Ending Houthi sanctions raises Iran terror threat, critics warn

The review is also expected to consider reversing the Houthi militia’s designation as a terrorist organization. (AFP/File)
The review is also expected to consider reversing the Houthi militia’s designation as a terrorist organization. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 27 January 2021

Ending Houthi sanctions raises Iran terror threat, critics warn

Ending Houthi sanctions raises Iran terror threat, critics warn
  • US move leaves ‘friends and allies’ in the Gulf at risk, former envoy says

CHICAGO: The decision by US President Joe Biden to suspend some sanctions against the Houthi militia in Yemen has raised concerns about a possible escalation in Iran-backed terror attacks.

The US Treasury on Monday said that the sanctions — announced by former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo as one of the outgoing Trump administration’s last acts — will be suspended for a month, pending a review by newly appointed Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

The review is also expected to consider reversing the Houthi militia’s designation as a terrorist organization.

However, Blinken did not issue a statement on the decision, which was leaked to some news media wire services, while all of Pompeo’s public releases were removed from the State Department website and archived, removing them from public view.

According to some observers, Biden may be using the decision to encourage negotiations with Iran as his administration moves to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement that Trump terminated.

However, Jason Greenblatt, former Trump administration envoy to the Middle East, told Arab News that the suspension of Pompeo’s sanctions will result in increased attacks against Gulf nations.

“These Iranian-funded terrorist murderers attack our friends and allies such as Saudi Arabia and cause tremendous suffering in Yemen,” Greenblatt said, defending Pompeo’s sanctions as “correct.”

“This is similar to the situation in Gaza with Iran-funded Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad attacking Israel and also being the cause of tremendous suffering to Palestinians. It is a mistake for the Biden administration to not call the Houthis what they are — terrorists, pure and simple.”

The call to suspend the sanctions was made by NGOs and aid agencies working in the war-torn country, which feared they would be targeted for providing assistance.

Designating the Houthis as a “foreign terrorist organization” hampers humanitarian work, they argued.

However, supporters of the designation argue that lifting sanctions will allow Iran to expand its base in the Gulf, resulting in more terrorist attacks similar to the repeated Houthi missile and drone strikes directed at Riyadh last week.

The announcement riled many Iranian dissidents who have been victimized by Iran’s ruling mullahs. Dissident leaders said they were shocked by the suspension and urged Biden to maintain the terrorist designation.

“The undisputed fact is that the Houthis are a creation of the Islamic Republic. The mullahs have been offering ideological, military and terrorist training to them since the early 1990s,” one leader, who asked not to be identified, said.

“Iran provides the Houthis with huge caches of weaponry, missiles, drones and other lethal arms that have prolonged that deadly and tragic conflict. As such, lending legitimacy to the Houthis will only undermine the stability of the Middle East region and embolden the Houthis to engage in further aggression, the primary victims of which are the people of Yemen.”

Biden campaigned on the promise to rejoin the JCPOA and restore relations with Iran in exchange for Tehran’s promise to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium and cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, but Trump and others accused Iran of secretly building its nuclear arsenal.

Greenblatt described the situation as a “battle of good versus evil,” adding: “We don’t help matters when we hide from the truth. We must stand with our friends and allies such as Saudi Arabia.”

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

Enter


keywords

Israeli-linked tanker attacked off Oman arrives at UAE anchorage

Israeli-linked tanker attacked off Oman arrives at UAE anchorage
Updated 18 min 46 sec ago

Israeli-linked tanker attacked off Oman arrives at UAE anchorage

Israeli-linked tanker attacked off Oman arrives at UAE anchorage
  • Low visibility due to high humidity made it difficult to see the damage to the vessel in its mooring

