Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 06, 2015

More Chaos And Catastrophes in Yemen

Yesterday at about noon a Russian plane brought 23 tons of humanitarian aid to Yemen:

AFP journalists saw the plane at Sanaa airport -- which is controlled by Shiite Huthi rebels -- and were told it contained aid.

The plane was then set to fly back to the Russian capital Friday with some 75 people on board who wanted to quit the strife-torn city, the ministry said.

The Saudis together with the UAE and under advise from the U.S. now regularly bomb Yemen. The Saudis effectively control the Yemeni airspace and Saudi air controllers are directing all traffic. According to the Yemeni lawyer Haykal Bafana in Sanaa they compelled the plane not to fly back to Russia without a stopover in Saudi Arabia:

Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3
This #Russia plane landed in Sanaa, #Yemen today. Now #Saudi Arabia threatens to attack plane if it takes off.

Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3
Riyadh-Moscow standoff over Russia plane trying to depart from Sanaa #Yemen : Who's on board the plane?

Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3
#Yemen : #Saudi Arabia orders Sanaa Airport runway lights off, #Russia plane exit taxiway or KSA jets will bomb it.

مدهش ™ @Dip_Ye
To be exact, KSA threatens to attack 2russian 1omani airplanes if they take off. Pilots refuse inspection @BaFana3

A few hours later

Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3
Saudi military spokesman Gen Al-Assiri dismissed Sanaa Airport standoff as "Houthi hysteria". Planes will leave Fri.

AlArabia, a Saudi news outlet in English, reported

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Iranian-backed Houthi militias delayed on Thursday the departure of a Russian plane from the capital Sanaa that was carrying more than 20 tons of humanitarian aid, the spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iranian-backed group there said.

“The militias have prevented the departure [of the Russian aid plane] ... in an attempt to attract international attention,” Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri told Al Arabiya News channel.

“The plane is now scheduled to fly back to the Russian capital tomorrow,” Asiri said.

Why and how would the Houthis hold up a Russian plane that just brought aid to Sanaa? That sounds rather fishy.

Today a news outlet from the United Arab Emirates published a different story than the mouthpiece of its Saudi coalition partner:

Deposed Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh tried to flee the capital Sanaa aboard a Russian plane but he was prevented by the Saudi-led coalition imposing a ban on flights over the conflict-battered Arab country, Yemen’s media reported on Friday.

A Russian aircraft carrying diplomats and relief aid landed in Sanaa airport on Thursday apparently after getting permission from coalition air force.
It said the coalition ordered the pilot of the Russian plane to fly first to Bisha airport in Southern Saudi Arabia for inspection but he refused.

“This confirms the information that the deposed President tried to flee the country,” the report said, adding that Saleh visited the Russian embassy in Sanaa on Tuesday.

Saleh is allied with the Houthi (Ansar Allah) and pays the parts of the Yemeni army which together with the Houthi fight against the Saudi/UAE/mercenary invasion of Yemen. That Saleh should leave is a demand of that coalition. Why, if he really was on board of that plane, would the Saudis stop him from leaving?

The Russian seem pissed and their ambassador found some quite clear words to press the Saudis:

Saudi Arabia is a key to resolving the Yemeni crisis, Russian Ambassador to Yemen Vladimir Dedushkin said.
According to the envoy, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terrorist groups in recent years strengthened their positions in Yemen "like never before, since the entire eastern part of Yemen, nearly 70 percent of the country, is largely controlled by extremists."
"Now only Ansar Allah fights al-Qaeda at the same time withstanding the onslaught of the coalition and the army of President [Abd Rabbuh Mansour] Hadi," Dedushkin told RIA Novosti.
He added that as the Yemeni crisis increases anarchy in the country it creates a breeding ground for terrorists, who arrive in Yemen from abroad, including from Syria.

"Therefore, there is a serious risk that if the Ansar Allah recedes from their positions, they will be occupied by the terrorists," the ambassador stressed.

The multi-front fighting in Yemen is ongoing with no changes in the lines of the conflict. The Saudis brought in additional mercenaries from Sudan and Eritrea while the UAE is sneaking out of Yemen under the disguise of a "troop rotation" which has no new "rotating" troops arriving. The last UAE task before leaving was to stop violent fighting in Aden between their allied Yemeni troops under former president Hadi's son and their allied Yemeni troops from the southern resistance movement.

Due to the war and the U.S.-Saudi blockade of Yemen's harbors and roads the economy has fallen off a cliff and some 6 million people, always depending on food imports, are under imminent threat of famine. Two days ago the cyclone Chapala brought several years of average rainfall within a few hours to Yemen and at least some 10,000 houses are believed to be destroyed by the flood. Another tropical storm will probably make landfall in Aden on Tuesday. There is no reporting from the ground and "western" media mostly ignores the catastrophic events in that country.

Meanwhile Yemeni army soldiers and Houthis continue to bring the war into Saudi cities (vid, long version).

The Saudi-U.S. war on Yemen is a complete failure. Will someone give the Saudis a helping hand to get out of their mess without a complete loss of face?

Posted by b on November 6, 2015 at 16:18 UTC | Permalink


The international community ( including the USA) should let the Saudis loose their face. It will teach them a good lesson: They should remain the USA's obedient poodle and not try to act as pit bulls.

Posted by: Virgile | Nov 6 2015 17:16 utc | 1

The absence of comments is only due to the dearth of news from that war-torn country. These pictures break my heart:

Posted by: juliania | Nov 6 2015 17:41 utc | 2

the usa does what it always does... screw the people of yemen so that the special relationship they have with saudi arabia is maintained.. very same play book as gaza and israel... the usa has got to know that supporting countries that don't give a fuck about human rights or anything other then some whacked out religion - are not the way to go.. but, apparently not.. it is all about weapon sales and other such highly ethical stuff like that..

