Yemen president renews support to UN-led effort to end war in Yemen 

Yemen president renews support to UN-led effort to end war in Yemen 
Then-Ambassador of the EU to Yemen and currently UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg presents his credentials to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Feb 4, 2020. (Twitter Photo)
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Updated 16 September 2021

Yemen president renews support to UN-led effort to end war in Yemen 

Yemen president renews support to UN-led effort to end war in Yemen 
  • Hadi meets with new UN special envoy as clashes continue to erupt around Marib city
  • The Houthis have been aggressively pushing since February to take control of the gas-rich city of Marib

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s president reiterated his government’s support to the current UN-led peace efforts to end the war and accused the Iran-backed Houthis and Tehran of intensifying the suffering of the Yemenis through their military escalation. 

During his first meeting with the UN’s new special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi urged the international community to put an end to the threats to maritime navigation in the Red Sea posed by the Houthis, who have planted naval mines.

The president also urged the militia to cease the shelling of vital civilian facilities such as Mocha port and their resistance to maintaining the floating oil tanker SAFER. 

“Peace is our choice and we will always be advocates of peace and harmony as it is a life choice for our people and for humanity as a whole,” Hadi told the UN envoy, according to the official news agency SABA.

Grundberg’s push to revive peace efforts comes as dozens of combatants, including a field government military leader, were killed in fierce clashes between Houthis and government troops in Yemen’s central province of Al- Bayda, residents and local military officials told Arab News on Thursday. 

The fighting broke out over the last 24 hours when the Houthis renewed their push in the central province, making gains on the ground in Al-Souma district, triggering heavy clashes that left dozens dead.

Col. Ahmed Al- Damani, a government military commander, and many others were killed in an area north of Mukayras as they were fighting off Houthi attacks in Al-Bayda. 

As the Houthis were fighting their way into Al-Bayda’s borders with the southern provinces, such as Abyan and Shabwa, the army on Thursday dispatched tanks, armed vehicles and soldiers to the battlefields to stop the Houthi advances. 

Flatbed trucks carrying tanks and military vehicles carrying soldiers were seen leaving military bases in Shabwa and Abyan and heading to flashpoint sites north of Lowder town in Abyan. Warplanes from the Arab coalition carried out several air raids, targeting Houthi military gatherings in Al-Bayda.

Residents in Lowder said on Thursday that a large explosion shook the town after a missile fired by the Houthis exploded inside a military base, causing damage to buildings. 

No one was reportedly hurt in the missile strike. 

The Houthi escalation in Al-Bayda comes after the militia suffered heavy casualties and a series of defeats during their deadly offensive on the central city of Marib.  

Yemen’s Defense Ministry on Thursday said that government troops engaged in heavy battles with the Houthis west of Marib. 

Yemen army commanders believe that hundreds of Houthis have been killed in deadly clashes in the province of Marib this month.

The Houthis, who militarily took power in Yemen in late 2014, have been aggressively pushing since February to take control of the gas-rich city of Marib, the government’s last stronghold in the north. 

Meanwhile, violent protests in southern Yemen on Thursday subsided as local authorities deployed forces and military vehicles around key institutes and opened blocked roads. 

At least three people were killed in Aden and Al- Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramout, on Tuesday and Wednesday when angry protests over long power cuts, economic meltdown and plunging currency swept over the southern cities. 

Protesters blocked roads, burned tires and garbage boxes and hurled stones at security forces seeking to unblock the roads. 

Sporadic clashes between security forces and gunmen erupted in the streets of Al-Mukalla as terrified residents stayed indoors to avoid stray bullets.  

To contain the unrest, Hadramout Gov. Faraj Salmeen Al-Bahsani on Thursday announced a nighttime curfew that runs from 8p.m. to 6 a.m., and closing schools for one week. 

The Yemen riyal on Monday hit a new record low, trading at 1100 against the dollar in the government-controlled areas. 

Electricity outages have also intensified in recent months, mainly in the southern coastal cities such as Al-Mukalla and Aden, where scorching heat and humidity reached unbearable levels. 

In Al-Mukalla, protesters closed local exchange shops and tried to storm the provincial office of the Ministry of Electricity.


