Former US envoy Gerald Feierstein says original Saudi strategy in Yemen was right to end Houthi assaults

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Updated 13 August 2021

Former US envoy Gerald Feierstein says original Saudi strategy in Yemen was right to end Houthi assaults

Former US envoy Gerald Feierstein says original Saudi strategy in Yemen was right to end Houthi assaults

Houthi violence and backing from Iran has shown US President Joe Biden that the original Saudi strategy to force the Houthis to end their military assaults is the only way to end the crisis in Yemen, the former ambassador to the Gulf country said on Wednesday.

 

Biden had called for the Saudis to restrain their military response to Houthi violence, during his 2020 election campaign and after taking office in January 2021, believing it would open the door to the Houthis entering negotiations.

However, during an appearance on the Ray Hanania Radio Show, former US Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein said that subduing Saudi efforts to confront the Houthis allowed the Iran-backed militia movement to expand their military campaign and target Marib and the important port at Al-Hudaydah.

Feierstein said that ending the conflict required the US-Saudi coalition to block the Houthi advance on Marib and Al-Hudaydah and show them that the Houthis had “no military option.”

 

 

“Certainly the Houthi response to the US initiative made it clear that the Houthis weren’t willing to stop. And then Saudi Arabia, of course, put on the table, along with the UN, cease-fire initiatives. They offered a cease-fire, a comprehensive cease-fire to the Houthis that was rejected,” Feierstein said, noting that the original Saudi strategy was correct and more effective.

“The UN tried to negotiate for many months what they called the Joint Declaration, which included a number of points that the Houthis had demanded including reopening the Sanaa airport; lifting the blockade on the port of Hudaydah and taking some other steps that the Houthis had indicated that they required. But still the Houthis refused to agree to stop the military operations and to return to the table. I think as we saw these cumulative failures on the part of the Houthis to accept a political approach, it became clear to the (Biden) administration that they needed to take a harder line.”

“Of course, the broader concern was if the Houthis were successful in taking control of the Marib governorate, which as you know is the source of much of Yemen’s oil and gas supplies. It is also home to well over a million internally displaced people, people who had largely fled from Houthi-controlled areas to an area that was still under the control of the government,” Feierstein said.

“So, if the Houthis were successful in getting control of Hudaydah that would fundamentally shift the balance inside of Yemen and make achieving any kind of political agreement that much more difficult.”

Despite social media and a pro-Iran campaign to blame Saudi Arabia for the continued violence, Feierstein said that the Houthis sought to control Al-Hudayah in spite of Biden’s efforts to restrain Saudi responses to Houthi aggression.

 

 

Feierstein contends that “the number one priority at this point is ensuring that the Houthis don’t succeed in Marib. That until again, as we discussed, this idea what we need to do is to strengthen those elements within the Houthi movement who want to negotiate, who want to cooperate with the UN and reach a negotiated solution. We need to strengthen them and weaken the elements who think they can still win a military victory. The first requirement is to prevent the Houthis from achieving their objectives in Marib and convincing again the Houthi leadership that there is no military solution.”

During the initial period, as Biden sought to negotiate a peace accord through the UN, the Houthis stepped up both their drone and missile attacks targeting Saudi civilians, and their media propaganda to place the blame for the conflict on the Saudis.

 


“There was a view here in Washington and I think more broadly in the West that the issue was really the Saudi military intervention and the coalition operations in Yemen, and if you took that out of the equation that the parties to the dispute, primarily the Houthis and the legitimate government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, would be able to come to the table and reach some kind of an agreement under UN negotiations, under UN auspices in order to move forward,” Feierstein said.

 

 

 

“President Biden was very clear in saying that the US strategy would shift away from the Trump approach, which supported the Saudi intervention, and emphasize the support for the UN negotiations and also press the Saudis to stop their military operations inside of Yemen. He also appointed Tim Lenderking, a career US diplomat, to be our special envoy and to support the UN.”

But Feierstein said that Biden’s approach quickly changed as the Houthis, backed by Iran, began launching more and more drone and missiles against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia.

“Over the last five or six months, rather than returning to the negotiating table and cooperating with the UN, the Houthis in fact have expanded their military operations. They launched new aggressions inside Yemen, particularly in the Marib governate, and also have increased the amount of cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia using drones, scud missiles and other kinds of weapons to try to threaten Saudi civilian infrastructure,” Feierstein said.