Posted by: james | Nov 6 2015 17:54 utc | 3

@1 The Houthis could very well take large parts of KSA, creating a crisis that could result in the royals being deposed.. I think USA would intervene militarily to prevent that

Posted by: bbbbb | Nov 6 2015 18:00 utc | 4

"The Saudis brought in additional mercenaries from Sudan and Eritrea..."
Some 800 former Colombian military troops will enter the city port of Aden in Yemen, switching the jungle terrain of their home country for the deserts of Arabia. The former Colombian army troops will join a coalition of allied international troops fighting Shiite rebels. They will operate under the service of the UAE Armed Forces, donning a Saudi uniform in defense of the Yemeni government.

Posted by: Maracatu | Nov 6 2015 18:27 utc | 5

What I find unusual is the country of Oman led by their monarch has been able to avoid any spillover of combat across their borders from Yemen, its neighbor.

Posted by: PokeTheTruth | Nov 6 2015 18:28 utc | 6

As if it wasn't bad enough, add a full blown cyclone and follow it up with a tropical storm. Hey maybe now some relief efforts might get underway, assuming the blockade has to ease up somewhat, temporarily, for flood relief. Right? Sure hope so.

Posted by: Colinjames | Nov 6 2015 18:35 utc | 7

No please, no help for Saudi Arabia getting out while "saving face". Better option, bring war and chaos deep into Saudi Arabia, see collapse of the Saudi regime, see the crazies that is Saudi Arabia's primary export after oil come home to do a little ISIS and Al Qaeda action all over Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Praedor | Nov 6 2015 19:01 utc | 8

Indeed, well said as usual. Pity the mainstream media can't be bothered to cover the real news any more.

I do however suggest that there is one factor that you are missing, and that is the extremely high birth rate of Yemen. Contrary to current big-lie propaganda, when poor people who could maybe support two or three kids instead have six or seven, it does NOT create prosperity. How could it? If you can support two kids and you have six, no, those extra four do not automatically create wealth. First they must be raised to at least early teen years, and even then, significant resources must be invested to develop new resources and build new tools etc. before the extra four can hope to be productive. This is why, absent an open frontier, high-fertility rate societies are ALWAYS poor: on the one hand every resource is tied up in keeping people alive today, on the other hand a rapidly growing population requires massive capital investments just to stay even (remember, it's not the total number of people, it's the rate of increase). That's why, without exception, ALL prosperous societies FIRST lower their fertility rate, and THEN (if everything else goes right) per-capita real wealth can be slowly and steadily increased.

So I propose that Yemen is a 'tar baby' - it is a society that will be a miserable overpopulated cesspit no matter what anyone does. Sure outside intervention has been stupid and ham-handed, but without that, Yemen would be exactly the same. Sending food will only feed a population explosion, and you will have even more hungry people to feed down the road. And when there are a lot of hungry desperate people, there WILL be war and violence and corruption etc., you can't avoid that. The only thing that any outside force will get for becoming involved in Yemen is being blamed for what would have happened anyhow.

As currently constituted, Yemen is a trap. The only sane thing would be to avoid it.

The only thing that would help the Yemenis would be speak truth, and say that if people have more children than they can reasonably afford to support, then they and their families will be miserably poor. Then seal them off and let them make up their own minds about what kind of society they want to live in.

Posted by: TG | Nov 6 2015 19:02 utc | 9

Sound of explosion heard on Russian plane's black box: French TV
Read more at Reuters

Posted by: okie farmer | Nov 6 2015 19:30 utc | 10

No matter who or what was aboard the Russian plane, the Saudi threats to Russian aeroplanes is a warning to not interfere the Saudi ( and US ) genocidal campaign in Yemen. Also, the threats cannot really be done without US approval. The Saudis are nothing compaird to the Russians militarily, so the threats can only really be backed up by the US military support of the Saudi tyranny.

I don't know how many people track Aid agencies, but could someone later on relay information of which Aid agency praised this generous act, which is in stark contrast to the US genocidal blockade of Yemen.

Posted by: tom | Nov 6 2015 19:34 utc | 11

@6 PokeTheTruth.. that is indeed a good observation! apparently the yemeni people are wonderful people, who make great friends if you're friendly with them, and terrible enemies if you're not.. i imagine the oman people and monarchy understand this.. saudi arabia is a clamped down backward headchopping culture.. hard to perceive the leadership any other way and clearly they don't get this about the yemeni people.. they would prefer to persecute them back to the 11th century or something... but! they are the good friends of those weapons dealers from across the atlantic ocean and that trumps everything..

Posted by: james | Nov 6 2015 19:54 utc | 12

@9 TG, the same problem exists for the whole region. It's vastly overpopulated. Egypt, Yemen, KSA.. Israel.. All are populated far beyond their immediate ability to feed themselves.

The best path for the region is to end the hostilities and implement Negative population growth initiatives, but that's also what the whole world needs, and there's absolutely no political will to do so.

The status quo just want to keep BAU until complete, catastrophic failure, which they hope never comes

Posted by: bbbbb | Nov 6 2015 19:55 utc | 13

Yemen's ongoing civil war has been going on longer than the one in Syria ... the Saudis "seriously" personally entered it fairly recently-- although we were their proxy for 5 years under the cover of GWOT and pursuit of AQAP and Al-Awlaki (died 2011) ...

The Saudis seen this as an(other) proxy war with Iran and I suspect that "saving face" is to lose face ... KSA is not very good at this stuff... hopelessly bad... living up to their worst reputation as vain dilletantes and fools (and religious extremists)

I think they remain "untouchable" as long as "we" remain untouchable ... Geneva conventions, human rights abuses, destruction of World Heritage Sites ... they're not doing much that we aren't party to or doing elsewhere ...

