Experts cast doubt in Iran’s claim of air power

Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jets, above, are part of Iran’s air force drill near the Strait of Hormuz in the Arabian Gulf, the passageway for nearly a third of all oil traded by sea. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2018

Experts cast doubt in Iran’s claim of air power

  • The drill involved fighter jets from the Iranian military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
  • But experts cast doubt on Tehran’s air power

JEDDAH: Iran’s fleet of ageing warplanes took to the skies above the Arabian Gulf and the Sea of Oman on Friday in what Tehran billed as a “show of strength” to its adversaries.

The drill involved fighter jets from the Iranian military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including US-made F-4, French Mirage and Russian Sukhoi-22 planes, and five logistics and combat helicopters.
Iran said the maneuvers were a warning to Iran’s enemies that they faced a quick, “stern response” and “pounding reply” in case of any ill-will.  

However, experts were quick to cast doubt on whether Iran’s air power presented any genuine threat. 

“This is the second exercise involving the Iranian army and the IRGC regarding scenarios for the Strait of Hormuz,” Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior adviser with Gulf State Analytics in Washington and a leading security analyst, told Arab News.

“While Tehran's exercises show that the ‘asymmetric’ doctrine is alive and well, the role of Iran's air assets is another question. Even if these aircraft are involved in an exercise, in an actual confrontation they would be picked off quite easily because Iran simply doesn’t have a viable air force.”

Iran attracted widespread international ridicule in August when it unveiled what it said was its first domestically designed and manufactured fighter jet. The Kowsar was said to be a “fourth-generation” warplane with advanced avionics, radar and fire-control systems, to be used for short aerial support.

The launch was attended by President Hassan Rouhani, who was photographed in the cockpit. However, aviation experts quickly pointed out that the new jet was in fact a slightly modified Northrop F-5, designed in the 1950s and used by US forces since the 1960s.

A more serious threat to regional security and stability takes place on Saturday, when Iran will stage a naval military drill in the Gulf, involving about 600 naval vessels.

“Their naval capabilities are much better than their air force,” Karasik said. “Their scenario practice involves asymmetric naval strikes with speed boats, and also the laying of mines.”

Tehran has suggested in recent weeks that it could take military action in the Gulf to block other countries’ oil exports in retaliation for US sanctions intended to halt its sales of crude, which begin on Nov.4.
Washington maintains a fleet in the Gulf that protects oil shipping routes, and has pledged that the flow of oil will not be interrupted.
Tehran has been under increasing pressure since May, when President Donald Trump pulled America out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. US allies in Asia are already cutting back on their purchases of Iranian crude.
In July, Rouhani said that if renewed sanctions threatened Iran’s crude oil exports, the rest of the Middle East’s exports would be threatened as well.

UN warns of severe aid cuts in Yemen without new funds soon

Updated 22 August 2019

UN warns of severe aid cuts in Yemen without new funds soon

  • Donors have pledged $2.6 billion to meet the urgent needs of more than 20 million Yemenis
  • But UN humanitarian chief Lise Grande says less than half the amount has been received so far
UNITED NATIONS: The UN humanitarian chief in Yemen warned Wednesday that unless significant new funding is received in the coming weeks, food rations for 12 million people in the war-torn country will be reduced and at least 2.5 million malnourished children will be cut off from life-saving services.
Lise Grande said the UN was forced to suspend most vaccination campaigns in May, and without new money a “staggering” 22 life-saving programs in Yemen will close in the next two months.
At a UN pledging conference in February, donors pledged $2.6 billion to meet the urgent needs of more than 20 million Yemenis, but Grande said that to date, less than half the amount has been received.
“When money doesn’t come, people die,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Iran-backed Houthi Shiite rebels who control much of the country’s north. A Saudi-led coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates allied with Yemen’s internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country has left thousands of civilians and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and pushing the country to the brink of famine.
UN deputy humanitarian chief Ursula Mueller told the Security Council on Tuesday that 12 million Yemenis have been assisted every month, “but much of this is about to stop” because only 34% of the UN’s $4.2 billion appeal for 2019 has been funded.
At this time last year, she said, 65% of the appeal was funded, including generous contributions from Yemen’s neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The UN humanitarian office in New York said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia and the UAE each pledged $750 million to its Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019.
Grande said the UN is grateful to donors who have lived up to their promises, and in half the districts where people were facing famine “conditions have improved to the point where families are no longer at risk of starvation.”
But she said of the 34 major UN humanitarian programs in Yemen, only three are funded for the entire year. Several have been forced to close in recent weeks, Grande said, and many large-scale projects designed to help destitute, hungry families have been unable to start.
Without new funds in the coming weeks, she said, 19 million people will also lose access to health care, including 1 million women who depend on the UN for reproductive health services. In addition, Grande said, clean water programs for 5 million people will have to shut down at the end of October and tens of thousands of displaced families may find themselves homeless.
“Millions of people in Yemen, who through no fault of their own are the victims of this conflict, depend on us to survive,” she said. “All of us are ashamed by the situation. It’s heart-breaking to look a family in the eye and say we have no money to help.”