Posts Tagged ‘United Arab Emirates’

S. Arabia pledges $100 million and UAE $30 million for Sahel anti-terror force

December 13, 2017

AFP

© Ludovic Marin, AFP | Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (L), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and France’s President Emmanuel Macron take part in a press conference on December 13 at La Celle-Saint-Cloud, near Paris.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-13

Saudi Arabia has pledged $100 million towards a five-nation anti-terror force in the Sahel region of West Africa, while the United Arab Emirates has offered $30 million, French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday.

Macron made the announcement at a meeting to drum up support for the G5 Sahel force, an initiative pooling troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The leaders of the five nations, which are among the world’s poorest, joined Macron and other leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the talks at a chateau in La Celle-Saint-Cloud outside Paris.

Former colonial power France is fighting against jihadists in West Africa with its 4,000-strong regional Barkhane force, but is keen for the countries affected to take on more responsibility.

>> Video: FRANCE 24 follows the forces fighting Sahel jihadists

“We must win the war against terrorism in the Sahel-Sahara region,” Macron told a press conference after the meeting.

“There are attacks everyday, there are states which are currently in jeopardy… We must intensify our efforts,” he said.

(AFP)

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Though Withdrawing from Syria, Russia ‘Is Back in the Middle East’ — Russia shows the willpower, resolve, and capability to back up military force with hard diplomacy and achieve results

December 12, 2017

Sputnik

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing, suit and outdoor

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December 12, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a surprise visit to Syria on Monday, where he announced that his nation would begin to withdraw “a significant part” of their military forces deployed in the Middle Eastern nation as its long civil war draws to a close.

Putin’s announcement was discussed on Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear by hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou and guests Mark Sleboda and Rick Sterling. Sleboda is a Russia-based international relations and security analyst and frequent critic of US policy, while Sterling is a journalist and member of the Syria Solidarity Movement, an organization that supports the Syrian government.

​”It was a surprise,” said Sleboda. “Putin was obviously headed on the way to Cairo, and then on the way back to Turkey, but the side trip to Syria and particularly to the Russian airbase in Syria certainly was a surprise. As for this announcement, this ‘mission accomplished’ moment… we’ve heard several previous such ‘Russia is withdrawing their military forces from Syria’ claims before.”

“I think there were certainly enough caveats and qualifications to Putin’s statement that, while recognizing the significant victories that have been achieved, we should take this announcement with a grain of salt. Russia is not leaving Syria, they are not leaving their military bases. There remain significant military hurdles: significant terrorist concentrations, the entirety of Idlib governance is under the control of al Qaeda. I think this was probably primarily an announcement for domestic political consumption, as Putin announces his intent to run again for another six-year term in 2018.”

“It’s also a reminder to the Americans that at least the majority of the fighting in east Syria against [Daesh] is done,” Sleboda added. “They no longer at least hold any urban areas, at least there the military mission is accomplished. The US no longer has any excuse, not that they ever had any legal remit for their operations in east Syria. But Putin was letting them know that it’s time for them to pack their bags and go home.”

Becker pointed out a CNN headline from early 2016 that was quite similar to the recent one — but Russia did not pull forces out as CNN claimed; they actually intensified their military involvement.

Sterling elaborated on Moscow’s movements: “It’s an indication of an intent. They don’t plan on maintaining a large military force there indefinitely, but they can come back if needed. The fact is that Russia is not very far from Syria, only about 600 miles from Sochi, their air base. It’s not very hard for the Russian Air Force to move at least some of their airplanes and pilots and so forth up into southern Russia, and if needed they can still be called into duty in Syria.”

Kiriakou asked the guests if they believed it possible that Russia could end up in an quagmire in Syria, similar to what has happened to the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sleboda replied that Russia was likely to remain in the Middle East for years to come, but of their own volition.

“Russia is back in a big way in the Middle East. Suddenly everyone in the Middle East [is working with Moscow]: Iraq, which the government there, although showing a lot of the signs of independence, was installed as a result of the US invasion and regime change there. Saudi Arabia has come to the table with Russia to sign oil deals and potential military deals after losing this oil price war.”

“Qatar, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, they’re all now looking to Russia because Russia has showed the willpower, resolve, and capability to back up military force with hard diplomacy and achieve results in the Middle East — something that the US and all of their regime change and intervention has not shown anything with anywhere near so positive a result.”

