Iran’s strategy of state piracy menaces Middle East oil lanes

When Iranian “armed soldiers” boarded the South Korean-flagged oil tanker Hankuk Chemi on Jan. 4, 2021, they were implementing a longstanding if unstated policy of state piracy in the waters of the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. (AFP/File Photo)
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When Iranian “armed soldiers” boarded the South Korean-flagged oil tanker Hankuk Chemi on Jan. 4, 2021, they were implementing a longstanding if unstated policy of state piracy in the waters of the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. (AFP/File Photo)
The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow entrance to the Gulf from the Arabian Sea, has emerged as a favorite hunting ground for Iranian IRGC naval units looking to harass oil tankers, of which the Hankuk Chemi, seized on Jan. 4, 2021, is only the latest. (Reuters/WANA)
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The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow entrance to the Gulf from the Arabian Sea, has emerged as a favorite hunting ground for Iranian IRGC naval units looking to harass oil tankers, of which the Hankuk Chemi, seized on Jan. 4, 2021, is only the latest. (Reuters/WANA)
Two oil tankers were damaged in twin attacks close to the Iranian coast on June 13, 2020, just outside the Strait of Hormuz. The Kokuka Courageous was struck in the Gulf of Oman by a limpet mine resembling Iranian weapons, according to the US military in the Middle East. (AFP)
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Two oil tankers were damaged in twin attacks close to the Iranian coast on June 13, 2020, just outside the Strait of Hormuz. The Kokuka Courageous was struck in the Gulf of Oman by a limpet mine resembling Iranian weapons, according to the US military in the Middle East. (AFP)
The Japanese vessel Kokuka Courageous was struck in the Gulf of Oman by a limpet mine resembling Iranian weapons, according to the US military in the Middle East. It was one of two oil tankers damaged in twin attacks close to the Iranian coast on June 13, 2020, just outside the Strait of Hormuz.
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The Japanese vessel Kokuka Courageous was struck in the Gulf of Oman by a limpet mine resembling Iranian weapons, according to the US military in the Middle East. It was one of two oil tankers damaged in twin attacks close to the Iranian coast on June 13, 2020, just outside the Strait of Hormuz. (AFP/File Photo)
The British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero was seized in July 2019 by IRGC units and held off Bandar Abbas port in southern Iran for more than two months as a tit-for-tat move against the detention of an Iranian vessel suspected of shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. (AFP file photo)
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The British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero was seized in July 2019 by IRGC units and held off Bandar Abbas port in southern Iran for more than two months as a tit-for-tat move against the detention of an Iranian vessel suspected of shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. (AFP file photo)
In July 2019, it was the turn of the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which was seized by IRGC units and held off Bandar Abbas port in southern Iran for more than two months as a tit-for-tat move against the detention of an Iranian vessel suspected of shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. (AFP/File Photo)
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In July 2019, it was the turn of the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which was seized by IRGC units and held off Bandar Abbas port in southern Iran for more than two months as a tit-for-tat move against the detention of an Iranian vessel suspected of shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. (AFP/File Photo)
Iran-backed Houthi militias have repeatedly rebuffed UN pleas to allow an inspection team to enter the FSO Safer, abandoned off the port of Hodeidah with 1.1 million barrels of crude on board, to conduct repairs. The UN expressed fears on July 15, 2020, of
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Iran-backed Houthi militias have repeatedly rebuffed UN pleas to allow an inspection team to enter the FSO Safer, abandoned off the port of Hodeidah with 1.1 million barrels of crude on board, to conduct repairs. The UN expressed fears on July 15, 2020, of "catastrophe" if the vessel ruptured into the Red Sea. (AFP/File Photo)
The UN expressed fears on July 15, 2020, of
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The UN expressed fears on July 15, 2020, of "catastrophe" if the FSO Safer, abandoned off Yemen's coast with 1.1 million barrels of crude on board, ruptured into the Red Sea. Iran-backed Houthi militias, who control Hodeidah port, have repeatedly rebuffed UN pleas to allow an inspection team to enter the ship to conduct repairs. (AFP/File Photo)
A group of 15 British Royal Navy personnel celebrated their release in April 2007 after nearly two weeks of captivity in Iran. They had been seized by Iran in northern Gulf waters in an act of gunboat diplomacy that sparked weeks of wrangling between the two countries. (AFP/File Photo)
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A group of 15 British Royal Navy personnel celebrated their release in April 2007 after nearly two weeks of captivity in Iran. They had been seized by Iran in northern Gulf waters in an act of gunboat diplomacy that sparked weeks of wrangling between the two countries. (AFP/File Photo)
In April 2007, 15 British Royal Navy personnel celebrated their release after nearly two weeks of captivity in Iran. They were seized by Iran in northern Gulf waters in an act of gunboat diplomacy that sparked weeks of wrangling between the two countries. (AFP/File Photo)
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In April 2007, 15 British Royal Navy personnel celebrated their release after nearly two weeks of captivity in Iran. They were seized by Iran in northern Gulf waters in an act of gunboat diplomacy that sparked weeks of wrangling between the two countries. (AFP/File Photo)
British servicemen were made to march blindfolded on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab waterway where they were detained in June 2004 by Iranian troops. The eight were arrested allegedly for straying into Iranian waters. The Shatt al-Arab straddles the border between Iran and southern Iraq. (AFP/File Photo)
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British servicemen were made to march blindfolded on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab waterway where they were detained in June 2004 by Iranian troops. The eight were arrested allegedly for straying into Iranian waters. The Shatt al-Arab straddles the border between Iran and southern Iraq. (AFP/File Photo)
Detained by Iranian troops in June 2004, eight British servicemen were made to march blindfolded on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab waterway after they allegedly strayed into Iranian waters. The Shatt al-Arab straddles the border between Iran and southern Iraq. (AFP/File Photo)
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Detained by Iranian troops in June 2004, eight British servicemen were made to march blindfolded on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab waterway after they allegedly strayed into Iranian waters. The Shatt al-Arab straddles the border between Iran and southern Iraq. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 07 January 2021

