Yemen war leaves 7,700 dead: UN

This file photo taken on December 15, 2015 shows a Yemeni tribesman from the Popular Resistance Committees, supporting forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, holding a position in the country's third city Taez. Yemen's war has killed around 7,700 people and wounded 42,500 others, according to UN figures. (AFP / AHMAD AL-BASHA)
Updated 24 March 2017

Yemen war leaves 7,700 dead: UN

SANAA: Yemen’s war has killed around 7,700 people and wounded 42,500 others, according to UN figures, since a Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in support of the government two years ago.
The conflict underscores the regional rivalry between Iran, a supporter of Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels, and Saudi Arabia, which heads the nine-member coalition. An overview:
• On March 26, 2015, the coalition launches operation “Decisive Storm” with airstrikes on Houthi rebels to defend embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who seeks shelter in Riyadh. The coalition also comprises the Gulf countries Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE along with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan. A month later, it is renamed operation “Restoring Hope.” The goal is to defeat the Shiite rebels who have controlled the capital since September 2014 in addition to large swathes of land in northern, central and western Yemen.
• On July 17, 2015, the government announces the liberation of southern Aden province after more than four months of fighting; in August 2015, the coalition supplements its air power with hundreds of ground troops; by mid-August, loyalist forces have retaken the south, but face a growing presence of militants from Al-Qaeda and Daesh.
• In February 2016, Riyadh says loyalist forces control “more than three quarters” of Yemen, despite trouble advancing in the southwestern province of Taiz and in Marib, central Yemen. Three months of UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait end in stalemate, and coalition aircraft resume strikes on Sanaa on Aug. 9, 2016.
• On Jan. 7, pro-government troops backed by coalition planes and ships launch operation “Golden Spear” around the strategic Bab Al-Mandab Strait, between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
• The UN and US organize three rounds of fruitless peace talks, in June and December 2015 in Switzerland and in April 2016 in Kuwait.
Seven truces are agreed, but all broken.
The severing in January 2016 of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran complicates the task for diplomats.
• The internationally-recognized government, led by Hadi, establishes a “provisional” base in the port city of Aden in late September 2016.
Two months later, the rebels and allied forces of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh form a government of their own in Sanaa, dousing hopes of a UN-brokered national unity government.
• On Sept. 28, 2015, an airstrike smashes a wedding hall in southwestern Mokha, killing 131 people. The coalition denies responsibility.
On Aug. 15, 2016, a coalition planes bomb a hospital in Abs, northwestern Yemen, the fourth strike in a year on a medical facility run by the non-governmental organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders. MSF says 19 people died and 24 were wounded.
• On Oct. 8, 2016, an airstrike kills 140 people and wounds 525 others at a funeral in Sanaa. The coalition belatedly acknowledges responsibility. Washington steps up airstrikes against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has benefitted from the chaos to gain influence.
• AQAP loses territory to the Daesh which on March 20, 2015 claims responsibility for the first time for attacks against two Shiite mosques in Sanaa that kill 142 people.
A botched Jan. 29 anti-AQAP raid by US special forces results in the deaths of a US Navy SEAL and multiple civilians — including women and children.
According to the UN, the fighting has displaced more than three million people, and more than two thirds of Yemen’s population of around 18.8 million people need aid.
Some 7.3 million people are estimated to be close to starvation and 462,000 children suffer from serious malnutrition. Without $2.1 billion in international aid, the UN warns that Yemen will suffer a famine in 2017.

Iraqi grand ayatollah: I support the people, and they want change

As strikes resume in Iraq, anti-government protesters stand on a concrete wall set up by security forces in Al-Rashid district in Baghdad on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 18 November 2019

Iraqi grand ayatollah: I support the people, and they want change

  • Iran’s blatant interference in Iraqi affairs and its involvement in crackdown on protesters angers Ali Sistani

BAGHDAD: A senior adviser to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has told Arab News that he does not support the continuation of the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and that the existing political forces did not press for early parliamentary elections with a new election law and an electoral commission. Baghdad and nine southern Shiite-dominated provinces have endured mass demonstrations against the government since Oct. 1.

