Arab coalition issues permits for food and fuel ships heading to Yemeni ports

A picture taken on December 24, 2018 shows a view of container cranes at the docks in the port of the Yemeni Red Sea city of Hodeidah. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2019
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Arab coalition issues permits for food and fuel ships heading to Yemeni ports

  • The Saudi-led coalition pointed out the presence of four ships that have waiting to enter the port of Hodeidah for 12 days
  • The Higher Committee for Relief has revealed that the Houthi militias detained more than 88 aid, commercial and oil vessels

JEDDAH: The Arab coalition issued 10 permits for ships heading to Yemeni ports carrying food and oil, according to Saudi state-news channel Al-Ekhbariya. The coalition pointed out the presence of four ships that have waiting to enter the port of Hodeidah for 12 days.
The Higher Committee for Relief has revealed that the Houthi militias detained more than 88 aid, commercial and oil vessels, and prevented them from entering the ports of Hodeidah and Saleef in western Yemen from May 2015 to December 2018, of which 34 vessels were unloaded after being held by the militias for more than 6 months.

Houthi actions slammed
Yemen’s Minister of Information Muammar Al-Iyrani appreciated World Food Programme’s (WFP) reaction to Houthi militias’ manipulation of food aid.
In a statement to the Yemeni News Agency, Al-Iryani said the WFP’s reaction indicates that the Iranian-backed Houthis are deliberately exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. They are causing people to starve and trying to capitalize on their plight, he said.
“The Houthi militia deliberately deprives millions of Yemenis of salaries, livelihoods and aid from donor countries, increasing their suffering, and pushing many of them to participate in the war, after opening the door of recruitment and joining the fronts as a single option for those who lost their sources of income.”

KSRelief operations
The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) recently signed a contract to deliver food aid to displaced people in parts of Yemen.
 The aid package will be distributed among 4,560 beneficiaries in Marib and Saadah governorates.
 KSRelief is carrying out several projects to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis without any discrimination. The relief projects include distribution of food, clothing and shelter among the displaced population.
The center is working on 301 humanitarian projects in different sectors such as health care, education and rehabilitation of war victims and children.

Health care
KSRelief has, so far, provided medical treatment for more than 21,000 injured Yemenis, both inside and outside Yemen.
A total of 6,452 Yemenis received treatment in private sector hospitals in Yemen, while 1,000 received treatment in Yemeni medical centers specializing in eye injuries.
In addition, 12,795 cases were transferred to Saudi Arabia, 534 to Jordan, 280 to Sudan and one to India.
KSRelief provides health services to all Yemeni people in coordination with the Yemeni Higher Relief Committee represented by the Yemeni Ministry of Health and Population, and local and international partners.

Rehabilitation
The center is taking special measures for the rehabilitation of Yemeni children who were forced by the Iranian-backed Houthis to join militias as soldiers.
KSRelief has devised a comprehensive strategy to help these children by providing them with education and arranging recreational activities for their proper mental growth.
It organizes recreational trips for batches of children under its care. As part of its plan to rehabilitate 2,000 of the children recruited by the Houthi militias in Yemen, KSRelief has already rehabilitated 215 children from several Yemeni governorates through previously implemented courses and phases.


In Iraq, political wrangling spawns debate over US troops

An American military trainer observes Iraqi soldier during an exercise on approaching and clearing buildings at the Taji base complex, which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located north of the capital Baghdad, on January 7, 2015. (AFP)
Updated 42 min 26 sec ago
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In Iraq, political wrangling spawns debate over US troops

  • American troop numbers in Iraq peaked at some 170,000 during the battle against Al-Qaeda and other insurgents that followed the US-led invasion of 2003

BAGHDAD: From the halls of parliament to the lightning-fast rumor mills of social media, pro-Iran factions are demanding US troops withdraw from Iraq in a challenge to the country’s fragile government.
The political wrangling is another indication of Iraq’s precarious position as it tries to balance ties between two key allies — the United States and the Islamic republic of Iran.
Calls for a US pullout have intensified since President Donald Trump’s shock decision last month to pull troops from neighboring Syria, while keeping American forces in Iraq.
In recent weeks, pro-Iran parties have organized protests to demand an accelerated US troop withdrawal while affiliated media outlets published footage of alleged US reinforcements in Iraq’s restive west and north.
The debate is heating up in parliament as well.
Last week a lawmaker demanded Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi provide a written explanation for the ongoing US military presence in Iraq and a timeframe for their stay.
MPs are also drafting a law that would set a deadline for a US withdrawal, according to Mahmud Al-Rubaie of the Sadiqun bloc, one of the political groups working on the text.
“We categorically reject the presence of foreign troops in Iraq,” Rubaie told AFP.
But rather than a genuine, popularly-driven desire for a US withdrawal, the draft is part of the wider race for influence between Washington and Tehran, analysts said.
“This talk is part of the power struggle between the US and Iran,” said Iraqi security expert Hashem Al-Hashemi.
Tensions between the two countries have intensified since the US pulled out of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord negotiated with Iran in May last year, and observers fear they could destabilize Iraq.

American troop numbers in Iraq peaked at some 170,000 during the battle against Al-Qaeda and other insurgents that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.
Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama ordered a withdrawal that was completed in 2011, but troops were redeployed in 2014 under a US-led coalition battling the Daesh group.
In December 2017, Iraq announced it had defeated Daesh.
Since then the number of foreign coalition troops has dropped from nearly 11,000 in January 2018 to 8,000 by December last year, according to the prime minister.
Coalition spokesman Sean Ryan says there are 5,200 US soldiers now stationed alongside Iraqi forces in various bases across the country.
Their presence angers the Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force that is dominated by pro-Iran factions which played a key role alongside government forces in the fight against Daesh.
“The US has banned the Hashed from coming near the military bases where its troops are stationed,” said Hashemi.
“So the Hashed is now adopting a reciprocal policy,” he said, by pushing for a US withdrawal.

Trump’s surprise Christmas visit to troops stationed in western Iraq has added fuel to the fire.
Pro-Iran parties seized on the fact that he did not meet with Iraqi officials to slam the visit as insulting and a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.
Renad Mansour, a researcher at the London-based Chatham House, told AFP the revived debate over US troops was likely a swipe at Abdel Mahdi by hard-line pro-Iran factions.
“If Adel Abdel Mahdi fails in removing the US troops, his opponents will of course use it to make him seem weak, just as they used the fact that Trump didn’t meet with him when he came,” he said.
Iraqis, meanwhile, are more concerned with staggering unemployment, power cuts, and a political crisis that has left key ministries unmanned for months.
Very few showed up Friday at protests in Baghdad demanding an American pull-out, while hundreds turned out for demonstrations in the south of the country to protest a lack of public services.
“If Abdel Mahdi is unable to deliver services or jobs or water, or pick a defense or interior minister, then he has way bigger problems,” said Mansour.
“If he succeeds in delivering in services, no one will care about US forces.”