Yemen: Saudi-led coalition launches attack to recapture Hodeida port city

The exiled Yemeni government said the attack will “cut off the hands of Iran, which has long drowned Yemen in weapons that shed precious Yemeni blood.” But a regional expert told DW the humanitarian crisis could worsen.

    
 Saudi fighter jet, which will support the coalition forces as part of the fight against Daesh, is seen in the sky before they land at Incirlik base in Adana, southern Turkey (picture-alliance/AA/I. Erikan)

A coalition of mostly Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia launched an attack on Wednesday to recapture the Yemeni port city from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Yemeni troops loyal to the internationally recognized exile government have begun pressing forward toward Hodeida airport, according to local commanders.

Warplanes and naval vessels hit Houthi targets in the early morning hours after the Houthis refused to leave the city, the exile government said. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) had issued a deadline for the rebel group to abandon the strategically important port.

Read more: Yemen: Fears mount as fighting focuses on port of Hodeida

Losing port would hurt the Houthis

The multi-pronged attack is the first time coalition forces have tried to retake control of a major city during the three-year conflict. It aims to cut off supplies to Houthi-controlled Sanaa, Yemen’s capital city, to pressure rebel leaders to enter negotiations.

The Houthis would suffer a heavy defeat if they lose Hodeida, Jens Heibach, a research fellow and analyst at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, told DW.

“It would be very hard or rather impossible for the Houthis to make up for all the supplies hitherto received via Hodeida,” Heibach said, adding: “plus the Houthis would lose an important geostrategic port which they could use to, for instance, target coalition vessels.”

Watch video04:39

Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, on the humanitarian situation in Yemen

The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland told DW that the attack on the large port city “should not happen.”

“This is like attacking Rotterdam,” said Egeland, who also served as a humanitarian official in the UN.

“What is special about Hodeida is that it’s a lifeline to most of the population who live in the north,” Egeland told DW.  “If that is now destroyed in the fighting, we will lose the lifeline to millions and millions of people that are already on the brink of starvation.”

Western powers have ‘fingerprints all over’ Yemen blockade

He also told DW that he would speak to representatives of the United Arab Emirates and the  Saudi Arabia and urge them to call a ceasefire and put Hodeida under UN management.

“I’m actually very surprised and disappointed that the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and all these powers – that have fingerprints all over this blockade against Yemen and are very close to Saudi and Emirati-led military coalition – have not been able to avert this attack,” he said.

Houthi forces captured Hodeida and Sanaa in 2014, and the coalition intervened in the civil war one year later after Houthi forces ousted President Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi. More than 10,000 people have been killed in the war, which is seen largely as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran.

Heibach said the Houthis could pose a difficulty for the coalition if they decide to withdraw to the highlands in surrounding Hodeida. “As far I know it is utterly hard to lead a military campaign in mountainous terrain as it is more complicated to use heavy weapons,” he said. “It would probably end up in guerrilla warfare which is almost impossible to win and which the Houthis are quite experienced in.”

Read more:Why are EU countries reluctant to intervene in Yemen’s war?

Watch video03:35

Anas Shahari, aid worker in Yemen, on the latest Saudi-led attacks on Hodeidah Port.

Attack could worsen humanitarian crisis

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have said recapturing the port would allow the coalition to bring in supplies to relieve millions of people throughout Yemen who are facing starvation and disease.

But Adam Baron, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told DW the assault risks doing the exact opposite.

“If this ends up being a quick battle with the port being restored quickly, that’s one thing,” he said. “If it ends up being an extended battle where the port is destroyed in the process, that’s quite another.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and United Nations called on both sides to protect civilians in Hodeida.

ICRC spokeswoman Marie-Claire Feghali said the attack was “likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen.”

“Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict have to do everything possible to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they need to survive,” Lise Grande, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, told Reuters news agency.

The organization warned the coalition against striking the city amid concerns a battle could worsen one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and cause some 250,000 deaths in a worst-case scenario. International UN officials were ordered to leave the city on Monday.

‘Cut off the hands of Iran’

Saudi Arabia has accused the Houthis, who deny they are fighting for Iranian interests, of using Hodeida port to import Iranian weapons. Riyadh has said some of the weapons, including missiles, have been launched against Saudi territory.

“The liberation of Hodeida port is a turning point in our struggle to recapture Yemen from the militias that hijacked it to serve foreign agendas,” Yemen’s exiled government said.

