Posts Tagged ‘Yemen’

WHO urges Yemen to accept vaccines as cholera crisis deepens, much of the country near famine

September 18, 2017


© AFP/File | A child suspected of having cholera is checked by a doctor at a makeshift hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the northern district of Abs in war-battered Yemen’s Hajjah province, on July 16, 2017

GENEVA (AFP) – The World Health Organization on Monday urged Yemen to approve cholera vaccinations it has offered to help contain an epidemic that could affect nearly a million people by year’s end.

Yemen, where a multinational conflict has caused a humanitarian crisis, had asked the UN health agency earlier this year for doses of the vaccine, said Dominique Legros, the agency’s cholera specialist.

The WHO sent a million doses in June only to see the Yemeni government change its mind, leading the United Nations to reassign the vaccines to Somalia and Sudan, Legros told reporters in Geneva.

Asked about Yemen’s reversal, Legros said only that discussions with countries about vaccinations could be “complicated”, noting the lack of familiarity with them in affected communities, especially in the case of newer vaccines like the one for cholera.

“We are still in negotiation with the government in Yemen to make sure we can also use (vaccines) to help control” the outbreak, he said.

Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the rampant cholera crisis in Yemen had reached “colossal proportions”, warning that it could affect 850,000 people by the end of the year.

More than 2,000 people have perished from the disease, according to the WHO.

The epidemic has put further strain on a ravaged health system in Yemen, where less than half of healthcare facilities are functioning as the conflict drags on.

Since March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition has been waging a war on behalf of the internationally recognised government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

More than 8,000 people have been killed, including at least 1,500 children, and millions displaced in the conflict which has pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.


Lies, politics and Iran-Qatar axis

September 15, 2017

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

It is hard to understand someone if he doesn’t understand himself. It gets worse when that someone is a government with multiple heads and decision process speaking with many tongues and sending conflicting messages. Worse, their speech has no relations with their actions.

So you may accept what is offered in private conversation, or even public forum, only to find the very same day that those offers are fake. Promises are made to be broken, agreements are signed to be violated, and commitment, no matter how many guarantors and witnesses, cannot be trusted for even 24 hours.

Iran, Russia, and all those in between, are famous for such tactics. Al-Houthi in Yemen, for example, signed many agreements with the Yemeni government in two decades, but broke them all. They agree with you in a night negotiation session, but the next morning they will have the opposite stand. You would be excused to think they have a collective amnesia, but it is more of a culture.

I believe Qatar has a big problem — not knowing what they want. Unless they make up their mind, they won’t stop playing games and changing their stand so frequently

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Guns for hire

They used to be guns for hire, with zero principles or conscious — there is no honor among thieves. So, with no regret or need for explanation they turned against their ally, ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who gave them the keys to all of Yemen, and put his loyalists in the army and tribes at their service

Iran, the mothership of this culture, is infamous for its contradictory statements, and unreliable commitments. Recently we heard different stands toward Saudi Arabia from different people. There are those who thank Saudi Arabia for a successful and safe Haj, for instance, and those who complain that we didn’t allow them political demonstration. Some threaten us with ballistic missiles that would burn all our oil fields and cities (except Makkah and Madinah!) and others wonder why would we doubt their peaceful intentions!

Also read: Qatar’s characteristic obstinacy and Iran’s ‘honor’

Not just different officials say different things, sometimes the same person would send contradictory messages. Take President Rouhani and his team for example. During the last couple of weeks, we dealt with accusations that Saudi Arabia is sponsoring all its own enemies! — Daesh (the so-called Islamic State), Al-Qaeda, etc. Days later, they extended their hands of brotherhood and friendship, calling for cooperation and good relations.

In the meanwhile, their terrorist and espionage cells are found in Saudi Arabia and the Iranian-made scuds are fired from Yemen toward our cities and towns, including Makkah. No wonder why it is so hard to understand their real positions and intentions—unless one reads their constitution, ideology and culture.

