Asharq Alawsat‘s Editor-in-Chief Salman Aldossary trumpets the UN Resolution on Yemen as a victory for the Gulf Cooperation Council. He sees this as one of the GCC’s finest moments and as an indication that the GCC is finally punching its own weight in the international arena.
The GCC teaches the world a lesson from New York
This could well be the greatest diplomatic triumph for the Gulf and Arab countries at the United Nations. Who would have believed that mighty Russia, which until recently has been extremely sympathetic to the Houthis, would not be able to impede the UN Security Council resolution on Yemen? What kind of diplomatic efforts did Gulf countries exert to enable them to convince Russia to give its indirect approval to Operation Decisive Storm? What explains this level of international support that the offensive has garnered from the world’s highest political authority? This shift in positions must have been caused by the same logic that led to the launch of Operation Decisive Storm: that it was necessary to rescue Yemen after its legitimate President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi submitted an official request to the UN.
The UN Security Council resolution on Yemen has not only hemmed in the Houthi militias and Yemen’s ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, but also, thanks to the unprecedented level of international support, went so far as to voice rejection of the Houthi coup in Yemen. It also imposed sanctions on senior Houthi figures and Saleh under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. The resolution was clear enough in that it threatened to take further measures in the event rebels failed to comply with Resolution 2216. In other words, Operation Decisive Storm is merely one of the measures the international community has decided to take in a bid to stop the occupation of Yemen.
The success of these diplomatic efforts, which Saudi Arabia has spearheaded, highlights that Operation Decisive Storm was not a rash step. It is impossible for Riyadh to breach international laws, and it has enough experience and knowledge to take major decisions with wisdom and temperance, even in such difficult times. The UN Security Council is confirming the validity of the Saudi decision and supporting it politically, and perhaps would also support it with military force in case the rebels do not comply with Resolution 2216 within the next 10 days.
The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution (#2216) calling for all parties in Yemen — particularly the Houthis — to stop the violence and return to negotiations. It calls for an arms embargo and for the Houthis to relinquish all areas they have seized by force. It also placed sanctions on individuals seen as playing a negative role, including the son of the former Yemeni president. Russia abstained from the vote.
Also Imposes Sanctions on Key Figures in Militia Operations
Imposing sanctions on individuals it said were undermining the stability of Yemen, the Security Council today demanded that all parties in the embattled country, in particular the Houthis, immediately and unconditionally end violence and refrain from further unilateral actions that threatened the political transition.
Adopting resolution 2216 (2015) by 14 affirmative votes to none against, with one abstention (Russian Federation), the Council also demanded that the Houthis, withdraw from all areas seized during the latest conflict, relinquish arms seized from military and security institutions, cease all actions falling exclusively within the authority of the legitimate Government of Yemen and fully implement previous Council resolutions.
Acting under chapter VII of Charter, the body also called upon the Houthis to refrain from any provocations or threats to neighbouring States, release the Minister for Defence, all political prisoners and individuals under house arrest or arbitrarily detained, and end the recruitment of children.
Imposing sanctions, including a general assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo, on Abdulmalik al-Houthi, who it called the Houthi leader, and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, son of the president who stepped down in 2011, the resolution called upon all Yemeni parties to abide by the Gulf Cooperation Council and other initiatives and to resume the United Nations-brokered political transition.
If Saudi Arabia’s opinions and policies can be garnered from its media, then the Saudis have all but abandoned Pres. Obama and his Middle Easter policies. Asharq Alawsat — sometimes known as “The Green Truth” as a nod to its line to Saudi policy makers — runs editorials from two former Editors-in-Chief that lambaste the President for his errant views brought forth in an interview with The New York Times‘s columnist Thomas Friedman.
From Tariq Alhomayed:
Obama is always wrong on the Middle East
In his interview with journalist Thomas Friedman this week, US President Barack Obama said that the threat to regional states, including Saudi Arabia, is not Iranian intervention, but rather “internal threats.” Can this be true?
The reality is that Obama has an incorrect view of the region, and this is something that has become increasingly clear since he took office. He is always wrong on our region, and has made the biggest mistakes here, and these mistakes have had major consequences.
Obama rushed to withdraw from Iraq, and now here we see him returning once again. He played down the Syrian revolution and Assad’s crimes. He talked about “red lines” but Assad has crossed each and every one of these, while Obama has done nothing. He played down the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) only to subsequently be forced to acknowledge the reality of the situation, although he still had enough time to blame his country’s intelligence services for failing to realize this earlier.