“The liberation of the port,” it said, “is the start of the fall of the Houthi militia and will secure marine shipping in Bab al-Mandab strait and cut off the hands of Iran, which has long drowned Yemen in weapons that shed precious Yemeni blood.”

COURTESY: DW

Win the Vote, End the War

How a Senate resolution can end Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

By Robert Naiman, Opinion ContributorMarch 6, 2018, at 10:45 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

Win the Vote, End the War

Yemenis inspect damage at the site of a reported air strike by the Saudi-led coalition, on the outskirts of the northwestern Huthi-held Saada province, on January 22, 2018.(STRINGER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

SENS. BERNIE SANDERS, I-Vt., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have introduced SJRes54, invoking the War Powers Resolution to force a Senate floor vote on ending unauthorized U.S. participation in the Saudi war in Yemen. A floor vote on the resolution is expected next week. Co-sponsors currently include Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

The Sanders-Lee Yemen war powers resolution will get a vote. While this tool has never been used to force a Senate vote on war powers, it has been used to force Senate votes on arms sales. In September 2016 and June 2017, these provisions of law were used to force Senate votes on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The resolution could pass the Senate, because the margin of the June 2017 vote was narrow. Forty-seven Senators – 43 Democrats and four Republicans – voted against continuing to arm Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. If the same 47 vote against Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen again – and the war and humanitarian catastrophe have only gotten worse since June – then four more Senators voting against Saudi Arabia’s war would make 51.


If the Sanders-Lee resolution passes, it is likely that the Trump administration will comply with the Senate’s demand. Presidents have backed down when faced with broad Congressional pushback on war powers. In August 2013, President Barack Obama threatened to bomb Syria without Congressional authorization. Two hundred Republican and Democratic House Members signed a letter to Obama saying that under the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution, you can’t do this without our prior authorization.

Cartoons on President Donald Trump

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Obama backed down and agreed to seek Congressional authorization. When he could not obtain it, he sought a diplomatic solution. Later, Obama adviser Ben Rhodes acknowledged that Obama had not acted without Congressional authorization, in part, because of the threat of impeachment.

President Donald Trump himself already called in December for Saudi Arabia to completely end its blockade of goods into Yemen; two days later, the White House called for the immediate cessation of hostilities in Yemen. It would be difficult for the Trump administration to explain why U.S. participation in the Saudi war must continue when the Senate has just declared such participation unconstitutional and insisted that it stop, even as the administration itself has said hostilities should cease, even as the war has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with millions of people on the brink of famine, even as U.S. taxpayers are paying for humanitarian assistance to ameliorate the near-famine that Saudi Arabia is deliberately creating in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia will not continue the war without U.S. military support. Foreign Policy reported that the Saudi-United Arab Emirates “daily bombing campaign would not be possible without the constant presence of U.S. Air Force tanker planes refueling coalition jets.” Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and CIA veteran, said: “if the United States and the United Kingdom, tonight, told King Salman, ‘This war has to end,’ it would end tomorrow. The Royal Saudi Air Force cannot operate without American and British support.”

But if Trump does not comply with the Senate’s demand, the matter will return to the House. HConRes81 was introduced in September by Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Walter Jones, R-N.C. It currently has 50 co-sponsors. At that time, the House leadership was able to block floor action. But in the wake a resolution passing in the Senate, the political dynamics in the House would be completely different. Pressure for the House to take up the Senate resolution would be intense, and House members like Khanna can invoke the War Powers Resolution to try to force a vote.

If the Sanders-Lee resolution can pass the Senate, companion legislation can pass the House. Already in June 2016, the last time the House was allowed to vote on any aspect of this war, 40 House Republicans joined 164 House Democrats to nearly block the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.

It is hard to imagine that Trump would risk impeachment to keep the Saudi war in Yemen going. Does Trump really care that much about preserving the conflict?

Robert Naiman, Opinion Contributor

Robert Naiman is policy director at Just Foreign Policy.

Tags: YemenSaudi ArabiaMiddle East

COURTESY: US News and World Report

Saudi Arabia says leading Houthi rebels killed in Yemen

A strike by the Saudi-led alliance has killed dozens of Houthi rebels in Yemen, including two commanders, Saudi media report. Houthi rebels lost one of their top leaders in an attack last week.

Saudi fighter planes (AFP/Getty Images/F. Nureldine)

The military coalition of Sunni allies led by Saudi Arabia has carried out an overnight strike on the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, killing at least 38 Houthi rebels, including two of their commanders, Saudi media said Saturday.