Qatar is another example of double-talk and multiple positions. During private conversations and indoor meetings, they present a totally different position than in public. They managed to draw a picture for themselves in the public mind, and hate to change it.

Reflecting reality

The problem is, the picture doesn’t reflect reality. While their public image is of a small country, but with strong, principled government, the truth is far from that beauty. It is more of scheming politicians that would cross any principle, heavenly or earthly, to realize their self interests. It doesn’t matter how many die, and how much destruction their neighbors and world would suffer, as long as they get their share of fame and influence. Lies become a way of life; and cheating rules the game.

In their latest episode, Emir Tamim called Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to express his desire to solve the crisis once and for all. He showed his willingness to meet with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to discuss the details of the 13 demands. Prince Muhammad welcomed the gesture and promised to discuss it with the other three partners.

Also read: Iran Revolutionary Guards’ commanders to support militias in the region

Few minutes later, the Qatari News Agency and Al Jazeera news channel reported a different story. According to their version, it was a call requested by President Trump to discuss ways to unite our GCC front, during which the Emir agreed to a meeting of envoys to discuss ways to restart dialogue. So we are back to square one. No agreement. No acceptance of the conditions. And no summit. Just low-level discussion of how to talk!

I believe Qatar has a big problem — not knowing what they want. Unless they make up their mind, they won’t stop playing games and changing their stand so frequently. Saudi Arabia is right to demand a clear and stated position before we go forward! With Iran and company, any less is pointless!

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on September 15, 2017.
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi journalist and writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at Follow him at Twitter: @kbatarfi.

Last Update: Friday, 15 September 2017 KSA 12:46 – GMT 09:46


Trump weighing aggressive Iran strategy — More than 80 experts urge Trump not to abandon Iran nuclear deal

September 14, 2017

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi’ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups, according to six current and former U.S. officials.

The proposal was prepared by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials, and presented to Trump at a National Security Council meeting on Friday, the sources said.

It could be agreed and made public before the end of September, two of the sources said. All of the sources are familiar with the draft and requested anonymity because Trump has yet to act on it.

RELATED: US-Iran relations through time

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United States and Iran Relations throughout time

In contrast to detailed instructions handed down by President Barack Obama and some of his predecessors, Trump is expected to set broad strategic objectives and goals for U.S. policy but leave it to U.S. military commanders, diplomats and other U.S. officials to implement the plan, said a senior administration official.

“Whatever we end up with, we want to implement with allies to the greatest extent possible,” the official added.

The White House declined to comment.

The plan is intended to increase the pressure on Tehran to curb its ballistic missile programs and support for militants, several sources said.

“I would call it a broad strategy for the range of Iranian malign activities: financial materials, support for terror, destabilization in the region, especially Syria and Iraq and Yemen,” said another senior administration official.

The proposal also targets cyber espionage and other activity and potentially nuclear proliferation, the official said.

The administration is still debating a new stance on a 2015 agreement, sealed by Obama, to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The draft urges consideration of tougher economic sanctions if Iran violates the 2015 agreement.

The proposal includes more aggressive U.S. interceptions of Iranian arms shipments such as those to Houthi rebels in Yemen and Palestinian groups in Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai, a current official and a knowledgeable former U.S. official said.

The plan also recommends the United States react more aggressively in Bahrain, whose Sunni Muslim monarchy has been suppressing majority Shi’ites, who are demanding reforms, the sources said.

In addition, U.S. naval forces could react more forcefully when harassed by armed speed boats operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s paramilitary and espionage contingent, three of the sources said.

U.S. ships have fired flares and warning shots to drive off IRGC boats that made what were viewed as threatening approaches after refusing to heed radio warnings in the passageway for 35 percent of the world’s seaborne petroleum exports.

U.S. commanders now are permitted to open fire only when they think their vessels and the lives of their crews are endangered. The sources offered no details of the proposed changes in the rules, which are classified.


