US slams Iran for ‘smuggling’ envoy into Yemen

Morgan Ortagus said the new ambassador is a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who has links to Hezbollah in Lebanon. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 October 2020

US slams Iran for ‘smuggling’ envoy into Yemen

  • Morgan Ortagus said the new ambassador is a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)

AL-MUKALLA: The US on Wednesday slammed the Iranian regime for installing a new ambassador to the Houthi militia in Yemen — a move that the State Department spokesperson said shows the extent of Iran’s influence in the war-torn country. 

Morgan Ortagus said the new ambassador is a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who has links to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“The Iranian regime smuggled Hassan Irloo (Eyrlou), an IRGC member tied to Lebanese Hezbollah, into Yemen under the guise of ‘ambassador’ to the Houthi militia,” Ortagus said on Twitter, urging Yemenis to denounce Iran and its ambassador. “Iran’s intent to use the Houthis to expand its malign influence is clear. The Yemeni people should say no to Irloo and Iran.” 

On Saturday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Hassan Eyrlou, the country’s new ambassador to Yemen, had arrived in Houthi-controlled Sanaa, a move that triggered uproar among the Yemeni public and officials.

Yemen’s Foreign Ministry on Monday sent a letter to the UN Security Council to complain about Iran’s announcement, accusing the Iranians of violating “international law and Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 2216.”

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Iran’s announcement came as the Houthis and the internationally recognized government were swapping hundreds of prisoners. 

Protesting against Iran’s continuing military and financial support to the Houthis, Yemen’s government severed ties with Iran in late 2015, expelling Iran’s ambassador to Yemen and withdrawing the Yemeni envoy in Tehran.

Despite this, Iranian diplomats have remained in Sanaa, while Houthi officials have held numerous meetings with senior Iranian officials in Tehran.

Reacting to US criticism of Iran’s move, Yemen’s government said that it backs US efforts to restrict Iran’s interference in Yemen. “We highly commend the firm stance of the US administration in curbing Iran’s expansionist ambitions. Yemen’s government and people have been struggling for five years to end the coup that was plotted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard,” Information Minister Muammar Al-Aryani said on Twitter on Thursday.

Yemeni military and political experts say the Iranian regime is seeking to shore up the Houthis politically and militarily because the rebels are becoming increasing politically isolated as their forces fail to make gains on the ground.

Brig. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesman, said Iran’s new ambassador would command military activities against government forces and would facilitate the arrival of arms shipments to the Houthis.

“He is a military ruler from Iran who will govern this militia,” Majili told state media.

Political analysts also argue that by sending a new ambassador to Yemen, the Iranian regime sends a message to the world that it recognizes the Houthis as a legitimate authority in Yemen and confirms its support for the group.

“Iran wants to say that the Houthis are part of its camp and anyone wants to end the war in Yemen should come to Tehran,” Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s Information Ministry and a political analyst, told Arab News, adding that Iran’s move would prolong the war in Yemen rather than leading to peace.

“The Houthi decision has become dependent on Iran and its agenda. This Iranian behavior will lead to prolonging the war in Yemen,” Ghallab said.


Egyptian festival celebrates Aragouz traditions

Updated 39 min 59 sec ago

Egyptian festival celebrates Aragouz traditions

  • The festival this year sheds light on the creative icons that inspired the aragouz

CAIRO: The second Egyptian Aragouz Festival has opened on Nov. 24, at the ancient Bayt Al-Sinnari, in Cairo. The aragouz is a traditional puppet figure dressed in red invented by Egyptians to ridicule situations comically.

Khaled Bahgat, a professor of theater at Helwan University and the founder of the festival and the Wamda Troupe for Aragouz and Shadow Puppets, said the festival is part of the initiative to preserve the Egyptian aragouz, after it was recognized by UNESCO in 2018 as one of the most important Egyptian artistic elements. He said that he wants the Egyptian art of aragouz to reach the world because it is an ancient Egyptian art.

The festival this year sheds light on the creative icons that inspired the aragouz.

The festival opened with a tribute to the great Egyptian creator Abu Al-Saud Al-Abyari in a reading of his story “Aragouz, Author and Idea,” which he published in 1953. Al-Aragouz was an important source of creativity for Al-Abyari.

The reading was followed by entries exploring how the art of aragouz shaped Egyptian comedy in the twentieth century.

The day closed with puppet performances of “The social media aragouz,” which reflected the impact of social media, directed by Ali Abu Zeid, and “The aragouz in the city,” directed by Nabil Bahgat.

On the second day, Reem Heggab will honor her father the late Egyptian poet Said Heggab, reciting one of his poems on the aragouz. This will be followed by two aragouz shows, “The Take Away,” directed by Mahmoud Sayed Hanafi, and “Aragouz, the Land of Myths.”

On Thursday, the theater department of the University of Alexandria will celebrate the aragouz with a lecture by Hany Abou El-Hassan, the head of the department, a workshop and a performance titled “Lorca and the aragouz,” directed by Nabil Bahgat and presented by the Wamda Troupe.

The performance honors the creativity of the Spanish poet and innovator Federico García Lorca, and will be held in the presence of the Spanish cultural attache.

The fourth day of the festival will honor the poet Fouad Haddad, whose son Amin Haddad will recite several poems from his father’s book of poetry entitiled Al-Aragouz. The poetry reading will be followed by a discussion.

Then there will be performances of “Aragouz Al Sima,” directed by Mustafa Al-Sabbagh, and “Al-Aragouz in Danger,” which deals with the greatest challenges facing the art of aragouz.

On the last day, the Faculty of Arts at Helwan University and the Department of Theater Sciences’ troupe will hold an open seminar with the department’s students to discuss ways to preserve the Egyptian aragouz.