US wants to continue support for Arab coalition in Yemen

The US is encouraging the Yemeni government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, and the Iran-aligned Houthi militia to fully engage in peace talks taking place in Sweden, said Lenderking. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 December 2018
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US wants to continue support for Arab coalition in Yemen

  • The US believes that the Yemen that emerges from civil war should not contain any Iranian-backed threat to Saudi Arabia and the UAE
  • The US is encouraging the Yemeni government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, and the Iran-aligned Houthi militia to fully engage in peace talks

ABU DHABI: The United States wants to continue support to the Arab coalition in Yemen’s war and will remain engaged in efforts to combat Iranian influence and Islamist militancy in the Arab state, a State Department official said on Sunday.

Since the Oct 2. murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, the US administration has come under pressure at home over the nearly four-year-old conflict.

The Senate last month voted to advance a resolution to end US military support, which includes arms sales and intelligence sharing, for the Western-backed Sunni Muslim coalition that intervened in 2015 against the Iranian-aligned Houthis to restore the internationally recognized government.

“There are pressures in our system ... to either withdraw from the conflict or discontinue our support of the coalition, which we are strongly opposed to on the administration side,” said Timothy Lenderking, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Arabian Gulf Affairs.

“We do believe that the support for the coalition is necessary. It sends a wrong message if we discontinue our support,” he told a security forum in the UAE.

The US official’s reassurances of continued support comes as Sweden hosts the first UN-led peace talks in two years between the warring parties and as Gulf Arab leaders hold an annual summit in Riyadh on Sunday, expected to discuss the war.

Containing Iran

Lenderking said peace talks launched last week were a “vital first step” in ending the conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions facing starvation.

He said there were no illusions the process would be easy, but that there were signs of constructive talks and that Washington wants concrete results from the meetings focused on confidence-building measures and a transitional governing body.

“Looking down the road we seek a stable and unified Yemen that fosters rather than drains regional and global stability.”

“There is no place in a future Yemen for an Iranian-backed threat to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and vital international economic quarters,” he said, adding that the coalition was also combating al Qaeda and Islamic State militants in Yemen.

The Arabian Peninsula country lies beside the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the most important trade routes in the world for oil tankers.

The conflict, seen largely in the region as a proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran, pits the Houthi movement against other Yemeni forces loyal to the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi backed by the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The Houthis, who have fired missiles on Saudi cities, control the capital Sanaa, after ousting Hadi’s government from there in 2014, and the most populous areas of the country. Hadi’s government has a base in the southern port of Aden.

Lenderking said that experts forecast there could be 1 million former combatants that need to be disarmed once a peace deal is reached, requiring security sector reform as well as restoring crippled infrastructure and shoring up the economy.

“Early recovery efforts are underway but full-scale reconstruction can only occur in a peaceful environment. For that reason, we want to close the space for malign Iranian influence.”


Truckloads of civilians leave Daesh enclave in Syria

Updated 22 February 2019
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Truckloads of civilians leave Daesh enclave in Syria

  • The village is all that remains for Daesh in the Euphrates valley region that became its final populated stronghold in Iraq and Syria
  • The SDF has steadily driven the militants down the Euphrates after capturing their Syrian capital

NEAR BAGHOU: Trucks loaded with civilians left the last Daesh enclave in eastern Syria on Friday, as US-backed forces waited to inflict final defeat on the surrounded militants.
Reporters near the front line at Baghouz saw dozens of trucks driving out with civilians inside them, but it was not clear if more remained in the tiny pocket.
The village is all that remains for Daesh in the Euphrates valley region that became its final populated stronghold in Iraq and Syria after it lost the major cities of Mosul and Raqqa in 2017.
The SDF has steadily driven the militants down the Euphrates after capturing their Syrian capital, Raqqa, in 2017, but does not want to mount a final attack until all civilians are out.
The US-led coalition which supports the SDF has said Islamic State’s “most hardened fighters” remain holed up in Baghouz, close to the Iraqi frontier.
Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF’s media office, earlier told Reuters that more than 3,000 civilians were estimated to still be inside Baghouz and there would be an attempt to evacuate them on Friday.
“If we succeed in evacuating all the civilians, at any moment we will take the decision to storm Baghouz or force the terrorists to surrender,” he said.
Though the fall of Baghouz marks a milestone in the campaign against Islamic State and the wider conflict in Syria, the militant group is still seen as a major security threat.
It has steadily turned to guerrilla warfare and still holds territory in a remote, sparsely populated area west of the Euphrates River — a part of Syria otherwise controlled by the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies.
The United States will leave “a small peacekeeping group” of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a US pullout, the White House said on Thursday, as President Donald Trump pulled back from a complete withdrawal.
Trump in December ordered a withdrawal of the 2,000 troops, saying they had defeated Daesh militants in Syria.

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