The plan does not include an escalation of U.S. military activity in Syria and Iraq. Trump’s national security aides argued that a more muscular military response to Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq would complicate the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State, which they argued should remain the top priority, four of the sources said.

Mattis and McMaster, as well as the heads of the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Forces Command, have opposed allowing U.S. commanders in Syria and Iraq to react more forcefully to provocations by the IRGC, Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, the four sources said.

The advisers are concerned that more permissive rules of engagement would divert U.S. forces from defeating the remnants of Islamic State, they said.

RELATED: Ballistic missile testing in Iran

Moreover, looser rules could embroil the United States in a conflict with Iran while U.S. forces remain overstretched, and Trump has authorized a small troop increase for Afghanistan, said one senior administration official.

A former U.S. official said Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in Iraq have been “very helpful” in recapturing vast swaths of the caliphate that Islamic State declared in Syria and Iran in 2014.

U.S. troops supporting Kurdish and Sunni Arab fighters battling Islamic State in Syria have been wrestling with how to respond to hostile actions by Iranian-backed forces.

In some of the most notable cases, U.S. aircraft shot down two Iranian-made drones in June. Both were justified as defensive acts narrowly tailored to halt an imminent threat on the ground.


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Trump’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), poses a dilemma for policymakers.

Most of his national security aides favor remaining in the pact, as do U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia despite their reservations about Iran’s adherence to the agreement, said U.S. officials involved in the discussions.

“The main issue for us was to get the president not to discard the JCPOA. But he had very strong feelings, backed by (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) Nikki Haley, that they should be more aggressive with Iran,” one of the two U.S. officials said. “Almost all the strategies presented to him were ones that tried to preserve the JCPOA but lean forward on these other (issues.)”


(Writing by Jonathan Landay.; Reporting by Arshad Mohammed,Jonathan Landay, and Steve Holland.; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and John Walcott; Editing by Howard Goller)

Includes videos:


Donald Trump is pictured here. | Getty Images
President Donald Trump’s administration has been reviewing the Iran nuclear deal. | Andrew Harrer/Getty Images

More than 80 experts urge Trump not to abandon Iran nuclear deal

More than 80 experts on nuclear proliferation urged the Trump administration not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal in a statement on Wednesday.

The agreement, which was negotiated under former President Barack Obama in 2015, ended several sanctions against Iran in exchange for that country taking steps to dismantle its nuclear program. Iran is subject to regular inspections to monitor whether it adheres to those rules under terms of the agreement.

The signatories, which include many academics and some former State Department officials, wrote that they are “concerned by statements from the Trump administration that it may be seeking to create a false pretext for accusing Iran of noncooperation or noncompliance with the agreement in order to trigger the re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.”

Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley described the deal as a “very flawed and very limited agreement” and contended that “Iran has been caught in multiple violations over the past year and a half.”

The experts who signed the letter, though, described the agreement as “an effective and verifiable arrangement that is a net plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts” and warned against leaving it.

“Abandoning the deal without clear evidence of an unresolved material breach by Iran that is corroborated by the other EU3+3 partners runs the risk that Tehran would resume some of its nuclear activities, such as enriching uranium to higher levels or increasing the number of operating centrifuges,” they wrote. “These steps would decrease the time it would take for Iran to obtain enough nuclear material for a warhead.”

President Donald Trump was a critic of the Iran deal as a candidate, but he has not taken steps to abandon it since taking office. His administration, however, has been reviewing the deal.

Israel Hopes For a New Policy Toward Iran Soon

September 13, 2017
 SEPTEMBER 13, 2017 06:32

At Rosh Hashana reception, Israeli ambassador lays out Jerusalem’s expectations for the new year.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer

Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer. (photo credit:MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)

WASHINGTON — The Israeli government hopes that the coming weeks “will bring about a dramatic change” in the trajectory of a nuclear deal between Iran and international powers, the nation’s ambassador, Ron Dermer, said on Tuesday, before a room full of lawmakers and Trump administration officials.

