US backs coalition action in Yemen

In this file photo taken on August 21, 2018 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 September 2018

US backs coalition action in Yemen

  • Pompeo, Mattis say all steps taken to reduce civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure
  • The coalition supports the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi

WASHINGTON: Two senior US officials gave Washington’s seal of approval on Wednesday to the Saudi-led Arab Coalition’s military campaign to restore the legitimate government in Yemen.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had certified that coalition partners Saudi Arabia and the UAE were acting to reduce risks to civilians in their military operations.

The assessment is required by the US Congress for it to continue allowing US air tankers to refuel Saudi and UAE warplanes.

Pompeo said both countries were “undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments.”

Pompeo said Washington would work closely with the coalition to ensure Saudi and UAE support for UN peace efforts and to allow unimpeded access for commercial and humanitarian relief supplies to reach Yemenis. “The Trump administration has been clear that ending the conflict in Yemen is a national security priority,” he said.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a separate statement endorsing the certification, and said the UAE and Saudi Arabia were making “every effort” to reduce the risk of civilian casualties and collateral damage. Mattis had cautioned last month that US support for the coalition was “not unconditional,” and it must do “everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life, and support the UN-brokered peace process.”

The coalition supports the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which is fighting Iran-backed Houthi militias who seized control of the capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

Pompeo’s assessment that the coalition is making a concerted effort to minimize civilian casualties and collateral damage is correct, Fahad Nazer, a political consultant to the Saudi Embassy in Washington and an International Fellow at the National Council on US Arab Relations, told Arab News.

“I have personally attended a briefing by a coalition representative that highlighted the various measures and multiple safeguards that are in place to minimize civilian casualties,” he said.

“An objective assessment of the military operation in Yemen should confirm that these precautionary measures have been effective in minimizing collateral damage. 

“The coalition has sought and received the assistance of the US and the UK to improve targeting and reduce civilian casualties. It is also important to note that the Joint Incidents Assessments Team investigates claims of civilian casualties and the coalition has accepted its findings.

“The coalition has acknowledged that mistakes have been made during the course of the conflict and has issued statements expressing its regret for certain incidents. It has also maintained that those who do not follow its strict guidelines on targeting will be held responsible.

“And here one must draw a sharp distinction between mistakes and targeting civilians as a matter of policy. There is ample evidence that is exactly what the Houthis have done and continue to do.”


Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

A Palestinian man facing Israeli soldiers waves a national flag during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, near the town of Tulkarm on June 5, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2020

Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

  • Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause

AMMAN: Leading Palestinian and Arab figures have used the 53rd anniversary of Naksa — the displacement and occupation of Arab territories that followed Israel’s victory in the 1967 war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan — to highlight political mistakes made during and after the conflict.

Adnan Abu-Odeh, political adviser to Jordan's King Hussein and King Abdullah II, told Arab News that Arab countries and the Palestinian leadership had failed to understand the goals of Zionism.

“Governments that participated in the war were naive, expecting a repeat of the 1956 Sinai invasion when the US ordered an Israeli withdrawal. This was followed by the mistaken belief that we could liberate the land using guerrilla warfare," he said.

Anees Sweidan, director-general of foreign relations in the PLO, told Arab News that the Palestinian cause is undergoing a complicated phase where political opportunities are limited.

“The US bias towards Israel and absence of unity has put the Palestinian movement in a difficult situation. It is harder to generate external support and the financial crunch is causing much suffering despite the fact that we have made important accomplishments in the UN and Europe.”

Abdalqader Husseini, chairperson of the Faisal Husseini Foundation, said that the opportunities the anniversary offers should not be ignored.

“We need to realize that this is an illegal occupation that continues to dig deeper and escalate every day to the degree that the international community has lost interest and world conscience has become numb to Israeli practices. We in Jerusalem have not normalized with the occupiers and we have not accepted the new situation as an inescapable reality that we must accept.”

Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause.

“We went to Madrid with hope, the Palestinian leadership went to Oslo with optimism that they could reach a phased solution that would lead to statehood. As we remember this Naksa, we must revisit the path that has allowed the occupying entity to steal our land and cause havoc to our people without any deterrence from the international community," he said.

They (Palestinian youth) personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of PASSIA thinktank

Nibal Thawabteh, director of the Bir Zeit University’s Media Development Center, said the biggest mistake since 1967 was focusing on politics and avoiding community development.

"We don’t have a strong sense of citizenship, some have become accustomed to religious Islam. We need to work more on the citizenship.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Amman-based Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, said there is a lack of acknowledgment of the reasons behind the Arab loss.

“Political, economic and cultural factors caused our loss, and we feel that most Arab countries have not learned this lesson. Instead of learning, we are going backwards, failing to defend their existential rights, shifting to isolationism as well as cultural and economic regression in our region."

Instead of looking backward, some Palestinians wanted to look forward.

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of the PASSIA thinktank in Jerusalem, said that Palestinian youth who never felt the shock of the 1967 defeat but have seen the exposure of Arab regimes in the face of the "deal of the century" will prevail.

“They personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Lily Habash, a Exeter University political science graduate, told Arab News that things look different on the ground.

“The world is changing and Israel uses geopolitical and regional changes to its advantage,” she said.

Dangers today encourage despair but Palestinians will be steadfast in the long term, she added.

“Some say we need a savior to get us out of this dilemma but I believe we need to trust in ourselves and work on all fronts.”