US working with Arab Coalition to prevent Iran from arming Houthis: envoy

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US special representative on Iran Brian Hook with Maj. Gen. Fahd bin Turki, the Arab Coalition’s commander of the joint forces at presser. (AN Photo by Saad Al-Dosari)
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Brian Hook, left, the US special representative on Iran, listens to a member of the Saudi military forces at an army base in Al Kharj, south of the Saudi capital Riyadh, on June 21, 2019. (AFP)
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US special representative on Iran Brian Hook with Maj. Gen. Fahd bin Turki, the Arab Coalition’s commander of the joint forces at weapons display by Coalition. (AN Photo by Saad Al-Dosari)
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US special representative on Iran Brian Hook at weapons display by Coalition. (AN Photo by Saad Al-Dosari)
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US special representative on Iran Brian Hook with Maj. Gen. Fahd bin Turki, the Arab Coalition’s commander of the joint forces at weapons display by Coalition. (AN Photo by Saad Al-Dosari)
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US special representative on Iran Brian Hook at weapons display by Coalition (AN Photo by Saad Al-Dosari)
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US special representative on Iran Brian Hook with Maj. Gen. Fahd bin Turki, the Arab Coalition’s commander of the joint forces at weapons display by Coalition. (AN Photo by Saad Al-Dosari)
Updated 24 June 2019

US working with Arab Coalition to prevent Iran from arming Houthis: envoy

  • ‘If we do not succeed in tackling Iran in Yemen, it will increase the risk of a greater conflict in the region’
  • Iran ‘responds to diplomacy with diplomacy ... war with firm defense’

AL KHARJ, Saudi Arabia: Iran’s use of surrogates to attack Saudi Arabia and destabilize the region needs to be countered, Brian Hook, the US special representative on Iran, told reporters on Friday.

“If we do not succeed in tackling Iran in Yemen, it will increase the risk of a greater conflict in the region,” he said.

The US envoy also said that they are working with the Arab Coalition to prevent Iran from arming the Houthis.

Hook also said Iran has no right to respond to diplomacy “with military force,” a day after Tehran shot down a US reconnaissance drone over the Strait of Hormuz.

“Our diplomacy does not give Iran the right to respond with military force,” Hook said.

“Iran needs to meet diplomacy with diplomacy, not military force.”

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Friday on his Twitter account that Iran “responds to diplomacy with diplomacy ... war with firm defense,” reacting to remarks by US envoy Hook.

The downing of the drone — which Washington insists was over international waters but Tehran says was within its airspace — has seen tensions between the two countries spike further after a series of attacks on tankers the US and its staunch ally, Saudi Arabia, have blamed on Iran.

Tehran denies having been behind the attacks but has frequently threatened in the past to block the vital sea lanes into and out of the Gulf.

“Iran is responsible for escalating tensions in the region. They continue to reject diplomatic overtures to deescalate tensions,” Hook said.

The US diplomat was in Saudi Arabia, where he met deputy defense minister Prince Khaled bin Salman on Friday morning.

The two discussed efforts to counter Iranian actions, Salman said on Twitter.

“We affirmed the kingdom’s support for the United States’ maximum pressure campaign on Iran, which came as a result of continuing Iranian hostility and terrorism, and discussed latest Iranian attacks on the kingdom,” he said.

US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly said he does not want war, offered mixed messages over the drone, warning that Iran “made a very big mistake” — but also suggesting a “loose and stupid” Iranian general accidentally shot it down.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have grown sharply since May last year when Trump unilaterally abandoned a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran, and re-imposed sweeping sanctions.

The US has since bolstered its military presence in the Middle East and blacklisted Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

Trump has said he remains open to negotiations with Iran, but its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week categorically ruled out talks with Trump after his abandonment of the nuclear deal.

Iran “has no trust in America and will not in any way repeat the bitter experience of the previous negotiations with America,” Khamenei said.


Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

Updated 17 January 2020

Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

  • The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17
  • The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis

BEIRUT: Protesters blocked several main roads across Lebanon on Friday as unprecedented demonstrations against a political elite accused of corruption and incompetence entered their fourth month.
The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 has resurged this week, over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country’s growing economic crisis.
No progress seemed to have been made on a final lineup, which protesters demand be made up solely of independent experts and empty of traditional political parties.
In central Beirut, dozens of protesters Friday stood between parked cars blocking a key thoroughfare linking the city’s east and west.
“We blocked the road with cars because it’s something they can’t move,” Marwan Karam said.
The protester condemned what he regarded as efforts to form yet another government representing the usual carve-up of power between the traditional parties.
“We don’t want a government of masked political figures,” the 30-year-old told AFP. “Any such government will fall. We won’t give it any chance in the street.”
Forming a new cabinet is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between the various political parties and a multitude of religious confessions.
Nearby, Carlos Yammine, 32, said he did not want yet another “cake-sharing government.”
“What we have asked for from the start of the movement is a reduced, transitional, emergency government of independents,” he said, leaning against his car.


Elsewhere, demonstrators closed roads including in Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli, though some were later reopened, the National News Agency said.
The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis that Lebanon has witnessed since its 1975-1990 civil war.
The protests this week saw angry demonstrators attack banks following the imposition of sharp curbs on cash withdrawals to stem a liquidity crisis.
On Thursday night, protesters vandalized three more banks in the capital’s Hamra district, smashing their glass fronts and graffitiing ATMs, an AFP photographer said.
Earlier, Lebanon’s security services released most of the 100-plus protesters detained over the previous 48 hours, lawyers said.
Human Rights Watch on Friday condemned the arrests and the response of security forces to protests outside a police station on Wednesday night demanding detainees be released.
“The unacceptable level of violence against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters on January 15 calls for a swift independent and transparent investigation,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the rights watchdog.
Over the past few months, the Lebanese pound — long pegged to the US dollar at 1,507 — has fallen in value on the unofficial market to around 2,500.
The World Bank has warned that the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to a half if the political crisis is not remedied fast.