UN member states warned of Iran’s deadly policies

Wide view of the General Assembly meeting, in this October 26, 2016 photo, at the thirty-second plenary meeting of the General Assembly, at the UN in New York. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2016
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UN member states warned of Iran’s deadly policies

NEW YORK: Iran’s repeated intervention in the internal affairs of Arab countries has come under severe criticism in a letter delivered to the UN General Assembly.

In their letter to UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson, 11 countries, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Sudan and Yemen, also condemned Iran’s sponsoring of terrorism in the region — particularly in Yemen — where it financially, strategically and militarily supports the Houthis.
The group warned the UN member states about Iran’s expansionist policies, flagrant violations of the principle of sovereignty, constant interference in the internal affairs of Arab states, as well as destabilizing and fomenting tension in the Middle East.
Iran’s training of Houthi militias and illegal shipments of weapons and ammunitions into Yemen are in blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 2216 (2015) and 2231 (2015), said the group.
The countries condemned the Houthi attack on a UAE civilian vessel ‘Swift’ in the Strait of Bab Al-Mandab on Oct. 1 — a clear violation of international law that the members of the UN Security Council considered a threat to freedom of navigation in the shipping passage.
The group stated that the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen was launched in response to a request for assistance from the Government of Yemen in full conformity with international law and the right to self-defense stipulated in Article 51 of the UN Charter.
This request was noted in UN Security Council Resolution 2216, 2015.
The Saudi-led coalition aims to protect Yemen and its people from the continuing aggression of the Iran-backed Houthis and to help Yemen counter terrorism.
The group of co-signatories confirmed the importance of the work of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UN special envoy on Yemen, in achieving a comprehensive peace agreement to end the conflict in Yemen, in accordance with the GCC initiative, the National Dialogue Conference outcome and its implementation mechanism, and relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
The group reiterated that any interference by Iran is unacceptable and must be confronted.
The countries called on Iran to stop promoting regional insecurity and stressed that “the stability and economic prosperity in the Arabian Gulf region is founded on the importance of maintaining good neighborliness and the principles of sovereignty, independence, and non-interference in domestic affairs.”
The letter also reaffirmed that the three islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa in the Arabian Gulf are an integral part of UAE territory, and called on Iran to return the occupied islands to their rightful owner.
Though affirming support for the nuclear deal reached with Iran, the co-signatories highlighted that although this agreement provided an opportunity for Iran to develop normal relations with its neighbors and demonstrate a commitment to regional stability, Iranian aggression in the region has instead continued, along with Iran’s support for terrorist groups.
The letter to the UN General Assembly was in response to the right of reply made by an Iranian representative at the end of the general debate of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly on Sept. 26.
The letter, signed by each country’s permanent representative, was sent to UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson. It was also delivered to all 193 member states.


Ankara-backed groups launch offensive against criminal gang in Afrin

A Syrian girl looks on in Afrin. In January, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear the region of the YPG militants, which it sees as a terror group. (AFP)
Updated 20 November 2018
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Ankara-backed groups launch offensive against criminal gang in Afrin

  • “Many of the Syrian groups in Afrin are not capable of stopping the YPG-led insurgency there, and are divided among themselves

ANKARA: Turkey announced a curfew in Syria’s northern city of Afrin as part of a wide-ranging operation against a rebel faction, the Al-Sharqiyyah Martyrs Gathering, and its allies who have been accused of crimes including kidnapping civilians, robbery, extrajudicial executions and looting.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the UK-based monitoring group, announced: “Turkish forces and the factions closed the roads leading to Afrin city and surrounded several neighborhoods of the city, while the heaviest clashes are concentrated in the middle of Afrin city in Al-Villat Street.”
The Observatory said at least 25 men were killed in clashes.
The operation was reportedly conducted under the supervision of the Turkish army, which provided logistic support.
The Observatory also told of a sweeping search campaign by the Turkish special task forces in Afrin, along with information about “preparations for raiding the headquarters of Al-Sharqiyyah Gathering, most of whose fighters are descended from Deir Ezzor province, which handed over its weapons days ago after its objection to the Turkish orders.”
Al Sharqiyyah headquarters are in the Al-Filat and Al-Mahmoudiya areas, and the Al-Nayrouz crossroads in Afrin.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch in January this year and concluded it in April with the support of the Free Syrian Army to clear the region of Syrian Kurdish YPG militants, which it sees as a terror group.
In the wake of Operation Olive Branch, thousands of people are thought to be returning to the city, while trade and economic activities, as well as educational and health services, have begun to return to normal under the supervision of a 1,700-strong police force which has been trained in Turkey to patrol the streets.
Therefore, maintaining order and security by rooting out lawlessness in a city whose population has reached 200,000 from 50,000 is crucially important for Ankara to prove its success.
Nicholas Heras, Middle East security fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, said Turkey may be a victim of its own success in Afrin.
“Turkey’s rapid conquest of Afrin was the result of the Turkish military’s competence, not because Turkey’s Syrian partner forces were effective on their own,” he told Arab News.
According to Heras, the Syrian partner force that Turkey mobilized to run Afrin is divided among different groups, and many of these groups act with a mercenary mentality because they stay in Afrin for the money that Turkey gives them.
“Many of the Syrian groups in Afrin are not capable of stopping the YPG-led insurgency there, and are divided among themselves about which group will profit the most from their partnership with Turkey,” he noted.
With partners like this, Heras thinks that the Turkish military will have to take a different approach, which is to have a firmer handle on Afrin.
“This in many ways defeats the purpose of having Syrian partner forces on the ground, because they are supposed to do most of the work, not create problems that makes it more painful for Turkey to control Afrin,” he said.
The Observatory claims that Turkey’s ongoing operation against the groups in Afrin has been supported by the Hamza Division, the Sultan Murad Division, the Al-Sham Corps and the 3rd Corps.
For some people the operation is against the irregularities and the corruption of Al-Sharqiyyah Martyrs Gathering, composed of more than 800 members. Some local reports claim that the real motivation behind the Turkish operation is linked to the fact that this group is disobeying Ankara’s orders not to fight against the regime forces.
For this narrative, this operation was launched for keeping Turkish proxies on the ground under control.
Last July, Al-Sharqiyyah Martyrs Gathering, led by its commander named “Abu Khula,” incurred Turkey’s anger for launching an unauthorized attack on the Syrian Arab Army in the village of Tadef in the northern Aleppo countryside and just south of the Turkish-held city of Al-Bab. The attack was a violation of the Russian-Turkish-Iranian de-escalation agreement in northern Syria.
Mete Sohtaoglu, an independent researcher on the Middle East, said his local sources confirmed around 40 deaths after an intense offensive on Sunday.
“The remaining fighters of Al-Sharqiyyah will lay down arms and will return to Idlib with their families,” he told Arab News. “Turkey is making sure the peace in Afrin is not compromised.
“Such operations have been conducted occasionally in the past, but this time the final goal was to dissolve this group. I assume that all rebel groups in Afrin will be liquefied soon and brought under the auspices of the new Syrian National Army umbrella group,” Sohtaoglu said.
Although Al-Sharqiyyah announced in late October that it was disbanding voluntarily, it has never implemented this decision and has continued to carry out insubordination and crimes.
This operation is considered the first all-out campaign waged by pro-Ankara rebel groups against another faction in the city.
The security operation is not restricted to Afrin, but also covers other areas of the Euphrates Shield in the rebel-held territory of eastern Aleppo that was captured by Turkish-backed groups.