At his annual Rosh Hashana reception, the ambassador listed Iran as the greatest threat to Israel and the wider region. The administration is considering declaring Iran in noncompliance of the agreement next month — a move that would promote a new, heated congressional debate on whether to leave the landmark nuclear accord.

Dermer offered praise for US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace team, one of whose leaders, Jason Greenblatt, was in attendance. The team is “very quietly working to advance a serious process” toward regional peace, he said.

The envoy also called on lawmakers to pass the Taylor Force Act, a bill making its way through Congress that would threaten the Palestinian Authority with an aid cut should it continue a program compensating the families of terrorists and murderers convicted in Israel.

Dermer’s statements came in the wake of reports by six current and former US officials that US President Donald Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive US responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi’ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups.

The proposal was prepared by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials, and presented to Trump at a National Security Council meeting on Friday, the sources said.

It could be agreed and made public before the end of September, two of the sources said. All of the sources are familiar with the draft and requested anonymity because Trump has yet to act on it.

In contrast to detailed instructions handed down by President Barack Obama and some of his predecessors, Trump is expected to set broad strategic objectives and goals for US policy but leave it to US military commanders, diplomats and other US officials to implement the plan, said a senior administration official.

“Whatever we end up with, we want to implement with allies to the greatest extent possible,” the official added.

The administration is still debating a new stance on a 2015 agreement, sealed by Obama, to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The draft urges consideration of tougher economic sanctions if Iran violates the 2015 agreement.

The proposal includes more aggressive US interceptions of Iranian arms shipments such as those to Houthi rebels in Yemen and Palestinian groups in Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai, a current official and a knowledgeable former US official told Reuters.


Justices allow Trump administration ban on most refugees

September 13, 2017

By Mark Sherman

The Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to maintain its restrictive policy on refugees.

The justices on Tuesday agreed to an administration request to block a lower court ruling that would have eased the refugee ban and allowed up to 24,000 refugees to enter the country before the end of October.

The order was not the court’s last word on the travel policy that President Donald Trump first rolled out in January. The justices are scheduled to hear arguments on Oct. 10 on the legality of the bans on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries and refugees anywhere in the world.

It’s unclear, though, what will be left for the court to decide. The 90-day travel ban lapses in late September and the 120-day refugee ban will expire a month later.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday night: “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has allowed key components of the order to remain in effect. We will continue to vigorously defend the order leading up to next month’s oral argument in the Supreme Court.”

The administration has yet to say whether it will seek to renew the bans, make them permanent or expand the travel ban to other countries.

Lower courts have ruled that the bans violate the Constitution and federal immigration law. The high court has agreed to review those rulings. Its intervention so far has been to evaluate what parts of the policy can take effect in the meantime.

The justices said in June that the administration could not enforce the bans against people who have a “bona fide” relationship with people or entities in the United States. The justices declined to define the required relationships more precisely.

A panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district judge’s order that would have allowed refugees to enter the United States if a resettlement agency in the U.S. had agreed to take them in.

The administration objected, saying the relationship between refugees and resettlement agencies shouldn’t count. The high court’s unsigned, one-sentence order agreed with the administration, at least for now.

The appeals court also upheld another part of the judge’s ruling that applies to the ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Grandparents and cousins of people already in the U.S. can’t be excluded from the country under the travel ban, as the Trump administration had wanted. The administration did not ask the Supreme Court to block that part of the ruling.

Saudi Arabia arrests four over alleged IS bomb plot

September 12, 2017


© AFP/File | The Islamic State group has claimed a series of attacks against security forces in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH (AFP) – Saudi security forces foiled an alleged suicide bomb plot by the Islamic State group targeting the defence ministry and arrested four suspects, authorities said Tuesday.

Two of the suspects are alleged Yemeni members of IS while the others are Saudis accused of links to them, the official news agency SPA reported.

They were allegedly preparing to attack two defence ministry headquarters in Riyadh, it reported, without saying when the arrests were made.