Iran’s strategy of state piracy menaces Middle East oil lanes

A picture obtained by AFP from the Iranian news agency Tasnim on January 4, 2021, shows the South Korean-flagged tanker being escorted by Iran's Revolutionary Guards navy after being seized in the Gulf. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Iran’s IRGC naval units and their Houthi proxies thumb their nose at the world by seizing oil tankers plying the Gulf
  • The South Korean-flagged Hankuk Chemi is just the latest in a long line of vessels seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz

LONDON: Iran dialed up tensions in the Gulf this week when its troops stormed a South Korean-flagged tanker as it transited through the strategic Strait of Hormuz — a choke point through which a fifth of world oil output passes. The incident is only the latest in a long line of Iranian acts of “state piracy” in the flashpoint region.

The MT Hankuk Chemi was en route from Saudi Arabia’s Jubail to the UAE’s Fujairah on Monday when members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) navy boarded the vessel and brought it to the port of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran, placing its multinational crew of 20 under arrest.

Iranian authorities alleged the tanker, carrying 7,200 tons of ethanol, was seized for infringing maritime environmental laws — claims the vessel’s owner denies.

Observers suspect the ship was in fact taken hostage as part of an ongoing row with Seoul over $7 billion in revenue from oil sales that remain frozen in South Korean banks under US sanctions imposed against Iran by the Trump administration.

Although the MT Hankuk Chemi is the first major vessel to be seized by Iran in more than a year, incidents of this kind have become all too common in the Strait of Hormuz and nearby shipping lanes. Several vessels have been boarded or mysteriously attacked since President Donald Trump ramped up his “maximum pressure” campaign, with Iran named as the likely culprit.

The IRGC navy has long used its fleet of speedboats to harass commercial shipping and military vessels in the region, seizing at least six ships in 2019 over alleged fuel smuggling. Iran has also repeatedly threatened to blockade the strait if it is attacked.

Several incidents pre-date the current tensions. In January 2016, the IRGC seized two US Navy riverine command boats after they entered Iranian territorial waters near Iran’s Farsi Island. After a flurry of phone calls between then-US secretary of state John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the sailors were released unharmed 15 hours later.




Iran's ambassador to South Korea Saeed Badamchi Shabestari arrives at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on January 5, 2021, after he was summoned over a South Korean oil tanker being seized by Iran. (AFP/YONHAP)

In March 2007, the IRGC detained 15 British navy personnel from HMS Cornwall as they were searching a merchant vessel off the Iran-Iraq coast. They were released 13 days later. A similar incident occurred in 2004 when six Royal Marines and two Royal Navy sailors were captured by the IRGC in the Shatt al-Arab waterway. They were released three days later.

The Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen has also launched repeated attacks on ports and ships in recent years, routinely planting marine mines in the southern Red Sea and in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait in the path of commercial shipping.