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television reported that the airstrike hit the rebel-controlled Interior Ministry headquarters during a meeting of the rebel group’s senior leaders.

The Houthis have confirmed that an overnight attack took place but gave no details on casualties.

The strike came hours before the Houthis staged a public funeral in Sanaa for Saleh al-Samad, a senior leader, who was killed on April 19 in an aerial attack claimed by the Saudis and their allies, this time in Yemen’s coastal province of Hodeida.

Saleh Al-Samad (Getty Images/AFP/M. Huwais)Samad was killed last Thursday

Shortly after the funeral began, the rebels said they had launched eight ballistic missiles at “economic and vital targets” in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan province. Saudi Arabia said it had intercepted four missiles and that one man had been killed by debris.

The Houthis have stepped up their missile attacks on Saudi Arabia this year, with just one casualty reported until now.

Read more: Why are EU countries reluctant to intervene in Yemen’s war?

Long and deadly conflict

The attacks came as newly appointed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to arrive in Riyadh for talks that are expected to include discussion of the conflict in Yemen, in which nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led alliance became involved.

The war has its roots in the Houthi takeover of Sanaa in late 2014, which forced the Saudi-backed government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile in the southern city of Aden.

The Saudi-led alliance entered the war with an air campaign after the rebels advanced on the temporary seat of the government in Aden. Its campaign has come under widespread criticism for worsening the plight of Yemeni civilians already suffering under poor humanitarian conditions.

The coalition has denied ever targeting civilians.

Ruins in Sanaa (picture-alliance/dpa/Xinhua/M. Dhari)Saudi-led airstrikes have caused considerable destruction in Sanaa and other cities

Saudi Arabia fears its regional archrival, Iran, is backing the Houthis in a bid to gain a strategic foothold on the Arabian Peninsula, a view shared by Washington.

Tehran has blamed Saudi Arabia for the war, which has unleashed what has been described by the United Nations as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with the country now on the brink of famine.

Read more: Yemen’s war explained in 4 key points

Watch video42:31

Bombs for the world

tj/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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COURTESY: DW

Party of late Yemen ex-President Saleh names new head

The party that led Yemen for 30 years appointed a new chief in the midst of the country’s civil war. After switching sides twice, former party leader President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed by Houthi rebels in December.

Yemen's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh (picture alliance/AP Photo/H. Mohammed)

The party of Yemen’s slain former President Ali Abdullah Saleh (pictured above) appointed a new chief on Sunday, the General People’s Congress Party announced at a press conference in the capital, Sanaa.

Sadek Amin Abu Raas is now the head of the party, which Saleh founded in 1982 and led until the wave of anti-authoritarianism brought on by the Arab Spring led to his ouster in 2012. He was replaced as president by his deputy Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

During his three-decade tenure, Saleh led several relatively successful military campaigns against the Houthis. After his expulsion, Saleh formed a surprise alliance with the Houthis, who were able take over Sanaa in 2014 with the backing of Iran.

He switched sides again in December 2017, announcing that he would support his one-time enemies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and President Hadi. He was then killed by a Houthi sniper while attempting to flee the capital later that same month.

President Hadi and the Houthis remained locked in a frozen civil war that is largely seen as a proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran, who have backed opposing sides. The conflict has caused more than 10,000 deaths – more than half of them civilians – and a deepening humanitarian crisis that has left many in Yemen without enough food, drinking water or medical supplies. Aid organizations have regularly complained about both sides blocking access to the most desperate areas of the country.

es/rc (dpa, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

UN: Yemen’s ‘futile’ war kills scores of civilians in past 10 days

The top UN official in Yemen says all sides in the country’s conflict are indiscriminately killing civilians. He said airstrikes by the Saudi-led Arab coalition alone killed 68 noncombatants in one day.

Scene of air-raid aftermath

The United Nations on Thursday described the civil conflict in Yemen as an “absurd” war in which all parties, including a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, were showing a “complete disregard for human life.”

“This absurd war … has only resulted in the destruction of the country and the incommensurate suffering of its people, who are being punished as part of a futile military campaign by both sides,” the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said in a statement.

Wreckage of a car after an air strikeSaudi-led airstrikes often hit civilian areas

McGoldrick cited two air raids by the Saudi-led Arab coalition on December 26 that together claimed scores of civilian lives.

The first killed 54 civilians, including eight children, at a “crowded popular market” in Taez province, and the second in the Red Sea province of Hodeida killed 14 people from the same family, the statement said.

