UN Security Council calls Houthis a terrorist group for first time, expands arms embargo

Update The UN Security Council on Monday imposed an arms embargo on Yemen's Houthis. (Reuters/File Photo)
The UN Security Council on Monday imposed an arms embargo on Yemen's Houthis. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 01 March 2022

UN Security Council calls Houthis a terrorist group for first time, expands arms embargo

The UN Security Council on Monday imposed an arms embargo on Yemen's Houthis. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • New, tougher resolution follows spate of recent attacks on targets in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and assaults on international shipping in the Red Sea
  • Terrorist designation also reflects group’s attacks on civilians in Yemen, its ‘policy of sexual violence,’ recruitment of child soldiers, and use of landmines

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council on Monday voted to adopt a draft resolution on Yemen that expands the scope of an existing arms embargo targeting the leaders of the Houthi militia, including Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, to encompass the entire membership of the Iran-backed group.

In addition, the resolution labels the Houthis as a terrorist group for the first time, following an ongoing series of cross-border drone and missile attacks targeting the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and a wide range of violations affecting the Yemeni people and the international community.

It also renews financial sanctions and a travel ban on senior members of the Houthi militia for an additional year

Security Council Resolution 2624, which was tabled by the UAE, condemns the continuing supply of weapons and weapon components to the Houthis from outside Yemen in violation of the arms embargo established by Resolution 2216 in 2015. It urges all UN member states to step up efforts “to combat the smuggling of weapons and components via land and sea routes, to ensure implementation of the targeted arms embargo.”

Iran is accused of providing the Houthis with training and a growing arsenal of sophisticated weaponry and technology, including anti-tank guided missiles, sea mines, explosive-laden drones, ballistic and cruise missiles, unmanned maritime vehicles.

Eleven of the 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution; Ireland, Mexico, Brazil and Norway abstained because of humanitarian concerns.

In the run-up to the vote on Monday, negotiations were especially intense around the question of whether or not the Houthis should be designated as a terrorist organization. Some members expressed concerns that this might hinder the efforts of the UN’s envoy to Yemen to broker peace, and about its possible negative effect on humanitarian operations in Yemen.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed by the war, which has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

The resolution stresses that the new measures are “not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population of Yemen, nor civilian access to humanitarian assistance, commercial imports or remittances.”

It also calls on states to fully comply with the principles of international law, including humanitarian law and human rights law, in the implementation of sanctions.

In addition to the ongoing cross-border attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist group also reflects its attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Yemen; its “policy of sexual violence and repression against politically active and professional women;” its recruitment of children for warfare; its incitement to violence against religious groups; and its indiscriminate use of landmines.

“The Houthis have also obstructed the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Yemen, or access to or distribution of humanitarian assistance in Yemen,” according to the text of the resolution, which adds that sexual violence and violence against children during armed conflict are sanctionable acts that “threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen.”

The Security Council also condemned “in the strongest terms” the growing number of attacks by the Houthis on civilian and commercial targets, and their seizure of commercial vessels in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. Members demanded the release of the crew of the UAE-registered merchant vessel Rwabee, who have been detained by the terrorist group since mid-January

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, welcomed the adoption of the resolution and the addition of the entire Houthi organization to the Yemen sanctions list in response to their “flagrant violations and heinous attacks.”

It will, she said, reduce the group’s military capabilities, and help to prevent its hostile actions toward civilian vessels that threaten shipping routes and international trade. 

Nusseibeh called on the Houthis to halt their terrorist, cross-border attacks and return to the negotiation table and participate in a serious political process. 

“We emphasize that there is no military solution to the crisis in Yemen,” she said. “The only way to overcome the current crisis is through concerted efforts to reach a Yemen-led, Yemeni-owned political solution, under the auspices of the United Nations.”

In their explanation of the vote, council members condemned the attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Trine Heimerback, Norway’s deputy permanent representative, backed the implementation of targeted sanctions that can help to support “a path toward a political settlement and contribute to the protection of civilians.”

She added: “Joint action by the council to limit the Houthi’s capabilities to launch attacks and harm civilians is therefore welcome.”

However, she noted that the resolution fails to address Norway’s key concern about the possible negative effects it might have on the peace process and humanitarian operations in Yemen.

She said her country fears that the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization, “absent a clear definition (by the UN charter,) may have negative impact on UN efforts to facilitate a political solution in Yemen (and) unintended humanitarian consequences (that) could negatively impact UN efforts to address large-scale humanitarian needs in Yemen.”

Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, Martin Kimani, said his country is alarmed by “the increasing trend of transnational groups undertaking attacks outside a territory in which they are engaged in peace processes.”

He added that the Houthi attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia “cross over an unacceptable threshold (and) contradict this council’s effort to help the mediation of peace in Yemen.”

“It is time for the Security Council to limit such incentives for groups that have launched cross-border attacks as a way to draw attention to themselves and leverage in their national positions,” Kimani said.

“Sanctions such as these being leveled today help reinforce to those groups that they will need to cease their external attacks to have any hope of being accepted as legitimate political actors.”

The Houthis’ control over the Yemeni population and their manipulation of humanitarian aid must not be tolerated by the council, he added.

