Pompeo calls for action after Iran’s arms for Houthis seized

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wants action on Iran. (AP)
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The seized arms shipment. (Twitter)
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Updated 15 February 2020

Pompeo calls for action after Iran’s arms for Houthis seized

  • Yemen seeks tougher sanctions against regime

AL-MUKALLA: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has demanded action against the Tehran regime after the US Navy seized an Iranian weapons shipment bound for Houthi rebels in Yemen.

A US Navy warship seized weapons believed to be of Iranian “design and manufacture,” including 150 anti-tank guided missiles and three Iranian surface-to-air missiles, the American military has said.

The military said the guided-missile cruiser Normandy boarded a dhow, a traditional sailing vessel, in the Arabian Sea on Sunday.

“The weapons seized include 150 ‘Dehlavieh’ anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), which are Iranian-manufactured copies of Russian Kornet ATGMs,” the statement said.

“Other weapons components seized aboard the dhow were of Iranian design and manufacture and included three Iranian surface-to-air missiles,” it said.

The military said that the weapons seized on Sunday were “identical” to those seized by another US warship in November.

Pompeo wrote on Twitter: “The US Navy interdicted 358 Iranian-made missiles + other weapons components on their way to the Houthis in Yemen. This is another example of the world’s largest state sponsor of terror the Islamic Republic of Iran continuing to defy the UN Security Council,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter. 

“The world must reject Iran’s violence and act now to renew the expiring UN arms embargo on Iran,” Pompeo said. 

The weapons are currently in US custody, and partner nations have been invited to inspect the cache.

“Those weapons were determined to be of Iranian origin and assessed to be destined for the Houthis in Yemen, which would be in violation of a UN Security Council Resolution that prohibits the direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of weapons to the Houthis,” CENTCOM said.

Yemen’s government has demanded the international community impose tougher sanctions on the Iranian regime over the arms shipment. 

Yemen’s Minister of Information, Mummar Al-Aryani, said that Iranian arms shipments to Houthi fighters have greatly contributed to the destabilization of the country and the deaths of hundreds of Yemenis. 

“We welcome the announcement by the US Central Command that the US navy seized an Iranian arms ship on its way to Houthi militia,” Al-Aryani said via Twitter on Thursday.

The minister called on the international community to impose more sanctions on Iran and pressure the country to stop shipping arms to the rebels.

Houthi militia have used Iranian arms to expand military operations and kill civilians, he added.

“We urge the international community and the UN Security Council to impose deterrent sanctions on the Tehran regime and exert pressure to (halt) arms and exports smuggling to Houthis,” he said.

Yemen’s latest accusations come shortly after the US announced that it had seized a suspected Iranian weapons shipment in the Arabian Sea en route to Houthi fighters in Yemen.

Even before the current conflict started in late 2014, consecutive Yemeni governments accused Iran of giving military, financial and technical support to the rebels, helping them to seize control of the entire country in early 2015.

Iran stepped up its arms shipments to the Houthis after 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily in Yemen to restore the power of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Arms shipments have been intercepted at sea or while crossing government-controlled areas on land.

Backed by massive military aid from the Saudi-led coalition, Yemeni government forces have seized control of key seaports on the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea that are thought to be entry points for arms smuggling.

The coalition has strengthened Yemeni coast guard forces and equipped them with fast boats to combat smuggling of arms and drugs.

Last week the coast guard authority in Yemen’s eastern Mahra governorate took delivery of several armed boats from the Saudi-led coalition. Mahra Gov. Rajeh Bakreet said the boats will help the coast guard in the fight against smuggling.

Separately, the Houthis have dropped a threat to impose a tax on aid, in a significant step toward resolving a crisis that has jeopardized the world’s biggest humanitarian operation.

UN leaders and aid groups held crunch talks in Brussels on Thursday to consider scaling back or suspending the delivery of vital supplies to millions of people at risk of starvation.

Houthi leaders killed

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have arranged several funeral processions for military officers killed in fighting with government forces or in strikes by Saudi-led coalition warplanes.

Last week, the Houthi version of the official Saba news agency said the rebel group was mourning the deaths of Col. Abdul Latef Saleh, Col. Maeen Abdullah, Col. Abdul Badae Al-Houthi and several other commanders killed in fighting.