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Nov 6 2015 19:56 utc | 14

A bit off topic, or not at all as it all involves the re-drawing of the Middle East, Erdogan, having won the election and gotten rid of other main military man who was resistant to further military entanglement in Syria, will be assisting the West to bog down Russia, unless Russia acts super fast…


by Mike Whitney

A landslide victory in Turkey’s November 1 snap elections has removed the last obstacle in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s drive to war. The surprise outcome of the balloting, which was widely denounced as “unfair and marred by fear and violence by international election observers”, has given Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) 49 percent of the vote restoring single-party rule in Ankara. Shortly after the election results were announced, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on Turkey’s political parties to scrap the existing constitution in order to grant President Erdogan nearly-limitless executive authority.

According to Turkey’s Today’s Zaman Davutoglu said, “I’m calling on all parties entering parliament to form a new civilian national constitution…Let’s work together towards a Turkey where conflict, tension and polarisation are non-existent and everyone salutes each other in peace.”

In other words, the balloting is being used to sabotage democracy and establish the supreme power of the president. Less than 24 hours after Erdogan had regained single-party control of the government, he reiterated Davutoglu’s appeal for expanding presidential powers through a national referendum.

“An issue like the presidential system can’t be decided without the nation,” Erdogan told reporters at the press conference. “If the mechanism requires a referendum, then we will hold a referendum … The executive presidency is not a question of our president’s personal future. He has already entered the history books. The basic motivation is to make the system in Turkey as effective as possible.”

So, according to Erdogan, the dictatorial powers of the president have already been established and the referendum is merely a formality.

Clearly, Erdogan wants to use the referendum to consolidate his power, establish one-man rule and terminate representative government in Turkey. He is a committed Islamist who wants to repeal democracy and create a Islamic regime that extends beyond Turkey’s present borders into Iraq and Syria. This is why he has been such an enthusiastic supporter of the jihadi groups fighting in Syria.

More important, Erdogan intends to use his landslide victory to persuade the Military High Command that he has a popular mandate for his foreign policy, a policy that has amassed thousands of Turkish troops, armored vehicles and tanks on the Syrian border for a possible invasion. Up to now, the military has resisted Erdogan on this matter, but now that Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, has been replaced as head of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) by the more compliant General Hulusi Akar, the plan to invade Syria and secure a so called “safety zone” along the Syrian side of the Turkish border, becomes much more probable.

The plan to annex sovereign Syrian territory and use it to launch attacks on the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad dates back to 2012. In 2015, however, the strategy was expanded upon by Brookings analyst Michael E. O’Hanlon in a piece titled “Deconstructing Syria: A new strategy for America’s most hopeless war”. Here’s an excerpt:

“…the only realistic path forward may be a plan that in effect deconstructs Syria….the international community should work to create pockets with more viable security and governance within Syria over time… The idea would be to help moderate elements establish reliable safe zones within Syria once they were able. American, as well as Saudi and Turkish and British and Jordanian and other Arab forces would act in support, not only from the air but eventually on the ground via special forces. … Western forces themselves would remain in more secure positions in general—within the safe zones but back from the front lines—at least until the reliability of such defenses, and also local allied forces, made it practical to deploy and live in more forward locations."

Creation of these sanctuaries would produce autonomous zones that would never again have to face the prospect of rule by either Assad ….The interim goal might be a confederal Syria, with several highly autonomous zones… The confederation would likely require support from an international peacekeeping force….to make these zones defensible and governable,….and to train and equip more recruits so that the zones could be stabilized and then gradually expanded.” (Deconstructing Syria: A new strategy for America’s most hopeless war, Michael E. O’Hanlon, Brookings Institute)

This is the Obama administration’s basic blueprint for toppling Assad and reducing Syria into an ungovernable failed state run by regional warlords, renegade militias and Islamic extremists. US Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed our worst suspicions about this sinister plan in a speech he delivered to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace just last week. Here’s part of what he said:

“In northern Syria, the coalition and its partners have pushed Daesh (ISIS) out of more than 17,000 square kilometers of territory, and we have secured the Turkish-Syrian border east of the Euphrates River. That’s about 85 percent of the Turkish border, and the President is authorizing further activities to secure the rest…….

We’re also enhancing our air campaign in order to help drive Daesh, which once dominated the Syria-Turkey border, out of the last 70-mile stretch that it controls.” (U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the Future of U.S. Policy in the Middle East, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

Repeat: “That’s about 85 percent of the Turkish border, and the President is authorizing further activities to secure the rest.”

Why has Obama “authorized further activities to secure the rest”?

Because no one in Washington believes that the US-backed jihadis will beat the combined forces of the Russian-led coalition which is gradually annihilating the terrorist militias across Syria. So now, Obama is moving on to Plan B, the creation of a terrorist sanctuary on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Turkish border where the US and its partners can continue to arm, train and deploy their jihadi maniacs back into Syria whenever they choose to do so. Undoubtedly, Obama’s Special Forces will be used to oversee this operation and to make sure that everything goes according to plan.

There is, of course, a question about the Kurdish militias role in this strategy. Recently, the US has air-dropped pallet-loads of weapons and ammo to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) hoping the group could help the US secure the last stretch of land along the border west of the Euphrates thus keeping vital supplylines open for the jihadis while establishing a safe haven on Syrian territory. Erdogan violently opposes any operation that will create a contiguous Kurdish state on the Syrian side of the border.

So how will this situation be resolved? Will Obama stick with the Kurds or realign with Erdogan in exchange for Turkish boots on the ground?

No one knows just yet, but certainly a Turkish-US alliance would be more formidable than a PYD-US coalition. Judging by Washington’s long history of choosing the most expedient solution to achieve its policy goals, we expect Obama to align himself with Ankara.
It’s worth noting that the Turkish parliament already “approved a possible deployment of Turkish ground forces in Syria and opened the door to basing foreign troops in Turkey” back in October 2014. Using the pretext of “fighting terrorism” as an excuse for invasion, Erdogan said, “We are open and ready for any kind of cooperation…However, Turkey is not a country that will allow itself to be used for temporary solutions… The immediate removal of the administration in Damascus, Syria’s territorial unity and the installation of an administration which embraces all will continue to be our priority.”

