US ‘concerned’ by collapse of truce in Yemen; uncertain whether Iran is to blame

US ‘concerned’ by collapse of truce in Yemen; uncertain whether Iran is to blame
US special envoy for Yemen said the Houthis had “imposed maximalist and impossible demands” over a proposed mechanism to pay public sector wages. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 October 2022

US ‘concerned’ by collapse of truce in Yemen; uncertain whether Iran is to blame

US ‘concerned’ by collapse of truce in Yemen; uncertain whether Iran is to blame
  • Tim Lenderking: ‘Last-minute’ demands and backtracking by Houthis had derailed extension talks
  • United States would continue to help its Gulf Arab partners defend themselves

CHICAGO: Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, described the failure to renew the truce with the Houthis, which expired on Oct. 2, as “concerning” but refused to speculate about whether Iran had played a role in preventing an extension.

Speaking during a briefing attended by Arab News on Wednesday, Lenderking said the Houthis made “last-minute” demands that meant they were “essentially backtracking from commitments they had made earlier in the process.”

Asked whether the regime in Iran, which backs the Houthis, might be responsible for this, Lenderking said: “We don’t know.” Tehran supported the UN-backed, two-month truce when it was agreed on April 2, he said, and also when it was renewed without issue on June 2 and Aug. 2.

He attributed the failure this month to agree a third extension to “maximalist and impossible demands” made by Houthi negotiators regarding the payment of salaries to their “military and security personnel.”

Until the truce is renewed, the threat of a resumption of major violence will remain, Lenderking said, and without a return to a “more positive approach,” Iran’s involvement in the process will continue to be viewed as being “quite negative.”

“It remains in our national interest to help our Gulf partners defend themselves from any external aggression and we would do so in the case of aggression coming from Yemen,” Lenderking said.

“The president and the secretary (of state) have been clear that the United States will continue to support our Gulf partners and their legitimate defense needs, in order to meet existing and emerging threats. And that includes the cross-border attacks from Yemen and elsewhere against targets inside Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“After all, there are more than 120,000 US citizens living and working in the countries of the Gulf region. I know that the president and the secretary have no higher objective than ensuring the security of Americans wherever they live abroad.”

Lenderking reiterated that the door remains open to the resumption of peace talks, which he said would bring benefits to the Houthis and all the people of Yemen, but condemned recent threats by the militia.

“Houthi rhetoric that threatened commercial shipping and oil companies, this is completely unacceptable,” he added.

The envoy said the Biden administration had, with support in Congress, approved the “future transfer” of defensive weaponry to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, including “additional Patriot missiles to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, to the UAE.”

He added: “These munitions have played a key role in defending both countries from cross-border UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone) and missile attacks originating from Yemen.

“Let me stress the key point here: We, and the international community, are calling for restraint from all parties. At this particularly sensitive time when there is no truce officially on the books that has been agreed and welcomed and adhered to by the parties, we must insist that there be maximum restraint exerted by all sides.”

The truce agreed in April resulted in many benefits for the people of Yemen, Lenderking said, including: A dramatic reduction of about 60 percent in civilian casualties; more than 25,000 Yemeni citizens were able to travel abroad on commercial flights for the first time since 2016; and a five-fold increase in the amount of fuel shipments passing through Hodeidah Port compared with the previous year, which helped to reduce fuel prices.

The ceasefire also allowed humanitarian organizations to operate more easily in the country.

“We are extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen,” Lenderking said, as he warned that the needs of civilians “are great and the funding is not adequate.”

He continued: “The US has contributed $5 billion over the course of the conflict; $1 billion to humanitarian coffers this very year.”

The US will continue to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization until a final peace agreement is reached, Lenderking said.

“We are also relying on commitments that the Saudis and the Yemeni government have made to maintain the terms of the truce,” he added.

“So, indeed, let’s look at what commitments the Houthis are willing to make. Pull down the maximalist demands. Get back into the productive conversation that has taken place during the last six months on reaching an expanded truce and driving towards the durable ceasefire and the Yemeni-to-Yemeni political process that we all want to see.”

In an effort to view the latest developments in as positive a light as possible in the circumstances, Lenderking said: “We do see that key elements of the truce continue to hold and that intensive, UN-led negotiations and US diplomacy continue unabated.

“When I talk about key elements of the truce holding, let me be clear what I mean. I mean there is still relatively low levels of violence in the country. Fuel ships continue to off-load into the Hodeidah Port. There will be more continuity in civilian, commercial flights from Sanaa airport. These particular elements of the truce have been extremely effective and have delivered tangible results to the Yemeni people over the last six months.