“So Russia is back in the Middle East. They’re not leaving Syria, they have no intentions of leaving Syria.”

https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201712121059916495-putin-announcement-russia-syria-withdrawal/

See also:

Whirlwind Putin Tour Highlights Moscow’s New Reach in Mideast

Source:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/11/world/europe/putin-syria-russia.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront

The Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, third from right, and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, second from right, at a Russian air base in Syria on Monday. Credit Pool photo by Mikhail Klimentyev

French President Macron arrives in Qatar amid Arab boycott of Doha, uproar over Trump decision on Jerusalem

December 7, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

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© France 24, screen capture | President Macron arrives in Doha on December 7, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-07

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Qatar on Thursday for a one-day trip to the small Gulf country as it faces continued isolation and a boycott by some of its Arab neighbors.

Macron landed and immediately traveled to the vast al-Udeid Air Base, home to some 10,000 American troops and the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command. France also has a contingent of soldiers at the base, which is crucial to the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and to the war in Afghanistan.

Macron smiled and shook hands with the French and American soldiers who greeted him at the base before walking into a meeting with the base’s top commanders.

Speaking to coalition soldiers, he said the next few months of battle will determine the outcome of the war against the IS group in Iraq in Syria.

“This military win does not signify the end of the operations and the end of our battle because first we need to stabilize and win peace in Iraq and Syria,” he told troops. “Next spring is decisive in the situation in Iraq.”

Macron also stressed in his remarks at the air base that France wants to avoid partition in Syria and “avoid the domination of certain international elements whose interests contradict peace.”

The French president later will hold talks with Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Macron is traveling with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in 2015 as defense minister helped negotiate a multibillion dollar deal with Qatar to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets. Qatar may announce during Macron’s visit that it will purchase up to 12 more of the French-made Dassault Rafale jets.

Macron’s visit comes just days after a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Kuwait failed to bring the standoff any closer to a resolution in the dispute engulfing Qatar. In June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut relations with Qatar over allegations it supports extremists and has too-close relations with Iran.

Qatar has long denied supporting extremists and shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran.

Also likely to come up during Macron’s visit is President Donald Trump‘s announcement that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim the city’s eastern sector, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of a future independent state.

Before Macron’s arrival, Qatar’s ruler held calls with Trump, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Qatar has, in the past, provided crucial aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is run by the militant Hamas group, and has helped pay public sector wages in the besieged Palestinian territory.

(AP)

 

Saudi air strikes on Yemen intensify, residents in capital stay indoors

December 6, 2017

Reuters

ADEN/DUBAI (Reuters) – A Saudi-led coalition stepped up air strikes on Yemen’s Houthis on Wednesday as the Iran-allied armed movement tightened its grip on Sanaa a day after the son of slain former president Ali Abdullah Saleh vowed revenge for his father’s death.

People load belongings on a van as they evacuate their house located on a street where Houthis have recently clashed with forces loyal to slain Yemeni former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Former president Saleh plunged the country deeper into turmoil last week by switching allegiances after years helping the Houthis win control of much of the country’s north including the capital. He was killed in an attack on his convoy on Monday.

The pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station said on Wednesday Saudi Arabia and its allies had bombed Saleh’s residence and other houses of his family members now controlled by the Houthis. Air strikes also hit northern provinces including Taiz, Hajjah, Midi and Saada, it said.

FILE PHOTO — Houthi fighters

There was no immediate word on casualties.

The intervention by Saleh’s son Ahmed Ali, a former commander of the elite Republican Guard who lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates and was once seen as a successor to his father, has provided the anti-Houthi movement with a potential figurehead.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the de facto leader of the UAE, visited Ahmed Ali at his residence to offer his condolences, according to Sheikh Mohammed’s Twitter account. He posted a picture of himself sitting near Ahmed Ali.

Ahmed Ali had been widely expected to leave the UAE, a key member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis, for Yemen to help in the war amid media reports that some Saleh loyalists have been switching sides.

Many Sanaa residents were staying indoors on Wednesday out of fear of a Houthi crackdown. On Tuesday, Saleh supporters said his nephew Tareq, another top commander, and the head of his party, Aref Zouka, had both been killed.