“So, what we have seen over the past six weeks or so, six or eight weeks, the (Biden) administration has been willing to take a harder line with the Houthis and to single them out for responsibility for the failure to negotiate and also of course for increasing military conflict inside of Yemen.”

Feierstein said that the Iranians may be using the Yemeni conflict to leverage their negotiating efforts with the US over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement, which former President Trump abandoned and President Biden sought to revive.

Discussions with Iran in Vienna have been at an impasse and State Department spokesman Ned Price accused Iran on July 17 of an “outrageous effort to deflect blame for the current impasse.”

Feierstein added that although Iran’s objectives in Yemen were not clear, the mullahs had great sway over the Houthi role in the conflict.

“The fact of the matter is they (Houthis) are heavily dependent on Iran for their weapons and for a lot of other kinds of support and therefore they can’t afford to ignore Iranian views and Iranian positions,” Feierstein said.

“There is certainly a view, a legitimate view, I think, that the Iranians are linking what happens in Yemen to the state of the negotiations in Vienna with the US about the nuclear deal and that the Iranians see Yemen as a pressure point on the United States to be more forward-leaning and lifting sanctions and doing other things related to the nuclear problem.”

Feierstein served as the US Ambassador to Yemen under President Barack Obama from September 2010 to October 2013 and was principal deputy assistant Middle East Institute senior vice president until 2016.


The Ray Hanania Radio Show is broadcast live on the US Arab Radio Network on WNZK AM 690 radio in Detroit and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. Sponsored by Arab News, the radio show is streamed live in video at Facebook.com/ArabNews.


Turkey, Qatar reached preliminary deal on Kabul airport security -Turkish sources

Turkey, Qatar reached preliminary deal on Kabul airport security -Turkish sources
Updated 1 min 21 sec ago

Turkey, Qatar reached preliminary deal on Kabul airport security -Turkish sources

Turkey, Qatar reached preliminary deal on Kabul airport security -Turkish sources
  • Kabul's international airport is landlocked Afghanistan's main air link to the world
  • Sources told reporters on Thursday that Ankara and Doha had agreed on a security framework for the airport mission

ANKARA: Turkey and Qatar have reached agreement on ensuring security at Kabul’s main airport should they be awarded the mission amid ongoing talks with the Taliban government, Turkish diplomatic sources said on Thursday.
Kabul’s international airport is landlocked Afghanistan’s main air link to the world. Following the August takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban, Turkey has said it would be open to operating it with Qatar but only if its security demands are met.
Reuters has reported that the United Arab Emirates also held talks with the Taliban to keep the airport operational.
The sources told reporters on Thursday that Ankara and Doha had agreed on a security framework for the airport mission, but added talks continued on other aspects such as financing.
“It is expected for the Taliban to ensure security outside, and for whoever runs the airport to ensure it inside,” one of the sources said. “The process is continuing constructively,” the person said on condition of anonymity.
They added that a delegation of Turkish and Qatari officials were holding talks on the issue in Kabul this week.
Qatar’s state news agency said the Taliban government will be in Doha next week to complete discussions with Qatar and Turkey over the operation and management of the airport.
It added that delegations from Qatar and Turkey have held two days of “intense negotiations” in Kabul this week over control of the airport.
Qatar — which helped run the airport along with Turkey after playing a major role in evacuation efforts following the chaotic US withdrawal in August — say that Ankara, Doha, and the Taliban have agreed that discussions are going to be completed next week.
Qatar’s role at the Kabul airport has ensured that flights have operated between Doha and Kabul since September, allowing Qatar to become a hub for countries to maintain links to Afghanistan and to meet the Taliban government. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada and several other countries have moved their Afghanistan embassies to Qatar.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was sending 700 tons of emergency aid and supplies to Afghanistan, without providing a date.


Biden stance on restoring Houthis to terror list welcomed

Biden stance on restoring Houthis to terror list welcomed
Updated 42 min 21 sec ago

Biden stance on restoring Houthis to terror list welcomed

Biden stance on restoring Houthis to terror list welcomed
  • Emirati Embassy: “Case is clear — launching ballistic and cruise missiles against civilian targets, sustaining aggression, diverting aid to Yemeni people”
  • The coalition has announced launching a large-scale military operation in Yemen to neutralize the military capabilities of the Houthis

AL-MUKALLA: US President Joe Biden has said his administration is considering re-designating Yemen’s Houthi militia as an international terrorist organization following the group’s drone and missile attacks on the UAE.