FUJAIRAH: An Israeli-linked vessel that was attacked off Oman last week anchored off the UAE emirate of Fujairah Tuesday amid accusations Iran was behind the attack in which two crew members were killed.
Low visibility due to high humidity made it difficult to see the damage to the vessel in its mooring in the Gulf of Oman off the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates, an AFP correspondent reported.
Tracking service MarineTraffic said the Liberian-flagged vessel reached its mooring at 2:47 am (2247 GMT Monday).
The UAE, which normalized ties with Israel last year, has not officially commented on the tanker incident.
Both the United States and Israel have said their intelligence assessments of Thursday’s incident concluded that an Iranian drone attacked the ship, managed by prominent Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, as it sailed off Oman.
Tehran denied the accusation and warned against “adventurism.”
A British security guard and a Romanian crew member were killed in what analysts said bore all the hallmarks of the “shadow war” between Iran and Israel, which has included attacks on shipping in waters around the Gulf.
Washington on Monday promised to lead a “collective response” against Tehran, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling the MV Mercer Street incident “a direct threat to freedom of navigation and commerce.”
Britain summoned the Iranian ambassador and demanded that vessels navigate freely in the oil-rich region.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, meanwhile, said that Israel “must stop such baseless accusations” and called on the US and Britain to provide evidence to support their claims.
Iran “will not hesitate to protect its security and national interests, and will immediately and decisively respond to any possible adventurism,” Khatibzadeh said.


UAE lifts ban on transit flights from India, Pakistan, other countries

UAE lifts ban on transit flights from India, Pakistan, other countries
Updated 17 min 54 sec ago

UAE lifts ban on transit flights from India, Pakistan, other countries

UAE lifts ban on transit flights from India, Pakistan, other countries
  • Transit passengers traveling from countries where flights had been suspended must present negative PCR tests taken 72 hours prior to departure

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates will lift a ban on transit passenger traffic from India, Pakistan, Nigeria and other countries from Aug. 5, the National Emergency and Crisis Management Authority (NCEMA) said on Tuesday.
The UAE, a major international travel hub, has banned passengers from many South Asian and African countries for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
NCEMA said on Twitter that passengers traveling from countries where flights had been suspended would be able to transit through its airports from Thursday as long as they present negative PCR tests taken 72 hours prior to departure.
Final destination approval would also have to be provided, the authority said, adding that UAE departure airports would arrange separate lounges for transiting passengers.
The transit ban had also included Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Uganda.
NCEMA said that a ban on entry to the UAE for passengers from these countries would also be lifted for those with valid residencies and who are certified by Emirati authorities as fully vaccinated.
However, they would need to apply for online entry permits prior to traveling and would need to present a negative PCR test taken 48 hours prior to departure.
Those working in the medical, educational or government sectors in the Gulf Arab state as well as those studying or completing medical treatment in the UAE would be exempt from the vaccination requirement as would humanitarian cases.


Bahrain, Abu Dhabi vow to protect maritime trade

Bahrain, Abu Dhabi vow to protect maritime trade
Updated 42 min 38 sec ago

Bahrain, Abu Dhabi vow to protect maritime trade

Bahrain, Abu Dhabi vow to protect maritime trade
  • In a statement released by Bahrain’s state media, both men drew upon their countries’ “brotherly ties”

DUBAI: Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said Tuesday that coordination with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyanis ongoing to protect international navigation from any threats. 

In a statement released by Bahrain’s state media, both men drew upon their countries’ “brotherly ties” during the meeting and vowed to “continue coordinating a joint strategic vision to establish security and stability.”

“Protect international maritime traffic from any threats that negatively affect the course of global trade,” is of the utmost importance, the statement said.


Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him

Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him
Updated 03 August 2021

Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him

Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him
  • UK inquest found Abbas Khan was unlawfully killed in regime prison
  • Karim Al-Jian: ‘Someone out of the goodness of their heart went to this country — where they have no connection — to save lives’

LONDON: A newly qualified Syrian-born British doctor has had an emotional meeting with the siblings of the deceased British surgeon who inspired him to enter the field.
Karim Al-Jian, 24, who was born in Aleppo but raised in Britain, recently met with the brother and sister of Dr. Abbas Khan, an orthopaedic surgeon from London who was killed in a Syrian prison after he left the safety of his home to care for victims in the war-torn nation.


