed a two-year jail term. The former tele­coms ty­coon, who once owned Manch­ester City foot­ball club, has not re­turned to Thai­land since and his Thai pass­port has been re­voked. It is sur­mised that he has a Mon­tene­gro (a small coun­try in the Balkans on the Adri­atic Sea be­tween Bos­nia Herze­gov­ina, Ser­bia and Al­ba­nia) pass­port to travel be­tween homes in Dubai, London, Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore. Yingluck her­self evaded her court hear­ing for grave neg­li­gence over a greatly hyped rice sub­sidy scheme started by her brother, which in fact re­sulted in a ma­jor loss for the state (US Dol­lar 8 bil­lion in losses). A se­nior leader of Shi­nawa­tras' Pheu Thai party told AFP that Yingluck left Thai­land (to join her brother), adding “it's im­pos­si­ble she left with­out the mil­i­tary green light”, as she was closely mon­i­tored. The clan had held on to Thai­land's pre­car­i­ous po­lit­i­cal stage for more than a decade de­spite two coups, dan­ger­ous protests, a surge of le­gal cases and con­fis­ca­tion of as­sets. Even dur­ing ex­ile, Thaksin had re­mained a gal­va­niz­ing force for his party and a cun­ning po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tor, and his sis­ter a crafty proxy. How­ever, ex­perts on Thai pol­i­tics say now that both sib­lings are ab­sent from the scene, their time in Thai­land's fast­mov­ing po­lit­i­cal arena is at an end. Puangth­ong Pawak­pan, an an­a­lyst at Bangkok's Chu­la­longkorn Uni­ver­sity said defini­tively: “It is the end of the Shi­nawa­tras and the Pheu Thai party in pol­i­tics.” Afghanistan/Pak­istan: A New Amer­i­can Strat­egy? Last week, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump un­veiled his pol­icy for Afghanistan, com­mit­ting to an open-ended con­flict there and sin­gling out Pak­istan for har­bour­ing Afghan Tal­iban in­sur­gents and other mil­i­tants like the Haqqani network. As part of the ‘new' pol­icy, US of­fi­cials warned that mil­i­tary/ de­vel­op­ment aid to Pak­istan might be cut and Wash­ing­ton might down­grade nu­clear-rmed Pak­istan's sta­tus as a ‘ ma­jor nonNATO ally' to pres­sure it do more to help bring about an end to Amer­ica's long­est-run­ning war of nearly six­teen years. Trump said: “The con­se­quences of a rapid exit are both pre­dictable and un­ac­cept­able” and hit out at Pak­istan, for pro­vid­ing safe havens to “agents of chaos” that kill Amer­i­cans in Afghanistan. Fur­ther­more: “We have been pay­ing Pak­istan bil­lions and bil­lions of dol­lars at the same time they are hous­ing the very ter­ror­ists that we are fight­ing.” The Tal­iban re­acted: “If the US does not pull all its forces out of Afghanistan, we will make this coun­try the 21st cen­tury grave­yard for the Amer­i­can em­pire.” Im­me­di­ately, there was a chorus of in­dig­na­tion in Pak­istan over the US crit­i­cism. Pak­istan For­eign Min­is­ter Khawaja Asif added his voice: “They should not make Pak­istan a scape­goat for their fail­ures in Afghanistan . . . . Our com­mit­ment to war against ter­ror­ism is un­matched and un­shaken.” Pak­istan has been been bat­tling mil­i­tants who are seek­ing to over throw the state with bomb at­tacks and as­sas­si­na­tions for years. Asif said Pak­istan had suf­fered great losses from mil­i­tancy. The gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates 70,000 peo­ple have been killed since Pak­istan joined the US “War on Ter­ror­ism” after the September 11, 2001 at­tacks by Al Qaeda (un­der the lead­er­ship of Osama bin Laden) in New York and Wash­ing ton, D.C. Asif re­gret­ted Pak­istan's ef­forts to fight ter­ror­ism were be­ing taken for granted and