Yemeni minister: Iran’s Quds Force commander acting as de facto ruler of Houthi-held areas

Yemeni minister: Iran’s Quds Force commander acting as de facto ruler of Houthi-held areas
Newly recruited Houthi fighters take part in a gathering in the capital Sanaa to mobilize more fighters to battlefronts to fight pro-government forces in several Yemeni cities, on January 3, 2017. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 May 2021

Yemeni minister: Iran’s Quds Force commander acting as de facto ruler of Houthi-held areas

Yemeni minister: Iran’s Quds Force commander acting as de facto ruler of Houthi-held areas
  • More leverage on Yemen militia needed to reach peace deal, experts say

AL-MUKALLA: Iran’s Quds Force commander, Hassan Erlo, is acting as de facto ruler of areas controlled by the Houthi militia, a senior Yemeni official has said.

Erlo’s movements are highlighted by the Houthis’ media outfit, which confirms that he is acting as a leader, Muammar Al-Eryani, Yemen’s minister of information, culture and tourism, said on Wednesday.

Eryani was quoted by state news agency SABA as saying that the Quds Force commander’s actions show that the Houthi leadership takes political, military and administrative orders from the Tehran regime.

Iran sends its orders through Erlo, the minister added.

He claimed that this highlights Iran’s attempts to impose its control on Yemen as part of an “expansion project in the entire region,” adding that the Houthi militia is “a dirty tool to implement this aim.”

Without tough punitive measures from the international community and military pressure on the ground, Iran-backed Houthis will not offer concessions and will continue rejecting initiatives to end the war, Yemen experts said.

UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths said on Wednesday that a peace deal was not in sight and his latest intensive efforts to find common ground between warring factions in Yemen have yielded no fruit.

Officials close to the talks told Arab News that diplomatic initiatives reached a deadlock when the Houthis refused to stop their deadly offensive on Yemen’s central city of Marib before the opening of Sanaa airport and Hodeidah ports and a complete cessation of Arab coalition airstrikes.

“They also are not interested in de-escalation inside Yemen,” Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst, told Arab News, adding that the Houthi movement’s main goal at the talks is to halt Arab coalition airstrikes that have thwarted their plan to take Marib.

“Houthis negotiate to get the Saudis out. They consider everything inside Yemen fair game and basically their own internal matter. They are still determined to take Marib and the rest of Yemen. I don’t know why international actors involved in the negotiations refuse to acknowledge that,” she said.

Global pressure on the Houthis to comply with peace efforts and stop military escalation have intensified in the past two months as the rebels mounted an offensive to seize control of oil-rich Marib, the government’s last stronghold in northern Yemen.

The militia have rejected calls to stop attacks on the city despite growing warnings that the offensive is putting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people at risk.

Yemen experts and officials say the Houthis do not believe in making peace with their opponents and believe they can militarily win the war.

“The Houthi preconditions are designed to disrupt peace efforts. The Yemeni file is still being used by Iran in its struggle with Saudi Arabia and the US,” Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s information ministry and a political analyst, told Arab News.

He said that the global community’s readings of the Yemen conflict are now more “mature” and acknowledged that the Houthis are not serious about reaching a deal to end the fighting.

The international community might impose sanctions on the militia or even support their opponents militarily if the rebels refused to stop fighting, Ghallab said.

Other experts believe that the lack of global pressure has encouraged the rebels’ reluctance to accept peace ideas offered by the UN Yemen envoy or the US Yemen envoy Tim Lenderking.

“Another failed Yemen negotiation due to Houthi rejection of a political solution. Diplomacy without the option of coercion rarely succeeds,” said Norman Roule, a former CIA official, said in a Twitter post, commenting on the UN Yemen envoy’s statement.

Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert, argues that talks failed to lead to a deal since neither the UN nor the US has any influence on the Houthis.

“Sad but predictable, neither the UN nor the US is pressing the right buttons. Without leverage on the Houthis, neither the Marib offensive nor the war are going to end anytime soon. As ever Yemeni civilians will pay the price,” he said on Twitter.

