US wants military coalition to safeguard waters off Iran, Yemen

Ships in the port of Fujairah in the UAE, where recent tensions spiraling between Iran and the United States have affected movement in the Gulf of Oman. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 10 July 2019

US wants military coalition to safeguard waters off Iran, Yemen

  • Iran has long threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which almost a fifth of the world’s oil passes
  • Nearly 4 million barrels of oil are shipped daily through the Bab Al-Mandab to Europe, the US and Asia plus commercial goods

WASHINGTON: The United States hopes to enlist allies over the next two weeks or so in a military coalition to safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen, where Washington blames Iran and Iran-aligned fighters for attacks, the top US general said on Tuesday.
Under the plan, which has only been finalized in recent days, the United States would provide command ships and lead surveillance efforts for the military coalition. Allies would patrol waters near those US command ships and escort commercial vessels with their nation’s flags.
Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, articulated those details to reporters following meetings on Tuesday about it with acting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab Al-Mandab,” Dunford said.
“And so I think probably over the next couple of weeks we’ll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we’ll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that’ll support that.”
Iran has long threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which almost a fifth of the world’s oil passes, if it was unable to export its oil, something US President Donald Trump’s administration has sought as a way to pressure Tehran to renegotiate a deal on its nuclear program.
But the USproposal for an international coalition to safeguard shipping in the Strait, at the mouth of the Gulf, has been gaining momentum since attacks in May and June against oil tankers in Gulf waters. Last month, Iran shot down a US drone near the Strait, prompting President Donald Trump to order retaliatory air strikes, only to call them off.

Waters off Yemen
Although US officials had publicly discussed plans to safeguard the Strait, Dunford’s disclosure that the coalition would also seek to bolster security in the Bab Al-Mandab off Yemen appeared to be a new element.
The US, as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have long fretted over attacks by Iran-aligned Houthi fighters in the narrow Bab Al-Mandab waterway, which connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.
Nearly 4 million barrels of oil are shipped daily through the Bab Al-Mandab to Europe, the US and Asia plus commercial goods.
Dunford said the US would provide “command and control” ships but said the goal would be for other countries to provide vessels to patrol waters between those command ships.
The third part of the mission would involve coalition members escorting their countries’ commercial vessels.
“The expectation is that the actual patrolling and escorts would be done by others,” he said.
Dunford said the size of the campaign could be adjusted based on the number of countries that commit to it.
“This will be scaleable, right? So with a small number of contributors, we can have a small mission. And we’ll expand that as the number of nations that are willing to participate identify themselves,” he said. 


Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

Updated 10 December 2019

Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

  • The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new PM unraveled
  • Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29

BEIRUT/PARIS: Lebanon does not expect new aid pledges at conference which France is hosting on Wednesday to press for the quick formation of a new government that can tackle an acute financial crisis.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Lebanon to create a new government swiftly or risk the crisis worsening and threatening the country’s stability.
The economic crisis is the worst since the 1975-90 civil war: a liquidity crunch has led banks to enforce capital controls and the Lebanese pound to slump by one third.
Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29, prompted by protests against the ruling elite, with no agreement on a new government.
Nadim Munla, senior adviser to Hariri, who is running the government as caretaker, told Reuters the Paris meeting would probably signal a readiness to offer support once a government is formed that commits to reforms.
“They will recognize that there is a short-term problem and that if and when a government (is formed) that basically responds to the aspirations of people, most probably the international community will be ready to step in and provide support to Lebanon, or additional support,” he said.
“It is not a pledging conference.”
Lebanon won pledges of over $11 billion at a conference last year conditional on reforms that it has failed to implement. The economic crisis is rooted in years of corruption and waste that have generated one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new prime minister unraveled.
Hariri is now seen as the only candidate for the post.
He has said he would only lead a cabinet of specialist ministers, believing this is the way to address the economic crisis, attract aid, and satisfy protesters who have been in the streets since Oct. 17 seeking the removal of a political class blamed for corruption and misrule.
But Hezbollah and its allies including President Michel Aoun say the government must include politicians.
“Let’s see the coming few days and if there will be an agreement among the political parties on a formation ... otherwise we might take longer,” Munla said. Hariri would be willing to have politicians in cabinet but they should not be “the regular known faces of previous governments.”