“In our view, there is a stark choice that lies ahead: On the one hand, there is a return to war, which will bring nothing but casualties and destruction on Yemen and will bring further confusion as to where this conflict is headed.”

If a renewal of the ceasefire can be agreed, however, “there is the opportunity to not only extend but expand the truce. That is, to bring more positive elements of the truce, the likes of which would include flights, as I have mentioned. There have been ongoing and very energetic discussions with numerous countries on additional flight destinations.

“We would anticipate the processing of fuel into Hodeidah would be streamlined even further. We expect to be able to reach agreement on salary payments. This has been a core demand of both parties: To have the ability to pay Yemeni civil servants who have not been paid for many years: teachers, nurses, civil servants — to provide salaries for them.

“These are the kind of benefits that stand in the balance should the parties, particularly the Houthis, choose the path of peace. It is a very clear choice, as viewed by the international community and as viewed by the United States.”

Lenderking again stressed that “all channels remain open” for talks to extend the truce and return to negotiations to avoid an escalation in violence.

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Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests

Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests
Updated 8 sec ago

Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests

Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests
BAGHDAD: Iran’s national soccer team received a subdued welcome home after their World Cup defeat against the United States, a match played against the backdrop of ongoing anti-government protests in Iran.
One Iranian man was shot dead celebrating the American victory.
The players returned from Qatar late Wednesday, a day after their 1-0 loss. Anti-government protesters, considering the team a symbol of Iran’s clerical rulers, had celebrated the loss in some Iranian cities with fireworks and cheers.
One man was shot dead by Iranian security forces in northwest Iran for honking his car horn in support of the US victory, the Oslo-based rights monitor Iran Human Rights reported on Thursday.
Iran’s treatment of the players will likely be scrutinized because they refrained from singing the Islamic Republic’s national anthem during their opening World Cup match. Many considered the move a show of solidarity with the protests. The team did sang the anthem in subsequent matches.
A few dozen fans greeted the national team’s return at Tehran’s international airport late Wednesday, with people cheering and waving the Iranian flag.
Yet the players have faced biting criticism from anti-government protesters who have blamed the team for not being more vocal about the security force’s violent put down of the demonstrations. Human rights groups say over 400 protesters have been killed in the crackdown, with thousands more arrested.
An image of players bowing in the presence of President Ebrahim Raisi before setting off to the tournament was widely criticized by activists on social media. A hard-line cleric, Raisi has likened protesters to “flies” and dismissed the movement as a foreign plot, without offering any proof.
Mehran Samak, 27, was shot dead after honking his car in support of the US win after Tuesday’s match in the city of Bandar Anzali in northwest Iran. Oslo-based Iran Human Rights reported he was “shot in the head by state forces when he went out to celebrate the Islamic Republic’s loss.”
Samak is also a childhood friend of Iranian midfielder Saeed Ezatollahi, who mourned his death on his social media. But again he received criticism from activists for not explicitly stating Samak was killed by government forces.
Many Iranian celebrities have however been targeted by the government with arrest or other measures for speaking out on behalf of the protesters.
Iranian officials acknowledged but downplayed compatriots celebrating the US win. Gen. Hossein Salami, chief of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, said those who had celebrated were doing so on “behalf of the enemies,” adding “it is not important to us.” His comments appeared in the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
A former culture minister and editor-in-chief of the Ettelaat newspaper, Abbas Salehi, who has close ties with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tweeted: “Iran’s defeat in the game against America was bitter, but even more bitter was the happiness of some people.”
Iran was eliminated from the tournament in Qatar following the loss to the US on Tuesday that saw the players scrambling to score a goal in the last remaining minutes of the game. Striker Sardar Azmoun told reporters he was not satisfied with his performance in the last match.
It was the sixth time Iran has participated in the World Cup.
Anti-government protests first erupted in September, following the death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police in the capital, Tehran. The protests quickly grew into the most serious challenge to Iran’s theocracy since its establishment in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency
Updated 01 December 2022

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency
  • Lebanon has been without a head of state for a month after president Michel Aoun left office at the end of October

BEIRUT: Lawmakers in crisis-hit Lebanon failed to elect a new president on Thursday for an eighth time, despite the deepening impact of the political deadlock on the country’s economic woes.

Lebanon has been without a head of state for a month after president Michel Aoun left office at the end of October with no successor.

Parliament is split between supporters of the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its opponents, neither of whom have a clear majority.

Lawmaker Michel Moawad, who is seen as close to the United States, won the support of 37 lawmakers Thursday — well short of the required majority — while 52 spoilt ballots were cast, mainly by pro-Hezbollah lawmakers.