Daesh roadside bomb in Iraq leaves 5 Peshmerga dead, 4 wounded

Daesh roadside bomb in Iraq leaves 5 Peshmerga dead, 4 wounded
Updated 28 November 2021

Daesh roadside bomb in Iraq leaves 5 Peshmerga dead, 4 wounded

Daesh roadside bomb in Iraq leaves 5 Peshmerga dead, 4 wounded
  • The Peshmerga fighters were killed in the Garmian district in Iraq’s Kurdish-run north late Saturday

BAGHDAD: A roadside bomb attack by Daesh group fighters in northern Iraq killed five Kurdish forces and wounded four others, Kurdish state news agency Rudaw reported Sunday.
The Peshmerga fighters were killed in the Garmian district in Iraq’s Kurdish-run north late Saturday. Daesh militants then attacked a peshmerga post, wounding four, according to the report.
Attacks targeting Iraqi security forces, including Kurdish peshmerga fighters, are common and have been on the rise since Daesh was defeated on the battlefield in 2017. Militants remain active through sleeper cells in many areas, especially across a band of territory in the north under dispute between federal Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.
Militants from Daesh still conduct operations, often targeting security forces, power stations and other infrastructure.
Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani offered condolences to the families of the dead Sunday.
“The increase in the (Daesh) attacks sends a dangerous and serious message and brings forth a serious threat in the region. Therefore, further cooperation between the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi security forces with support from the global coalition is an urgent need,” he said in a statement.
The US-led coalition to defeat Daesh announced the end of its combat mission and said troops will withdraw from Iraq by the end of December. Advisers will remain to continue to train Iraqi forces.


Israel worries Iran will get sanctions relief without capping nuclear projects

Israel worries Iran will get sanctions relief without capping nuclear projects
Updated 28 November 2021

Israel worries Iran will get sanctions relief without capping nuclear projects

Israel worries Iran will get sanctions relief without capping nuclear projects
  • Negotiators will convene in Vienna on Monday in a last-ditch effort to salvage a nuclear deal which the United States under then-President Donald Trump quit in 2018

JERUSALEM: Israel worries Iran will secure a windfall in sanctions relief in renewed nuclear negotiations with world powers but will not sufficiently roll back projects with bomb-making potential, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday.
Negotiators will convene in Vienna on Monday in a last-ditch effort to salvage a nuclear deal which the United States under then-President Donald Trump quit in 2018, reimposing sanctions on Iran. That led to breaches of the deal by Tehran, and dismayed the other powers involved.
Israel, which is not a party to the talks, opposed the original 2015 pact as too limited in scope and duration. Israeli leaders have long threatened military action against Iran if they deem diplomacy a dead end for denying it nuclear weaponry.
The Islamic Republic says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.
“Israel is very worried about the readiness to remove the sanctions and to allow a flow of billions (of dollars) to Iran in exchange for unsatisfactory restrictions in the nuclear realm,” Bennett told his cabinet in televised remarks.
“This is the message that we are relaying in every manner, whether to the Americans or to the other countries negotiating with Iran.”
Few expect a breakthrough in the talks as Iran’s uranium enrichment activities have escalated in an apparent bid to gain leverage against the West.
Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June. The new round begins after a hiatus caused by the election of a new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line cleric.


Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack
Updated 28 November 2021

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

KHARTOUM: Six Sudanese soldiers were killed on Saturday in an attack by Ethiopian forces on a Sudanese army post near the border between the countries, Sudanese military sources told Reuters.
Sudan’s army said in an earlier statement on Facebook that “groups of the Ethiopian army and militias attacked its forces in Al-Fashaga Al-sughra, which resulted in deaths ... our forces valiantly repelled the attack and inflicted heavy losses in lives and equipment on the attackers.”
The army statement did not provide any details about the death toll.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to a Reuters message seeking comment on the incident.


UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day

UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day
Updated 28 November 2021

UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day

UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day
  • This comes ahead of the country’s 50th National Day on Dec. 2

DUBAI: The President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan ordered the release of 870 prisoners on Sunday ahead of the country’s 50th National Day on Dec. 2, according to state news agency WAM.
The prisoners, sentenced for various crimes, will also have their debts and fines paid off, the statement added.