It is also interesting to note a recent Washington Post report that revealed the extent of ISIS’s connection with the former ruling Ba’athist regime in Iraq, and that many members of the group are ex-members of Saddam Hussein’s military. This is the same military that was controversially disbanded following the Iraq invasion. Washington has made many mistakes in Iraq, and Obama must bear some share of the responsibility for this.
From Abdulrahman Al-Rashed:
Contradictions in Obama’s Doctrine
I tried to ignore US President Barack Obama’s interview with the New York Times because I was sure it would be part of his propaganda campaign for the framework nuclear deal with Iran. Still, the interview’s impact cannot be ignored. Rather than calming the fears of those in the Gulf region, Obama has provoked many here.
Thomas Friedman, one of the Times’ most prominent writers who is extremely knowledgeable about the region’s affairs, interviewed the president. Perhaps this was why the nation’s leader was dragged into arguing his points, instead of justifying them.
What’s strange about the conversation was that Obama commended the Iranian regime, justifying its actions and implying a sense of guilt over what the US had done against Iran.
I don’t know what books the American president reads before he goes to bed or how he understands the events of the past three decades. Tehran’s mentality and practices are close to those of Al-Qaeda: religious, fascist and hostile towards anyone who opposes their ideology. Tehran’s understanding of the world considers others as either believers or infidels. It is Iran that was responsible for much of the violence in the region under the banner of religion—and this was around 15 years before Al-Qaeda even emerged.
Writing at Asharq Alawsat, the paper’s Editor-in-Chief argues that the current conflict in Yemen is not sectarian, but geo-political and is focused on the Houthis as a rebellious group acting as a puppet of Iran. He distinguishes this from the situation in Iraq where sectarianism is very much at issue.
Houthis, not Shi’ites
Operation Decisive Storm, which is being backed by most countries across the world, is not a battle against the Shi’ites. Although this is certainly how the Houthis want to portray things, along with all other parties in their orbit, from Iraq’s Popular Mobilization forces and Hassan Nasrallah’s Hezbollah to, of course, their common backer: Iran. However, in reality, this is not a war against the Shi’ites, but a war against a rebel group that is being sponsored by a state whose strategy is based on exporting sectarianism across the region. This same country is portraying itself as the “grand protector” of Shi’ites everywhere—politically and doctrinally—as if these Shi’ites don’t have homelands of their own that can protect them from the lies of the Persian state.
There is a cacophony of sectarian discourse being put forward by Tehran’s agents in the region. Can you believe that Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah or Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi are complaining about sectarianism? We have even heard similar statements from commanders in Iraq’s Popular Mobilization forces. In other words, commanders of a military force that is formed along sectarian lines are now accusing others of sectarianism. I can only say that those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies for decades dealt with Zaydi former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, in addition to supporting the Shi’ite religious authorities in Yemen, while Riyadh also enjoyed excellent ties with former Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad, who was an Alawite. Gulf states do not frame their relations with other states according to sectarian or religious identity, although this is clearly something that the mullahs’ regime in Tehran is doing. Gulf states have never targeted their Shi’ite citizens or dealt with them any differently, even if they are minorities. Rather, Gulf states have granted them the exact same rights as the rest of their citizens, as opposed to Iran which deals with its own Sunni community as second-class citizens, oppressing them and depriving them of their rights, and even preventing them from building houses of worship. Gulf states have never committed any violations against their own citizens, whatever their sectarian or doctrinal identity. The same cannot be said of the Shi’ite militias in Iraq and how they are dealing with the country’s Sunnis, and this is something that is happening in full view of the Baghdad government.
The Washington Post runs an analysis of Saudi Arabia’s assertive role in Yemen. It notes the way the Kingdom once supported the Shi’ite government of Imam Yahya Hamiduddin, but shifted gears following the Imam’s death. Now, the piece says, the Saudis and their coalition partners are seeking to restore peace in Yemen and thwart Iranian ambitions.
For Saudi Arabia, struggles in Yemen have deep roots
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — In the two weeks since Saudi Arabia launched a bombing campaign in Yemen, the kingdom has barely slowed the advance of Shiite rebels who appear to be digging in for a long fight.
But so far, Saudi commanders have projected no outward signs of concern that the campaign is falling short.
“We should not be impatient for the results,” Brig. Gen. Ahmad Asseri, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, cautioned on Friday.