“There’s a scary calm in the city,” said Ali, a 47-year-old businessman who declined to use his full name.

“People are reporting that there are many arrests and they are trying to shoot military men and (Saleh party) members.”

Yemen’s conflict, pitting the Houthis against the Saudi-led military alliance which backs a government based in the south, has unleashed what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

PROXY WAR

The proxy war between regional arch-rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia – armed and given intelligence by the West — has killed more than 10,000 people, with more than two million displaced.

Workers remove debris from a damaged restaurant on a street where Houthis have recently clashed with forces loyal to slain Yemeni former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Saleh’s decision to abandon the Houthis was the most dramatic development in three years of stalemate. Top Houthi officials called it high treason backed by their Saudi enemies.

Tens of thousands of Houthi supporters staged a rally in Sanaa on Tuesday to celebrate what the Houthis had said was the defeat of a major conspiracy by Saleh, chanting slogans against Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Political sources said the Houthis had arrested dozens of Saleh’s allies and army officers affiliated with his party in and around the city. Several had been killed in the raids.

On Wednesday, several dozen women gathered in a main Sanaa square holding Saleh’s portrait and demanding his body be handed over for burial, but they were forcibly dispersed by Houthi security forces, eyewitnesses said.

The Houthi-controlled interior ministry distributed a video of dozens of seated barefoot men it said were pro-Saleh fighters detained in one of its party headquarters.

Slideshow (6 Images)

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders appealed for the release of 41 journalists it said have been held “hostage” by the group since it overran the headquarters of the Saleh-owned al-Yemen al-Youm TV station on Saturday.

THREAT OF FAMINE

Nearly a million people in Yemen have been hit by a cholera outbreak, and famine caused by warring parties blocking food supplies threatens much of the country.

The UN secretary-general’s special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, called on all parties to show restraint.

“Increased hostilities will further threaten civilian lives and exacerbate their suffering,” he said in a briefing to the Security Council on Tuesday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that the killing of Saleh would likely worsen an already dire humanitarian situation in the country in the short term.

Speaking with reporters on a military aircraft en route to Washington, Mattis said his death could either push the conflict towards U.N. peace negotiations or make it an “even more vicious war.”

The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, praised what he called the Houthis’ swift quashing of the “coup against the holy warriors”, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Image result for Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari,, photos

The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari

Much is likely to depend on the future allegiances of Saleh loyalists who previously helped the Houthi group, which hails from the Zaidi branch of Shi‘ite Islam that ruled a thousand-year kingdom in northern Yemen until 1962.

Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Michael Georgy, Richard Balmforth and Sonya Hepinstall

European Union adopts blacklist of 17 tax havens

December 5, 2017

© Jewel Samad, AFP | Tourists play on the water along a beach as the sun sets in Bridgetown, Barbados, on March 24, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-05

European Union finance ministers adopted on Tuesday a blacklist of tax havens which includes 17 extra-EU jurisdictions seen as not cooperative on tax matters, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macau, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates are the countries listed, officials said.

Le Maire said that another 47 jurisdictions are included in a public “grey” list of countries that are currently not compliant with EU standards but have committed to change their tax rules.

Following multiple disclosures of offshore tax avoidance schemes by companies and wealthy individuals, EU states launched a process in February to list tax havens in a bid to discourage setting up shell structures abroad which are themselves in many cases legal but could hide illicit activities.

Blacklisted countries could lose access to EU funds. Other possible countermeasures will be decided in coming weeks, Le Maire said.

(REUTERS)

UAE, Saudi Arabia forming new group, separate from GCC

December 5, 2017

By Jon Gambrell
The Associated Press
December 5, 2017

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday announced it has formed a new economic and partnership group with Saudi Arabia, separate from the Gulf Cooperation Council — a move that could undermine the council amid a diplomatic crisis with member state Qatar.

The Emirati Foreign Ministry announcement, just hours ahead of a GCC meeting in Kuwait, said the new “joint cooperation committee” was approved by the UAE’s ruler and president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayhan.

Saudi Arabia did not immediately report on the new partnership.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the development could affect the six-member GCC meeting, which is expected to focus on the Qatar issue. Half of the GCC members are boycotting Doha in a dispute that’s cleaved the Arabian Peninsula.

