Biden administration slams Houthis, Iran for prolonging Yemen crisis

Biden administration slams Houthis, Iran for prolonging Yemen crisis
Supporters of Yemen's Houthi militia and a protest in Sanaa. (AFP)
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Updated 10 August 2021

Biden administration slams Houthis, Iran for prolonging Yemen crisis

Biden administration slams Houthis, Iran for prolonging Yemen crisis
  • Militia ‘fueling the conflict and Tehran unprepared for constructive role,’ US envoy warns
  • New appointees Tim Lenderking and Sarah Charles lead call for renewed aid funding

CHICAGO: US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking on Monday accused the Houthi militia of preventing a cease-fire in Yemen by manipulating the price of fuel and through their military offensive in the country’s gas-rich Marib region.

Lenderking, joined by Sarah Charles, USAID assistant administrator for the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, told reporters that the US was increasing its humanitarian aid to the war-torn country by $165 million dollars, calling the situation in Yemen “dire, and one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.”

The two Biden-appointed officials welcomed the decision by the UN Security Council to name Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg as new UN envoy to Yemen. But they acknowledged that despite continued humanitarian efforts, Iran’s subversive relationship in backing the Houthis was prolonging the six-year conflict.

“There is of course a relationship between Iran and the Houthis that is not helpful to the Yemen conflict. In terms of Iran … I haven’t seen anything on the ground that leads me to believe the Iranians are prepared for a constructive role,” Lenderking said.

“We of course would welcome that. We would love to see that. Those of us who work on Yemen and see the intense suffering. We do not want to see the Yemen process held up by the Iranians or by the negotiations that have been taking place on the JCPOA. The Yemeni situation is urgent.”

Lenderking added: “We call on Iran to play a constructive role. Stop fueling the war effort through the provision of equipment, know-how and training that is only perpetuating the conflict. At the same time, if the Houthis understand the world current, they would do well to lessen their relationship on Iran and turn to others who are willing to support their presence inside Yemen and ensure their voices are heard in the political process.”

Lenderking and Charles praised Saudi Arabia and urged the Kingdom to lift fuel restrictions that are intended to prevent the Houthis from manipulating prices and funding their violence against Yemen and the Saudi coalition.

“It is very important for the Saudis to be fully engaged and constructive and it is one reason why I am in Saudi Arabia very often talking to the leadership. They are major actors, major donors through King Salman’s humanitarian center. We appreciate the donations and the funding the Saudis have provided, at the same time we are going to see more as I have stressed,” Lenderking said.

“What I do sense from the Saudis is a genuine desire to end the conflict. That doesn’t mean there is complete alignment on everything and we need to continue to narrow those gaps where we can. There has been a lot of constructive engagement from Saudi Arabia. I see that their efforts are continuing.”

Lenderking said that he is in discussions with the Kingdom to lift fuel restrictions in Yemen’s ports.

“That is something the Saudis can help us with. That the Yemeni government can help us with. It’s very important that that happens so that we do not face problems with the fuel restrictions,” Lenderking said.

“The fuel is vital to everything that Sarah and I are talking about. It goes to power mills that produce food. It goes to hospitals. It goes to the transportation network that Yemenis rely on. The humanitarian workers who are bravely out there in Marib need the fuel to power their activities. There should be no restrictions whatsoever on movement of fuel into the ports. That is something that I have had as an envoy in conversation with Saudi Arabia.”

Both officials criticized the Houthis, and slammed the militia for “fueling the conflict.”

Lenderking said: “At the same time, the fuel, once it arrives into Yemen, must be distributed in a way so that no party, including the Houthis, takes advantage of it or stockpiles it, and as Sarah and I have mentioned, it drives up black market prices and that is a way that people profit from the war in a way that is unconscionable.”

Charles said that the Houthis were killing civilians in the Marib offensive, which has threatened to displace hundreds of thousands more civilians and aggravate the humanitarian crisis even further, but that funding from donors is preventing the crisis from turning into a full-scale famine.

“The situation in Yemen is dire, one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world,” Charles said. “Two-thirds of the country needs humanitarian assistance, that’s more than 20 million Yemenis who struggle every day to survive without basic necessities, including more than 2 million young children facing deadly non-nutrition this year alone.”