“The two Saudis are suspected of involvement with two Yemeni suicide bombers, who were planning attacks against (defence ministry) buildings,” SPA said.

The Yemeni men were arrested “before they reached their intended target,” the agency quoted an unnamed official as saying.

Photos published by SPA showed a safe house — a small, one-storey building in an enclosed courtyard — where the Yemeni men had allegedly sheltered and trained to use suicide belts.

Other photos showed the prepared belts and homemade grenades found inside the house in a northern district of Riyadh.

Since late 2014, IS has claimed a series of bombings and shootings against Shiites and security forces in the Sunni-majority kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is a member of the US-led international coalition that has been battling the Sunni extremist group in Syria and Iraq.

The Iran Deal Is on Thin Ice, and Rightly So

September 9, 2017

Foreign Policy

The Iran Deal Is on Thin Ice, and Rightly So

The future of the Iran deal is again under question. President Donald Trump garnered much attention in July by stating he no longer wanted to certify that Iran is in compliance with the agreement, which is required by law to occur every 90 days and thus due again next month. European leaders reacted by affirming their support for the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the Iranian government responded by claiming that it was in compliance — but would take measures to accelerate its nuclear program if Washington were to stop its compliance. Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certified Iran’s compliance again in June, weakening the president’s case.

But given the extraordinary threat that Iran poses with its expansionism in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere, as well as the ongoing administration review of Iran policy, the status of the JCPOA cannot be sacrosanct.

It’s clear that those within Trump’s orbit are already thinking hard about the best way to remake U.S. policy toward Iran. Former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton recently published a detailed “game plan” for pulling out of the agreement and adopting a course of political pressure on Iran amounting almost to regime change. And this week, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley laid out the case for Iran’s non-compliance in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), without endorsing a specific action by the administration.

The Trump administration, Haley noted, sees the agreement as flawed because it is time-limited, front-loaded in Iran’s favor, and does not end enrichment. Thus, it does not totally exclude Iran’s path to the accumulation of sufficient fissile material for a nuclear device. Moreover, it does not effectively address prior nuclear weaponization efforts, which were left to an opaque side deal between the IAEA and Iran, which now blocks inspections of military facilities.

But a primary problem with the agreement, in Haley’s view, is that it does nothing to curb Iran’s aggressive regional expansionism. This behavior, which profoundly worries every friendly Middle East leader, kicked into high gear just weeks after the JCPOA was signed in 2015. International agreements, particularly concerning weapons of mass destruction, are obviously important in themselves, but their strategic context should not be ignored. For example, while there has been little genuine angst over the Israeli nuclear weapons program, regional and global concern about Iranian nukes has been profound due to its destabilizing regional policies.

The Obama administration’s behavior stoked Iran’s aggressive regional approach.

The Obama administration’s behavior stoked Iran’s aggressive regional approach. U.S. officials in the previous administration were slippery on the issue of “linkage” between the agreement and Iran’s disruptive regional agenda. At times, such as a speech Vice President Joseph Biden made at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in April 2015, officials argued that the agreement was simply concerned with nuclear restraints, and Iran’s regional behavior would be dealt with in other ways. But it never was — not in Syria, Yemen, or elsewhere. Rather, the administration’s implicit position appeared best reflected in President Barack Obama’s 2015 interview with the Atlantic, wherein he argued that the long game engendered by the agreement would help return Iran to respectability and calm the region, while also signaling that he was not overly troubled by Iran’s depravations. He opined that Saudi Arabia had to find a way to “share the neighborhood” with Iran, and that backing U.S. allies in the region too strongly against Iran would only fan the flames of conflict.But Iran’s behavior is now too dangerous to ignore. Tehran has facilitated Bashar al-Assad’s scorched-earth policy, encouraged Russia to intervene in Syria, and abetted the rise of the Islamic State by allowing Assad and its clients in Iraq to oppress Sunni Arabs to the point of embracing the jihadist organization. While the JCPOA itself did not enable Iran’s regional policies or finance its expeditionary campaigns — which were well-funded before 2015 — the agreement encouraged Iran’s behavior. Certainly its huge arms purchases from Russia would not have been possible under the oil export and foreign deposit sanctions, and the agreement gave Iran a “seal of approval” facilitating its aggressiveness.