The Emirati ministry said the new “committee is assigned to cooperate and coordinate between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as others, in the interest of the two countries.”

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have cultivated even-closer ties in recent years. Emirati troops are deeply involved in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nayhan, also is believed to have a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia’s young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Emirati announcement did not say whether any other Gulf Arab countries would be invited to join the new group but the development puts pressure the GCC, a group of American-allied Gulf Arab nations formed in part in 1981 as a counterbalance to Shiite power Iran.

The United States and its European allies all have told the council’s members that the region remains stronger with them working together as a whole, while the countries themselves still appear divided over their future.

The fact the GCC meeting in Kuwait was to take place at all is a bit of a surprise, given the unusually sharp criticism among the typically clubby members of the GCC pointed at Doha.

“This is the most important annual summit the GCC has held for more than two decades,” said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. “The GCC needs to illustrate its relevance after having been bypassed at every stage of the Qatar crisis.”

The dispute began in June, following what Qatar described as a hack of its state-run news agency that saw incendiary comments attributed to its ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Soon after, GCC members Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates closed off their airspace and seaports to Qatar, as well as the small peninsular nation’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia.

The boycott initially reeled Doha, though it soon replaced food products with those flown in from Turkey and Iran.

However, Qatar’s foreign reserves have dropped by some $10 billion — a fifth of their value — since the dispute began. Those reserves are crucial in supporting the nation’s riyal, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar, as well as funding the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup that Doha will host.

For boycotting nations, they allege Qatar funds extremist groups and has too-cozy ties to Iran. Qatar has long denied funding extremists but it restored full diplomatic ties with Iran during the crisis. Doha shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran that gives its citizens the highest per-capita income in the world.

A similar dispute involving Qatar erupted in 2014. But this time positions have hardened against Qatar, whose support for Islamist opposition groups has angered the Arab nations now boycotting it. The UAE in particular views Islamists as a threat to hereditary rule in its federation of seven sheikhdoms. Egypt, angered by Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the nation’s deposed President Mohammed Morsi, is also boycotting Doha.

The U.S., which has some 10,000 troops stationed at Qatar’s sprawling al-Udeid Air Base as part of its campaign against the Islamic State group and the war in Afghanistan, also has sought to end the crisis. Its military has halted some regional exercises to put pressure on the GCC to resolve the crisis. However, President Donald Trump in the meantime made comments seemingly supporting the Arab nations’ efforts at isolating Qatar, complicating those efforts.

A Trump-prompted call in September between Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim and the Saudi crown prince that offered a chance at negotiations also broke down in mutual recriminations.

Kuwait’s 88-year-old emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, has tried to mediate the dispute, so far without success. However, Kuwait appeared in recent days to secure promises from the GCC to attend its annual high-level summit.

It remains in question who will attend from each member state. Bahrain had sworn it would not attend any meeting that featured Qatar, though a lower-level official attended a meeting of GCC foreign ministers on Monday in Kuwait City. Qatar’s Shiekh Tamim already committed to attending, while Oman said another official would represent Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

But the GCC meeting also represents more than just the Qatar crisis. The long-stalemated Saudi-led war in Yemen suffered a new setback with the death Monday of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who recently defected from the Shiite rebels holding its capital.

Meanwhile, a new generation of Gulf leaders is rising, like Saudi Arabia’s assertive 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed, who launched the Yemen war and has been more confrontational with Iran.

“The Saudi camp is seeking to commit the Gulf states to a hard-line anti-Iran policy and adherence to Saudi leadership,” Ayham Kamel, the head of the Middle East and North Africa division of the Eurasia Group, wrote in an analysis published Tuesday. “While the UAE believes its interests are best served by an alliance with Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain is compelled to follow Riyadh’s lead, the other Gulf states are much more hesitant to do so.”

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap . His work can be found at http://apne.ws/2galNpz .

Spotlight on Qatar as Gulf gears up for summit

December 4, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Omar Hassan Abdulla | A picture taken on December 4, 2017 shows a general view of the meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of foreign ministers at the Bayan palace in Kuwait City

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) – Gulf foreign ministers gathered Monday in Kuwait on the eve of an annual summit bringing together Qatar and its feuding neighbours despite little hope for an end to the bitter rift.Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani will be at the summit, but less than 24 hours before it was due to begin it was still unclear whether the rulers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain would also attend.