Saudi Arabia’s determination is rooted in something deeper than overcoming insecurity on its borders and the fear that rival Iran could take advantage of it through perceived links to the insurgents. Saudi Arabia’s leaders — backed by its powerful Islamic religious establishment — also have taken on a special role as guardian of both its southern neighbor and the wider Arabian Peninsula.
“This is a blessing .?.?. but it also places a responsibility on all of us,” King Salman told a gathering of the nation’s political and armed forces elite at his Riyadh palace last week.
Writing at The National Interest, Saudi analyst Fahad Nazer argues that a new, more assertive Saudi Arabia is developing under the leadership of the new King, Salman. While continuing to share many goals with the US, there are differences about how to achieve them and Saudi Arabia is willing and able to go in the manners it seems most likely to achieve those goals.
Almost immediately after the death of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia on January 22 and the ascension of his half-brother, Salman, to the throne, Saudis and Saudi-watchers in the West began speculating about the contours of Saudi domestic and foreign policy under the new king. While the first speech delivered by Salman within hours of becoming monarch stressed continuity, some seemed convinced that Saudi foreign policy in particular might experience an important shift under his watch. A mere two months after assuming the crown, it is becoming clear that King Salman has a different vision than did his predecessor Abdullah, and perhaps all those who came before him. Between restructuring some of the country’s most important political and economic institutions and launching an unprecedented, large-scale military operation in a neighboring country on the verge of a civil war, we could be witnessing the beginning of a completely new Saudi way of thinking. We could be on the verge of a Saudi perestroika.
The notion that Salman intends to forge his own unique legacy, gained credence a week into his reign, when he not only orchestrated one of the more significant cabinet reshuffles in recent history but also engineered a major overhaul of some of the kingdom’s advisory bodies. Royal decrees he issued eliminated twelve different political and economic advisory bodies. In their stead, he created two new bodies, one overseeing the Economy and Development, the other Political and Security Affairs. While some described the move as Salman’s attempt to consolidate power, others saw it as needed “streamlining” of an inflated bureaucracy.
While the cabinet reshuffle and bureaucratic restructuring was the talk of Saudi Arabia for days, the international community was more interested in gleaning clues about the direction Saudi foreign policy might take under Salman, especially at a time of widening violence in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
Apparently, the message being promoted by Amb. Al-Jubeir is not the one being heard within Saudi Arabia. Another story in today’s Arab News reports that Saudi intellectuals see Decisive Storm being very much an action taken against Iran.
Evil designs of Iranian regime should be exposed, say Saudi intellectuals
RIYADH: SHARIF M. TAHA
A number of Saudi intellectuals said Operation Decisive Storm is further proof that Saudi Arabia remains supportive of the Yemeni people.
The intellectuals, speaking to the local media, said the operation aims to support the legitimacy of Yemen which the Houthis tried to “kidnap,” and destabilize its security using arms and weapons.
Dr. Mahmoud Zaini, former member of the Makkah Literary Club, said the Yemeni campaign came to ward off dangers not only to Yemen but to the Gulf region as a whole, and whose leaders felt posed a direct threat to their security and stability.
The operation has stopped the situation in Yemen from deteriorating further and will accelerate the political process in the country as demonstrated by deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh who called for a political solution to the Yemeni crisis promising that he would not run for presidential elections, Zaini said.
Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel Al-Jubeir is making an effort to explain that Operation Decisive Storm — Saudi-led efforts in Yemen to roll back Houthi rebel advances — is not a proxy war with Iran. It is being waged, he insists, for the stability of Yemen and the region.
Operation Decisive Storm is for the protection of the Yemeni people and defense of their legitimate government and not a proxy war between the Kingdom and Iran, said Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Saudi ambassador to the US.
“This campaign is against a group supported by Iran and Hezbollah,” he said during a Meet the Press program on NBC News of America channel.
Al-Jubeir rejected claims that the operation was a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Asked about the possibility about Saudi Arabia and Iran coexisting in the Middle East, he said the Kingdom has faced many aggressions from the Iranian side, while there has been no aggression from the Kingdom against Iran.
With Yemeni airfields blocked or damaged by air force activity, the Saudi coalition’s navies have blocked Yemeni ports to prevent Iranian resupply, too. Saudi Gazette reports
The report also comments on the tactic of placing military forces in civilian areas with the view that civilian casualties will lead to bad press. That tactic has certainly worked in other parts of the region.
Saudi-led forces block Yemen ports
Mishal Al-Otaibi | Saudi Gazette
RIYADH — Naval forces of the Saudi-led coalition imposed a total blockade on all ports in Yemen, according to Brig. Gen. Ahmad Al-Asiri, adviser at the office of the minister of defense.