His comment at a news conference came shortly after the Emirati Embassy said on Twitter that UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba urged the Biden administration to restore the designation in response to Monday’s strikes on Abu Dhabi airport and a fuel depot.

Asked if he supported returning the Iran-backed Houthis to the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, from which they were removed nearly a year ago, Biden replied, “The answer is, it’s under consideration.”

But he conceded that “it’s going to be very difficult” to end the conflict.

Biden’s comment reflected the lack of progress toward ending the war since he launched an initiative shortly after taking office a year ago to bolster UN efforts to restart peace talks.

The UAE welcomed Biden’s comment, with the Emirati Embassy writing on Twitter: “Case is clear — launching ballistic and cruise missiles against civilian targets, sustaining aggression, diverting aid to Yemeni people.”

Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al-Jaber said on Twitter on Thursday that the UN and the global community must not show leniency and must instead hold the Houthi movement accountable because “it encourages other terrorist organizations to act similarly.”

Yemeni government officials and analysts on Thursday also welcomed Biden’s stance.

Najeeb Ghallab, an undersecretary at the Information Ministry, told Arab News that the US administration has realized that the delisting of the Houthi movement as a terrorist group has neither led to activating diplomatic efforts to end the war nor contributed to alleviating the humanitarian crisis.

“The Houthis have foiled practically all diplomatic efforts and aggravated the humanitarian crisis. It appeared to the Americans that the Houthis are exploiting the humanitarian crisis to prolong the war,” Ghallab said, adding that the Houthi missile, drone and ground attacks inside and outside Yemen have increased by 400 percent since early last year when Biden’s administration removed the Houthis from the terror list.

In 2021, the Houthis renewed a military offensive to seize control of the oil-rich city of Marib that has claimed the lives of thousands of people and displaced thousands of families.

“The designation would strike the Iran-allied wing within the movement and would push them into reviewing their decisions. If the Americans seek to rescue Yemen and protect regional and international security, they should designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization,” Ghallab said.

The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen vowed on Thursday to hunt down the Houthi leaders responsible for masterminding deadly strikes in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The coalition announced launching a large-scale military operation in Yemen to neutralize the military capabilities of the Houthis, pledging to track down Houthi leaders who staged missile and drone strikes inside and outside Yemen.

“We are tracking terrorist leaders responsible for targeting civilians,” the coalition said, adding that it launched 21 airstrikes in the province of Marib that killed 60 Houthis during the past 24 hours.

The coalition has stepped up airstrikes against Houthi military targets across Yemen, hitting military facilities in Sanaa and Dhamar and destroying weapons depots in the western city of Hodeidah during the past 24 hours.

Residents in Houthi-held Sanaa on Wednesday night reported hearing thunderous explosions as the coalition’s warplanes targeted military camps and other military facilities inside and on the capital’s northern outskirts.

The coalition’s warplanes also struck Houthi military reinforcements and gatherings in Marib, enabling government troops to push back the militia’s attacks.

Fighting intensified on key battlefields in Marib as the Houthis renewed attacks on government troops.

Local officials and media reports said that the Houthis attacked government troops in areas south of Marib in a bid to seize back strategic mountains from loyalists and break a siege on their forces on the Al-Balaq Al-Sharqi mountain range.

With the help of coalition warplanes, government troops repelled the Houthi attacks after killing and wounding dozens of them.

The Giants Brigades also foiled Houthi counterattacks on the outskirts of Hareb town, south of Marib.

In the northern province of Saada, the Houthi movement’s heartland, Yemen’s Defense Ministry on Thursday announced expelling the Houthis from a number of locations in Al-Safra district, west of Saada, shortly after launching an attack to liberate new areas in the province.

Local media reports said on Thursday that the death toll from the Houthi missile attack on a fuel station in an area between Marib and Shabwa rose to four after the death of two critically wounded civilians.

On Wednesday, a missile fired by the Houthis landed at a fuel station, east of Hareb, triggering an explosion that killed two people and critically wounded several others. Another missile launched by the Houthis ripped through a school on Wednesday in the southern city of Taiz, killing a student and wounding five more.