More than 300 demonstrators have been killed and 15,000 others have been injured, mostly in Baghdad, due to bloody crackdowns led by Abdul Mahdi’s government and his Iranian-backed allies.
Al-Sistani is the leader of the world’s Shiite community and the most influential cleric in Iraq and has been the godfather of the political process since 2003. No government or prime minister can survive without Al-Sistani’s support and blessing.
Protesters, initially protesting against corruption, unemployment and lack of daily basic services, were brutally repressed in the first week of October by Abdul Mahdi’s government and his Iran-backed allies, killing more than 147 demonstrators and wounding more than 6,000 others with live ammunition and tear gas canisters, which stopped demonstrations for two weeks.
But demonstrations resumed on Oct. 25 after Al-Sistani announced his support and the Iraqi government vowed not to use live ammunition.
The return of the protests was accompanied by increasing demands to overthrow Abdul Mahdi’s government and the holding of early national parliamentary elections preceded by the change of the election law and the electoral commission.
Abdul Mahdi and his allies from the political forces announced their agreement to meet the demands of the demonstrators except the dismissal or resignation of Abdul Mahdi or early elections.

PM’s survival
The prime minister’s allies insist on his survival, accompanied by a significant increase in killings, kidnappings and arrests of activists and journalists, with the promotion of news that they have an agreement with Al-Sistani that allows the continuation of Abdul Mahdi’s government, new ministerial and constitutional amendments and a set of important laws, without holding early elections.
Al-Sistani’s office denied that they had concluded such an agreement or that they had anything to do with it.
“The real conviction is the conviction of the people. We have no guardianship over the people, but we support it because the constitution says they are the source of powers,” Sistani’s top aid told Arab News.
“We support peaceful demonstration because it is the right of the citizen … If it remains peaceful, it will affect the state’s convictions.
“We have no confidence that those (political forces) will be able to solve the problem. We see that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution and unless there is a real change within the constitutional items, the problem will remain the same.”


• Abdul Mahdi and his allies from the political forces announced their agreement to meet the demands of the demonstrators except the dismissal or resignation of the government, or early elections. 

• Ali Sistani’s top aid tells Arab News that the grand ayatollah does not suppport the continuation of the present government in Iraq.

Iraq ranks high on the list of the most corrupt countries. The system of political, sectarian and ethnic quotas adopted by Iraqi politicians since 2004, which includes the three presidencies and ministries and advanced positions in all state institutions, contributed to the spread of financial and administrative corruption and provided the required protection for corrupt politicians.
“There have been no real treatments for corruption over the past years. Corruption is rampant ... because of the weakness of the judiciary and the regulatory authorities, some of which have sought to use corruption cases to blackmail and enrich themselves.
“Officials are getting rich at the expense of the people. Corruption whales became powerful, while the qualified people have left Iraq and the graduates do not find jobs.
“We have no hope in the existing political forces and the chances of continuation of this government are very small. “They should all leave. This political class must leave.”
Al-Sistani has recently intervened in major events, as happened when the Iraqi Army collapsed and Daesh overran one-third of Iraqi territories in the western and northern parts of the country in the summer of 2014 and advanced toward Baghdad, when he issued an edict (fatwa) demanding that people take up arms and volunteer to support Iraqi forces in their fight against Daesh. Sistani’s intervention this time appeared gradually and through Friday sermons.

Strongest sermon
The last Friday sermon was the strongest to date, as Al-Sistani’s told his followers: “If those who have power (now), think they can evade real reform, with procrastination, they are delusional. The aftermath of these protests will not be the same as before. They should be careful.”
This was understood by most politicians and observers as a yellow ultimatum, which could soon be followed by a warning of expulsion or paralysis of civilian life.
“We do not interfere with particles. We have constitutional mechanisms that we do not want to get out of, but when we found that these mechanisms were tailored to the size of the existing political forces, we demanded a new electoral law that would ensure a genuine representation of the people and a new electoral commission that people trust will safeguard their choices,” Al-Sistani’s aid said.
“We will not allow things to descend into chaos. This is not an option. Our biggest concern is that the law will weaken further, which means slipping into infighting.”
Iran’s blatant interference in Iraqi affairs, reflected by the statements of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who was publicly demanding an end to the demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon, and the involvement of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, in the crackdown on protesters, has angered Al-Sistani. This was evident in his three previous speeches.
“We have a real problem: Iraq is negatively affected by the (regional) environment. We will not allow Iraq to be a battleground for any regional or international party ... we will not allow anyone to interfere in the affairs of Iraq, whether it is a friend or an enemy, because all interventions are aimed at serving special ambitions,” Al-Sistani’s aid said.
“He will not leave the people. If the people’s demand is for early elections, then we support early elections, and if they want to change the (political) system, we support it … and if they say that they do not want this government, we support it.
“Our position is clear and unambiguous. We are with the people in what they want ... and Al-Sistani has not used its strongest weapons yet.”