“Surely we are aware by now that attacks on civilians and civilian objects are some of the gravest drivers of humanitarian crises,” Kimani said. “Countering terrorism and supporting humanitarian action are not in conflict with one another.

“Humanitarian organizations must be enabled to better operate in the (humanitarian) space to avoid exploitation by groups. Otherwise we will be discussing the imprisonment of entire populations (as a means) to exploit the humanitarian response to their crisis.”

The Kenyan envoy also addressed the concerns among some council members about the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization on the grounds that such a designation is not clearly defined by the UN Charter.

“Terrorism is recognizable at the intuitive human level,” Kimani said. “An attack on an airport, such as the one we saw evidence of in the UAE, constitutes terrorism,” just as much as the 2013 shooting of dozens of civilians at a mall in Nairobi, “whether the UN has an official legal position or not” on the matter.

He called on council members to “stand together against terrorism” and added: “Let us lower the incentive for cross-border attacks by groups that we are trying to push into national stabilization and peace processes.”


Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  

Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  
Updated 3 min 12 sec ago

Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  

Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  

The President of the Arab Parliament, Adel bin Abd al-Rahman al-Asoumi, met with the President of the Pan-African Parliament, Chief Fortune Charumbira on Tuesday.  

The officials met on the sidelines of the Conference of the Union of Councils of Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Algeria, a statement by the Arab Parliament said. 

The two sides reviewed regional and international interests, and agreed on full coordination in international forums in support of all Arab and African matters.  

The Speaker of the Arab Parliament affirmed that the Arab and African regions possess many common denominators that contribute to supporting Arab and African matters, especially the Palestinian issue and the Libyan crisis.


Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials

Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials
Updated 48 min 42 sec ago

Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials

Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials
  • The attack was carried out on a car in Marib province

YEMEN, Marib: Three alleged Al-Qaeda militants were killed in a suspected US drone strike in northeastern Yemen on Monday, local government officials said.
The attack was carried out on a car in Marib province, the scene of heavy fighting in 2021 in Yemen's long-running civil war, the officials said.
“Three Al-Qaeda members were killed in a strike by a drone that is believed to be American,” a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The three were in a car in Wadi Obeida when they were targeted by the suspected US strike that killed them immediately.”
A second Marib government official confirmed the strike on Al-Qaeda militants and the death toll. There was no immediate comment from Washington.
The United States considers Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch - Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) - among the most dangerous branches of the global jihadist network.
AQAP, and other militants loyal to Daesh, have thrived in the chaos of Yemen’s civil war.
AQAP has carried out operations against both the Houthis and government forces as well as sporadic attacks abroad.
Its leaders have been targeted by a US drone war for more than two decades, although the number of strikes has dropped off in recent years.
The conflict in Yemen has since killed tens of thousands of people and triggered what the United Nations terms the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people displaced.


After drought, winter rains revive Iraq’s famed marshlands

After drought, winter rains revive Iraq’s famed marshlands
Updated 31 January 2023

After drought, winter rains revive Iraq’s famed marshlands

After drought, winter rains revive Iraq’s famed marshlands
  • raq has faced three consecutive years of severe drought and scorching heat, with temperatures regularly exceeding 50 degrees Celsius

Chibayish: Black buffaloes wade through the waters of Iraq’s Mesopotamian marshes, leisurely chewing on reeds. After years of drought, winter rains have brought some respite to herders and livestock in the famous wetlands.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the marshes were parched and dusty last summer by drought in the climate-stressed country and by reduced flow from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers due to dams built upstream in Turkiye and Iran.
Winter brings seasonal rains, offering relief in marshes like those of Huwaizah — which straddles the border with Iran — and Chibayish, located in nearby Dhi Qar province.
Among the reeds of Chibayish, buffalo farmer Rahim Daoud now uses a stick to punt his boat across an expanse of water.
“This summer, it was dirt here; there was no water,” said the 58-year-old. “With the rain that has fallen, the water level has risen.”
Last summer, photographers traveled to the Huwaizah and Chibayish marshes to document the disappearance of large portions of the wetlands, observing vast expanses of dry and cracked soil dotted with yellowed shrubs.
In October, an official in the impoverished rural province of Dhi Qar said that in the previous six months, 1,200 families had left the marshes and other agricultural areas of southern Iraq and more than 2,000 buffaloes had died.
Iraq has faced three consecutive years of severe drought and scorching heat, with temperatures regularly exceeding 50 degrees Celsius during the summer of 2022.
“There is a gradual improvement,” Hussein Al-Kenani said after the recent rains.
Kenani, who heads the governmental center in charge of protecting the wetlands, said rainwater collected in canals and rivers has been redirected to the marshes.
“The water level in Chibayish’s swamps has increased by more than 50 centimeters compared with December and by more than 30 centimeters for the Huwaizah swamps,” Kenani said.
In July, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization deplored the “unprecedented low water levels” in the marshes, highlighting “the disastrous impact” for more than 6,000 families, whose buffaloes and livelihoods were being lost.
The relief of rainfall early this month was welcomed by the UN agency, which noted in a statement that in the Chibayish region “salinity levels decreased” to the point where people and animals could again drink the water.
“This has had a great positive impact, especially on buffalo herders,” it said.
While the crisis has been relieved for now, there are fears about the longer-term fate of the threatened wetland habitat.
“There is not enough water coming from the Turkish side,” said Jassim Assadi, head of environmental group Nature Iraq, who added that Iraq’s dams upstream from the marshes “do not have an adequate and sufficient reservoir for the rest of the year.”
“The rains alone are not enough,” he said, voicing fears about another looming “problem next summer.”


