Saada elders ‘never to give up’ in battle against Houthi militants

The Ministry of Media hosted a symposium on Thursday to highlight the importance of liberating Saada province from the control of the Houthis. (SPA)
Updated 06 October 2018

Saada elders ‘never to give up’ in battle against Houthi militants

  • Tribal leaders thank King Salman for taking a firm stand by the side of Yemeni people
  • Iran had tried and failed to introduce a new version of Hezbollah into Yemen

JEDDAH: Tribal elders in Yemen’s Saada said they will never stop fighting to free the region from the control of Houthi militia, who have ravaged a province that welcomed them decades ago.
They also warned that negotiation and reconciliation with the armed group is not an option, given Iran’s interference in Yemen’s affairs through its backing for the terrorist Houthi militia.
During a panel discussion on Thursday at the Saudi TV building, Saada elder Sheikh Fahd Talib Al-Sharfi said that prior to 2004, before the Houthis, the province was the food basket of Yemen, exporting 120 baskets of pomegranates a day and known for its grapes and coffee beans.
He said the province had never been in conflict with Saudi Arabia and was an extension of the Arab Peninsula’s tribes, but that Iran, through its Houthi militias, aimed to destroy the great and deep connections linking Saada to its Arab roots.
Al-Sharfi noted the resilience of the people of the province in the face of the Houthi assault, and their great sacrifices during the six wars since 2004, leading up to the fall of the province in 2014.
He said Saada does not follow any cult or doctrine but welcomes all Yemenis of different intellectual and political schools. The biggest Salafist school in Yemen, Dar Al-Hadith madrassa, is in Saada, he added.
He expressed his deep thanks and appreciation for the heroes of the Yemeni army and the supporting coalition forces who are putting their lives on the line.
Al-Sharfi called on the legitimate government of Yemen and the Arab Coalition Forces Supporting Legitimacy to continue the battle until the oppressed are freed, rights are restored, and Saada and all Yemeni governorates are liberated.
The panel also discussed the persecution of the people of Saada since the creation in 1990 of Al-Shabab Al-Mu’min, commonly known as the Houthis, a group that spread sectarian and confessional ideology.

Iranian intervention
In 2000, it shifted from spreading extremism to armed action and intimidation. It began in Dammaj, where the group claimed that students were members of Al-Qaeda.
This marked the start of the wars with the Houthis, which led to Qatari and Iranian intervention. As the Houthis became stronger, they were able to seize power in Saada, killing tribal elders, driving out those opposed to their ideas, and terrorizing the remaining inhabitants.
Sheikh Yehya Madid, leader of the elders of Khawlan in Saada, said that Houthi rebels have killed tribal elders and broke familial and tribal ties, while continuing to target religious men and young people to achieve their criminal plan against the Yemeni people. He added that people who support the Houthis have been brainwashed to the point where they are capable of launching missiles at Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Najib Kallab said the Houthis have waged six wars, after each of which they emerged in a weaker position. They made concessions only to subsequently grow even more powerful, he noted.
Negotiating with Houthis will only make them stronger, he said, and so a meeting between the people and elders of Saada and the Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, is a step in the right direction.
“We were fighting Houthis alongside the government,” said Sheikh Asaad Othman, leader of the military council in Saada. “We were surprised to find out that the government had a reconciliation with the Houthis, who came back to fight us and when we tried asking the government for help, it did absolutely nothing. We were fighting and sacrificing for our nation, but our state left us a prey to be devoured by Houthis. That was what created the animosity between the community and the state.
“When the Houthis staged their coup, the community had no idea that the rebels were this powerful. We thought that they would fight each other and things would go back to normal. This is where the Houthis took advantage of the community’s satisfaction with the coup.”
Regarding the formation of a council or reconciliation initiative among Yemeni tribes, Sheikh Othman said the tribes play an important role and lead the battlefronts.
“What we need right now is for the UN not to pressure the state into making peace with Houthis,” he said. “This peace will only be in the interests of the Houthis. What we need from the legitimacy is a military rescue and cleansing of Saada because we did not impose war on the Houthis, they did. We call on President Hadi to adopt the military solution until the Houthis return to their senses. Based on our experience with them, peace will not work. I have been displaced along with thousands for six years and we could not even educate our children.”
Sheikh Musfir Al-Huzeifi said the Houthis want to divide society into rulers and servants, and when Yemenis realized this they rose up to stop them.
Tribes in all parts of Yemen are working together, he added, while Houthis do not believe in coexistence and peace, but only in blood and war, and most certainly do not believe in agreements, whether tribal or international.