The US is the largest single donor of humanitarian aid to Yemen, contributing more than $3.6 billion since the country’s conflict began in 2015.

Lenderking said that the humanitarian fund “is dangerously low” and urged regional donors to contribute more. He said the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is closely linked to economic problems in Yemen and that together they are fueling the conflict.

“Yemen continues to face the threat of mass famine and humanitarian assistance is critical to preventing this. We also believe that taking immediate steps to mitigate the humanitarian effects and save lives can contribute to progress on the peace process,” Lenderking said.

“The US remains the largest single donor to humanitarian assistance for the Yemeni people, providing more than $3.6 billion since the crisis began to alleviate suffering. Obviously, the US can’t do this alone, so other donors, particularly regional donors, must step up their contributions.

“The UN humanitarian appeal remains dangerously underfunded. We look forward to addressing this at the UN General Assembly in September and hope to see additional funding commitments that cannot wait.”


Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6

Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6
Updated 23 September 2021

Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6

Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6
  • Eitan Biran’s relatives on both sides attended the session in Tel Aviv
  • Eitan’s immediate family was among 14 people killed when the cable car carrying them crashed into a mountainside in May

JERUSALEM: The bitter custody battle over a 6-year-old boy who survived a cable car crash in Italy inched forward in Israel on Monday with a hearing in family court.
Eitan Biran’s relatives on both sides attended the session in Tel Aviv, in a legal fight that spans both countries where his remaining relatives reside. Eitan’s immediate family was among 14 people killed when the cable car carrying them crashed into a mountainside in May. The child’s survival sparked an immediate international dispute between his maternal and paternal families.
Members of both families met in family court in Tel Aviv on Monday, a next step in the dispute. Those present included Eitan’s aunt Aya Biran, who lives in Italy and has filed a formal request with the Italian court system seeking Eitan’s return to Italy. Also attending Monday’s hearing was the child’s grandfather, Shmulik Peleg, who spirited the boy away to Israel.
Eitan’s relatives in Italy say he was taken without their knowledge and are seeking his return. The child’s relatives in Israel have denied to local media that they abducted Eitan and insist they are acting in his interest.
Peleg has acknowledged driving the child from Italy into Switzerland before flying him back to Israel, telling Channel 12 that “we departed in a totally legal way.”
Peleg was questioned by Israeli police on kidnapping suspicions and placed under house arrest pending an ongoing investigation.
Italian authorities also have opened an investigation. Peleg told Israel’s Channel 12 that he had given up on contesting custody in the Italian court system and said he expected the boy to understand once he got older.
“I believe that one day Eitan will grow up and say grandfather, you did everything for me, you saved me,” he said, breaking into tears. “And my daughter, who one day will meet me in heaven, will be proud of me that I saved her son.”


Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official

Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official
Updated 23 September 2021

Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official

Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official
  • The US State Department early this year lifted a terrorist designation against the Houthis

DUBAI: The Houthi militia must be re-designated as a terrorist organization to curb its violence-driven ambitions in Yemen and force it to talk peace in the war-torn country, a senior Yemeni official said.

The brief designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization during former US President Donald Trump’s tenure was a positive step, Muammar Al-Eryani, the minister of information, was quoted by state news agency SABA as saying.

And he added that during the designation period, the Houthi’s efforts declined and its various military operations stopped.

In a virtual meeting with Peter Derrek Hof, the Dutch ambassador to Yemen, Al-Eryani called on the international community and the European Union to take serious steps to re-designate the Iran-backed group as a terrorist organization.

The US State Department earlier this year lifted the terrorist designation against the Houthis that the Trump administration issued during its final days on the grounds that it would cause more suffering to millions of Yemenis than the militia force.

Al-Eryani emphasized that the Yemeni government made concessions to various peace efforts to ‘reach peace and in order to end the war imposed by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.’

Meanwhile, foreign affairs minister Ahmad Awadh bin Mubarak and his Irish counterpart Simon Coveney met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s meetings to discuss latest developments in Yemen.

The two discussed the Houthi militia’s military escalation in Marib and targeting populated areas, Iran’s role in destabilizing Yemen and the region, as well as how the UN Security Council could help achieve lasting peace in the country.


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.”