World powers in Berlin insist Iran deal still possible

World powers in Berlin insist Iran deal still possible
Updated 8 sec ago

World powers in Berlin insist Iran deal still possible

World powers in Berlin insist Iran deal still possible
  • German FM Annalena Baerbock said “urgent progress” was needed in talks aimed at rescuing the deal
  • Le Drian complained that progress in the meetings was “partial, timid and slow”

BERLIN: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and European allies insisted it was still possible to revive the Iran nuclear deal but said “time is running out,” after talks in Berlin Thursday.
Blinken told reporters that negotiators working in Vienna to salvage the 2015 accord with Tehran had seen “modest progress in the last couple weeks” but were taking nothing for granted.
“My own assessment, talking to all of our colleagues, is that returning to mutual compliance, it remains possible,” Blinken said.
Speaking at a joint news conference, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said “urgent progress” was needed in talks aimed at rescuing the deal.
“The window for finding a solution is closing,” she said.
“The negotiations are in a decisive phase. We need urgent, urgent progress, otherwise we will not be successful in reaching a joint accord.”
Her French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, also in Berlin for talks focused primarily on the Ukraine crisis, warned that “the negotiations cannot go on so slowly” with Tehran.
He complained that the progress in the meetings was “partial, timid and slow,” adding it was crucial to now “pick up the pace” or risk failure.
Blinken agreed it was a “decisive moment” in the negotiations, adding “time is running out” to reach a deal.
Their comments came a day after US President Joe Biden said it was “not time to give up” on the talks with Iran, insisting “there is some progress being made.”
Negotiations to restore the landmark accord between Tehran and world powers — the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany — began last year but stopped in June as Iran elected ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi.
The talks on the accord known as the JCPOA resumed in November.
Blinken last week said there were only “a few weeks left” to save the deal and that the US was ready to look at “other options” if the talks collapse.
The deal offered Iran much-needed relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy, in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Former US president Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal in 2018 prompted Tehran to go back on its commitments.
Tehran is seeking verification of the sanctions easing, as well as guarantees that Washington will not withdraw from the deal again.
Baerbock said progress was being hobbled by the fact that “Iran, parallel to the talks, unfortunately continues to turn the spiral of nuclear escalation.”
Western powers have complained about slow progress in the talks at a time when Iran has accelerated its nuclear work, for example increasing uranium enrichment.
The West wants Iran to meet a number of requirements including destroying its advanced centrifuges.
The meeting in Berlin came a month after a new German center-left-led government took power to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel, who led Europe’s biggest economy for 16 years.


US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —

US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —
Updated 20 January 2022

US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —

US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —
  • US will consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for failure to move forward on transition
  • Sudan’s Sovereign Council has agreed on forming a national independent technocratic government

KHARTOUM: The United States will not resume economic assistance to Sudan that was paused after a coup unless there is an end to violence and a civilian-led government is restored, a statement posted by the US embassy in Khartoum on Thursday said.
The statement, issued during a visit to Sudan by two senior US envoys, said the United States would consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for a failure to move forward on a political transition and create a “peaceful environment” for it to proceed. It did not say what such measures could involve.
During their visit, Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee and Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield called for independent investigations into deaths and injuries among those protesting against the military since the Oct. 25 coup.
“They strongly condemned the use of disproportionate force against protesters, especially the use of live ammunition and sexual violence and the practice of arbitrary detention,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, Sudan's Sovereign Council has agreed with the US delegation on amending the constitutional document governing Sudan's transition to democracy to bring it into line with new developments in the country, it said in a statement on Thursday.
The Sovereign Council, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, also agreed on forming a national independent technocratic government and starting a comprehensive national dialogue to end the current political crisis. 
October’s military takeover interrupted a transition that began after the ouster of former leader Omar Al-Bashir in a 2019 uprising and was meant to lead to democratic elections.


UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases

UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases
Updated 20 January 2022

UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases

UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases
  • The UAE has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates at 233.98 doses administered per 100 people

DUBAI: The UAE on Thursday confirmed 3,014 new coronavirus infections, pushing active cases to 50,010 in the country.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention also said that 4 patients died as a result of COVID-19 complications.

An additional 1,067 individuals have recovered.

The country’s caseload stands at 816,945 known confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 2,204 deaths since the pandemic started.

The UAE has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, at 233.98 doses administered per 100 people, with 23,141,751 vaccines provided so far.

Despite this, health authorities continue the call for residents to adhere to basic health and prevention protocols, including social distancing and wearing masks.

The World Health Organization earlier said new infections globally have increased by 20 percent over the past week, with nearly 19 million total reported cases, mostly attributed to the omicron variant.