Those three Gulf states, together with Egypt, cut all ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing the gas-rich emirate of supporting Islamist extremists and of being too close to Shiite Iran, Riyadh’s arch-rival. Qatar denies the allegations.

Mediation efforts led by Kuwait have failed to resolve what is the worst crisis to hit the Gulf Cooperation Council in its 36-year history, casting serious doubts over the future of the six-state alliance.

As Kuwait readied to host the two-day GCC summit, analysts said its efforts to bring about a peaceful end to the crisis may be at a complete standstill.

“The crisis is too deep and very complicated… I don’t think it will be resolved during the summit,” said independent Kuwaiti political analyst Saleh al-Saeedi.

“But I think Kuwait hopes to at least freeze the dispute, stop its deterioration and move on to the next step.”

Founded in 1981, the GCC is a political and economic union grouping Qatar with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as Oman and Kuwait.

Qatar has accused the Saudi-led Arab bloc of aiming to incite a change of regime in Doha.

Besides the Qatari emir, it is still unclear who will attend.

Oman has said it will be sending a senior official to represent its ruler Sultan Qaboos, who traditionally stays away from summits.

The other GCC states have yet to announce who they would be sending, although some Kuwaiti media have reported Saudi King Salman may attend.

– Once-powerful bloc threatened –

On Monday, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar attended round-table talks ahead of the gathering, in their first such encounter since the diplomatic crisis erupted in June.

Oman Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Yussef bin Alawi sat between them at the meeting which the foreign ministers of the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait also attended.

After cutting off all ties with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed a land, sea and air blockade of the emirate and issued a list of 13 demands to have it lifted.

Bahrain in October openly called for Qatar’s membership of the GCC to be suspended until it accepted the demands.

Experts warn that the crisis could lead to the demise of the once-powerful GCC.

“The justifications for the existence of the GCC bloc amidst the continued crisis are no longer present like before,” said Sami al-Faraj, head of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies.

“As long as our enemy has changed from Iran to Qatar, the GCC will not continue.”

The failure of the GCC members to solidify long-delayed plans for economic unity may also threaten its future.

The Gulf states have approved a customs union, a common market, a single currency and a single central bank but most of these have yet to be properly implemented.

Speaking at Monday’s meeting, Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah stressed the determination of member states to preserve the GCC.

“The GCC is a continuous project in which the will of member states meets to build a unified Gulf body,” he said.

GCC chief Abdullatif al-Zayyani told the meeting that the region’s difficulties coupled with security and political challenges required members to consolidate solidarity and unity.

by Omar Hassan Abdulla
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Former Yemeni strongman Saleh played his last hand and lost — “He danced on the heads of snakes”

December 4, 2017

Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, crowd

FILE PHOTO: Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh gestures as he arrives to a rally in Sanaa February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) – Yemen’s steely former president of 33 years, Ali Abdullah Saleh, made his last political gamble and lost on Monday, meeting his death at the hands of the Houthi movement, his erstwhile allies in the country’s multi-sided civil war.

Officials in his General People’s Congress party (GPC) confirmed to Reuters that the 75-year-old Saleh had been killed outside the capital Sanaa in what Houthi sources said was an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) and gun attack.

A master of weaving alliances and advancing his personal and family interests in Yemen’s heavily armed and deeply fractious tribal society, Saleh unified his country by force, but he also helped guide it toward collapse in its latest war.

The Middle East’s arch-survivor once compared running Yemen to “dancing on the heads of snakes”, ruling with expertly balanced doses of largesse and force.

He outlived other Arab leaders who were left dead or deposed by uprisings and civil wars since 2011.

Cornered by pro-democracy “Arab Spring” protests, Saleh wore a cryptic smile when signing his resignation in a televised ceremony in 2012.

Saleh waged six wars against the Houthis from 2002 to 2009 before he made an impromptu alliance with the group that seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and eventually turned on him.

The two sides feuded for years for supremacy over territory they ran together. The Houthis probably never forgave his forces for killing their founder and father of the current leader.

Fearing the Houthis are a proxy for their arch-foe Iran, the mostly Gulf Arab alliance sought to help the internationally recognized Yemeni government win the conflict.

