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.


Bahrain crown prince discusses Middle East security with UK PM Johnson

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad meets UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street. (BNA)
Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad meets UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street. (BNA)
Updated 18 June 2021

Bahrain crown prince discusses Middle East security with UK PM Johnson

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad meets UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street. (BNA)
  • The two leaders discussed the global effort against COVID-19 and deepening cooperation on green technology
  • Prince Salman also met with Prince Charles, conveying greetings from King Hamad to Queen Elizabeth II

LONDON: Bahrain and the UK vowed to boost economic and security cooperation as Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad held talks with the British prime minister on Thursday.
Prince Salman said relations with the UK continued to evolve toward more advanced and solid partnerships in various fields, based on their close history spanning decades, Bahrain News Agency reported.
“The bilateral partnership between the two countries are based on opening wider horizons for the development of solid relations at all levels, in a manner that reflects the aspirations of the two countries,” Prince Hamad said during his meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street.
He praised Britain’s strategic and vital role in maintaining security and stability in the region, and developing cooperation in areas such as military, economic and trade.
“They reflected on the close and historic partnership between the UK and Bahrain and agreed to further strengthen our economic, security and diplomatic cooperation,” Downing Street said in a statement, adding the two leaders discussed the global effort against COVID-19, support for international initiatives to combat the pandemic, including COVAX, and deepening cooperation on green technology and the transition to renewable energy.
“They also spoke about regional security issues and defense collaboration, and the prime minister commended the Bahraini government’s steps to normalize relations with Israel,” the statement added.
Prince Salman also met with Prince Charles, conveying greetings from King Hamad to Queen Elizabeth II.


Iran says nuclear talks closer to deal, Russia says time-consuming work remains

Iran says nuclear talks closer to deal, Russia says time-consuming work remains
Updated 17 June 2021

Iran says nuclear talks closer to deal, Russia says time-consuming work remains

Iran says nuclear talks closer to deal, Russia says time-consuming work remains

DUBAI: Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have come closer than ever to an agreement, but essential issues remain to be negotiated, the top Iranian negotiator said on Thursday.
The Islamic Republic and six world powers have been negotiating in Vienna since April to work out steps for both sides to take. The United States withdrew in 2018 from the pact, under which Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of many foreign sanctions against it.
“We achieved good, tangible progress on the different issues .... we are closer than ever to an agreement but there are still essential issues under negotiations,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as telling Al Jazeera television.
Araqchi said Iran’s presidential election on Friday would have no effect on the negotiations and the Iranian negotiating team will continue the talks regardless of domestic policy.
The sixth round of talks resumed on Saturday with the remaining parties to the deal — Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union — meeting in the basement of a luxury hotel.
The US delegation to the talks is based in a hotel across the street as Iran refuses face-to-face meetings.
Since former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran, Tehran has embarked on counter-measures, including rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, a potential pathway to nuclear bombs.
“We want to make sure that what happened when Trump pulled out of the deal will not be repeated by any other American president in the future,” Araqchi told the pan-Arab satellite TV network.
Russia’s envoy to the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, added a note of caution, saying progress had been made in the last few days but talks were tough.
“Some difficult and time-consuming topics still remain unresolved,” he said.
France’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday there were still significant disagreements.
Iran’s new president is expected to name his Cabinet by mid-August. Current President Hassan Rouhani’s term ends on Aug. 3, a government spokesman said.


Kuwait to allow vaccinated foreigners entry from August

Kuwait to allow vaccinated foreigners entry from August
Updated 17 June 2021

Kuwait to allow vaccinated foreigners entry from August

Kuwait to allow vaccinated foreigners entry from August
  • The Gulf country in February banned entry of non-citizens to limit the spread of the virus
  • Foreign travellers will need to have been fully inoculated with one of Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson

KUWAIT: Kuwait announced Thursday it would allow foreigners who have been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to enter the country from August 1, after a months-long suspension.
The Gulf country in February banned the entry of non-citizens in a bid to limit the spread of the virus, but has started to ease some of its Covid-19 restrictions in recent weeks.
Government spokesman Tareq Al-Mizrem said foreign travelers will need to have been fully inoculated with one of the four vaccines that the Gulf country has approved — Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Passengers must also hold a negative PCR test conducted a maximum of 72 hours before travel, and undergo another test during a seven-day quarantine in the country, Mizrem told a press conference.
Meanwhile, only Kuwaiti citizens who have been fully vaccinated will be allowed to travel abroad from August 1, he said, although some exceptions would be made, such as for pregnant women.
Previously, Kuwaitis were required to have had at least one jab in order to travel.
Mizrem also announced that Kuwait would allow access to large shopping malls, gyms and restaurants from June 27 only for those who have been fully inoculated.
“The government has decided to allow those who have received a (full) Covid-19 vaccine... to enter restaurants and cafes, gyms, salons, shopping malls more than 6,000 square meters,” said Mizrem.
Kuwait has officially recorded more than 332,000 coronavirus cases, over 1,800 of them fatal.