Infografik Bürgerkrieg im Yemem Monate ENG
Infografik Bürgerkrieg im Yemen Regionen ENG

Read more:

– End Yemen’s blockade, urge women Nobel laureates

– Yemen’s Houthis are using missiles ‘made in Iran,’ US says

– UN asks for record $22.5 billion for humanitarian aid in 2018

Another 41 civilians had been killed in other fighting in Yemen in the past 10 days, according to the statement.

“I remind all parties to the conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition, of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure and to always distinguish between civilian and military objects,” McGoldrick said.

He said that the conflict in Yemen had no military solution and that negotiations were necessary to resolve it.

Watch video01:28

Saudi Arabia intercepts Houthi missile fired on Riyadh

Devastating conflict

The war in Yemen broke out in 2015 after Shiite Houthi rebels, with support from forces loyal to Yemen’s former president, the late Ali Abdullah Saleh, took over the capital, Sanaa, and much of the rest of the country. They are opposed by supporters of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, whose power base is in the southern port city of Aden.

The Arab coalition began flying airstrikes in the country in March 2015 in a bid to restore Hadi’s government and prevent what Saudi Arabia sees as a proxy bid by Iran to gain a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula. It stepped up its air campaign after December 19, when Saudi air defenses intercepted a ballistic missile fired at the Saudi capital, Riyadh, by the Houthi rebels.

Ballistic missile fired at Saudi ArabiaThe conflict has escalated further since the Houthis fired their missile at Saudi Arabia

The Saudi military intervention, which has included seemingly indiscriminate bombings of civilian areas, has met with widespread international condemnation.

By August 2016, at least 10,000 lives had been claimed by the Yemeni conflict, according to UN figures. The world body has not issued any current estimates.

The UN says the country is now in the grip the of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with about 8 million people threatened by imminent starvation. Yemen has also been afflicted by a cholera epidemic that has infected 1 million people.

Even before the war, Yemen was one of the Arab world’s poorest countries.

Watch video03:41

Yemen’s chaos deepens after death of ex-president – Q&A with Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator

tj/rt (AFP, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

Yemen’s Houthi rebels fire missile at Saudi Arabia’s royal palace

Saudi Arabia intercepted the missile south of its capital Riyadh in a move likely to affect Yemen’s conflict. The Houthis had previously claimed similar attacks targeting an international airport and a province.

Riyadh general view

Houthi rebels in Yemen on Tuesday fired a ballistic missile at the al-Yamama royal palace in the Saudi capital Riyadh, said a spokesman for the group.

Minutes later, the Saudi-led coalition said it intercepted the ballistic missile south of the capital. “Coalition forces confirm intercepting an Iranian-Houthi missile targeting south of Riyadh. There are no reported casualties at this time,” the state-run Center for International Communication tweeted.

Coalition forces confirm intercepting an Iranian-Houthi missile targeting south of Riyadh. There are no reported casualties at this time.

A spokesman for the Houthi movement confirmed that a ballistic missile had targeted the royal court where they claimed a meeting of Saudi leaders was taking place on Tuesday.

Read more: Yemen: Between conflict and collapse

In November, the Houthis launched two ballistic rockets, with one aimed at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport and the other at the southwestern province of Assir.

According to Houthi-linked media, the Iran-aligned rebels said it fired the short-range Burkan H2 missiles at the time in response to “Saudi-American aggression and crimes against the people of Yemen.”

Never-ending war

In response to the earlier Houthi action, the Saudi-led coalition imposed a blockade to prevent what it claimed was Iran smuggling advanced military technology to the Shiite rebels.

Backed by loyalists of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Houthis captured the Yemini capital Sanaa in 2014, forcing the country’s internationally-recognized government led by Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign against the Houthis and their allies.

More than 15,000 people have been killed and thousands more injured since the conflict erupted, according to UN figures. The country has since been pushed to the brink of famine and prompted a cholera epidemic affecting nearly one million people.

ls/jm (Reuters, dpa)

COURTESY: DW

Haley slammed for attacking Iran’s ‘lawless behavior’ while ignoring plight of Yemeni civilians

Haley slammed for attacking Iran's 'lawless behavior' while ignoring plight of Yemeni civilians
The US envoy to the UN was slammed on social media over a speech blaming Iran for a missile launched at a Saudi airport last month. Some accuse Nikki Haley of lying, while others say she’s ignoring Yemeni civilians’ struggles.

