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New and old perils threaten Yemen’s territorial integrity

in MIDLE EAST by

On Sunday, in the southern Yemenite port city of Aden, forces loyal to the government of President Hadi exchanged fire with the Southern Transitional Council (STC), an armed and secessionist movement supported by the United Arab Emirates. Until today, both sides were fighting alongside the Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, which are still in control of the capital Saana and of the northern part of the country. However, the cohabitation between the two forces has been precarious since the beginning and difficult to keep in place after almost three years of conflict. In a statement issued on Sunday, the prime minister, Ahmed bin Dagher, accused the STC of staging a “coup” directed towards the internationally recognised Yemenite government. Last week the separatist force has launched an ultimatum to Hadi’s government, blaming it for corruption and mismanagement in southern Yemen. However, announcements have been followed by actions and real confrontation in the city. The Sunday’s conflict in Aden has leave on the battlefield at least 21 dead and more than 130 wounded.  This new open source of confrontation could not only exacerbate the ongoing conflict in Yemen, leading to more destruction and loss of civilian lives but could also threaten the territorial integrity of the country. It is important to go back to the history to explain the ongoing growing secessionist sentiments in southern Yemen. Then, after turning to history, it is also useful to have a look to the current geopolitical situation in the region. Indeed, unification between North and South Yemen is not far, it dates to 1990. Thereafter tensions and secessionist movements have never been totally silenced. The city port of Aden was the only British colony in the entire Arabian Peninsula administered directly by the British government between 1839 and 1967. The British set up their own administrative, trade and educational institutions in the colony. The city was truly a cultural melting pot for many ethnic groups including people of Indian and Somali origins. After the withdrawal of British troops in 1967, Aden joined the rest of the British protectorates in the south to form the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, with the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) eventually taking power. Bloody conflict within the political movement favoured the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990. In Aden, the deterioration of economy and the sentiments of independence even challenged the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s tight grip to power. Less than four years after merging with the north, the south tried to split away in 1994 citing economic and political marginalisation, but it was crushed after a short-lived but bloody civil war. It was then created a mass peaceful pro-independence movement, the “Al-Hirak al-Janoubi” (the southern movement). Since the beginning of the conflict, government’s army and “separatists” fought side by side to defend the city of Aden from the Houthi’s incursions from the North of Yemen. However, since the Houthi’s failed attempts to take control of the city, Aden has witnessed severe security challenges, economic and basic infrastructure problems, and most recently growing support for secession from the North. In April 2017, forces loyal to President Hadi clashed with armed men supporting UAE-backed Aden Governor Aidarous al-Zubaidi at the city airport. Hadi responded to the incident by sacking the governor. Then, in May 2017, al-Zubaidi announced the establishment of the Souther Transitional Council which he claimed would represent “the will of the people of the South”. There are serious chances not only that this movement would undermine the integrity of Yemen’s territory, but also the course of the war against the Houthi placed in the North. The future military responses of president Hadi and its allies would definitely shape the southern question and future country’s alignment.

On Mideast visit, US house speaker vows to confront Iran

in AMERICAS/POLITICS by

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan came to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday promising to take a harder line on Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional proxies, and saying he was open to imposing new economic sanctions. His Emirati hosts couldn’t have been happier. “We could have given that exact same speech”, Emirati Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef al-Otaiba said. Gulf Arab nations, which view Iran as a regional menace and opposed the 2015 nuclear deal, have welcomed the hard line adopted by the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. But there are differences lingering beneath the smiles and handshakes, including over Washington’s alliance with Qatar, which is being boycotted by the UAE and three other Arab nations.