The militia has repeatedly rebuffed UN pleas to allow an inspection team to enter the FSO Safer, a 45-year-old oil tanker abandoned off the port of Hodeidah with 1.1 million barrels of crude on board, to conduct urgent repairs. In an extraordinary session, the UN expressed fears on July 15, 2020, of "catastrophe" if the vessel ruptured into the Red Sea.




This CCTV image provided by South Korea's Taikun Shipping Co. shows the moment a South Korean tanker was captured by an Armed Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat, right, on the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)

In May 2019, Washington deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and four B-52 bombers to the Middle East, citing unspecified Iranian threats. A matter of days later, on May 12, four commercial ships, including two Saudi Aramco oil tankers, were damaged near the port of Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman in what the UAE called a “sabotage attack.”

On June 13, the oil tankers Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous were also both rocked by explosions, thought to have been caused by limpet mines or flying objects. Days later, on June 20, Iran shot down an American RQ-4A surveillance drone flying over the Strait of Hormuz, raising tensions further.

At the time, US President Donald Trump said Iranian boats harassing the US navy “will be shot out of the water.”

INNUMBERS

Iranian Piracy

 

* 20 - Civilian sailors aboard South Korean-flagged Hankuk Chemi.

* $7bn - Amount claimed by Iran to be in a South Korean bank.

The following month, the IRGC held the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero for two months for allegedly ramming a fishing boat. The move was widely seen as an act of retaliation after British Royal Marines detained an Iranian tanker, the Grace 1, in the Strait of Gibraltar on suspicion of violating EU sanctions on Syria.

In the wake of the incident, US Central Command established Operation Sentinel, invited nations to coordinate on surveillance and provide escorts to their flagged commercial vessels in the Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Oman.

After European powers voiced qualms about the possibility of being dragged into a war with Iran, the US rebranded Operation Sentinel as the “International Maritime Security Construct” in Sept. 2019, headquartered in Bahrain.

The world’s eyes are once again on Iran as it uses the capture of the Hankuk Chemi to win concessions from South Korea. Seoul has confirmed it is in talks with Tehran and Washington to use the frozen Iranian money to purchase coronavirus vaccines for the country.




This undated picture taken in an unknown location and released on January 5, 2021 by Yonhap news agency in Seoul shows South Korean Navy's destroyer ROKS Choi Young. South Korea will send a government delegation to Iran "at the earliest possible date" to negotiate the release of a seized oil tanker and its crew, Seoul's foreign ministry said on January 5. (AFP/File Photo)

At the same time, South Korea’s foreign ministry said it is launching legal action to demand the ship’s release. Its defense ministry has also deployed its 300-strong Cheonghae anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz aboard the destroyer Choi Young to “ensure the safety” of South Korean nationals.

Shin Beom-chul, chief researcher at the Korea Research Institute for Economy and Society, told Arab News that the Iranian move is a desperate bid to get recognition from the incoming Biden administration in the US, which is expected to take a relatively softer stance vis-a-vis Iran.

“Tehran is sending a clear message that it can ratchet up aggression in the region any time, while the issue of frozen money in South Korea is just part of the Trump administration’s financial sanctions,” Shin said.

Iran is reeling from sanctions reintroduced after the Trump administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, in May 2018. Iran’s economic woes have been compounded by one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the region.




This handout photo provided by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official website via SEPAH News on November 19, 2020, shows a military drone parked on a warship named after slain Naval commander Abdollah Roudaki, sailing through the waters in the Gulf during it's inauguration. (AFP/File Photo)

European powers, meanwhile, are scrambling to salvage the JCPOA, just as Iran announced on Monday it has stepped up its uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity — far beyond the limits set by the deal.

Tehran’s successive breaches of the nuclear deal are widely interpreted as a means of pressuring European signatories to provide sanctions relief — a move that Washington has branded “nuclear extortion.”

Also fresh in Tehran’s mind this week is the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the IRGC’s extraterritorial Quds Force commander, who was eliminated with a US drone strike near Baghdad airport one year ago.

Struggling with sanctions and COVID-19, and bruised by strategic setbacks, Iran appeared to rein in its extra-legal naval activities in 2020. But now the IRGC seems to be reasserting itself in the waning days of the Trump administration.

With little sign of de-escalation in the Gulf, the Hankuk Chemi may not be the last commercial ship to be targeted by Iran in 2021.