Leveraging the Iran deal to pressure Tehran, or even negotiating a more restrictive agreement, may look at first blush like mission impossible. Despite the nibbling at the edges described above, there is as yet no serious Iranian JCPOA violation. Under these conditions, as Richard Nephew and Ian Goldberg argue in Foreign Policy, there is little likelihood that the United States could convince the agreement’s other signatories and third parties to again implement U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports, which brought Iran to the negotiating table last time.

While this fact seemingly argues for leaving the agreement alone, there are other considerations that the administration must take into account. This includes a looming crisis in the Middle East: The Iranian-Assad-Russian campaign for dominance in Syria, and the American-led Coalition campaign to destroy the Islamic State, are both coming to a close. This leaves the United States and its partners with the choice of pulling out of enclaves in Syria and northern Iraq, which were established to fight the Islamic State but useful to counter the Iranian alliance, or if not, face possible direct military confrontation with Iran and its surrogates in both countries, as they see these enclaves as obstacles to Iranian domination of the Levant. Under such circumstances, no aspect of Iranian relations, including the JCPOA, can be immune from a re-think.

The United States can take measures here short of a full-scale JCPOA annulment — which, given the difficulties imposing international sanctions, would likely be a diplomatic disaster. European allies, for example, recently joined the United States in challenging an Iranian missile test “in defiance of” U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the JCPOA. The issue of blocked IAEA access to Iranian military facilities should also be reviewed.

Iran’s expectation of commercial benefits from the JCPOA is also its Achilles’ heel.

Iran’s expectation of commercial benefits from the JCPOA is also its Achilles’ heel. The administration could discourage global firms from doing business with Iran by leaving open its final position on the deal, and thus placing at risk their business with America. This is a technical violation of the JCPOA’s terms, but of the most unrealistic condition — the commitment to support  Iranian economic development. While such actions would disappoint Iran, they are unlikely to drive Tehran from an otherwise beneficial agreement.Furthermore, as Haley signaled in her AEI remarks, the law passed by the U.S. Congress requiring the president to certify that Iran is abiding by the Iran deal defines “compliance” more broadly than the JCPOA terms does. In contrast to the Iran deal, the president is required to certify that sanctions relief is in the vital national security interests of the U.S. The president thus could hold Iran in “non-compliance” under that act without necessarily stopping — or allowing Congress to stop — American compliance with the terms of the JCPOA. Under JCPOA Paragraph 36, the United States could also reinstitute token or partial sanctions in response to Iranian actions without pulling out of the agreement.

To many in the international community — especially Europe, but less so in the countries closer to Iran — such steps are anathema. But few if any countries really consider preserving the JCPOA their overriding interest in the Middle East: Even in Europe, what really impacts populations is threats from the Islamic State and unchecked refugee flows, which are largely a result of Iran’s policies in Syria. Moreover, a possible collapse of the U.S.-led Middle East security system by an unchecked Iran endangers them more than it does the United States.

No matter what Trump or another president does, the Iran deal is poised to run up against an uncomfortable political reality. Under the JCPOA, Congress must formally terminate sanctions — which until now have only been waived by the executive branch – by January 2024. It defies credulity to think that anything like today’s Congress, given anything like Iran’s current behavior, would take such a step by 2024.  But not doing so would violate a key JCPOA provision and block Iranian formal adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s Additional Protocol. Under these conditions, it may be feasible to pressure those in the international community favorable to the JCPOA to rethink overall relations with Iran, as the “price” for salvaging the agreement’s nuclear restraints.