In other words, Erdogan will not provide ground troops unless the US says it is committed to regime change.

Erdogan has been the strongest proponent of “safe zones”, an idea that would require US warplanes to patrol the skies over Northern Syria with small groups of US troops on the ground. The plan greatly increases the probability of an unexpected clash with Russian warplanes that could lead to a direct confrontation between the two nuclear-armed adversaries.

Now check out this article that appeared in the UK Telegraph in June 2015, that was clearly premature in its prediction. The piece is titled “Turkey ‘planning to invade Syria'”:
“President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has authorised a change in the rules of engagement agreed by the Turkish parliament to allow the army to strike at Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), as well as the Assad regime, according to local newspapers. The aim is to establish a buffer zone for refugees and against Isil…

Turkey has urged the creation of a buffer zone protected by international forces in the north of Syria ever since the civil war sent hundreds of thousands of refugees across the border…

Turkish media were briefed on new orders being given to the military to prepare to send an 18,000-strong force across the border…The troops would seize a stretch of territory 60 miles long by 20 deep, including the border crossings of Jarablus, currently in Isil hands, and Aazaz, currently controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA)…(Turkey ‘planning to invade Syria, Telegraph)

Readers will notice the striking similarity between Erdogan’s plan and the Brookings strategy. Washington and Ankara seem to share the same view of how Syria should be carved up following the prospective invasion. That said, it would be surprising if Erdogan and Obama are not able to iron-out their differences and settle on a way to achieve their common objective.

Erdogan has put considerable effort into removing the obstacles preventing him from launching an invasion on Syria. He’s gotten the greenlight from Parliament to deploy the army if he feels there is a threat to Turkey’s national security. He’s effectively “internationalized” the conflict by allowing the US, UK and French warplanes to fly out of Incirlik. (which will absolve Erdogan and his minions from future legal accountability or war crimes.) And, finally, the elections provided Erdogan with the mandate he needed to convince the military that his foreign policy has the full-backing of the Turkish people. So now that he has his ducks in a row, the only question is whether he will actually launch the invasion or not?

On Wednesday, Turkish foreign minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu confirmed that Erdogan is planning to invade Syria under the pretext of “fighting terrorism”. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Daily Sabah:

“Turkey has plans to launch a military operation against ISIS in the near future, the Turkish foreign minister said on Wednesday. Feridun Sinirlioğlu was at a conference on the future of Middle East, held in Erbil in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region.
“Daesh [ISIS] threatens our way of life and security. […] We have plans to act militarily against them in the coming days. You will see. We should all stand together against this danger,” he said…

“We will continue our efforts to eliminate all terrorist organizations. We will act in a responsible manner so that the Kurdish region and Iraq can be successful in the fight against terror. This is a very clear message to Iraq and the Kurdish region for a bright future,” he said.” (Turkey in plans to launch military operation against ISIS, foreign minister says, Daily Sabah)

Naturally, none of this has anything to do with fighting terrorism, in fact, Erdogan has been the terrorists best friend allowing them to pass back and forth across the border unimpeded. What Sinirlioğlu’s announcement means is that Turkey is finally ready to seize the 60 mile stretch of land referred to in the Telegraph article. As of this writing, we don’t know what the White House’s reaction to this Sinirlioğlu’s announcement will be, but we do know that Obama is scheduled to meet with Erdogan in Ankara in less than two weeks. By then, the administration will have decided whether they will stick with the Kurds or cast their lot with Erdogan. Either way, there’s going to be an attempt to create a safe zone from which Washington can continue to prosecute its war on Assad. That much is certain.

These developments suggest that Putin will have to move fast if he wants to seal the border and derail Erdogan’s plan. The Russian president might have to deploy Russian Special Forces and armored divisions northward to discourage US-Turkey adventurism and to prevent the war from turning into a quagmire.

This is one situation where preemption could really pay off big time.

Posted by: Susette | Nov 6 2015 20:36 utc | 15

Most responders don't have a clear idea about the dynamics in the ME. As if US support for the KSA is unconditional. The US supported Saddam as long as he was useful. The support didn't even end when he bombed a US warship. He was discarded when he became useless.

Erdogan and Salman haven't been the good vassals they are supposed to be. Both are persuing their own courses not in line with that of their US master.

So the US does what it does best and that is destroying nations and creating as much chaos/failed states a possible. Statelets are powerless and easy to control, plain divide and rule. The US is playing the same double game in Yemen/KSA as it does in Iraq and Syria/Turkey.

It feigns to help the Iraqi government against IS but actually supports the latter with weapon deliveries and bombing the Iraqi troops "by accident" with the goal of weakening the Iraqi government.

The US pulled back it's patriot missile system as an invitation for Russia to weaken Turkey. The result is Turkey loosing the area's it stole from Syria currently managed by it's offspring IS and Al Nosra at the hands of the Kurds (supported by the US and Israel) and the Syrian government (supported by Russia).

In Yemen, the military campaign with US and Israeli "assistance" is clearly a total failure that is causing a major financial deficit in the KSA. War is costly and it will be unable to continue paying for the influence around the globe let alone pay for that huge mercenary army and since Saoudis are too chicken to do the fighting themselves it will have no other option than to crawl back to it's US master begging for the nightmare across the border as well is in the southern area to go away.

Posted by: chao | Nov 6 2015 20:38 utc | 16

The United States spent the better part of 2 years -- iirc -- publicly demanding that no one send arms to Syria -- as the Jihadi Saudi friends continuously supplied and resupplied ... bankrolling the (not moderate) opposition or rebel forces -- we don't control them and as far as I can tell we can't control them (they're an all-grownup sovereign state) and I believe they are operating with blessing of the other gulf state nations, who also hate Iran and have deep pockets -- even if the Saudis -- oh happy day -- are projected to go broke in 5 years -- -- however much of that "going broke" talk is predicated on very very low oil prices (that hurt all oil producers -- Iraq, Iran, the USA shale industry and Russia to name a few) ...