-------------------

Twitter: @RobertPEdwards

 

Soleimani’s shadow
Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region

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Sudan’s military strikes out at civilian politicians after coup attempt

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan Abdelrahman
Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan Abdelrahman
Updated 23 September 2021

Sudan’s military strikes out at civilian politicians after coup attempt

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan Abdelrahman
  • Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan said the military was the group most interested in the transition to democracy and elections, scheduled for early 2024

KHARTOUM: Sudanese military leaders said on Wednesday the civilian politicians they share power with had opened the door to a coup attempt by neglecting public welfare while they were consumed by internal squabbles.
A body known as the Sovereign Council has ruled Sudan under a fragile power-sharing deal between the military and civilians since the overthrow of Omar Bashir in 2019 but their relationship has remained fractious since then.
Military authorities said on Monday they had detained 21 officers who had attempted to take power in the early hours of the day. The threat appeared to have escalated the tensions between the partners.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia condemned the coup attempt Al-Arabiya TV reported on Wednesday, citing the country’s Foreign Ministry.
Egypt also condemned the coup attempt and stressed its support for its neighbor’s transitional government.
In a statement on its official Facebook page, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry affirmed its support for efforts by Sudan’s government to meet the aspirations of its people at this important stage in the country’s history.
Cairo stressed its keenness to see stability and security in Sudan, and condemned any attempt to obstruct development efforts there.
Speaking at a military graduation in Omdurman, Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, and his deputy General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, accused the civilian politicians of seeking personal gains and forgetting the aims of the revolution.
“The politicians gave an opportunity for the coup because they neglected the citizen and his livelihood and basic services and were occupied with fighting over seats and divvying up positions,” Dagalo said, in unusually strong criticism of the civilian team.
After the coup attempt, civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok reiterated calls to restructure the military and bring its business interests under civilian oversight, a key source of dispute, in a speech that did not emphasize military-civilian unity as he has done previously.
Political parties called on citizens to reject military rule and protect the revolution. Burhan called such statements “unacceptable.”
“Who should they rise to protect the revolution against? From us, the military? We are the ones who are protecting it from them, the ones who want to steal it.”
Burhan said the military was the group most interested in the transition to democracy and elections, scheduled for early 2024.
“They are occupied with fighting and yelling and are directing all their arrows at us,” he said.
Both men said they felt their forces were unappreciated.
“The military is met with humiliation and insults day and night, so how can there not be coups,” said Dagalo.


EU says Tehran ready to resume nuclear talks at ‘early date’

Protesters wearing costumes depicting Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, denounce Raisi near UN headquarters. (Reuters)
Protesters wearing costumes depicting Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, denounce Raisi near UN headquarters. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2021

EU says Tehran ready to resume nuclear talks at ‘early date’

Protesters wearing costumes depicting Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, denounce Raisi near UN headquarters. (Reuters)
  • 400 Iranian-American scholars urge Biden to call for Raisi to stand trial for his role in mass executions
  • Borrell ‘underlined once again the great importance of a quick resumption of the Vienna talks’ at a meeting with Iran’s top diplomat

BRUSSELS: The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Wednesday Iran’s top diplomat had assured him at their first meeting that Tehran was ready to restart talks on the nuclear deal soon.

EU-mediated negotiations began in Vienna in April aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers — an accord left hanging by a thread after former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 and ramped up sanctions.
The discussions, which involve the remaining parties seeking to persuade Washington to rejoin the deal and Iran to return to its nuclear commitments, have been stalled since June, when ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi was elected as Iran’s president.
An EU statement said Borrell “underlined once again the great importance of a quick resumption of the Vienna talks” at a meeting on Tuesday with Iran’s new top diplomat Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
“The Iranian Foreign Minister assured of the willingness to resume negotiations at an early date,” the statement said.
Raisi voiced support on Tuesday in his international debut for reviving the nuclear accord, even as he berated the US.
“The Islamic Republic considers useful talks whose ultimate outcome is the lifting of all oppressive sanctions,” Raisi said in a recorded speech to the UN.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said he expected a resumption of the talks “in the coming weeks,” without giving an exact date.
The 2015 nuclear agreement offered Iran a reduction of UN sanctions in return for strict limits on its nuclear program, but Tehran has progressively stepped away from its commitments in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal and imposition of sanctions.
Trump’s successor Joe Biden has signaled a willingness to return to the deal, which was negotiated when he was Barack Obama’s vice president and under Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani.
In a letter to President Biden, ahead of his speech at the UN General Assembly, more than 400 Iranian-American scholars urged the president to call for Raisi to stand trial before an international tribunal for his role in the 1988 mass execution of dissidents. Dissidents have zeroed in on his role in a “death commission” that ordered the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.
Iran’s new president slammed US sanctions imposed on his nation as a mechanism of war, using his first UN address since his swearing-in to forcefully call out Washington’s policies in the region and the growing political schism within America.
President Ebrahim Raisi delivered a far more critical and blunt take on American foreign policy than his moderate predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, had done in previous speeches to the UN General Assembly.
“Sanctions are the US’ new way of war with the nations of the world,” Raisi said, adding that such economic punishment during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic amounts to “crimes against humanity.”
In taking aim at the US, Raisi also referenced the shocking Jan. 6th insurrection on Capitol Hill by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, and the horrific scenes at Kabul airport last month as desperate Afghans plunged to their deaths after clinging to a US aircraft evacuating people.
“From the Capitol to Kabul, one clear message was sent to the world: The US’ hegemonic system has no credibility, whether inside or outside the country,” Raisi said.
He said “the project of imposing Westernized identity” had failed, and added erroneously that “today, the US does not get to exit Iraq and Afghanistan but is expelled.”