dis­missed the no­tion the United States could “win war on ter­ror by threat­en­ing us or cor­ner­ing us.” Fur­ther­more, “Our con­tri­bu­tions, sac­ri­fices and our role as a coali­tion coun­try have been dis­re­garded and dis­re­spected.” The bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pak­istan and the United States has en­dured pe­ri­ods of ex­treme strain dur­ing the past decade es­pe­cially after Al Queda mil­i­tant leader Osama bin Laden was traced near to the mil­i­tary base in Ab­bot­tabad and killed by US spe­cial forces (Navy Seals) in Pak­istan in 2011. US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, who is due to meet Asif soon, has out­lined a range of op­tions to change Pak­istan's pol­icy in Afghanistan, but con­ceded that there were concerns about putting too much pres­sure on Pak­istan. Asif, as well as the en­tire civil­ian/ mil­i­tary elite, was also an­gered by Trump's ap­peal to In­dia to do more in Afghanistan. In ef­fect, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has broad­ened and con­verted the Afghanistan-Pak­istan nexus into a re­gional South Asian strate­gic co­nun­drum. The Pak­istan mil­i­tary will fight this de­vel­op­ment tooth and nail. Sherry Rehman, a se­nior op­po­si­tion politi­cian and former Pak­istani am­bas­sador to the United States said: “At­tempt­ing to iso­late Pak­istan will not yield any­thing but a dan­ger­ous sharp­en­ing of strate­gic fault lines.” Former in­ter­na­tional cricket star turned op­po­si­tion leader Im­ran Khan (of the “Pak­istan Tehreeke In­saaf” party) said Pak­istan should fi­nally learn a valu­able les­son: “Never to fight oth­ers' wars for the lure of dol­lars.” Es­ca­la­tion of the Sino-In­dian Stand-off in Bhutan ? Last week, In­dia's Min­is­ter of the In­te­rior Ra­j­nath Singh pre­dicted: “A dead­lock is go­ing on be­tween In­dia and China in Dok­lam [plateau, which In­dia says is Bhutanese ter­ri­tory, but which China also claims, and where they are build­ing a strate­gic road]. But I think a so­lu­tion will come out soon.” Fur­ther­more: “We want to main­tain good re­la­tions with our neigh­bours. We don't want con­flict, we want peace.” How­ever, China viewed with con­cern In­dia's own road-build­ing ac­tiv­ity in Ladakh in an area close to the Pan­gong Lake, near the dis­puted bor­der. The Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokesper­son Hua Chun­y­ing said: “It seems that the In­dian side is slap­ping its own face.” There are in­di­ca­tions that the min­istry has come un­der pres­sure from hawk­ish el­e­ments in the Com­mu­nist Party. The Gen­eral-Sec­re­tary of the party [and Pres­i­dent] Xi Jin­ping may be forced to act. The win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to act still ex­ists be­fore the on­set of win­ter. The In­dian mil­i­tary is mis­taken to think (and plan) that the lo­gis­tics, the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and sup­ply are too for­mi­da­ble for the Chi­nese. The In­dian armed forces could be over­run in a two-pronged ac­tion, first through Arunachal Pradesh (as in Oc­to­ber 1962), and sec­ond, from the Chumbi Val­ley in Ti­bet through Sikkim and Dar­jeel­ing District into the plains of the “Silig­uri Cor­ri­dor”/”Chicken's Neck”. The In­dian heart­land would be, first, (tem­po­rar­ily) bi­fur­cated from the North-East­ern states. And more im­por­tantly, a chunk of In­dian ter­ri­tory would be (tem­po­rar­ily) oc­cu­pied by Chi­nese forces and lie be­tween Ti­bet and Bangladesh in a north-south axis, and be­tween Nepal and Bhutan in a west-east axis – of great geo-po­lit­i­cal im­port!

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