In a related development, the Ministry of Media on Thursday hosted a symposium to highlight the importance of liberating Saada from the control of the Houthis, describing the province as the grassroots of the problem and a symbol for believers in liberty and freedom.
Several tribal leaders from Saada thanked King Salman for Saudi Arabia taking a firm stand by the side of Yemeni people, and its support for their legitimate government, led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
They also thanked the King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Center for its efforts to help the needy to survive amid the tough circumstances resulting from the war.
Once the food basket of Yemen, the province has been devastated by the militias, they said, adding that the Houthis also turned the peaceful governorate and city into a base to launch missiles against the Kingdom.
The tribal leaders also said Iran had tried and failed to introduce a new version of Hezbollah into Yemen.
They urged the government and the Coalition forces not to listen to fake calls by the Houthis for a cease-fire, which they said was a trick to enable them to recover and regroup. Instead, the Saada leaders called on the authorities to continue to battle until victory was assured.

Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

Updated 18 February 2019

Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

  • Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy
  • Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom

RIYADH: A major transformation is underway in Saudi Arabia’s economic relationship with Pakistan, according to Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri, a former ambassador to Islamabad.

In a wide-ranging interview with Arab News, the former envoy said greater interaction between business and the private sectors in both countries will take the historical bond “to a new level.” 

Asseri, who spent nine years in Islamabad and was the second-longest serving Saudi ambassador to the country, said: “We know that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have always enjoyed an incomparable level of understanding and friendship based on religion, culture and values. There is a historical bond between the two countries. 

“I have no doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is taking a cohesive approach to strengthen the relationship and take it to another level.” 

Asseri said that while Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cooperated closely on security matters, bilateral trade between the countries remained limited to about $4 billion. 

“We need to ... encourage the private sectors to interact more. We can help Pakistan’s industry and we need to become more involved in the trade sector. There are advanced industries and firms in Pakistan, and they have raw materials — it’s a good environment for investors.”

Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy. The Kingdom is also making billion-dollar direct investments in the country in line with the China-Pakistan economic corridor. 

“I am happy to see a major transformation underway in Saudi-Pakistani economic relationships with our leadership and government deciding to invest in the economic development of Pakistan,” he said. 

The former ambassador said frequent official visits between the two countries were important. 

“I came back recently from Pakistan, and the vibe of the media, government and people was so optimistic. Pakistanis were excited about the crown prince’s visit. People hope it will bring great opportunities for the economy as well as strengthening the political and social ties between the two countries,” he said.

Asseri said Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had faced many challenges together in recent decades.

In 2001, during Asseri’s first year as Saudi ambassador in Pakistan, the 9/11 attacks on New York led to greater cooperation between Islamabad and Riyadh in dealing with terrorism.

The Kingdom had been closely involved with Pakistan since its independence, he said. “King Abdul Aziz sent King Saud and Prince Faisal to Pakistan at that time. So if we go back through history, we can see that this relationship is truly unique.” 

Asseri also highlighted the ties between the two countries on humanitarian issues, security and military issues, saying: “Pakistan has suffered serious security and humanitarian consequences of the decades-long war in Afghanistan, besides housing millions of Afghan refugees.

“Together Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have worked for peace in Afghanistan and will do whatever it takes to achieve this long-desired goal.”

Asseri said Pakistanis were quick to show their appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s assistance in the past regardless of the change in Pakistani leadership over the years. 

“The relationship is unique because it is between people. Such a relationship (will) keep growing with every generation.

“When Pakistan was in a difficult position in 2005 after a devastating earthquake, Saudi Arabia went out of its way to provide the support it needed. Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz and eight ministers visited Balochistan. Field hospitals were created with Saudi doctors treating people and performing surgery there.” 

Pakistan also has a deep loyalty to Saudi Arabia, Asseri said. “Pakistan has military expertise, and through cooperation between the two countries, it helped the Saudi military during its development.” 

“The Kingdom’s recent appointment of a Saudi commercial attache in Pakistan will also bolster the economic links between the two countries,” he said. 

“There are good minds in Pakistan and good products that could be manufactured in Saudi Arabia.”

Asseri said he is also optimistic that Saudi plans to build a major oil refinery in Gwadar will help create an “economic hub.” 

The former envoy said the Saudi crown prince’s visit to Pakistan will add to the relationship between the countries. 

Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom. 

“Young Pakistanis who are advanced in the IT and industrial sectors are looking forward to helping and cooperating with Saudi Arabia, and sharing their experiences and knowledge,” he said.