Are they oblivious enough or stupid enough to let that happen? Not "impossible" but I'm guessing that's doubtful

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Nov 6 2015 20:53 utc | 17

To TG at 9 and bbbbb at 13:

Where do you get your information that Yemen has an extremely high birth rate and is overpopulated, and that countries in the Middle East have far too many people to be able to feed them all?

World Bank data I have seen show that fertility rates in Yemen have fallen from 9 children per adult woman in the early 1980s to 4 children per adult female in 2012. In other words, 30 years ago a woman in Yemen could expect to have 9 babies in her lifetime if they came all at once; these days she would expect to have 4 babies. That is a considerable fall. The average Egyptian woman in 2012 could expect to have about 3 babies in her lifetime and in Saudi Arabia the average woman there in 2012 could expect to have almost 3 babies.

Demographers are saying that countries in the Middle East and northern Africa will be facing a major demographic crash over the coming decades. People are not having enough children who will form the tax base to support ageing populations. The reasons for this are various and every country is different with respect as to the causes - in several countries, emigration of young people to find work is one reason - but nearly all countries in this part of the world are facing future population crashes.

There are several countries in the West like Britain and Japan that aren't completely self-sufficient in food but no-one says they are overpopulated. Classical economics posits that countries don't need to be self-sufficient in all foodstuffs and any country striving for autarky in food production could actually be wasting its land and labour resources.

Posted by: Jen | Nov 6 2015 21:08 utc | 18

oh, wrt crazy low oil prices used to punish Russia -- the thought of what happens to "First World" economic recovery when those prices hit "more realistic" or previously "normal" levels should give everyone pause ...
As was mentioned wrt Iraqi oil -- before and after invasion -- among the things sanctions accomplished was to increase dependence on Saudi / Gulf states and maintain prices based on supply -- which which gave Venezuela and Russia an income boost -- it also kept all that oil in the ground to be pumped later at whatever market price prevailed and by whomever won those rights ... between sanctions and a crippled oil infrastructure, Iraqi oil was largely off-line for nearly 20 years.

Saudi oil underground is still considerable ... Oil in Yemen and Syria is not .. it's not a "resource management problem" -- I've read Yemen's oil -- like its water -- is simply running out ... water may or may not replenish itself underground or be made available via desalinization (bloody expensive and nuclear) --
the oil is simply about to be all gone and what is being pumped is not making the money it might have made before the Saudi's low-price gambit.

Again, the Saudi low prices have been presented as "with our blessing" to economically hobble or punish Russia and Iran (though crippling Iraqi reconstruction and the shale industry are rarely mentioned in this regard) -- whatever -- the USA will be the among those potentially devastated when they raise prices -- to be redundant -- raising oil prices is a whip they can very effectively crack in our direction ...

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Nov 6 2015 21:23 utc | 19

Two days ago the cyclone Chapala brought several years of average rainfall within a few hours to Yemen and at least some 10,000 houses are believed to be destroyed by the flood.
As you probably know, the Yemeni economy is designed to benefit from these floods, which occur every few years.

I should think that all the Yemenis are out to plant what they can, as long as the moisture lasts.

Posted by: Laguerre | Nov 6 2015 21:37 utc | 20

TG @ 9,
You have perfectly repeated the arguments of oligarchs everywhere in their attack upon population growth. People are the source of wealth, not a draw upon it. This is because people produce more than is necessary to support their own lives. Eg: In addition to supporting themselves, the people of the US are supporting the 1% so well that they own 50% of all the wealth. Your statement that nations become wealthy by first decreasing their birth-rate is contrary to historical fact: when populations achieve a comfortable standard of living they universally choose to have fewer children. US and Germany, absent immigration, have negative population growth. The idea that human beings are a pestilence is being promulgated by the oligarchs who are forming a global control structure. Thus their think-tanks and owned media churn out hoaxes like peak oil, resource depletion, inescapable water scarcity, global warming, and all the rest of it.

Poor people are poor because of war and because of local and international theft of their land and resources. Even a nation w NO natural resources can do well-- like Japan. And the proof of this is that the Japanese are supporting a tremendous burden of fees and offshorization of profits by the US, together w repeated economic intervention by the US which is designed to prevent Japan's financial success. Japan has negative population growth and a falling standard of living. Can you imagine how prosperous they wd be if just 1 of the 3 burdens I've mentioned were lifted?

Wherever there are people there are desires to be supplied and labor willing to supply them. The most important factor of all in preventing these two from meshing is control of the monetary system by oligarchs, as in the US and most of the world.

Posted by: Penelope | Nov 6 2015 21:38 utc | 21

"This is why, absent an open frontier, high-fertility rate societies are ALWAYS poor: on the one hand every resource is tied up in keeping people alive today, on the other hand a rapidly growing population requires massive capital investments just to stay even (remember, it's not the total number of people, it's the rate of increase). That's why, without exception, ALL prosperous societies FIRST lower their fertility rate, and THEN (if everything else goes right) per-capita real wealth can be slowly and steadily increased."

Its a pretty well known that fertility rates go up when child mortality is high. So the solution is to lower the rates of child mortality to the level of "1st world" countries. This can only be done be improving all quality of life indices (but especially sanitation, and um, stopping the fucking bombing )

Posted by: psakiwacky | Nov 6 2015 21:53 utc | 22

More on plane crash....

Sorry, b and all, if this is OT, but I think we must look at this very seriously.

At the article "Suspicions about the Russian Plane Crash", found at (find it down on the list on the front page), he has a graph of information from flightradar24. Airspeed, ground speed and vertical speeds.

Pilots, let me ask you........


Is talk of a bomb just a convenient cover story? Like the gun found next to the body of an unfortunate run in with the police?


Posted by: kafkananda | Nov 6 2015 22:01 utc | 23

The Houthi look to be holding their own in Yemen; and there is no sign at all that the Saudis can prevail. This is a dirty campaign and the Saudis will have no stomach for continuing, because it will cost them; and at the same time they are bleeding out economically, flushing their oil resource away at a low asking price. They are hoisted on their own petard, as this war drags on.