The spread of tensions among the coalition forces

in DEFENCE/MIDLE EAST by

A group of separatists in southern Yemen, backed by the United Arab Emirates, has declared a state of emergency in the port city of Aden and confirmed the intention to overthrow the country’s internationally recognised government, led by Mr Hadi, within the next week. The leader of the separatist group, Aidarous al-Zubaidi, speaking at a meeting on Sunday, accused Hadi’s government of “rampant corruption” and of “waging a misinformation campaign against the southern leaders using state funds”. The new force, which has clashed with forces loyal to Hadi for control of the strategic areas including Aden airport, will “become the core of a new force that will rebuild South Yemen’s security and military institutions” as they added in a statement. The announcement shows the masked tensions between the set of forces allied to fight against the Houthi rebels.  President Hadi and its government is supported by Saudi Arabia while the separatists are backed by the United Arab Emirates. Indeed, The UAE entered Yemen’s war in March 2015 as part of a Saudi-led coalition after Houthi rebels, traditionally based in the northwest of the country, overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa, in 2014. However, the involvement in the war is slightly changing, nearly three years on, Saudi Arabia has said it “wants out” of the war, while the UAE has become more involved in the conflict, indicating a division in the two countries’ agendas. The UAE has been financing and training armed groups in the south of the country who answer to al-Zubaidi, a 50-year-old militia leader who emerged from relative obscurity in late 2015 after helping purge the Houthis from Aden. At this point, the separation within the forces opposed to the Houthi rebels are enhancing the chaos in the region.

Yemen: Houthi forces destroyed 3 armored vehicles belonging to UAE

in DEFENCE/MIDLE EAST by

The Houthi forces destroyed several armored vehicles belonging to the United Arab Emirates-backed Southern Resistance group in western Yemen this past weekend. According to the Houthi forces’ official media wing, their fighters targeted and destroyed at least three armored vehicles belonging to the resistance group inside Ta’iz Governorate town of Al-Hamli.

Tunisia ranks 12th in the Arab world

in EUROPE/PRESS RELEASE/REGIONS by

At the global level, Tunisia ranks 117th out of 160 countries in terms of economic freedom. The first ones are Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, followed by Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Palestine, Oman, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt , Morocco, Djibouti, Mauritania, Comoros, Sudan, Iraq, Algeria, Libya and Syria, which took last place. The work of the second regional congress of economic freedom in the Arab world (Tunis, 25 and 26 November) was closed by the formulation of several recommendations. This Congress was also an opportunity to present the 12th report on economic freedom in the Arab world in 2017. Tunisia ranked 12th out of 22 Arab countries, but it has lost only one position compared to last year. This report was developed by the Canadian Frizer Institute, based on objective criteria – to measure the degree of economic freedom in each country considering the commercial law, protection of property rights, monetary policy, freedom of trade and the organization of commercial activity. The report presented at the congress included a set of recommendations on economic freedom to improve the index in some Arab countries suffering an economic deficit.

Velayati Decries French Interference in Iran Affairs

in MIDLE EAST/PRESS RELEASE/REGIONS by

After some French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments in an interview with the United Arab Emirates-based al-Ittihad newspaper in which he urged inflexibility with Iran regarding its missile program and influence in the Middle East, top Iranian official Ali Akbar Velayati criticized and strongly rejected these remarks against Iran. Velayati warned that such acts of interference would discredit the French government in the eyes of Iranians and he stressed that Tehran will never ask for permission from anyone to enhance its missile program. “As an Iranian person familiar with the foreign policy issues and the French history, I recommend the president of that country (France) to try to follow General de Gaulle’s path during his term for foreign policy”, as he added. Even the senior adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in an interview with IRIB said that “It is not in the interests of Macron and the French government to interfere in issues pertaining to Iran’s missile program and strategic affairs, about which the Islamic Republic is very sensitive”. In denouncing Macron’s comments, Velayati also exhorted the French government not to fall under the influence of the wrong anti-Iran claims and to persuade its Persian Gulf allies to implement rational policies.

Intelligence official: ISIS receives local and international support

in AFRICA/PRESS RELEASE/REGIONS by

ISIS fugitives in Libya are receiving national and international support, Chief of Military Intelligence of Al-Bonyan Al-Masrous Operation, Brig. Gen Mohammed Ganaidi, has revealed, adding that the military vehicles that the radical group is using around Sirte now had been imported from a Gulf state. Speaking to Alnabaa TV on Monday, Ganaidi said Dignity Operation had imported military vehicles from the United Arab Emirates, but they ended up in the hands of ISIS extremists. Ganaidi estimated that there are about 300 ISIS militants moving freely in south Sirte valleys and in the southern region, saying their forces are ready to confront ISIS or Dignity Operation militias if they come to Sirte.

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