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Ed Webb

UAE to open second military base in east Africa | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • The United Arab Emirates is going to set up a second military base in the Horn of Africa, sparking concern among some governments in the region.

    The Somaliland parliament approved the deal for the northern port of Berbera on Sunday

  • Under the 30-year deal, the Emirati government will have exclusive rights to Somaliland’s largest port and manage and oversee operational activities.
  • DP World, the UAE’s ports operator company, will supervise the port, which will gain a naval base as well as an air base. The lease of the port is contingent on the $442 million deal with DP World.
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  • Somaliland will get investment as well as international recognition: no other country has yet recognised the breakaway territory – which separated itself from the rest of Somalia in 1993 - as an "independent state"
  • The Eritrean base has been used by the UAE in the Yemen war against the Houthis. It is not known whether the facility at Berbera will have a similar purpose
  • Abu Dhabi is reaching out to countries in and around the Horn of Africa, as it looks to increase its non-oil revenue through other avenues including real estate, trade and financial services.
  • the UAE will be engaging in trade across the port, and for this, it would require a sustainable road network across Berbera. Hence, as the minister said, it will create opportunities for the local people on infrastructure development.
  • the Somaliland deal has angered Ethiopia, one of the regional powers in the Horn of Africa, which itself has economic ties with the UAE.

    As recently as last year, the UAE and Ethiopia signed several investment deals, under the terms of which the UAE is legally bound to protect the economic interests of Ethiopia

Ed Webb

Could hydroponics save Yemen from starving? | Green Prophet - 0 views

  • The number of food insecure people in Yemen has risen by 3 million in seven months, with an estimated 17.1 million people now struggling to feed themselves
  • More than two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27.4 million people now lack access to food and consume an inadequate diet. Another Syria-style crisis may be on our way, and climate change and lack of water is making it worse.
  • “We are witnessing some of the highest numbers of malnutrition amongst children in Yemen in recent times. Children who are severely and acutely malnourished are 11 times more at risk of death as compared to their healthy peers, if not treated on time. Even if they survive, these children risk not fulfilling their developmental potentials, posing a serious threat to an entire generation in Yemen and keeping the country mired in the vicious cycle of poverty and under development,”
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  • 80 percent of Yemenis are in now in debt, and more than half of all households have had to buy food on credit.
  • Up to 1.5 million households engaged in agriculture now lack access to critical agricultural inputs (including seeds, fertiliser, fuel for irrigation) and are in urgent need of emergency agricultural support. Of these, 860 000 households engaged in livestock production lack access to animal feed (fodder, concentrate, mineral blocks) and many livestock-dependent households have been forced to sell their herds to cater for other household needs
Ed Webb

From SEALs to All-Out War: Why Rushing Into Yemen Is a Dangerous Idea | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • As is often the case with Trump’s comments on policy, they quickly become the focus of media attention, rather than what the administration is actually doing — or what the facts are on the ground.
  • two separate but overlapping conflicts
  • a counterterrorism fight waged by Yemeni government, with U.S. support, against AQAP, al Qaeda’s most virulent franchise
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  • The second, and more damaging conflict, is a civil war between the government of Yemen and the Houthi minority, which was expected to last a matter of weeks, and maybe months, but is now well into its third year. It began when Houthi militia fighters descended on the capital Sanaa in late 2014 and soon evicted the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close partner of the United States.
  • if new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to make an early diplomatic contribution, then there is a confounding but vital mission with his name on it: de-escalating a Yemen civil war that is damaging U.S. interests and should have stopped a long time ago
  • The civil war escalated dramatically in March 2015, with the intervention of a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which understandably felt threatened by the turmoil on its border and by ties between the Houthis and Riyadh’s arch-rival Iran. The United States, which had long been urging Saudi Arabia to take greater responsibility for security challenges in its region, offered a range of support, including with intelligence, weapons sales, aerial refueling for Saudi planes, and various measures to help secure the Saudi border
  • According to the United Nations, 16,200 people have been killed in Yemen since the intervention, including 10,000 civilians. The humanitarian situation in what was already one of the world’s poorest countries, is now, after Syria, the most dire on the planet, with one in five Yemenis severely food insecure
  • The war has preoccupied key partners with an enemy that does not directly threaten the United States. Indiscriminate air strikes, conducted with American weapons and in the context of American assistance, have killed scores of non-combatants (such incidents eventually compelled the Obama administration to review and adjust our assistance to the coalition). And while Iran and the Houthis have historically maintained an arms-length relationship, the long conflict has brought them closer and led to the introduction of more advanced weapons, such as missiles capable of striking deep into Saudi territory or of threatening the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, a critical channel for maritime traffic.
  • Saudi officials and their Emirati coalition partners have been signaling for months that they are eager to end the conflict, which they did not expect to last nearly this long
  • after years of U.N.-led negotiations that sought to sell a relatively one-sided peace to the Houthis (despite what was, at best, a stalemate on the ground), the Obama administration developed and bequeathed to its successors a more balanced roadmap to which all key parties (the Saudis, the Houthis, and the Yemeni government — as well as the United States, U.N., and U.K.) grudgingly agreed
  • the Houthis are infamously difficult to work with. When Secretary of State John Kerry met for several hours with their representatives in Oman last November, he was forced to endure a lengthy airing of historical grievances before embarking on the topic at hand. They also have a long history of violating dozens of agreements, which every Saudi diplomat can recount, chapter and verse.