Only 111 of parliament’s 128 lawmakers showed up for the vote.

Some MPs wrote in mock choices on their ballots, with one vote cast for Brazil’s leftist president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Parliament is “not shouldering its responsibilities,” charged lawmaker Antoine Habchi of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party opposed to Hezbollah.

Electing a president, naming a prime minister and forming a government can take months or even years of political horse-trading.

Lebanon can ill-afford a prolonged power vacuum as it grapples with a financial crisis dubbed by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history, with a currency in free fall, severe electricity shortages and soaring poverty rates.

The country’s caretaker government is unable to enact the sweeping reforms demanded by international lenders as a condition for releasing billions of dollars in bailout loans.

Hezbollah opposes Moawad’s candidacy, and the Iran-backed group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah called last month for a president ready to stand up to the United States.

Moawad has good relations with Washington and has repeatedly called for the disarming of Hezbollah — the only faction to keep its weapons after the end of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

Former president Aoun’s own election in 2016 followed a more than two-year vacancy at the presidential palace as lawmakers made 45 failed attempts before reaching a consensus on his candidacy.

By convention, Lebanon’s presidency goes to a Maronite Christian, the premiership is reserved for a Sunni Muslim and the post of parliament speaker goes to a Shiite Muslim.

Parliament is expected to convene for a new attempt to elect a president on December 8.


Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry

Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry
Updated 01 December 2022

Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry

Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry
  • Israeli media: The two men killed were commanders in the Islamic Jihad militant group
  • The military has been conducting months of arrest raids in the West Bank

JERUSALEM: Two Palestinians were killed Thursday during an Israeli military raid in a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
Reports by Israeli media said the two men killed were commanders in the Islamic Jihad militant group. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the men as Naeem Jamal Zubaidi, 27, and Mohammad Ayman Saadi, 26, but did not confirm whether they were militants.
According to the reports, the military was conducting an arrest raid in the city of Jenin and was met by gunfire. The military responded, killing the two men.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The military has been conducting months of arrest raids in the West Bank, prompted by a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the spring that killed 19 people. The military says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks, but the Palestinians say they entrench Israel’s open-ended occupation and undermine their own security forces.
The raids have ratcheted up tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, triggering another wave of Palestinian attacks in recent weeks that have killed an additional eight people.
More than 130 Palestinians have been killed this year, making 2022 the deadliest since 2006. The Israeli military says many of those killed have been militants but local youths protesting the incursions as well as others not involved in the violence have also been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want those territories for their hoped-for future state. Substantive peace talks were last held more than a decade ago, and with Israel headed toward what’s likely to be its most right-wing government ever, there appears to be no prospect for a negotiated solution in the near future.


UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time

UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time
Updated 01 December 2022

UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time

UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time
  • A new launch date will be shared in the coming days

DUBAI: The UAE’s lunar mission has been postponed for the second time on Thursday, SpaceX said.

The Japanese HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lander, carrying the UAE’s 10-kilogram Rashid rover aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, was due to take off at 8:37 a.m. (GMT) on Thursday, Dec.1, from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US.

“After further inspections of the launch vehicle and data review, we’re standing down from tomorrow’s launch of ispace inc.’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1,” said SpaceX in a statement.

A new launch date will be shared in the coming days, the company added.

 

 

If Rashid rover successfully lands on the moon, it will be the Arab world’s first lunar mission, placing the UAE as the fourth country to reach the moon.

The mission would also see the first spacecraft funded and built by a private Japanese firm to land on the moon.

Rashid rover is the latest of the UAE’s endeavors in space exploration after successfully launching an unmanned probe to Mars in the first Arab mission to the red planet.


Pentagon chief warns Turkiye against new military operation in Syria

Pentagon chief warns Turkiye against new military operation in Syria
Updated 01 December 2022

Pentagon chief warns Turkiye against new military operation in Syria

Pentagon chief warns Turkiye against new military operation in Syria

WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday told his Turkish counterpart of his “strong opposition” to a new Turkish military operation in Syria and voiced concern over the escalating situation in the country, the Pentagon said.

Austin, in the call, expressed condolences over a Nov. 13 attack in Istanbul, the Pentagon said.

“He also expressed concern over escalating action in northern Syria and Turkey, including recent airstrikes, some of which directly threatened the safety of US personnel who are working with local partners in Syria to defeat ISIS,” it said in a statement, using an acronym for the Islamic State militant group.

“Secretary Austin called for de-escalation, and shared the Department’s strong opposition to a new Turkish military operation in Syria.”