Yemeni woman turns home into school

Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi (L) gives a lesson to children sprawled across the floor of her home in the rural area of Muhib, in the southern province of Hodeida, on September 1, 2021. (AFP)
Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi (L) gives a lesson to children sprawled across the floor of her home in the rural area of Muhib, in the southern province of Hodeida, on September 1, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2021

Yemeni woman turns home into school

Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi (L) gives a lesson to children sprawled across the floor of her home in the rural area of Muhib, in the southern province of Hodeida, on September 1, 2021. (AFP)
  • Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis

AL-TUHAYTA, Yemen: Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi gives a science lesson to children sprawled across the ground at her home in a remote village in the southern province of Hodeidah.
For these boys and girls, learning at Mahdi’s sun-scorched compound is their only opportunity for an education in the small rural area of Muhib in the Al-Tuhayta district.
She had already been teaching children to read and write before the outbreak of the impoverished country’s devastating war in 2014.
“What pushed me toward teaching was the high rate of ignorance in the village and that children were deprived of an education,” Mahdi told AFP.
With dozens of children to tend to, Mahdi has divided them into three groups based on age, teaching each class for two hours a day.
Other than learning how to read and write, the children also get lessons in maths and science.
But Mahdi said her house, with hundreds of books piled on a single shelf, is not really equipped for teaching. “There is lots of damage from the sun and heat,” she said, wearing an all-black niqab.
Yemen’s war pits the government against the Iran-allied Houthi rebels.
Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. More than 2,500 schools in the country are unfit for use, with some destroyed and others turned into refugee camps or military facilities.
UNICEF has estimated that 2 million children were without school even before the coronavirus pandemic, a further systemic shock which it warns has likely propelled the number even higher.
“We wouldn’t have been able to read, write or learn if it weren’t for Miss Amina,” one of the pupils, Ibrahim Mohib, told AFP.
His father, Mohammed, said he had no regrets sending his three children to learn at Mahdi’s home.
“They were taught there from the first until the fourth grades, and thank God for (Mahdi) striving to teach them,” he said.
Mahdi said she hopes to get some form of help to teach the children.
“I ask all those who are charitable to bring joy to these children ... and offer aid to establish a real school,” she said. “My small home is not good enough, and it has become a public place where I am no longer comfortable.”


Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 

Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 
Updated 22 September 2021

Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 

Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 
  • Saudi Arabia remains the top donor of humanitarian aid to its war-torn neighbor
  • Saudi, Yemeni govts call for pressure on Houthis to choose UN-led political solution to conflict

NEW YORK:  Saudi Arabia, the US, the EU and other nations announced hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of additional humanitarian and development aid for Yemen at a high-level meeting at the UN on Wednesday. 

Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, supervisor-general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, announced that Saudi Arabia will provide an additional $90 million in humanitarian aid for war-torn Yemen.

“Over the last six years, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has provided more than $18 billion to support Yemen,” he said. “This year alone, Saudi Arabia has supported Yemen with more than $848 million.” 

The latest pledge means Saudi Arabia is once again the largest donor of aid to Yemen. But “monetary donations alone won’t alleviate the crisis in Yemen,” Al-Rabeeah warned. 

“Unless we work together to end the conflict and minimize the obstructions of aid delivery, the situation will continue to worsen,” he added.