    Negotiating peace will also inevitably involve straining relationships with our key partners, who will need to be pushed in the right direction

  • Hadi, who all relevant players acknowledge cannot govern a reconciled Yemeni state, has consistently scuttled deals that would require him leave office. His Saudi patrons have proven either unwilling, or unable, to compel better behavior and are themselves too are quick to revert to unreasonable demands — a tendency that would be reinforced if the Trump administration signals it unconditionally has Riyadh’s back
  • the Emiratis, who maintain a heavy troop presence in southern Yemen but have, wisely, been more focused on AQAP (the first war) than the Houthis (second), have for many months been threatening to attack the Houthi-held port of Hudeidah, a provocative step that would almost certain set back any peacemaking efforts indefinitely
  • an expanded presence of U.S. forces — while Yemeni and Saudi governments are still at war with the Houthis — could bring U.S. troops into close quarters with Iran and its proxies, with all of the escalatory potential that entails
  • While the Houthis fired on a U.S. ship late last year, they have not repeated that mistake since the Obama administration retaliated by destroying radars located along the coast. If President Trump chooses to put U.S. forces into the middle of a civil war, it should explain a purpose and objective more concretely than simply “pushing back” on Iran. Moreover, it must do so with its eyes open to the risks those forces would be assuming and the reality that a limited special forces mission is unlikely to turn the tide on the ground
  • the longer the conflict with the Houthis continues, the more AQAP will continue to benefit from our, and our partners’, divided focus, as it strengthens its hold on ungoverned territory
Ed Webb

'A night of evil': US attack in Yemen leaves scars, fear and hatred | Middle East Eye - 1 views

  • in the aftermath of the operation, which some US officials admit went disastrously wrong, many others lay dead: Up to 25 civilians, including an eight-year-old girl thought to have been a US citizen, and one US commando.
  • Rimi said afterwards that 14 members of his group had died in the attack - apparently confirming the village's link to AQAP - but villagers deny any association, and say what happened on Sunday was simply a massacre
  • US sources say intelligence showed the village was defended by prepared emplacements and machinegun nests, and ringed by minefields - one of the many factors in a decision by the former US president, Barack Obama, to leave the operation on the shelf. 

    What is certain is Yakla has been used by fighting men at a time of civil war - many tribesmen are members of the Popular Resistance, a loose coalition of groups fighting against the Houthi rebel movement which took over large areas of the country and kicked out the country's president, Abd Rabbuh Hadi, in 2015

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  • "After the drones, we heard helicopters overhead – that was when the tribesmen decided to take up arms and went out to face the forces."

    According to the villager, tribesmen grabbed "personal' firearms" which in Yemen, one of the world's most weaponised countries, include machine guns and assault rifles, to confront the US forces.

  • Thahab had recently worked with pro-government forces in Marib province - a source said he had been supplied with weapons to liberate his home province from the Houthis. 