More than 100 Houthis fighters, including senior field commanders, are believed have died since early last month when fighting intensified following a Houthi drone and missile attack that killed more than 110 soldiers and civilians in Marib.


‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

Updated 21 February 2020

‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

  • Situation volatile as Palestinian refugees face economic crisis after US peace plan

BEIRUT: Authorities are battling to prevent “a social explosion” among Palestinian refugees crammed into camps in Lebanon, a top official has revealed.

Fathi Abu Al-Ardat, secretary of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions in Lebanon, told Arab News that urgent measures were being put in place to try and stop the “crisis” situation getting out of control.

“Conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are very difficult due to the economic crisis facing the country, and we are trying to delay a social explosion in the camps and working on stopgap solutions,” he said.

And Dr. Hassan Mneimneh, the head of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), said: “More Palestinian refugees from the camps in Lebanon are immigrating. Embassies are receiving immigration requests, and Canada is inundated with a wave of immigration because its embassy has opened doors to applications.”

According to a population census conducted in 2017 by the Central Administration of Statistics in Lebanon, in coordination with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), there are 174,422 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon spread across 12 camps and nearby compounds.

Mneimneh insisted the figure was accurate despite the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimating there to be 459,292 refugees in the country. He said: “The census we had conducted refers to the current reality in Lebanon.”

He added that he feared “increased pressure on European donor countries over UNRWA in the coming days after the unilateral implementation of the ‘Deal of the Century’ (the US peace plan for the Middle East) by Israel.

“Israel’s goal is to undermine UNRWA’s mission as a prelude to ending the Palestinian cause and, thus, preventing the return of Palestinians.”

Mneimneh held a meeting on Wednesday with two Lebanese and Palestinian action groups in Lebanon to discuss Palestinian asylum issues in light of the American peace plan. There were no representatives of Hezbollah or Hamas present at the talks.

He said: “This deal kick-starts an unusual stage that carries the most serious risks not only to the Palestinian people and cause, but also to the other countries and entities in the Arab region.

“The first of these is Lebanon, which senses the danger of this announcement in view of the clauses it contains to eliminate the Palestinian cause, including the refugee issue and the possibility of their settlement in the host countries.”

Al-Ardat said: “Palestinian refugees have no choice but to withstand the pressures on them to implement the so-called ‘Deal of the Century.’ What is proposed is that we sell our country for promises, delusions, and $50 billion distributed to three countries. Palestine is not for sale.”

He pointed out that “the camps in Lebanon resorted to family solidarity in coordination with the shops in the camps. Whoever does not have money can go to the shop after two (2 p.m.) in the afternoon and get vegetables for free.

“We have been securing 7,000 packs of bread to distribute in the camps and buying the same amount to sell the pack at 500 liras. But this does not solve the problem.”

He added: “The PLO leadership continues to perform its duty toward the refugees and, until now, we have not been affected by the restrictions imposed by banks in Lebanon, and refugees are still receiving medical treatment.

“However, our concern now is that Palestinian refugees do not starve, taking into account all the indications that the situation in Lebanon will not improve soon.

“Twenty percent of the Palestinians in Lebanon receive wages either from UNRWA — as they work there — or from the PLO because they are affiliated with the factions, but 80 percent are unemployed and have no income.”

The meeting hosted by Mneimneh agreed “the categorical rejection of the ‘Deal of the Century’ because it means further erasing the identity existence of the Palestinian people as well as their national rights, especially their right to return and establish their independent state.

“It also means assassinating the Palestinian peoples’ legitimate rights and supporting Israel’s usurpation of international justice and 72 years of Arab struggle.

“The deal includes ambiguous, illegal and immoral approaches that contradict all relevant UN and Security Council resolutions, especially with regard to the establishment of the Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and establish their state with Jerusalem as its capital,” a statement on the meeting added.

“UNRWA must remain the living international witness to the ongoing suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian people, and UNRWA must continue to receive support.”

Attendees at the talks also recommended “improving the conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to strengthen the elements of their steadfastness until they return.” This was “based on the Unified Lebanese Vision for the Palestinian Refugees Affairs in Lebanon document, which includes the right to work.”