US options when Iran nuclear deal talks resume

IAEA representative carries out in inspection at nuclear power plant of Natanz, Iran. (AFP file photo)
IAEA representative carries out in inspection at nuclear power plant of Natanz, Iran. (AFP file photo)
Updated 28 November 2021

US options when Iran nuclear deal talks resume

IAEA representative carries out in inspection at nuclear power plant of Natanz, Iran. (AFP file photo)
  • The goal is to buy some time, as Tehran is much closer to possessing a nuclear bomb than before

WASHINGTON: The United States under President Joe Biden is to resume on Monday indirect negotiations with Iran in Vienna — but is far less optimistic than in the spring about the possibility of saving the Iranian nuclear deal.
And its options to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb are limited if talks fail.

As president, Donald Trump withdrew from the international deal in 2018 and reimposed US sanctions lifted under the accord’s terms.
In response, the Islamic Republic has flouted many of the restrictions set on its nuclear program.
Biden has said he wants to return to the deal — negotiated in 2015 by then-president Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president — so long as Iran also resumes the original terms.
The indirect negotiations in Vienna resume Monday after a five-month suspension imposed by Iran.
“There is room to quickly reach and implement an understanding,” a spokesperson for the US State Department said Wednesday.
But the American envoy on Iran, Rob Malley, has said that Tehran’s attitude “doesn’t augur well for the talks.”
Washington has accused the Middle Eastern nation of dragging its feet and increasing its “radical” demands — while still making progress that would bring it significantly closer to developing a bomb.

If, when talks resume, it quickly becomes apparent to the United States that Iran only wants to buy time to step up its nuclear advances, then Washington will not “sit idly by,” Malley warned.
“We’re going to have to see other efforts — diplomatic and otherwise — to try to address Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” he said.
One of the diplomatic options mentioned was a possible interim agreement.
“The Biden administration could look at a short-term deal, a limited agreement that freezes some of the most proliferation-sensitive activities in Iran in exchange for some modest sanctions relief,” Kelsey Davenport, the head of nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, told AFP recently.
The goal is to buy some time, as Tehran is much closer to possessing a nuclear bomb than before.
But such a move risks provoking an outcry in Washington, among Republicans but also among several members of Biden’s Democratic Party, who would see it as too generous a concession to Iran.

“If Iran comes back to the negotiating table with a long list of demands outside of the JCPOA, the US could reciprocate” and present its own list about Iran’s role in regional conflicts and its ballistic missiles, said Davenport, using the official acronym for the nuclear deal.
But doing so would open up long and complex negotiations with an uncertain outcome.
And there is nothing to prevent Iran from continuing to develop its nuclear program during that time.

For Suzanne DiMaggio, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, the “options beyond restoring the deal are not great.”
“If there was a better plan out there, we would have heard it by now,” she said Friday during an exchange with reporters.
One possibility would be to increase economic sanctions, even as the Democratic administration continues to blast the Trump era “maximum pressure” approach as a failure.
Punitive measures could also target China, which continues to buy Iranian oil despite a US embargo. But Beijing is unlikely to change its stance.
US hawks opposed to the 2015 deal — and there are many, particularly among conservatives — argue that Washington should increase economic, diplomatic and even military pressure without waiting for the outcome of the Vienna negotiations.

Accused of weakness by proponents of a harder stance, the Biden administration began to toughen its approach in October, warning that “other options” than diplomacy were on the table to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
The White House did not specify what those options were, but it has clearly hinted at the possibility of military action.
However, in a noted op-ed, former US diplomat Dennis Ross said that the “routinized” reference to “other options” had become insufficient, as “Tehran no longer takes Washington seriously.”
“The Biden administration needs to put the prospect of military escalation back on the table if it hopes to make progress on the nuclear issue,” he wrote in the essay, published October 27.
Israel, for its part, has clearly embraced this option as a possibility.
But for DiMaggio, military force “will not ultimately solve the problem.
“In fact, precedent is for the Iranians to meet pressure with pressure,” she warned.
“More aggressive steps beyond sanctions, including further sabotage of Iran’s nuclear program, run the risk of resulting in a miscalculation, mistake or an escalation that cannot be managed, potentially sparking violent conflict.”