US blames Houthis for failed Yemen peace efforts

US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking holds talks with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak in Saudi capital, Riyadh. (Saba)
US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking holds talks with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak in Saudi capital, Riyadh. (Saba)
Updated 18 June 2021

US blames Houthis for failed Yemen peace efforts

US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking holds talks with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak in Saudi capital, Riyadh. (Saba)
  • Envoy Tim Lenderking condemns Houthis for civilian attacks, tells Yemen’s foreign minister that his government has Washington’s support
  • Saudi ambassador to Yemen held talks with UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths

RIYADH: The US envoy to Yemen has blamed the Houthi militia for failed efforts to bring peace to the country.
Tim Lenderking made the comments during a meeting on Thursday with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak in Saudi Arabia, Saba news agency reported.
Lenderking is holding talks in the Kingdom as part of a US push to bring a nationwide cease-fire.
But the Biden administration appears increasingly frustrated by the Iran-backed Houthis and their refusal to engage with peace efforts.
During his meeting with Bin Mubarak, Lenderking repeated Washington’s position that there is no military solution to the Yemen conflict.
He strongly condemned the continued Houthi attacks on civilians and said an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire was a basic necessity to alleviate human suffering.
He said the US continued to support the legitimate government and the unity, stability and security of Yemen.
Bin Mubarak said: “The Houthi militia’s refusal to agree a comprehensive cease-fire, reopen Sanaa airport, and guarantee the supply of oil derivatives revenues to pay employees’ salaries proves the false pretexts these militias claim and confirms their bargaining on the humanitarian side, in order to continue implementing Iran’s subversive agenda.”
He said the militia’s targeting of civilians and populated areas in Marib with ballistic missiles has not stopped, but rather increased in severity, which exacerbates the seriousness of the humanitarian situation, increases the number of civilian casualties and undermines international efforts to establish peace.”


Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death

Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death
Updated 17 June 2021

Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death

Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death
  • Yemeni minister Ahmed Arman: Houthis are using the judicial bodies in areas under their control to “settle scores” with their opponents and to confiscate their property
  • Yemeni rights groups voiced concerns about the Houthis’ escalating crackdown on dissidents at a time when mediators are pressing them to agree to a peace initiative

ALEXANDRIA: Yemeni government officials, human rights activists and journalists have condemned a Houthi-run court’s decision to sentence two Yemeni activists to death, accusing the rebels of using the judiciary in areas under their control to punish dissidents.

On Tuesday, a Houthi-run court ordered that Zafaran Zaid, a Yemeni human rights activist and lawyer, and her husband and fellow activist Fuad Al-Mansouri be executed by firing squad. The two were tried in absentia. 

Zaid, head of the Yemeni Women’s Empowerment Foundation (Tamkeen), has exposed a number of human rights abuses by the Houthis. Al-Mansouri is the head of the Development Media Association and an outspoken critic of the Houthis. His brother, the journalist Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, was abducted by the Houthis in 2015 and sentenced to death in 2020. 

The court found the couple guilty of smuggling Buthaina Mohammed Al-Raimia — the Yemeni child injured in an errant airstrike by the Arab coalition in 2017 — to Riyadh. 

The child was sent to Riyadh by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, where she received life-saving medical treatment. Once she was fully recovered, she was returned to her family in northern Yemen.

Ahmed Arman, Yemen’s minister of legal affairs and human rights, told Arab News on Thursday that the Houthis are using the judicial bodies in areas under their control to “settle scores” with their opponents and to confiscate their property. 

“The ministry renews its strong condemnation and denunciation of all immoral and inhumane practices used by the Houthis against citizens in areas under their control and calls on the international and regional community to provide support to the Yemeni government and help it restore its authority over all Yemeni territories,” Arman said.

He added that Houthi-controlled courts have issued similar death sentences against hundreds of Yemeni activists, military and security officials, politicians and journalists for challenging their rule and backing the Yemeni government and Arab coalition. 

“The Houthis continue to use so-called judicial authority in areas under their control to seek vengeance on Yemenis,” Arman said.

Yemeni activists and rights groups echoed Arman’s concerns about the Houthis’ escalating crackdown on dissidents at a time when regional and international mediators are pressuring the rebels to agree to a peace initiative brokered by the UN to end the war. 

“The Houthis have become violent and oppressive towards Yemeni women — employing all methods of intimidation against them. What is happening is a flagrant violation of human rights,” Noora Al-Jarwi, a Yemeni activist, said.

The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties demanded the Houthis put an end to their “farcical” death-sentence rulings. 

“SAM emphasizes that such rulings seriously violate a set of basic rights guaranteed by both Yemeni and international law,” the organization tweeted.