The ominous history seems to be gathering around Erdogan's political movements, since he's declared open war on autonomous Kurds, wherever they might be found. It doesn't matter to him if they are on the Turkish or the Syrian side of the common border. Erdogan's moves are the kind of consolidation of power that suggest an aim to make war, with the removing any political impediment to unrestricted authority.

If the deal is to go without reservation into military options with Obama, it's WWIII.

Posted by: Copeland | Nov 6 2015 23:29 utc | 24

@15 Susette.. would be nice if you just left a link, as opposed to copying and pasting the whole article..

@16 chaos. i think many here do understand usa's support for any country is not unconditional, saudi arabia included. regarding your last paragraph - that might have been us-isreals intent all along for all we know.. regardless, it is war, war and more meaningless war for control of the chess board, not to mention the weapon sales that go hand and hand with it.

interesting OT conversation triggered here by TG's comments @9.. fascinating to read how some of the posters here respond to TG's comments.. might comment on it on the off topic thread.

Posted by: james | Nov 6 2015 23:49 utc | 25

@21 Penelope,

You have perfectly repeated the arguments of techno-cornucopians and capitalists who have written nature out of the story of production. If you enjoy eating your own excreta, please do encourage mindless normal breeding in order that the oligarchs may have their 3% annual groaf forevar and we can continue splitting up ever smaller bounties from nature on which we are inseparably dependent.

Posted by: Jonathan | Nov 7 2015 0:33 utc | 26

what would walmart want?

Posted by: james | Nov 7 2015 0:49 utc | 27

I enjoyed reading that, thanks @15

Posted by: Au | Nov 7 2015 1:00 utc | 28

@okie farmer@10

Sound of explosion heard on Russian plane's black box: French TV

Russians are still not saying anything official about a bomb, at least to my knowledge, the investigation continues. If in fact it was a bomb, that was not IS, that was a CIA/Mossad/MI6 operation, period.

FY Charlie Hebdo. Hopefully next time Charlie Hebdo gets shot at, they will leave not one alive. They are human trash.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Nov 7 2015 1:18 utc | 29


It's too bad that most of the planting in Yemen after this gift of water will be khat and not food crops. Much of the population is hooked on khat and may even starve but they will be good and high on their chew.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Nov 7 2015 1:35 utc | 30

Erdogan is counting on the Kurds from Iraq to fight ISIS and isolate the PKK and the YPG.
What he dreads is that if the KRG is on the brink of a political crisis, he may loose his good friend Barzani. Barzani has refused to leave his job that his term is over and there are internal fights that could turn sour. If Barzani is replaced, Erdogan risks loosing business, cheap oil deals and the peshmergas.

Posted by: Virgile | Nov 7 2015 1:39 utc | 31

The Israelis are again attacking SAA and Hezbollah positions in southern Syria with airstrikes but they came from Lebanon. They didn't enter Syrian/Russian airspace but accomplished their goals without crossing the Russians.

I can find no Russian response to these attacks so they must not have a problem with them so long as their airspace is respected.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Nov 7 2015 2:25 utc | 32


Khat has a social function sim to American infatuation with Starbucks. It has nothing to do with the agriculture. Khat grows as a weed. In case you haven't noticed Yemen has little rainfall, therefore no seed collection, no watermen irrigation culture, no farm distribution industry, no fertilizer production.

Isolated smallholding, poor dirt-scrabble indigents. Khat, coffee and goats.

You might as well bang your gums about the moon not being blue-cheese enough.

Posted by: Chipnik | Nov 7 2015 2:49 utc | 33

I was shutting down my computer and discovered I hadn't posted this comment -- it got too long and complicated -- mostly it occurred to me that if KSA might be interested in controlling at least some part of Syrian and much of Iraq oil ...

note: Correction -- Syria has massively more oil than I thought -- I looked for oil production a few months ago and it was relatively small amount ... the source didn't mention the 2011 sanctions, which I had forgotten about ...

Before the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad's government began in March 2011, the oil sector was a pillar of Syria's economy, with the country producing about 380,000 barrels a day and exports — mostly to Europe — bringing in more than $3 billion in 2010. Oil revenues provided around a quarter of the funds for the government budget.
Sanctions -- which I had forgotten about -- have prohibited exports to most places since 2011. I'm not sure how much they pump currently and that may be hard to know since I think oil installations are an ISIS priority. Business Insider. I can't find out how much oil ISIS actually controls potentially -- if they pumped at full capacity and had customers for all of it -- much less how big those sites reserves are. -- Pretty sure they have almost zero refinery capacity. For their own use they were trucking Syrian crude to refineries in ISIS controleld Iraq

Iraq is pumping lots of oil (because they are desperate for money) -- Cnn says "ISIS controls about 10% of Iraq's oil fields." -- which tells me nothing
cnn on Iraq.

I was suddenly wondering if the Saudis (aside from Sunni/Shia/Wahabbi conflicts) were also trying to hold onto its control of OPEC and world prices if Syria and Iraq align strongly with Iran and if ISIS oil is (or could be) Riyadh aligned -- Apparently in addition to Turkey, Jordan may also be getting ISIS crude via smugglers ... as usual, how much reality conforms to government "public policy" is unclear -- how much Jordanian big-wigs can operate under the table, in violation of policies without censure.

Business Insider:

The group controls as many as 11 oil fields in both Syria and Iraq, analysts say. It is selling oil and other goods through generations-old smuggling networks under the very noses of the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq as well as authorities in Turkey and Jordan.

good night.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Nov 7 2015 3:17 utc | 34

@32 "The Israelis are again attacking SAA and Hezbollah positions in southern Syria with airstrikes"

Can you give a link for that? Bet you can't.