Saleh’s army loyalists and Houthi fighters together weathered thousands of air strikes by a Saudi-led military coalition in almost three years of war.

As the conflict wrought a humanitarian crisis, mutual sniping about responsibility for economic woes in northern Yemeni lands that they together rule peaked on Wednesday when the capital erupted in gunbattles between their partisans.

ARCH-SURVIVOR

Saleh had seemed unshakeable in one of the world’s poorest and unstable countries. He managed to play his enemies off against each other as tribal warfare, separatist movements and Islamist militants destabilized Yemen.

He survived a bomb attack in his palace mosque in 2011 which killed senior aides and disfigured him. As other leaders were toppled by the Arab Spring uprisings, he found a way to retire peacefully to his villa in the capital and plot a comeback.

Despite being forced to step down in 2012 under a Gulf-brokered transition plan following protests against his rule, Saleh won immunity in the deal and remained a powerful political player.

The ever-nimble Saleh was a pivotal figure in the war, which has killed at least 10,000 people, displaced 2 million from their homes, led to widespread hunger and a cholera epidemic.

Saleh became the ruler of North Yemen in 1978 at a time when the south was a separate, communist state, and led the unified country after the two states merged in 1990.

Opponents often complained that Yemen under Saleh failed to meet the basic needs of the country’s people, where two of every three live on less than $2 per day.

Saleh managed to keep Western and Arab powers on his side, styling himself as a key ally of the United States in its war on terrorism. He received tens of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid for units commanded by his relatives.

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against U.S. cities, Yemen came onto Washington’s radar as a source of foot soldiers for Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network. Bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia though his family came from Yemen’s Hadramaut region.

Saleh cooperated with U.S. authorities as the CIA stepped up a campaign of drone strikes against key al Qaeda figures, which also led to scores of civilian deaths.

Born in 1942 near Sanaa, he received only limited education before joining the military as a non-commissioned officer.

His first break came when President Ahmed al-Ghashmi, who came from the same Hashed tribe as Saleh, appointed him military governor of Taiz, North Yemen’s second city. When Ghashmi was killed by a bomb in 1978, Saleh replaced him.

In 1990, the collapse of the Soviet Union helped propel North Yemen under Saleh and the socialist South Yemen state into a unification.

Saleh angered Gulf Arab allies by staying close to Saddam Hussein during the 1990-91 Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, leading to the expulsion of up to 1 million Yemenis from Saudi Arabia.

But he then won plaudits from Western powers for carrying out economic reforms drawn up by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and made efforts to attract foreign investors.

He swept to victory when southerners tried to secede from united Yemen in 1994 and drew closer to Saudi Arabia, which he allowed to spread its radical Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam.

Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali, lives under house arrest in the United Arab Emirates, where he once served as ambassador before it joined ally Saudi Arabia to make war on the Houthi-Saleh alliance.

Ahmed Ali, a powerful former military commander whom his father appeared to be grooming to succeed him, may the family’s last chance to win back influence.

(Writing by Noah Browning and Michael Georgy; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Saudi-led air strikes support Yemen’s Saleh as he shifts against Houthis

December 3, 2017

Reuters

Image result for saudi airstrike, yemen, photos

File photo of Saudi led coalition airstrike in Yemen

ADEN (Reuters) – A Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes on Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, local media said, lending support to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh after he signaled he was abandoning his support of the Iran-aligned Houthis – a shift that could pave the way to end three years of war.

n a speech on Saturday, Saleh appeared to indicate the end of his loyalists’ alliance with Houthi fighters. He said he was ready to turn a “new page” in ties with the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis, if it stopped attacks on Yemeni citizens and lifted a siege.

Related image

Jet fighters of the Saudi Royal air force — File Photo

Residents on Sunday, however, said a coalition air strike overnight killed 12 Yemeni civilians in one family in the northern province of Saada, the home territory of the Houthis. The attack could not be verified.

Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television said on Sunday coalition aircraft pounded Houthi outposts in southern Sanaa overnight, but gave no details on casualties.

Separately, the Houthis, who together with Saleh’s loyalists, control most of northern Yemen, said they had fired a cruise missile toward a nuclear power plant under construction in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a report quickly denied by the UAE.