“As of today, all the prescribed naval units have been mobilized to enforce the sea blockade plan by preventing entry or exit from Yemeni ports.
The forces are blocking the movement of ships to prevent weapons and fighters from entering or leaving Yemen,” he told the daily press briefing at the Riyadh Airbase on Monday.
Al-Asiri said the coalition forces are now intensively engaged in repelling an advance of Houthi militias and the forces supporting them along the roads leading to the southern port city of Aden.
The airstrikes are now targeting movement of Houthi leaders, hitting command centers, arms depots, and cutting supply lines, he said, adding that the militia is now targeting citizens by moving their operations to residential areas so as to take advantage of it to create media hype.
In addition to making clear that military action in Yemen against Houthi rebels is an international effort, Saudi Arabia’s government is also trying to underline their view that this is a geo-political effort against Iranian expansionism, not a sectarian war. Asharq Alawsat reports on comments by the Ministry of Defense stating that the operation has closed off air re-supply from Iran to the Houthis.
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi-led airstrikes against the Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi movement in Yemen have successfully cut off air supply lines to the movement from Tehran, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
In his daily briefing on the progress of the air assaults—dubbed Operation Decisive Storm—Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Ahmed Bin Hassan Assiri told reporters the Houthis had used a recent deal signed between Yemen and Iran’s civil aviation authorities to gain military supplies from the Islamic Republic.
Yemen and Iran’s civil aviation authorities signed the agreement in late February, following the Houthi coup, to operate 14 direct flights between both countries, via state carrier Yemen Airways and Iranian private airliner Mahan Air.
Assiri said the Houthis had amassed a large amount of weapons and ammunition from Iran since the deal was signed, but that these supply lines had now been successfully cut off, with weapons storage facilities also targeted throughout the country.
The border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen had now also been secured, he said.
Saudi media are pushing forward examples of international support and cooperation for their Decisive Storm operation in Yemen. Al Arabiya TV reports on US support, both from Washington and from a visiting delegation of congressmen from the Armed Services Committee in the Senate.
Saudi defense minister Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz met on Monday with Senator Jim Inhofe, member of the armed services committee at the U.S. Senate, and his accompanying delegation, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.
The meeting addressed means of cooperation between the kingdom and the U.S. during the “Decisive Storm” campaign led by the Saudi kingdom upon the request of Yemeni President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi to halt Houthi militia advances and and restore stability and support legitimacy to the country.
On Friday, President Barack Obama offered U.S. support for air strikes led by Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies on Houthi militia camps in Yemen during a phone call with King Salman.
“The President and King Salman agreed that our collective goal is to achieve lasting stability in Yemen through a negotiated political solution facilitated by the United Nations and involving all parties as envisioned in the GCC Initiative,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement.
In an op-ed at Al Arabiya TV, Khalf Al Habtoor reminds Iran that the Arab world can play the “support the oppressed!” game, too. He points to the Arab residents of Iran, particularly those in Khuzestan, formerly known as “Arabistan.” These Arabs, he claims, are being treated poorly, as second-class citizens at best. Might they not warrant increased attention and support by Arab states?
He draws parallels — without actually naming names — with the way Iran argues for support of the Houthis in Yemen and calls for Arab, particularly GCC, support for the independence of Arab-occupied portions of Iran.
Arab Ahwaz must be liberated from Iran
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
Whenever the Arab world is discussed, forgotten are the five million Arabs struggling to survive under the Persian yoke in an Arab region bordering Iraq and the Arabian Gulf, rich with oil and gas. Once an autonomous area, separated from Persia by the Zagros mountain range, under the governance of Sheikh Khazaal bin Jabber – whose family had ruled for over a century – it was grabbed by Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1925 with a nod and a wink from Britain eager to preserve its relationship with Iran due to its oil interests.
Formerly known as Arabistan, the Iranian occupiers wasted no time in changing the name of this new Iranian province to Khuzestan, rejected by its Arab residents even today. Arabs and Persians have little in common and as Sir Arnold Wilson, a British colonial administrator, once said: Arabistan is “a country as different from Persia as is Spain from Germany.”
Although Arabistan provides Iran with 80 percent of its oil requirements as well as half of its gas, its sons are exploited and oppressed; their human rights tramped upon, their very identity in danger of being obliterated. Iran’s policy of ethnic discrimination combined with its Persian resettlement endeavors has resulted in turning the Ahwazi Arabs into an economic and social underclass.