UN food chief accuses Houthis of diverting Yemen aid for profit

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Women collecting food-aid in Houthi-controlled Sanaa. The World Food Programme, accused the militia of diverting aid away from its intended recipients. (AFP/File photo)
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David Beasley, Executive Director of World Food Programme, called on the Houthis to allow his organization to operate independently. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 18 June 2019

UN food chief accuses Houthis of diverting Yemen aid for profit

  • David Beasley of the World Food Programme warned aid deliveries to militia-held areas could be suspended later this week
  • UN envoy to Yemen expresses concern over Abha airport attack in Saudi Arabia

UNITED NATIONS: The head of the UN food agency accused Yemen's Houthi rebels on Monday of diverting food from the country's hungriest people and threatened to suspend food aid later this week unless they immediately implement registration and monitoring agreements.
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, told the UN Security Council that the agency in late 2018 uncovered "serious evidence that food was being diverted and going to the wrong people" in the capital of Sanaa and other Houthi-controlled areas.
As examples, he said up to 60 percent of beneficiaries at seven centers in Sanaa "confirmed they had not received any assistance" and 33 percent of respondents in the rebels' northern stronghold of Saada received no food in April.
He said WFP has insisted on — and the Houthis finally agreed to — registration and biometric identification of beneficiaries and monitoring in December and January, but the agency has faced roadblocks ever since in implementing the agreements.
Beasley said he wrote to Houthi authorities again asking for action, not words.

“Let me be crystal clear; children are dying right now because of this”, he said
"If we do not receive these assurances, then we will begin a phased suspension of food assistance, most likely towards the end of this week."
Beasley told the council Monday that the diversions were mainly in Houthi areas. When there are reports in government-controlled areas, he said, "we receive cooperation to address issues."
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Iranian-backed Houthis, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. An Arab coalition allied with Yemen's internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, Lowcock and many council ambassadors expressed concern at the increase in attacks on Saudi Arabia, especially the recent drone attacks on the airport in Abha in the country's southwest that the kingdom said injured 26 people.

 Griffiths said he was concerned about the attack on Abha airport in south-west Saudi Arabia last week, and civilian infrastructure in southern Saudi Arabia in general.

He also warned that escalating tensions in the region with Iran were hampering the political process in Yemen.

"In the context of wider regional tensions the risks to the political process have never looked more stark," Griffiths said. "I call for steps to be taken to deescalate tensions for the benefit of the Yemeni people as well as for regional security."

An agreement signed in Stockholm in December that focused on a ceasefire in Hodeidah is under increasing strain as regional tensions grow. The US and Saudi Arabia, which is part of the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, have accused Iran of attacking two tankers ib the Gulf of Oman last week.

Griffiths said that while there has been progress in a deal to redeploy forces around Hodeidah, there has been little movement on other elements of Stockholm, including the city of Taez and an exchange of prisoners.

The Security Council expressed support for Griffiths and reiterated that there can only be a political solution to the Yemen conflict. A council statement condemned the June 12 attack on the airport in Abha and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 1 min 24 sec ago

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

  • Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington
  • It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past

ANKARA: More than 420 people working at a crucial military air base in southern Turkey have lost their jobs, with some analysts considering it symbolic of decreased cooperation levels with the US and as the Pentagon reconsiders Middle East deployments.
Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington. It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past, as well as hosting US nuclear warheads.
The Colorado-based company Vectrus System Corporation, which provides day-to-day maintenance and operation services at the base, terminated the contracts of almost half of its employees at the base earlier this month.
“The base surged to support OIR,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News. “The Turkey-based staff for OIR has mostly left. So, the base is going back to its pre-OIR level of people, and that level requires less contractor support.”
Vectrus did not reply to Arab News’ request for comment about its decision to scale back at the base.
Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the move was largely symbolic as the canceled contracts related to logistical support rather than the US military mission.
“But obviously, it comes against the background of some tensions in the US-Turkish relationship and previous hints by Ankara that it might reconsider the status of the Incirlik base,” he told Arab News. “The Pentagon is reconsidering its deployment across the Middle East and it might be looking to become less dependent on Incirlik without fully exiting this crucial military air base.”
Incirlik air base has been used in the past as a bargaining chip at times of tension between the two countries.
“Turkey may re-evaluate the status of the Incirlik Air Base if the US imposes sanctions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month in an interview with pro-government channel A-Haber, referring to the potential fallout from Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. 
Washington has threatened to use its Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act to punish Ankara for buying the S-400 system.
Seth J. Frantzman, who is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said reports of the US reducing presence at Incirlik, or challenges to the US presence there, have been growing over the last years.
“Whether these reports relate to changes or are just random is unclear and it is important to note that the large interests of the military and history tend to mean the US does not simply walk away from bases, even if it reduces its role slowly over time,” he told Arab News.
The US has invested heavily in the Jordanian Muwaffaq Salti Air Base to expand its presence there.