Iran escalating efforts to destabilize region — Panetta

Updated 03 February 2013
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Iran escalating efforts to destabilize region — Panetta

WASHINGTON, Feb 1 : Outgoing US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta accused Iran of an intensified campaign to destabilize the Middle East by smuggling anti-aircraft weapons to militant allies, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
“There is no question when you start passing MANPADS around, that becomes a threat, not just to military aircraft but to civilian aircraft,” Panetta told the newspaper in an interview. “That is an escalation.”
MANPADS are shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Western officials have worried about the spread of such weapons and the risk they pose to airline passengers as well as to military helicopters and jets.
Yemeni forces intercepted a ship on Jan. 23 carrying a large cache of weapons — including surface-to-air missiles — that US officials suspect were being smuggled from Iran and destined for Yemeni insurgents.
“It is one of the first times we have seen it,” Panetta said, referring to the seizure of MANPADS.
A Defense Department spokesman was not immediately available for comment on Panetta’s remarks to the paper.
Yemen’s government said the arms intercepted aboard the ship off the country’s coast also included military-grade explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and bomb-making equipment.
Iran denies any interference in Yemen’s affairs.
Panetta said the United States was stepping up efforts to counter the Iranian threat, and was leading a multinational exercise in the United Arab Emirates through Thursday to improve the interdiction of Iranian arms and other weapons.
He called the exercise critical to building up Arab capabilities to help halt Iranian arms transfers, including the smuggling of MANPADS.
US officials have said the anti-aircraft weapons intercepted on Jan. 23 likely were headed to northern Yemen’s Houthi separatists, who are fighting the US-backed government in Sanaa and have also clashed with Saudi forces.
Panetta is preparing to step down as defense secretary after 19 months in the job.
The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Thursday on the nomination of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to succeed Panetta.


Transition government, elections to follow weapons decommissioning: New UN envoy's road map for Yemen

Updated 17 min 44 sec ago
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Transition government, elections to follow weapons decommissioning: New UN envoy's road map for Yemen

  • Martin Griffith the UN special envoy to Yemen hopes to float a new blueprint
  • Yemen's foreign minister said he will work with Houthis as long as weapons are decommissioned

LONDON: The UN special envoy to Yemen has returned to the country armed with a new political settlement to end the ongoing war.

Sources were quoted by Al Sharq Al-Awsat that Martin Griffith the UN special envoy to Yemen hopes to float a new-old blueprint to end the war by getting the parties to agree to a political settlement based on a transitional period to be followed by elections if both parties to the conflict agree to his plan.

Griffith hopes to start political talks without addressing the armed groups and their weapons, in the hope of addressing this sensitive issue later.

The proposed talks center around a negotiation process between a legitimate government and the proponent of the coup carried out by the Houthi militia backed by Iran in September 2015.

Yemen’s foreign minister Andel Malek Al-Mekhlafi said that his government is willing to work with the Houthis in a unity government in a transitional phase, as long as weapons are decommissioned; “so that we don’t legitimize the coup and its gains,” Al-Mekhlafi said.

While Yemen awaits practical steps to apply the UN special envoy’s vision, many experts in Yemen question the Houthi militia’s intent and commitment to any political settlement, with many believing that they will wait for orders from the Iranian government.