Delivering a speech at the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling military installation in Washington DC, Haley stood in front of the exact missile that was intercepted by Saudi Arabia on November 4. “As you know, we do not usually declassify this type of military equipment recovered from these attacks. But today, we are taking an extraordinary step of presenting it here, in an open setting,” she said.

READ MORE: US rep to UN shows ‘evidence’ of Iran’s missile in Yemen, promises coalition against Tehran

Haley blamed the missile attack on Iran, alleging that it supplied the weapon to Yemeni Houthi rebels. “The Iranian regime cannot be allowed to engage in its lawless behavior any longer… the fight against Iranian aggression is the world’s fight,” the UN envoy stated, stressing that Riyadh’s civilian airport was the intended target of the missile attack.

The Iranian government has yet to respond to Haley’s Thursday speech.

“The fight against Iranian aggression is the world’s fight… This missile was used to attack an international civilian airport in Saudi Arabia. Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK, or the airports in Paris, London, or Berlin.”

Saudi Arabia has also accused Iran of being behind the missile attack, which was successfully intercepted. Riyadh has also called for sanctions to be placed on Tehran over the attack.

However, not everyone is so convinced that Haley’s words are entirely true. Social media backlash has rolled in at full speed, with podcaster John Aravosis saying there is “zero reason to believe anything Nikki Haley is saying right now about Iran. She represents a pathological liar…”

There is zero reason to believe anything Nikki Haley is saying right now about Iran. She represents a pathological liar. Sad to say, we have zero credibility on the world stage right now. No one should believe a word Haley is saying. Sadly.

Meanwhile, the leader of the National Iranian American Council, Trita Parsi, accused Haley of “laying the groundwork for a US-Iran war on behalf of Saudi Arabia,” and questioned why Washington is treating Saudi interests as American interests.

Make no mistake: What Nikki Haley is doing right now is laying the groundwork for a US-Iran war on behalf of Saudi Arabia.

Reporters should ask her why the Trump Admin treats Saudi Arabia’s interest as America’s interest?

Others took issue with Haley for ignoring the fact that the Saudi-led coalition – which is supported by the US – continues to bomb civilians who are experiencing a humanitarian crisis.

Nikki Haley is a criminal liar.

In Yemen thousands are dead, a million with cholera, millions in need of food and medical aid suffering from the US war on Yemen and blockade and Haley gives a pathetic presentation accusing Iran of helping Yemenis fight back.

Millions of Yemenis are starving to death because of US-blessed Saudi war on Yemen, @nikkihaley blames Iran. 🙃 💀 👹

One person attacked Haley’s “stupid thoughts,” accusing the US of being engaged in “lawless behavior for many decades.”

Actually the American regime has been engaging in lawless behavior for many decades & is not one to talk. Nikki Haley should keep her stupid thoughts to herself.  & those who work for him have proven themselves to be an embarrassment to intelligent patriotic Americans. https://twitter.com/FoxNews/status/941355592601481217 

Some compared Haley’s speech to one made to the UN by former US national security adviser Colin Powell in 2003, in which he justified the George W. Bush administration’s rationale for the war in Iraq, citing the country’s alleged weapons program. Last year, Powell referred to that speech as a “blot” on his record, as no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq.

@nikkihaley’s latest «revelations» are fairly reminiscent of something we’ve already seen. How many times can the same ol’ trick be used over and over again?

Nikki Haley’s speech errily reminds me of Colin Powell’s speech to United Nations laying out the Bush administration’s rationale for war in Iraq.    

The Saudi-led coalition launched an aerial campaign against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen in March 2015, and later began a ground operation. The coalition is allied to Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia when the Houthis took power in Yemen. At least 5,000 civilians have died as a result of the country’s civil war, accordingto UN figures. More than 8,500 people have been injured in the fighting.

Meanwhile, Washington continues to support its ally Saudi Arabia, and has continuously cited threats posed by Riyadh’s arch rival Tehran. In May, US President Donald Trump struck an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the value of which totaled $350 billion. The agreement was aimed at bolstering security “in the face of Iranian threats.”

Tensions between the US and Iran were exacerbated after Trump refused to certify Tehran’s compliance with the nuclear deal in October. Trump has frequently slammed what he calls the “worst deal ever negotiated,” which was agreed between Iran and six world powers under the Barack Obama administration. Earlier this month, Iran’s foreign minister told RT that Iran has “options” if the US pulls out of the deal, and that he doesn’t believe those options “will be very pleasant for the United States.”

Courtesy: RT