    "Thahab was a main ally of the pro-government forces in al-Bayda and it is not in the interest of the government for him to be killed -  as he is one of the bravest fighters in al-Bayda," the source said.

    For the people of Yakla, talk of who was and wasn't on the American hit list were secondary to what they believe were the true objectives: making Trump look strong.

    One villager said: "The new US president thinks himself to be the strongest in this world, but I say our prayers to Allah are stronger than him, and Allah will help the weak people like us."

Ed Webb

UK government 'ignored advice and continued Saudi arms sales' | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • The British government ignored the advice of its own arms control experts and refused to suspend the exports of arms to Saudi Arabia, a London court heard on Tuesday.

    The revelation came in evidence during a landmark judicial review at the High Court.

    The review, brought by Campaign Against The Arms Trade (CAAT), is set to determine the legality of the UK government’s arms transfers to Saudi Arabia amid the current armed conflict in Yemen.

  • Despite human rights fears over Saudi Arabia’s ongoing bombing campaign in Yemen, Britain has exported £3.3bn of weapons to the kingdom since 2015.
  • UN experts said last week that 10 air strikes by the Saudi coalition which killed at least 292 civilians may have been war crimes. The Saudis denied the claims. The panel said the Houthis were probably also guilty of war crimes.
Ed Webb

SEAL, American Girl Die in First Trump-Era U.S. Military Raid - NBC News - 1 views

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    Apparently an operation that went badly wrong and gave AQAP lots of material for propaganda.
Ed Webb

Yemeni graffiti artists hope images will highlight war horrors | Reuters - 0 views

  • Yemeni street artists are daubing the capital's walls with haunting images of war and starving children in an effort to highlight the impact conflict is having on the country's population.

    The graffiti, including a malnourished child locked in a blood-red coffin, is turning heads in a country where more than two thirds of the population are in need of some form of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

Ed Webb

Yemenis protest after funeral hall attack - BBC News - 1 views

  • Thousands of Yemenis have taken to the streets of the capital, Sanaa, to protest after an air strike killed more than 140 people at a wake on Saturday.

    Demonstrators gathered outside the UN headquarters demanding an international investigation into the strike, blamed on the Saudi-led coalition.

  • Powerful former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has allied himself with the Houthi rebels that control Sanaa, has called for people to attack soldiers on the Saudi border in revenge.
  • More than 500 people were wounded in Saturday's bombing, which targeted the wake of the father of Houthi-appointed Interior Minister Gawal al-Rawishan.

    Many Houthi officials were in attendance and Mr Rawishan was seriously wounded in the strike

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  • attack has been condemned by the UN, European Union and the US
  • The US said it had launched an "immediate review" of its already-reduced support for the coalition.

    White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said US co-operation with Saudi Arabia was "not a blank cheque".

  • four out of every five of its 28-million population in need of assistance
Ed Webb

How Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen has made al Qaeda stronger and richer - 0 views

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    Mohamed bin Salman's war is an utter disaster.
Ed Webb

Chinese drones: Cheap, lethal and flying in the Middle East | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • China’s new hit product: the CH-4 Caihong, or "Rainbow", drone.
  • The Middle East is no stranger to drones flown by the US, which have killed thousands of people over the last decade.

    But more nations are entering the game thanks to a new player in the market: Chinese manufacturers offering cheap hardware with a no-questions-asked sales policy.

    China has been aggressively marketing the CH-4, which bears a striking resemblance to the US MQ-9 Reaper and has similar capabilities.

  • Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are now believed to operate variants of Chinese armed drones
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  • China has not signed the international Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT, meaning it has fewer restrictions on the sale of drone technology
  • “Countries with less-than-ideal human rights records tend to use their weapons in less-than-ideal human rights manners, whether it’s a drone or a water cannon."
  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE are believed to have used the drones in their war in Yemen. While there are not verified reports of drone attacks, evidence of their use includes satellite photographs, as well as images of a drone resembling a CH-4 shot down by Houthi fighters.

    Saudi Arabia has been condemned by a host of bodies including the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the European Parliament for apparent indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Yemen.

  • while drones offer safety for operators, leaked reports from the US drone programme suggest that up to 90 percent of those killed in drone strikes may be unintended targets, or "collateral damage". 
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