The Iran Deal Is on Thin Ice, and Rightly So


Shiite corridor from Tehran to Damascus)

 (John Bolton)

(Includes John Bolton’s Plan for Iran and the Nuclear Deal)

Yemen: Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthi fighters appear to have re-joined — Nobody knows their next move — But warned “beware of these snakes”

September 6, 2017

DUBAI — Yemen’s ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh appears to have patched up a violent rift with his allies in the armed Houthi movement, but the drama has left friends and foe alike wondering anew at the wily political survivor’s next move.

Forming a surprise alliance with the Houthis when they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, Saleh’s army loyalists and Houthi fighters have together weathered thousands of air strikes by a Saudi-led military coalition in 2 1/2 years of war.

Image may contain: 2 people, eyeglasses, beard and closeup

Yemen’s ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh

Fearing the Houthis are a proxy for their arch-foe Iran, the mostly Gulf Arab alliance seeks to help the internationally recognized government push up from a base in Yemen’s south toward Sanaa. Saleh’s guile has been key to resisting the push.

For 34 years Saleh ruled over one of the world’s most heavily armed and tribal societies with expertly balanced doses of largesse and force. He battled the Houthis for a decade in office before he befriended them when out of power.

Cornered by pro-democracy “Arab Spring” protests, Saleh wore a cryptic smile when signing his resignation in a televised ceremony in 2012. Then as now, few could discern his intentions.

But his desire to preserve by any means necessary his influence and that of his family – many of whom occupy top military positions – seems beyond doubt. His influence has outlived that of other Arab leaders left dead or deposed by uprisings and civil wars since 2011.

As the conflict has wrought a humanitarian crisis, weeks of mutual sniping about responsibility for economic woes in northern Yemeni lands that they together rule peaked with a deadly gun battle between Houthi and Saleh supporters last week.

Leaders from Saleh’s former ruling party and the Houthis met and pronounced the split healed.

Image result for Houthi fighters, photos

Though they pledged to focus on the war effort against Yemen’s internationally recognized government that is backed by the Saudi-led coalition, the tensions suggest Saleh is seeking to stake out his own political strategy as exhaustion sets in on all sides.

“Saleh wants to capitalize on popular opposition to both the Houthis and the government, positioning himself as an alternative,” said Adam Baron, a Yemen expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

The war has killed at least 10,000 people, displaced 2 million from their homes, led to widespread hunger and a cholera epidemic which has left 2,000 people dead. Militias and Yemen’s powerful Al Qaeda branch have gained ground in the chaos.

Any total breakdown within the alliance between Saleh and the Houthis would be bloody and pit scores of local leaders, tribesmen and army units cultivated by Saleh for decades against others loyal to the fighters.


Saleh appeared eager to avoid that showdown in an interview which aired on Monday on Yemen Today, a TV channel he owns.

“There is no crisis or disagreement at all except in the imaginations of trouble-makers and sowers of discord at home and abroad,” he said.

But the ex-leader, at times referring to himself in the third person, said that “imbalances” remained in the alliance, suggesting not all wounds had been salved.

Analysts say he remains annoyed at the continued existence of a Houthi “revolutionary committee” which ruled alone before its alliance was formalized with Saleh’s General People’s Congress party in a “governing council” where they shared power.

Anxiety also flares over appointments of local officials and control over financial policy – both former GPC prerogatives.

Beyond local squabbles, the good relations Saleh enjoyed with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates during his presidency raise Houthi fears of a grand double cross.

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

A powerful former military chief whom his father appeared to be grooming to succeed him, Ahmed Ali and the passing of Saleh power to the next generation may figure into his calculus.

“He certainly wants to secure a place for his family in any post-war order … the Houthis are very paranoid that Saleh may cut a deal with Saudi Arabia and the UAE that will leave them out to dry,” Baron of ECFR added.

Saleh has denied seeking to advance his son’s political career or any backroom dealing with their enemies.

To salvage their alliance, the Houthis will need to convince Saleh that despite their violent history, they make for stronger allies than some GPC members – like Saleh’s successor, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi – who turned on him in the past.