Al-Jian posted a photo of himself with a portrait of Khan with the caption: “In 2012 British surgeon Abbas Khan went to Aleppo, Syria to treat wounded civilians. He was consequently tortured and murdered by the Syrian regime. His story touched many, including a … boy from Aleppo who wanted to be like Dr. Khan. Today that boy graduated a doctor.”

Khan’s sister Sara, 31, asked Twitter users to locate Al-Jian. “This is so touching it has brought tears to my eyes,” she wrote. “I would like to send him a message if possible.”

The BBC organized a meeting between the new medic and Khan’s family. Sara told Al-Jian: “It is inspiring the fact that you dedicated your medical career to Abbas. I cannot explain to you how touched my family and I are. It was so beautiful to read it.”

The deceased doctor’s brother Shah, who is also an orthopaedic surgeon, has said he will keep in touch with Al-Jian to give him advice about his career path. Al-Jian intends to share the same specialism as the Khan brothers.

Al-Jian said when he was a teenager, he saw the news of Khan’s sacrifice, which inspired him to turn to medical training.

On his graduation and eight years after the surgeon’s death, Al-Jian paid tribute to Khan on social media, posing with his portrait while donning his academic robes.
Khan traveled to Syria via Turkey to lend his expertise by assisting the victims of bombed hospitals, which were being regularly targeted by regime forces.
He was arrested and jailed for over a year in a regime-controlled prison. In December 2013, he was found hanging in his cell. He was 32. A British inquest in 2014 concluded that he had been unlawfully killed.
Al-Jian said Khan’s story had an enormous impact on him, and he shared in the pain and suffering that he saw.

“That someone out of the goodness of their heart went to this country — where they have no connection — to save lives was astounding to me. He put the lives of others before himself,” said Al-Jian. “I really felt that his mother’s pain was the pain of hundreds of thousands of Syrians.”

Living in northern England at the time, Al-Jian was awarded a place to study on the country’s south coast at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. He graduated last month after five years. 


Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group

Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group
Updated 03 August 2021

Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group

Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group
  • The explosion killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed swathes of Lebanon’s capital
  • HRW based its report on official documents it reviewed and on multiple interviews with top officials

BEIRUT: A report released by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday concluded there was strong evidence to suggest some Lebanese officials knew about and tacitly accepted the lethal risks posed by ammonium nitrate stored at Beirut port before the fatal blast there on Aug. 4 last year.
The explosion, caused by the chemicals stored unsafely at the port for years, killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed swathes of Lebanon’s capital.
The report by the international rights watchdog contained over 700 pages of findings and documents. Its investigation also concluded there was evidence that multiple Lebanese authorities were criminally negligent under Lebanese law.
HRW based its report on official documents it reviewed and on multiple interviews with top officials including the president, the caretaker prime minister and the head of the country’s state security.
The investigation trailed events from 2014 onwards after the shipment was brought to Beirut port and tracked repeated warnings of danger to various official bodies.
“Evidence strongly suggests that some government officials foresaw the death that the ammonium nitrate’s presence in the port could result in and tacitly accepted the risk of the deaths occurring,” the report said.
It called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to mandate an investigation into the blast and on foreign governments to impose human rights and corruption sanctions on officials.
A Lebanese investigation into the blast, led by Judge Tarek Bitar, has stalled. Politicians and senior security officials are yet to be questioned and requests to lift their immunity have been hindered.
The HRW report said President Michel Aoun, caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab, the director general of state security Tony Saliba and other former ministers wanted for questioning by judge Bitar, had failed to take action to protect the general public despite having been informed of the risks.
Reuters sought comment on the report’s findings from Aoun, Diab and Saliba. The presidential palace offered no comment. There was no immediate response from Diab and Saliba.
Aoun said on Friday he was ready to testify and that no one was above the law.
A document seen by Reuters that was sent just over two weeks before the blast showed the president and prime minister were warned about the security risk posed by the chemicals stored at the port and that they could destroy the capital.