Sunni cleric’s aide arrested in restive southeast Iran

Sunni cleric’s aide arrested in restive southeast Iran
Updated 31 January 2023

Sunni cleric’s aide arrested in restive southeast Iran

Sunni cleric’s aide arrested in restive southeast Iran
  • Abdolmajid Moradzehi was accused of “manipulating public opinion”

TEHRAN: An aide to Sunni Muslim cleric Molavi Abdol Hamid, an influential leader of Iran’s ethnic Baluchi minority, was arrested in the restive southeastern city of Zahedan late Monday, state media said.
Abdolmajid Moradzehi was accused of “manipulating public opinion” and “communicating on several occasions with foreign individuals and media outlets,” the official IRNA news agency said.
Zahedan is the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan province, which is home to the ethnic Baluch minority and had been the site of often deadly violence even before nationwide protests erupted in September over the death in custody of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini.
On September 30 last year, dozens of people, including members of the security forces, were killed when thousands took to the streets after Friday prayers at the city’s Makki mosque, headed by Abdol Hamid.
They were protesting the alleged rape of a 15-year-old-girl in custody in the port city of Chabahar by a local police commander.
As the protests raged on for weeks and months, Iranian officials were critical of Abdol Hamid, describing his prayer sermons as “provocative.”
“If there were no provocative remarks in the sermons, we would have seen peace in Zahedan,” Iran’s deputy interior minister Majid Mirahmadi said in late October when asked about the persistent unrest.
State media characterised the unrest as attacks by “extremists” on police stations. Abdol Hamid said security forces “shot at people” around the mosque, amid public anger over the alleged rape.
Zahedan is one of the few cities in Shiite-majority Iran which is mainly Sunni.


Carrier Emirates test flies Boeing 777 on sustainable fuel

Carrier Emirates test flies Boeing 777 on sustainable fuel
Updated 31 January 2023

Carrier Emirates test flies Boeing 777 on sustainable fuel

Carrier Emirates test flies Boeing 777 on sustainable fuel
  • Airplane and engine manufacturers have been designing more-efficient models, in part to help keep down costs of jet fuel — one of the biggest expenses airlines face

DUBAI: Long-haul carrier Emirates successfully flew a Boeing 777 on a test flight Monday with one of its two engines entirely powered by so-called sustainable aviation fuel. This comes as carriers worldwide try to lessen their carbon footprint.
Flight 2646 flew for just under an hour over the coastline of the United Arab Emirates, after taking off from Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, and heading out into the Arabian Gulf before circling to land. The second of the plane’s General Electric Co. engines ran on conventional jet fuel for safety.
“This flight is a milestone moment for Emirates and a positive step for our industry as we work collectively to address one of our biggest challenges — reducing our carbon footprint,” Adel Al-Redha, Emirates’ chief operation officer, said in a statement.
Emirates, a state-owned airline under Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, described the sustainable fuel as a blend “that mirrored the qualities of jet fuel.” It included fuel from Neste, a Finnish firm, and Virent, a Madison, Wisconsin-based company.
Virent describes itself as using plant-based sugars to make the compounds needed for sustainable jet fuel, while Neste’s fuel comes from vegetable oils and animal fats. Those fuels reduce the release of heat-trapping carbon dioxide typically burned off by engines in flight.

An Emirates Boeing 777-300ER is filled with sustainable aviation fuel in preparation for a milestone demonstration flight on Jan. 30, 2023 at Dubai airport. (AFP)

Aviation releases only one-sixth the amount of carbon dioxide produced by cars and trucks, according to World Resources Institute, a nonprofit research group based in Washington. However, airplanes are used by far fewer people per day — meaning aviation is a higher per-capita source of greenhouse-gas emissions.
Airplane and engine manufacturers have been designing more-efficient models, in part to help keep down costs of jet fuel — one of the biggest expenses airlines face. Emirates, for instance, used over 5.7 million tons of jet fuel last year alone, costing it $3.7 billion out of its $17 billion in annual expenses.
But analysts suggest sustainable fuels can be three times or more the cost of jet fuel, likely putting ticket prices even higher as aviation restarts following the lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic.
It wasn’t immediately clear how much the fuel used in the Emirates’ test on Monday cost per barrel. Jet fuel cost on average $146 a barrel at the end of last week, according to S&P Global Platts.
The UAE, a major oil producer and OPEC member, is to host the next United Nations climate negotiations, or COP28, beginning in November. Already, the seven sheikhdom federation has been criticized for nominating the CEO of Abu Dhabi’s state oil company to lead the UN negotiations known as the Conference of the Parties — where COP gets its name.