UN experts: Fuel from Iran is financing Houthis in Yemen war

The Iran-backed Houthi militia’s war against the Arab world’s poorest country has taken a terrible toll on civilians, with thousands killed and a catastrophic humanitarian crisis underway. (AP)
Updated 20 January 2019
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UN experts: Fuel from Iran is financing Houthis in Yemen war

  • The experts painted a grim picture of a ‘deeply fractured’ nation sliding toward ‘humanitarian and economic catastrophe’
  • The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country has taken a terrible toll on civilians

UNITED NATIONS: Fuel is being shipped illegally from Iran to Houthi militia in Yemen to finance their war against the government, and both sides are violating international law with their military campaigns and arbitrary detention of rivals, UN experts said in a new report.
The experts painted a grim picture of a “deeply fractured” country sliding toward “humanitarian and economic catastrophe” with no sign of victory by either.
In the 85-page report to the Security Council seen Friday by The Associated Press, the experts said the government and its coalition partners led by Saudi Arabia made “significant progress” on the ground against the Houthis in 2018 — but their aim of restoring the government’s authority throughout the country “is far from being realized.”
At the same time, the panel of experts monitoring UN sanctions against Yemen said “the Houthi leadership has continued to consolidate its hold over government and non-government institutions.”
In the report’s only upbeat note, the experts said talks in Sweden between the government and the Houthis that led to an agreement in December on a cease-fire and withdrawal of rival forces from the key port of Hodeida “have raised hopes that a political process may quell the primary conflict in Yemen.”
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital Sanaa by the Iranian-backed Houthis, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A Saudi-led coalition allied with Hadi’s internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country has taken a terrible toll on civilians, with thousands killed and a catastrophic humanitarian crisis underway. Millions suffer from food and medical care shortages and the country has been pushed to the brink of famine.
In its report last year, the experts said Iran violated a UN arms embargo by directly or indirectly providing missiles and drones to the Houthis.
The latest report said the experts identified a small number of companies inside and outside Yemen operating as front companies using false documentation “to conceal a donation of fuel” to an unnamed individual on the UN sanctions blacklist.
The panel said it found that the fuel was loaded from Iranian ports under false documentation to avoid required UN inspections, and “the revenue from the sale of this fuel was used to finance the Houthi war effort.”
Iran has repeatedly rejected allegations that it is providing military support to the Houthis.
In 2018, the experts said “the threat to commercial shipping increased as Houthi forces developed and deployed sophisticated weapons such as anti-ship cruise missiles and waterborne improvised explosive devices against commercial vessels in the Red Sea.”
In one case, they said, the Houthis targeted a vessel carrying wheat, which endangered the delivery of humanitarian aid and raised shipping costs to Yemen.
The Houthis also attacked and damaged two Saudi oil tankers, each carrying 2 million barrels of crude oil, which “could have created an environmental disaster in the Red Sea,” the experts said.
Since about last August, the panel said it noted the Houthis’ deployment of extended range drones that would allow rebel forces to strike deep in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, a key coalition partner.
“Based on the evidence available, the panel observes that unlike in 2015 and 2016 when the Houthi forces used complete or partially assembled weapons systems which were supplied from abroad ... they are now increasingly relying on imports of high value components which are then integrated into locally assembled weapons systems,” the experts said, adding that they are investigating whether the militia were helped by foreign experts.


Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

Updated 19 February 2019
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Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

  • The UN statement said both sides ‘made important progress on planning for the redeployment of forces as envisaged in the Hodeidah agreement.’
  • Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil.

NEW YORK: Yemen’s government and the Houthi militias have agreed on the first stage of a mutual pullout of forces from the port city of Hodeidah, a key entry point for humanitarian aid, the United Nations said.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement and the government agreed in talks in December to withdraw troops by Jan. 7 from Hodeidah under a truce accord aimed at averting a full-scale assault on the port and paving the way for negotiations to end the four-year-old war.

“The parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces,” the UN spokesman’s office said in a statement without giving details on what was agreed.

Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil. This would be met by a retreat of Saudi-led coalition forces from the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah, where battles raged before a cease-fire went into effect on Dec. 18.

The Houthis occupy Hodeidah, the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial and aid imports, while Yemeni government forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi are massed on the outskirts.

The UN statement said the two sides also agreed “in principle” on Phase 2, entailing full redeployment of both parties’ forces in Hodeidah province.

Two sources involved in the negotiations said both sides had yet to agree on a withdrawal timeline or on a mechanism for local forces to take over security at the ports and city.

“The UN is still discussing how to reduce the gap between the two sides on how to choose the forces that will control the city,” one source told Reuters.

The parties could decide within 7-10 days on where they would reposition forces, said the other source, adding that Houthi fighters could pull back as far as 20 km from the port.

Disagreement on withdrawal had delayed opening humanitarian corridors in Yemen.

Under the first phase, the two sides agreed to reopen main roads linking Hodeidah to the Houthi-occupied capital Sanaa and in Yemen’s third city of Taiz, said a UN source.

They also agreed to enable access to Red Sea Mills, which holds some 50,000 tons of World Food Program grain, enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month, the source said. Access to the site has been cut off since September due to fighting.

The Hodeidah truce has largely been respected but there have been intermittent skirmishes in flashpoints on the city’s edges.

Hodeidah became the focus of the war last year when the coalition twice launched an offensive to seize the port and weaken the Houthis by cutting of their main supply line.