Experts say that coordinated diplomatic and military pressure is needed to force the militia to stop the conflict.

Al-Dawsari believes a military option would end the Houthi objection to peace initiatives.

“A military push is needed to weaken the Houthis enough so that they feel negotiations toward a peaceful solution is their best alternative. So long as the Houthis are strong militarily, Yemen will continue to be in turmoil,” she said.

Ghallab called for a new UN Security Council resolution imposing a nationwide truce and threatening sanctions on the party that violates the cease-fire.

“There must be a pressure force from the international community that coerces the Houthis into accepting negotiations and ending the war,” he said.


Sudan arrests 3 coup critics as pressure mounts on military

Sudan arrests 3 coup critics as pressure mounts on military
Updated 5 sec ago

Sudan arrests 3 coup critics as pressure mounts on military

Sudan arrests 3 coup critics as pressure mounts on military
  • The overnight arrests came as protests denouncing Monday’s takeover continued in the capital of Khartoum and elsewhere

CAIRO: Sudanese security forces detained three prominent pro-democracy figures, according to their relatives and other activists on Wednesday, as internal and international pressure mounted on the country’s military to walk back its coup.
The overnight arrests came as protests denouncing Monday’s takeover continued in the capital of Khartoum and elsewhere, and many businesses shut in response to calls for strikes. Security forces kept up their heavy-handed response, chasing demonstrators in several neighborhoods late Tuesday, according to activists who said some were shot and wounded. At least six people have been killed in protests so far, according to doctors.
The coup threatens to halt Sudan’s fitful transition to democracy, which began after the 2019 ouster of long-time ruler Omar Al-Bashir and his Islamist government in a popular uprising. It came after weeks of mounting tensions between military and civilian leaders over the course and pace of that process.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the military’s takeover was a “catastrophic development,” warning that it would have “severe consequences” for Sudan’s recent efforts to reintegrate into the international community after nearly three decades of isolation under Al-Bashir.
“It is putting the country in a perilous situation and is calling the Sudan’s democratic and peaceful future ... into question,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
Following widespread international condemnation, the military allowed deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his wife to return home on Tuesday night. Hamdok, a former UN economist, was detained along with other government officials when the military seized power.
Several Western embassies in Khartoum said Wednesday they will continue to recognize Hamdok and his Cabinet as “the constitutional leaders of the transitional government” of Sudan.
In a joint statement, the embassies of the European Union, the US, the UK, France and several other European countries called for the release of other detained officials and for talks between the military and the pro-democracy movement.
The new strongman, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, has pledged to hold elections, as planned, in July 2023, and to appoint a technocrat government in the meantime.
But critics doubt the military is serious about eventually ceding control, noting that the coup came just weeks before Burhan was supposed to hand over the leadership of the top ruling body, the Sovereign Council, to a civilian. The council is made up of both civilian and military leaders but led by a general. Separately, Hamdok’s transitional government ran day-to-day affairs.
The activists taken overnight were Ismail Al-Taj, a leader of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, the group at the forefront of the protests that brought down Al-Bashir; Sediq Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, a leader in Sudan’s largest political party, known as Umma and brother of Foreign Minister Mariam Al-Mahdi; and Khalid Al-Silaik, a former media adviser to the prime minister.
The three have been outspoken critics of the military takeover — and have called for protests against the move. Already, tens of thousands of Sudanese have taken to the streets, and activists are planning a mass demonstration on Saturday.
Security forces confronting protesters have killed at least six people since Monday and wounded over 140 others, many in critical condition, according to physicians with the Sudan Doctors’ Committee.
Al-Silaik was detained moments after he gave an interview to broadcaster Al-Jazeera, according to his wife, Marwa Kamel. In the interview, he criticized the military’s takeover, calling Hamdok and his government the legitimate administration of Sudan.
“What Gen. Burhan did is a complete coup. ... People will respond to this in the coming days,” Al-Silaik said.
Activists Nazim Siraj and Nazik Awad and the Umma party confirmed the arrests of the other two figures.
On Monday, Burhan, the head of the military, dissolved the Sovereign Council and the transitional government, and declared a state of emergency. He alleged that the military was forced to step in to prevent the country from sliding into civil war — but he had repeatedly warned he wanted to delay the transition to civilian leadership of the council.


Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence

Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence
Updated 27 October 2021

Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence

Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence

BEIRUT: Supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces party on Wednesday blocked roads to leader Samir Geagea’s residence as he failed to turn up for a hearing at army intelligence over fatal clashes in Beirut.
Geagea was summoned to the hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday, amid claims by the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement that Lebanese Forces (LF) supporters shot dead seven of their followers in clashes on Oct. 14.
Geagea has denied the claims and said he is being unfairly targetted for his support of a probe by Judge Tarek Bitar into the August 2020 Beirut port explosion that Hezbollah opposes.
“We won’t let anyone, not Hezbollah nor Iran nor Syria or anyone try to subjugate us,” LF protester Fadi told Reuters.
“We are here today in 2021 sacrificing for Samir Geagea just like he sacrified for us in 1994 so Lebanon could remain and we could remain,” Fadi, who did not give his last name, said.
Geagea, a former warlord, was imprisoned after Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war and released in 2005 following the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after three decades of occupation.


UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking
Updated 27 October 2021

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking
  • The Al-Nasr Martyrs detention center is located in the western town of Zawiya
  • A spokesman for the Libyan government did not answer calls seeking comment

CAIRO: The United Nations Security Council and the United States have imposed sanctions on a Libyan official over the alleged abuse and torture of migrants in a detention center.
The Security Council and the US said in separate statements late Tuesday that Osama Al-Kuni is the de facto head of a detention center in the North African nation’s west. Migrants there are said to have been subjected to torture, sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking.
Libya emerged as a major conduit for African migrants hoping to reach Europe after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed the country’s longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country subsequently slid into chaos, with rival governments and parliaments based in its western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.
The Al-Nasr Martyrs detention center is located in the western town of Zawiya, home of two of the country’s most wanted human traffickers, Abdel-Rahman Milad, and militia leader Mohammed Kachlaf.
Both Milad and Kachlaf were sanctioned by the Security Council in 2018 over allegations of human trafficking and abuse of migrants.
A spokesman for the Libyan government did not answer calls seeking comment.
In its statement Tuesday, the UN sanctions committee said Al-Kuni “has acted for or on behalf of or at the direction” of Milad and Kachlaf.
The Department of the Treasury blamed Al-Kuni on “systematic exploitation of African migrants at the detention center where these migrants are subject to various human rights abuses.”
It said he or others under his direction “have been involved in or facilitated the killing, exploitation, abuse, and extortion of migrants at the detention center, including through sexual violence, beatings, starvation, and other mistreatment.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Libyan government to hold Al-Kuni and others implicated in human rights abuses accountable.
Libya holds migrants in overcrowded detention centers, like Al-Nasr, where torture, sexual assault and other abuses are rife. Detention center guards beat and tortured migrants, then extorted money from their relatives, supposedly in exchange for their freedom, The Associated Press reported earlier this month.
UN-commissioned investigators said earlier this month that abuse and ill treatment of migrants in Libya amount to crimes against humanity.


Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation
Updated 27 October 2021

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation
  • The airport was closed from Monday following the ousting of Sudan's government by the military

KHARTOUM: Khartoum International Airport will reopen on Wednesday at 1400 GMT, the head of Sudanese civil aviation told Reuters.
The airport was closed from Monday following the ousting of Sudan's government by the military.


Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media
Updated 27 October 2021

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media
  • Details of the attack and its source are under investigation

DUBAI: Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday that gasoline distribution is returning to normal a day after a cyberattack which affected 4,300 gas stations across the country.
The details of the attack and its source are under investigation, Abul-Hassan Firouzabadi, the Secretary of the Supreme Council to Regulate Virtual Space, told the news agency.