“I say to President Saleh, out of sincerity and love, beware of these snakes,” Houthi official Hamid Rizq wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

“They are the ones who pushed you to fight wars against the honorable and loyal people in your society then abandoned you and called you are a thief and a criminal.”

(editing by Peter Graff)

Iran Still in Doubt about Saudi Arabia’s Real Intentions

September 5, 2017

Fars News

Iran Still in Doubt about Saudi Arabia's Real Intentions

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blasted Saudi Arabia for creating tension in the region, stressing that Tehran has witnessed no change in Riyadh’s approach.

“They (the Saudis) tried to move towards increasing tension instead of soothing it and I believe that the policies that Saudi Arabia has pursued either in Syria or in Yemen and Bahrain have not favored them,” Zarif said on Tuesday.

“I have not yet seen any clear prospect for change (in the Saudis’ behavior); but if such a development occurs in the Saudi thought, certainly it will be a positive development and will face Iran’s positive reaction,” he added.

Zarif expressed the hope that the Saudis would conclude that there is no way for the regional states but cooperation, and said, “We are a country that we, ourselves, are powerful and are after a powerful region too. We, ourselves, are secure and are after a secure region as well.”

In relevant remarks in August, the Iranian top diplomat underlined that his country is in favor of good relations with its neighbors after media images displayed him shaking hands with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir in Turkey.

“We greeted each other in a luncheon hosted by the Turkish foreign minister (in Istanbul on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) extraordinary meeting on Palestine),” Zarif told reporters in Tehran.

“Although some differences exist between the two countries, our policy has always been based on the establishment of good relations with neighbors but this policy also depends on mutual respect,” he added.

Zarif also underscored that “the priority of the 12th government will be having good ties with neighbors”.

The warm greeting, which came as a surprise to many present reporters due to the current tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, was initiated by Jubeir who approached Zarif with the intention to shake hands. After an embrace, the two top diplomats held talks with each other.

Yemen’s Cholera Epidemic Hits 600,000, Getting More Deadly and Wide-Spread — “Sudden and significant increase” in the number of cases

September 5, 2017

GENEVA — Yemen’s cholera outbreak has infected 612,703 people and killed 2,048 since it began in April, and some districts are still reporting sharp rises in new cases, data from the World Health Organization and Yemen’s health ministry showed on Tuesday.

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Yemen’s cholera outbreak could overwhelm medical staff and facilities

The overall spread of the epidemic has slowed in the past two months, with the daily number of new suspected cases cut to around 3,000 in recent days.

However the epidemic, the most explosive on record in terms of its rapid spread, has continually confounded expectations. Soon after it began, WHO saw a worst-case scenario of 300,000 cases within six months.

But by the end of June, WHO was hoping 218,000 cases might be the halfway mark. In late July it said the spread had peaked after infecting 400,000.

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Garbage and trash can spread the disease

Epidemics normally decline as quickly as they arise, so the peak of the disease – which is spread by contaminated food and water – should be roughly half the eventual total caseload.

But the decline in the epidemic has been bumpy, and the number of new cases rose in two of the past four weeks.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said some of the most affected areas, such as Sanaa City and the governorates of Hajjah and Amran, had seen falls in the numbers of new cases.

“WHO is currently investigating the reason for this increase. A key aim of the investigation will be to determine whether the numbers are accurate and whether the spike in suspected cases is, in fact, caused by cholera or another diarrhoeal disease like rotavirus,” Jasarevic said.

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Save the Children, a charity running cholera treatment centres, said last Friday that suspected cases in Hodeidah governorate had jumped by 40 percent in three weeks amid heavy rains and a heatwave, and in some districts weekly caseloads were double their previous peaks.

The United Nations has said the epidemic is man-made, driven by a civil war that has left 15.7 million people without clean water or sanitation.

(Reporting by Tom Miles, Editing by Mark Trevelyan)