Posted by: guest77 | Nov 7 2015 3:35 utc | 35

Back onto Syria for a second, isn't it amazing how the 'Syrian Observatory for terrorist propaganda' who keeps saying that Russian airstrikes have killed dozens of Syrians for weeks now, is mostly ignored by western media about those claims.
Seems that the civilians killed propaganda ( and yes it is entirely possible ) is even too much for the Western elite, where as before they were quoting that one man operation endlessly before The Russian intervention.

Posted by: tom | Nov 7 2015 4:25 utc | 36

That's Syrian civilians

Posted by: tom | Nov 7 2015 4:26 utc | 37


Only a suggestion: ignore that nincompoop, he comes here for attention, because no one pays any to him. His provocations are so stupid, he is the only poster with the dubious "honor" of getting a banning warning from b, for stupid posting. If you think I am kidding, I will look for the post, and link you to it.

Waste of time.

Margaritas ad porcos.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Nov 7 2015 5:36 utc | 38

off topic - did the Americans kill Lesin in a Washington DC hotel room?

Posted by: Mischi | Nov 7 2015 6:00 utc | 39

Posted by: Susette | Nov 6, 2015 3:36:43 PM | 15

Re Turkey invading Syria.
Won't happen.
If Erdogan wants to be dethroned then a suicidal ground invasion of Syria's Sovereign Territory would be a perfect way to achieve it. It's a terrific opportunity to find out whether he's merely delusional or completely insane.
Turkey's military apparatus is slightly South of 2nd rate (recycled hardware & imbecelic tactics imported from USA). Russia's military is slightly better than 1st class (and everyone else's).

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 7 2015 6:04 utc | 40

@1 Virgile - You're kidding, aren't you? The Saudis are in Yemen because the US wants them there.

@7 Colinjames - The UN is the glove on the USA/KSA fist ... nothing worth the UN's attention is happening in Yemen.

@9 TG - You are about as cold as they come.

@29 LW - I certainly agree with you on Charlie Hebdo.

I wonder if, after their treatment at the hands of the Saudis - along every dimension - the Russians aren't thinking about taking out some of that Saudi overproduction?

Definitely raise the price of oil. Give the Saudis something to focus on other than the genocide of their poorest neighbors, too.

And might change the Saudi attitude toward Russia as well. If not ... rinse and repeat.

Posted by: jfl | Nov 7 2015 6:16 utc | 41

A former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin has been found dead in Washington DC, Russian state media say.

Mikhail Lesin, 57, Russia's former press minister and a one-time head of the powerful Gazprom-Media Holding group, died on Thursday, the RIA-Novosti and Tass news agencies report.

Russian media, quoting his family, said he suffered a heart attack.

The Washington Post said Mr Lesin's body was found in a room at the Dupont Circle hotel.

Posted by: okie farmer | Nov 7 2015 8:02 utc | 42

Oman is boarding Eastern Yemen. 100% Sunnite. Family/Jobs relations with KSA for decades (since the day the Wahhabis came and destroyed their cultural heritage which they thought was full of bigotry and pilgrimages and magic).
The KSA coalition of mercenaries is specially interested in attacking the Houthis, and more widely the Shiites, whose regions are and have been Northern Yemen and a bit in central Yemen. The fights in Saada between the Saudis and the Zaydi Shiite has been going on for decades, with the Saudis always trying to push their border a little bit deeper into Yemen (as they did with the annexation of Asir region).

Posted by: Mina | Nov 7 2015 8:52 utc | 43

@32 That's why they set up a hotline recently. they must not have a problem with them

The Israelis have the most to lose if Putin/Russia succeeds; I expect implicit sabotage to be a mutually-reserved option.

The ISIS caliphate is a pipe dream that doesn't worry Zionists. Zionists know that ISIS have powerful enemies who will eventually decimate them, and the only reason the Saudis used these salafists was to foolishly try to expand the wahhabi kingdom for themselves; but their plan is backfiring. Zionists are more threatened by the newly-formed coalition: Iran, Russia, Syria, Hezbollah.

Putin shouldn't get too sentimental when it comes down to the so-called Russian demographic in the West Bank; the only Russian allegiance they have left is…their accent. These hard core Zionist fanatics are loyal only to Zionism and have an antenna for the slightest threat to their myth-driven expansionism.

Yes, Netanyahu visited Putin and vice-versa, and to ease their mutual suspicion a gas deal was done here; drone purchase there and a cordial hotline set up to stay out of each other’s way where Syria’s concerned. But no doubt they tried to size each other up; with one thinking you’re insane and the other I trust no one; especially you!, but Putin remains inscrutable and Netanyahu has to play it safe, or does he? The thing about Netanyahu is that he's a loose cannon programmed with the Zionist factor when cornered.

So, here we have Israel between a rock and a hard place. On one side you have Obama making deals with Israel’s alleged existential threat, and on the other you have Putin who’s indecipherable and whose endgame only he knows, for the moment, assisting Zionism’s declared axis of evil to wage a war for its survival.

So what would Netanyahu do in this uncomfortable position? For starters, he’d no doubt consult with the head of Zionism’s counselors; the group that protects Zionism through extra-judicial means and they’d assess this precarious unknown. So obviously, Obama’s off limits because without U.S. protection; Israel’s finished. Besides, his term is almost up and the deal’s been done with different parties to blame as well. So, naturally you have to look to neutralize the hard place instead. So you devise a small experiment in order to gage Putin’s nerve and hopefully throw him off center and turn the situation on its head and if that doesn’t work…

I’m reminded of Caesar and the following quote:

Beware the ides of March, or this one: keep your enemies close and your so-called friends, closer. and never underestimate the lengths Zionism will go to survive, keep expanding its power and eliminate a potential threat.

When you have a mass suicidal plan as a last resort, you must be crazy and nothing’s off the table.

Posted by: Circe | Nov 7 2015 8:57 utc | 44

re 33.

It has nothing to do with the agriculture. Khat grows as a weed.
No, indeed. Qat needs to be cultivated, and consumes a lot of water.