Saleh’s announcement on Saturday was welcomed by the Saudi-led coalition, which has been backed by the United States and other Western powers.

The coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, is trying to help Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi back to power, but it has struggled to advance against Houthi-Saleh forces. A split between Saleh’s armed allies and the Houthis could tip the balance of power.

Army units loyal to Saleh have been clashing with Houthi fighters in the past five days, adding a new layer to an already complex situation in Yemen.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash appeared to back Saleh’s side in remarks on his official Twitter page.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash

“The events in Sanaa are murky, but its national uprising needs support … to protect the Arabian Peninsula from Iranian expansion,” he said.

Residents in Sanaa reported on Sunday that the Houthis appeared to be clawing back some territory lost to Saleh over the previous four days, and Houthi tanks were deployed amid heavy gun battles in the city’s central Political District.

The area is a stronghold of Saleh’s loyalists under the command of his nephew Tareq, an influential army general.

The fighting has cut off the airport road, prompting the United Nations to try to evacuate at least 140 aid workers from Sanaa, according to U.N. and other aid officials. The U.N. was awaiting approval from the Saudi-led coalition, they said.

Residents earlier said Houthi fighters seized the television studios of Yemen Today, a news channel owned by Saleh, after clashes that damaged the building. Residents said 20 employees were trapped inside.

An armed Houthi follower gestures aftger attending a gathering celebrating Houthi advancement on forces loyal to Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh at Tahrir Square in Sanaa, Yemen December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

The Red Cross said dozens of people have been killed in clashes over the past five days and called for civilian lives to be spared.

In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi called for calm and restraint. “All internal disputes should be resolved through dialogue to block the grounds for any abuse by the enemies of the Yemeni nation,” he said, according to a statement on the ministry’s website.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, and the proxy war between the Iran-aligned Houthis and the Saudi-backed Hadi has created widespread hunger and disease, in one of the worst humanitarian crises of recent times.

More than 10,000 people have died since 2015, more than two million have been displaced and nearly a million have been infected by a cholera outbreak. Famine threatens much of the country.

Slideshow (11 Images)

Yemen descended into violence in late 2014 when the Houthis, a group that follows the Zaidi branch of Shi‘ite Islam, marched on Sanaa and seized control of the government.

Backed by government troops loyal to Saleh, the Houthis fanned out across the country, forcing Hadi to flee to Riyadh. His ouster led the alliance headed by the Saudis to join the fighting.

HOUTHIS CLAIM MISSILE FIRED TOWARD UAE

The Houthis said the missile fired on Sunday was directed toward the al-Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi, but provided no evidence of any attack.

There were no reports of any missiles reaching Abu Dhabi. The country’s crisis management authority said the al-Barakah was well protected and urged the public not to listen to rumors.

“The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority denies claims by the coup trumpets in Yemen that they fired a missile toward the airspace of the United Arab Emirates,” the department said in a statement carried by state news agency WAM.

It said the nuclear power project was “fortified and sturdy against all possibilities. And enjoys all measures of nuclear safety and security that such grand projects require”.

The Houthis had said Abu Dhabi, a member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting against them since 2015, was a target for their missiles.

The Barakah project, which is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) (015760.KS), is expected to be completed and become operational in 2018, the UAE energy minister has said.

It is the second time this year the Houthis have said they have fired missiles toward the UAE. A few months ago, they said they had “successfully” test-fired a missile toward Abu Dhabi, but there were no reports of any rockets being intercepted by or falling in the UAE.

Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Susan Fenton, Larry King

UAE denies Houthi allegations of firing missile against its nuclear plant

December 3, 2017

Baraka Nuclear Energy project. (Photo courtesy: ENEC)

ABU DHABI: The United Arab Emirates on Sunday denied a report that Yemen’s Houthi group had fired a missile toward a nuclear plant in the UAE, state news agency WAM reported.

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The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, NCEMA, has denied claims made by Houthi militias in Yemen of a missile launch toward the UAE’s airspace.
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In a statement, NCEMA emphasised that the UAE’s air defense system is capable of dealing with any threats.
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The authority noted that the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant has all necessary safety and security measures in place to avert crises.
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UAE has denied claims made by Houthi militias in Yemen of a missile launch towards the UAE’s airspace. (Photo courtesy: social media)

NCEMA emphasised that the ‘s air defence system is capable of dealing with any threats.

