Leading Yemeni politician suggests 4-point formula to end fighting

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Mohammed Abulahoum at Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
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Mohammed Abulahoum, chairman of Justice and Building Party in Yemen, explained his formula during a talk at Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
Updated 18 April 2017

Leading Yemeni politician suggests 4-point formula to end fighting

JEDDAH: One of Yemen’s leading politicians has called on all parties to put an end to the fighting in his country.
Mohammed Abulahoum, chairman of Justice and Building Party in Yemen, made a series of recommendations during his lecture at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
“Enough of this fighting,” he told Arab News on Monday as he explained his proposals. “Now is the time to get to the table (for talks). Let us put our differences aside and let us go forward.”
He hoped all parties would come to their senses “and deliver something positive to the Yemeni people before the onset of Ramadan.” The holy month begins around May 27.
Abulahoum reiterated that Yemenis have never counted Tehran as an ally.
“Iran has never been, and can never be, an ally of Yemen,” he said. “Our permanent allies have always been, and will always be, the Saudis and the Gulf states.”
During his visit to Washington, Abulahoum met with senior members of the Trump administration.
The lecture at the Middle East Institute was delivered last week and Abulahoum’s message of reconciliation was met with positive response.
Opening the lecture, he said: “I’m not here to defend or attack. My main objective today is to find ways to help ordinary citizens who are affected the most rather than to help the conflicting factions.”
He said Iran had played a negative role in the region. “We can’t deny that they have ambitions in the region and have played a destabilizing role by supporting non-state armed groups,” he said. “Yemenis don’t view Iran as an ally.”
He blamed his country and other regional powers for “mishandling” the situation and inadvertently helping Iran. “Iran’s investment in Yemen is minimal, (but) the return has been high due to us and other regional powers mishandling the situation,” he said.
He said Yemen will always be “either a point of strength or weakness” to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. “It is about time that we all work together to ensure that Yemen is a source of stability — after all, this is the only option we have,” said Abulahoum.
He urged the new US administration to play its part. “The Trump administration has a critical role to play,” he said. “Not only in Yemen but the whole region.”
Addressing the Trump administration directly, he said: “Our region is waiting to see what you will do in an area facing many challenges. You can start by helping Yemen become a success story in an area that desperately needs hope.”
He listed the challenges that stared the region in the face. “There is a humanitarian challenge as a result of hunger,” he said. “If not properly dealt with immediately, we will face a catastrophic situation.”
Then, he said, there is the danger of the expansion of radical groups, such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), as a result of fighting and the absence of a state.
“There is no time to waste; Yemenis have suffered enough,” he said. “This conflict has torn the country apart. In order to move forward, we need direct constructive talks with all conflicting groups, including the side led by (Ali Abdullah) Saleh.”
He said one needed to accept the situation in order to move forward. “We might not like the idea of talking to all sides. However, we have to put everything aside and have constructive talks. We need no spoilers,” he said.
The UN special envoy needs the support and pressure from all sides in order to go back into negotiations with the willingness to compromise, he said.
“Here, I suggest we should include Russia, France and China in the Group of 4, plus Oman, since the five members of the UN Security Council have had a united and a positive position since the first day of the conflict in Yemen,” he said.
In the south, he said, the legitimate government has to play a more productive role with all sides and not favor one over the other, especially not favoring the ones that sacrificed most in Aden during liberation.
He suggested a four-point formula to end the fighting. “One, a temporary cease-fire that will allow humanitarian access to all parts of the country on the condition that airstrikes will come to a halt, cross-border fighting and attacks will stop, no missiles will be fired, and that the Houthis will deliver a security plan for Sanaa in no later than 30 days,” he said.
Abulahoum’s second point concerns the port of Hodeidah. “It should be kept open and operate fully for all cargo under UN supervision and the Houthis should pull back from the port to an agreed upon location. After a UN inspection, shipments at the port should be handed to business people who will then distribute them to different parts of the country,” he said, and added: “Any interception by the Houthis will result in the deal being canceled.”
Point No. 3 of the Abulahoum plan is for Sanaa airport to resume flights with clear conditions and satisfactory inspections in order to serve those most in need.
Lastly, the formation of an interim government that will work with the GCC with a clear mandate to focus on reconciliation, stabilizing and preparing the country for elections within a specified time frame.
“These four points should pave the way for going back to the negotiating table with the intent of reaching a political solution that is desperately needed,” added Abulahoum.

‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

Updated 19 June 2019

‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

  • Tehran regime has fanned sectarian flames in region for four decades, analyst tells Arab News
  • IRGC chief says Iranian missiles capable of hitting "carriers in the sea" with great precision

JEDDAH: Iran “will not wage war against any nation,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday — hours after two drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen targeted civilians in southern Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani's statement sounded a note of restraint after the United States announced more troop deployments to the Middle East.

“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

But he was also contradicted by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Hossein Salami, who said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

“These missiles can hit, with great precision, carriers in the sea ... they are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Salami said.

He said Iran's ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Before both men spoke, Saudi air defenses intercepted and shot down two Houthi drones packed with explosives. One targeted a civilian area in the southern city of Abha, and the second was shot down in Yemeni air space. There were no casualties, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said.

Rouhani’s offer to avoid war was “the height of hypocrisy,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Rouhani is the biggest hypocrite in the world,” he said. “On the one hand, he is saying that Iran does not seek a conflict with anybody, and on the other it is launching attacks through its militias on oil tankers, oil pipelines, civilian airports and holy cities.

“This is nothing but the height of hypocrisy. Who does he think he is fooling with those words? Why are they enriching uranium? Why are they seeking nuclear bombs? What have they done over the past four decades? They have only caused trouble. They have only fanned sectarian flames in the region.”

The Saudi Cabinet, meeting in Jeddah, also condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians, and last week’s terrorist attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran. 


Confrontation fears

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and its long-time foe the United States have mounted since Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied involvement in the attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under a 2015 nuclear deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Exceeding the uranium cap at the heart of the accord would prompt a diplomatic crisis, forcing the other signatories, which include China, Russia and European powers, to confront Iran.

The standoff drew a call for caution from China. Its top diplomat warned that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of the landmark nuclear deal.

Russia urged restraint on all sides.

On Monday, Iranian officials made several assertive comments about security, including the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, who said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged US forces to leave the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

The new US deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.

'Nuclear blackmail'

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal was denounced by a White House National Security Council spokesman as “nuclear blackmail.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact, but Rouhani said on Monday the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

Wang told reporters China, a close energy partner of Iran, was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said. “Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and urged Iran to be prudent.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.

The Trump administration says the deal, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in other Middle East countries.