Senate vote ‘signals US support for Yemen war effort’

The war has killed more than 10,000 people, crippled Yemen’s economy and left more than 22 million of the country’s 25 million people dependent on aid handouts.
Updated 22 March 2018
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Senate vote ‘signals US support for Yemen war effort’

NEW YORK: A US Senate vote against a resolution on Yemen’s civil war signaled that Washington would continue to back Arab coalition military operations there, former US officials told Arab News on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted 55-44 to drop the resolution, which was aimed at halting US support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, saying that such backing was not authorized by Congress and had led to widespread suffering.
According to the former officials, the vote signaled that lawmakers are worried about Yemeni civilian deaths, but that Riyadh can expect continued US support with targeting and the midair refueling of its warplanes in Yemen.
“I don’t think the congressional action will change the degree of America’s involvement, if only because (US Defense Secretary) Jim Mattis will convince them in private not to,” Dov Zakheim, a former Pentagon official, told Arab News.
“Ongoing resolutions such as this cannot entirely be ignored, and given the Crown prince’s inclination (to ultimately extricate Saudi Arabia from the war), this is just another push in the same direction.”
Nabeel Khoury, an Atlantic Council scholar and former State Department official, said the vote indicated concern among lawmakers about the war, but not that Congress was “forcing the hand of the administration” to halt military support in Yemen.
But lawmakers were likely to continue raising the issue and have indicated a “strong expression of sympathy with Yemen and concern over the US involvement in that war,” Khoury said.
The vote came on the same day that US President Donald Trump met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House for talks about the Iran-backed Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen and other regional security threats.
A White House statement said they “discussed the threat the Houthis pose to the region, assisted by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.” They also addressed the humanitarian crisis and the need for a political solution.
The crown prince also met lawmakers. Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the chamber’s Foreign Relations Committee, said senators questioned the crown prince closely about Yemen during a meeting with him on Tuesday.
In an emailed statement to Arab News, the Saudi Embassy said they discussed “countering the threat posed by Iran and the Iran-backed Houthi militias” and Saudi “efforts to address and alleviate the humanitarian situation in Yemen.”
Majid Rafizadeh, a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist, said the vote marked a “significant” development. “It highlights common understanding and shared strategic and geopolitical interests between the US and Saudi Arabia to take tangible measures in confronting the Iranian regime and the Houthis. Tehran continues to expand its proxy war in the region and illegally arm the Houthis,” he told Arab News. “In addition, as a result of this development, the logistical, tactical, intelligence and military cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia will more likely increase, which would pave the way to more effectively counter Iran regime and its militias.”
The war has killed more than 10,000 people, crippled Yemen’s economy and left more than 22 million of the country’s 25 million people dependent on aid handouts, including 11.3 million who are in acute need, the UN says.
The Arab coalition, armed and backed by the West, joined the conflict in March 2015 after the Houthis pushed toward Aden, forcing the internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile in Saudi Arabia.


All eyes on Mina as Hajj begins today

A Hajj security man takes care of a child. Security forces have been deployed around the clock to deal with all emergency cases. (SPA)
Updated 19 August 2018
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All eyes on Mina as Hajj begins today

JEDDAH: Around 2 million pilgrims arrived in the Holy Land from outside and inside the Kingdom in preparation to set out from Makkah for Mina.
They will retrace the noble tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and spend the Tarwiyah Day on Sunday in Mina. Here they will make final preparations for the Standing (Wuquf) at Arafat, which marks the climax of the annual pilgrimage, on Monday.
To be able to serve the pilgrims and enable them to perform Hajj rituals with ease and comfort, the government and private sectors concerned with Hajj and pilgrim affairs intensify their preparations, under the direct supervision of Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, adviser to King Salman, the governor of Makkah region and chairman of the Central Hajj Committee, and followed up by his deputy, Prince Abdullah bin Bandar.
The Ministry of Health will provide intensive and continuous health services supported by skillful human cadres and state-of-the-art medical technologies, in order to provide the best health services for pilgrims. The Ministry of Health has employed a total of 29,495 physicians, pharmacists, nurses and technicians to provide extensive health care to the pilgrims.
According to the ministry, its manpower during the Hajj consists of 780 consultants in various medical specializations, 1,248 specialists; 2,718 general practitioners; 1,428 pharmacists; 3,553 nurses; 1,173 technicians and lab specialists; 198 specialists in nutrition; 5,587 administrators; 165 engineers; and 1,491 ambulance drivers.
The General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque will operate and maintain all technical devices and systems of lighting, air-conditioning and ventilation, sound and control systems, cameras, communication devices and electrical stairs, buildings and libraries in the Two Holy Mosques.
Air-conditioning has been installed in the basement and ground floor and many other areas. Thousands of fans have been installed in the Two Holy Mosques and their yards.
The area around the Two Holy Mosques has been equipped with more than 8,441 toilets, as well as more than 6,000 ablution units. All power supply lines have been prepared to make sure there is power 24/7.
More than 10,000 male and female employees will be available to follow up on work and monitor it during Ramadan, in addition to a large number of cleaners.
Among the services also provided by the Presidency are translation of Friday sermons into 10 languages, organization of various scientific programs, and competitions.
A total of 210 doors in the Grand Mosque and 100 doors in the Prophet’s Mosque have been prepared, as well as 28 escalators in the Grand Mosque and four escalators in the Prophet’s Mosque. There are 38 doors for people with special needs and seven for women.
The Saudi Red Crescent deployed 127 emergency centers, 361 ambulances, 20 motorbikes, and more than 1,861 people to work in the ranges of Makkah and Madinah.
There will be 22 operational hospitals in Madinah and the holy sites, 15 temporary emergency centers, supported with more than 87 ambulances and 653 paramedics.
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs mobilized its human and mechanical capabilities to enable pilgrims to perform their duties in a safe and healthy environment by employing more than 26,000 individuals and 717 mechanisms to implement the hygiene plan in Makkah and the holy sites, as well as specialized field teams to control 33,069 food facilities in Makkah.
Civil defense teams will be deployed around the clock to deal with all emergency cases, where the injuries will be transferred using stretchers and wheelchairs to several medical evacuation sites inside and outside the mosque.
These teams will also be carrying out extraction and rescue operations inside the Holy Mosque and the surrounding area, in addition to providing urgent first aid, and transferring critical cases to the nearest hospitals and health centers, in coordination with the Red Crescent teams around the Holy Mosque. The Hajj security forces leaderships announced their readiness to maintain the security and safety of pilgrims during the pilgrimage season.
The General Command of the Air General Security is supported by all the security services and various government sectors.
In preparation for the Hajj season, the Saudi General Security Aviation Command announced that it has started implementing the first phase of its security plan to ensure the safety of pilgrims in the Kingdom. The aviation command will commence security operations over the holy sites, where special helicopters will monitor the activities surrounding the Hajj season this year. The planes are stationed in the designated locations in Makkah and Madinah from various bases to carry out the tasks assigned to them, namely traffic and security, logistical support for other security bodies, humanitarian services and the monitoring of pilgrims not following the rules.