The authority noted that the  Nuclear Power Plant has all necessary safety and security measures in place to avert crises.

NCEMA reassured the UAE’s citizens and residents that the nation is safe and stressed that the country will always maintain its safety and security, continuing in its beliefs of peace and justice.

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The authority went on to advise the general public not to pay attention to such rumors disseminated by media agencies issuing false news that question the UAE’s capabilities, strength and security.
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The Associated Press
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Yemen’s Houthi Rebel Group Claims It Fired Missile at UAE ‘Nuclear Reactor’
United Arab Emirates’ state news agency denies report

The Associated Press, Reuters and Haaretz Dec 03, 2017 1:31 PM

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Houthi fighters stand guard in Sanaa, Yemen November 30, 2017.

Houthi fighters stand guard in Sanaa, Yemen November 30, 2017. Mohamed Al-Sayighi / Reuters

The United Arab Emirates on Sunday denied a claim by Yemen’s Shiite rebels that a rebel missile had been fired toward the country’s under-construction nuclear plant.

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The rebels, known as Houthis, earlier in the day claimed they had launched a missile toward the plant in Abu Dhabi in the first such strike toward the country.

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“The National Emergency and Crisis and Disasters Management Authority denies the claim that the Houthis fired a missile toward the country,” the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency said. “The UAE possesses an air defense system capable of dealing with any threat of any type or kind.”

The statement added that the nuclear power plant was well-protected.

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The National, a state-aligned newspaper in Abu Dhabi, also reported that Barakah’s operations were “unaffected on Sunday, while sources on the ground confirmed there were no signs of an attack to the structure.”

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The newspaper did not elaborate.
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The $20 billion Barakah nuclear power plant is in Abu Dhabi’s far western desert. The first of its four reactors, being built in the UAE near its border with Saudi Arabia, is scheduled to come online in 2018.

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The UAE, like other U.S. Gulf allies in the region, has the Patriot Missile defense system capable of shooting down ballistic missiles and is the only international client to have on delivery the U.S.-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

The Houthis last month had targeted the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with a ballistic missile that was intercepted by Saudi air defenses. It was the deepest strike inside the kingdom since the war between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis and their allies began in March 2015.

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But for the Houthis to launch a missile from Yemen at the UAE, it would likely have to fly over Saudi Arabia’s vast southeastern desert in order to reach Abu Dhabi.

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Sunday’s claim came amid heavy fighting in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, where the Houthis are facing off with fighters loyal to the country’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in the fifth straight day of street fighting as the alliance between the two unravels.

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The Houthis have accused Saleh of striking deals with the Saudi-led coalition, which has been waging an air campaign against the Houthi-Saleh alliance for nearly three years.

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Since the recent clashes erupted, the Saudi coalition has been targeting the Houthis and backing Saleh’s camp to control Sanaa. The UAE is an active member of the coalition and its forces have mostly focused on securing the southern region of Yemen.

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Senior Houthi official Deif-Allah al-Shami told The Associated Press that the missile fired toward Abu Dhabi was a “message to the United Arab Emiratis for its political and financial support to Saleh.”

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He said that the UAE has hosted members of Saleh’s family, including his son who was an ambassador to the UAE and believed to be residing here during the conflict. Al-Shami also said the rocket attack was a message that “we will continue to target every nation that participated in the aggression against Yemen.”

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At least 100 Emirati soldiers have been killed in the war, which was launched to dislodge the Houthis from Sanaa after they overran the capital and kicked out the internationally-backed Yemeni government from power. The conflict has killed more than 10,000 Yemeni civilians and pushed millions to the brink of famine.

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Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of supplying Houthis with missiles, including the one used to target Riyadh on Nov. 4. Both the Houthis and Iran deny the claim.

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Iran, meanwhile, has close trade ties with the UAE. In November, Iranian authorities ordered a two-day ban on a hard-line Iranian newspaper after it ran a headline saying the UAE’s tourism hub of Dubai was the “next target” for Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

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The UAE on Sunday was celebrating its 46th National Day with a four-day-long public sector holiday. On Thursday, the country also marked Martyr’s Day to commemorate the country’s fallen soldiers.

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read more: https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/1.826429