Yes, of course, it was the major crop. However, I have a slight idea that if the import of food is prevented by the blockade, Yemenis might just turn to cultivating food rather than Qat. That's what happened in Iraq at any rate, after the imposition of sanctions, though in their case it wasn't an issue of qat.

Posted by: Laguerre | Nov 7 2015 9:40 utc | 45

jfl@41 Could the Russians take out some Saudi overproduction? I don't think that would be too much of a problem, the main Saudi facility is at Ras Tanura here is what one expert thought could happen if this facility was taken out..
"An assault on Ras Tanura, however, would be vastly more serious. As much as 80% of the near 9m barrels of oil a day pumped out by Saudi is believed to end up being piped from fields such as Ghawar to Ras Tanura in the Gulf to be loaded on to supertankers bound for the west".
If the Saudis are paying mercenaries to wreck Syria, how is it not possible for the 'Arc of resistance' or Russia to do the same. Without admitting it of course.

Posted by: harry law | Nov 7 2015 10:35 utc | 46

Posted by: TG | Nov 6, 2015 2:02:17 PM | 9

Your "facts" are wrong.

The number of kids is determined by
- the educational, job level of women
- religion
- insurance

Mormons in the US have a birth rate of 3,4

In a poor society kids are the only insurance there is, in an agricultural society they are simply a cheap work force. So industrialization, education, wealth, come first, the decrease of the birth rate follows - if it is not determined by religion.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 7 2015 13:20 utc | 47

@46 harry l

Pepe Escobar has a mere 10% production drop doubling the price of oil. I suppose he meant of worldwide production ... wikipedia has KSA at about 12.5% of world production ... so it would take an assault on Ras Tanura to do the trick.

Posted by: jfl | Nov 7 2015 14:46 utc | 48


Interesting points and allusions but the Russia/Israel alliance seems strong even with differences over Syria so long as Israel is free to address Hezbollah rocket threats there doesn't seem to be any real conflict.

The Islamic State is not an external or PR threat yet, like Hezbollah but their Idea of the Caliphate and Muslim unity in the ME makes them a growing internal threat among the young and large Palestinian population.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Nov 7 2015 16:27 utc | 49

@46 harry l

Dont forget that it's not 'just' the foreign mercenary headchopperss ... there're 'sanctions' as well.

It's OK for Da'esh and Turkey to sell Syrian oil ... but the Syrians themselves cannot. Think the US/EU are going to 'sanction' KSA oil soon?

This is all part of the weaponize everything and stand the world on its head program instituted by Bush XLIII and Barack the Nihilist Nobel Peace Prize Laureate slash Terrorist Pimp slash Drone Assassin Obama ... that Americans find just too bo-o-oring even to consider.

But why should we hear about body bags and deaths, and how many, what day it's gonna happen, and how many this or that or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it's not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that, and watch him (her husband, former president George H. W. Bush) suffer?
-- Barbara Bush, Good Morning America, March 18, 2003.

The boredom has gotten even more trying now that the Demoblicans have their skin-deep black man in the White House. And that's why everyone hates the USA.

Putin is a stickler for International law - those who don't love Russia or Putin at least accord him their, perhaps grudging, admiration.

Now, if it turns out the Saudis are killing Russians in Syria and blameless Russian civilians in the air over Sinai ... I don't imagine the Russians will beat around the bush (no pun intended) with 'sanctions' or foreign mercenaries ... another 26 cruise missiles, maybe.

Posted by: jfl | Nov 8 2015 8:06 utc | 50

A twitter account which seem to follow closely what's going on in Yemen and Syria AJSB (FWIW, no guarantees...)

Posted by: acrimonious | Nov 8 2015 12:27 utc | 51

The international community ( including the USA) should let the Saudis loose their face. It will teach them a good lesson: They should remain the USA's obedient poodle and not try to act as pit bulls.

Posted by: Virgile | Nov 6, 2015 12:16:37 PM | 1

the 'international community' consists of western politicians and other scoundrels from EUCANFUKUS and related states.

Posted by: brian | Nov 9 2015 0:45 utc | 52


These mountains are the site of the 2013 Latakia massacres. ISIS terrorist took control of the border areas and border posts on the Turkish side and stormed into Alawite and Armenian villages in Syria, massacring hundreds and hundreds of civilians.

On this video you see ISIS commander Katibat il Muhajiroon (screenshot), of the Muhajireen Brigade giving an interview to Al Jazeera TV in front of his soon to be raped and murdered captives. Hundreds of Alawite women and children were taken prisoner. Some of the children were later released, The women were sold off as sex slaves or killed if deemed too old. Most have likely died by now.

Note the ISIS flag in the background. In August 2013 ISIS (ISIL), al-Nusra Front, and al-Qaeda were different names for the same organization. Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar was earlier affiliated with ISIL but has now pledged allegiance to the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front.

There are other U.S. sponsored terrorist groups operating in northern Latakia and the Idlib Governorate. Their role is mainly to operate as anti-tank teams for al-Nusra led armies. The areas on both sides of the border are de-facto controlled by the al-Nusra front. It is impossible for anyone to enter without al-Nusra approval. A Pentagon-trained group sent to fight ISIL tied in August, but they were killed, captured of disarmed by al-Nusra.

Turkey has been arming and supporting these terrorist for 4 years. Russia is now fighting them, after being invited to do so by the internationally recognized Syrian government. As of November 20, 2015 it also has a UN Security Council mandate to do so: The Security Council "Calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures..."

Turkish F-16 jets shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber preforming this mission. Turkey claims the plain had momentarily crossed into Turkish territory. Maybe. This border territory is however NOT under Turkish control, but is ruled by al-Nusra and affiliates. If Turkey wants to prove otherwise, it better organize a guided tour for the international press.

SOURCES on the Latakia massacres:

Posted by: Petri Krohn | Nov 24 2015 17:18 utc | 53

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