“Ongoing aggression by the Houthi militias against the UN and international NGOs only adds more misery to the Yemeni people.”

Al-Rabeeah expressed the Kingdom’s desire that the international community support its political plan “to put an end to the conflict and bring long-lasting peace to all Yemenis.”

The US promised an additional $290 million in donations for 2021, while the EU announced that it will donate a further €119 million ($139.65 million), which the bloc’s Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said is a “joint humanitarian and development aid pledge.”

She added that “in the immediate term, our support will help families access food and basic commodities,” and that “in the long term, the EU seeks to help Yemen build a bridge from crisis to recover.” In this, she said, “investing in youth and women will play a critical role.”

Canada, Qatar, Sweden and Brazil together pledged additional donations worth over $120 million, some of which will be provided to UN bodies such as the World Food Programme to assist their operations in Yemen.

In total, around $600 million in additional humanitarian funding was announced at the UN meeting.

That money will be used to ensure that food security, sanitation, healthcare and education continues to be delivered to as many Yemenis as possible.

But while the aid provided by the international community will alleviate some of the hardship facing the country’s 29 million people, world leaders repeatedly made clear that a political solution to the conflict is the only way to truly end the humanitarian crisis.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, and it was plunged into civil war when the Iran-backed Houthis overthrew the UN-recognized government in 2015. Since then, famine and conflict have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians.

Yemen’s Minister of Foreign and Expatriate Affairs Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak warned on Wednesday that “despite the generous contributions of the international community, including the UN-led Humanitarian Response Plan, the humanitarian crisis witnessed by Yemen is still the largest and most urgent in the world.” 

He blamed the Houthis for Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, citing their assault on the city of Marib as an example of how they perpetuate the suffering of Yemenis — in this case by preventing the supply of household fuel to people across the country.

“Marib is the main source of household gas in Yemen … The continued brutal attacks by the Houthi militias on Marib exacerbate human suffering,” Bin Mubarak said.

He warned that a continuation of the Marib offensive could force thousands of internally displaced Yemenis who had sought safety in the city to seek refuge overseas.

“All humanitarian efforts provided by the different (UN) agencies won’t end the suffering of the Yemenis unless this war stops,” he said.

“Therefore, I’d like to call upon the international community to exert more effort on the Houthi militias and their supporters to give up the option of war and engage in a peace process that’s led by the UN.”


Tunisian police re-arrest MP hostile to President Saied

A member of Tunisian police controls a Libyan citizen driving his car towards the Libyan border, at the border post in Ras Jdir in south-eastern Tunisia. (AFP)
A member of Tunisian police controls a Libyan citizen driving his car towards the Libyan border, at the border post in Ras Jdir in south-eastern Tunisia. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2021

Tunisian police re-arrest MP hostile to President Saied

A member of Tunisian police controls a Libyan citizen driving his car towards the Libyan border, at the border post in Ras Jdir in south-eastern Tunisia. (AFP)
  • Makhlouf and two other Al-Karama MPs are accused of insulting border police who had prevented a woman from flying

TUNIS: Tunisian lawmaker Seifeddine Makhlouf, an outspoken critic of President Kais Saied, has been re-arrested, for “undermining the dignity of the army,” his lawyer told AFP on Wednesday.
Like other MPs, Makhlouf lost his parliamentary immunity when Saied assumed full power on July 25, sacking the prime minister, suspending the assembly and taking control of the prosecution service.
Makhlouf heads Al-Karama, an ultraconservative party allied to the Islamist-inspired Ennahda movement, Saied’s rivals who were previously the strongest party in the legislature.
He was briefly arrested on Sept. 17 on his way to a Tunis military court to appear before an investigating judge.
The MP was already the subject of a warrant issued by military justice on Sept. 2 for a case related to an altercation in March at Tunis airport.
Makhlouf and two other Al-Karama MPs are accused of insulting border police who had prevented a woman from flying.
The latest arrest “is not related to the airport case. It is another judicial file opened against him by the military justice,” said his lawyer Anouar Ouled Ali.
In the latest case, Makhlouf is accused of undermining the army in an exchange with a military official while he was at the military court to support another member of his party, who was being prosecuted in the airport case.
In a statement sent to AFP on Wednesday, the military court of first instance in Tunis said that a judicial enquiry had been opened on Tuesday against Makhlouf, who had “insulted and threatened one of the military judges.”
The lawyer, Ouled Ali, said that “this military prosecution of political opponents is a scandal. What is happening to Seifeddine Makhlouf is the settling of political scores.”