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Saudi Arabia - page 10

SA’s retaliation: air strikes hit Sana’a

Defence/Middle East - Africa di


On September 20, Saudi Arabian authorities authorised air strikes against Houthis rebel positions in the Yemen’s capital Sana’a. Around a dozen bombs or missiles hit the Headquarters of the National Security Bureau -it is the first time since the beginning of the conflict- the defence ministry, a checkpoint in the capital’s north-western suburbs and two rebel military camps in the southeast district of Sanhan.

This attack comes as a response to a missile fired by the rebels on Monday evening. According to Saudi Arabia (SA), the Qaher-1 missile was aimed at SA’s King Khalid Air Base, 60 km north of the Yemeni border, in the city of Khamees Mushait. SA reports the missile was intercepted by the kingdom’s air defence before it could cause any damage to the base and neighbourhood, though Houthis-run Saba News Agency discloses the missile actually hit the target.

Regardless, SA immediately responds to the attack, causing at least one civilian death and some wounded, witnesses said. It is not the first time that the hostilities cause civilian deaths, proving once again the heavy criticism for high civilian death toll since the beginning of the Saudi Arabia-led air campaign.


Houthis and government forces have battled on-and-off since 2004 but it was in 2014 that a civil war eventually broke out. Indeed, in September 2014, Houthis -a rebel group known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God) that adheres to the branch of Shia Islam called Zaidism- took control of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital city, and forced President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Saudi-backed government to temporarily flee to Riyadh.

Security forces split in two groups, one supporting the international recognised government, the other backing rebels. The scenario was deeply worsen by the emergence of two other actors. On one hand, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which gained grip in the south and south-east region. On the other, a Yemen affiliate of the Islamic State, which was trying to overrun AQAP and claimed responsibility of some suicide bombings in Sana’a.

Conflict escalated in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and her allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen in order to restore Hadi’s government. Since then, more than 6,600 people have been killed, while the number of displaced people has risen to 3 million.

To date, fighting has not stopped and the situation in Yemen is still unstable. The United Nations often report alarming data on civilian deaths, recently accusing Saudi Arabia-led coalition to be responsible of 2/3 of those and Houthis to be involved in mass civilian casualties due to the siege of the city of Taiz.

In addition, several foreign countries have taken part -though with different means- in the fighting. The international coalition includes SA, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Senegal. United States, United Kingdom and France are supporting the coalition providing supplies, with the US also carrying air strikes targeting ISIS and AQAP positions in Yemen. On the other side, Iran has been accused of arming Houthis rebels, though the country has always denied it.

It should be added that the conflict in Yemen cannot be reduced to a civil war or a terrorist battlefield, but it is the result of several and conflicting dynamics involving multiple actors and opposite interests. Indeed, despite the civil war and the terrorist threat, Yemen is the theatre of the proxy war between the two major powers in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran, thus dragging into the scene alliances and games of powers that escalate tensions and foster instability in the region.


Paola Fratantoni



Hot Spot – The Crisis Areas

Americas/Asia @en/South Asia di

There are several crisis areas in the world. The events shown below talk about many wars and clashes in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia.




8 policemen were killed on Sunday May 8 during an attack on a checkpoint close to Helwan police station. Islamic State and “Popular Resistance” movement claimed responsibility.


Two cross-borders operations for Turkish forces. The first one against PKK in Iraq, the second one against Daesh in Syria. This one was conducted by 20 special forces team which killed about 55 jihadists. While other 63 were killed at the beginning of May, after Turkish airstrikes in Northern Syria.


As in Iraq, U.S. and coalition military is continuing to fight ISIS in Syria. Particularly, U.S Department of Defense disclosed that “attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted eight strikes in Syria:

— Near Manbij, two strikes destroyed two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL fighting position.

— Near Mar’a, three strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions.

— Near Palmyra, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

— Near Waleed, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL storage facility and an ISIL bed-down location, and damaged another storage facility and bed-down location. “

More than 70 killed after fighting between regular army and rebels in Aleppo on May 6. As reported by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 30 of them were soldiers, while over 40 Nusra Front militants.

On Thursday May 5, 12 people killed after a terrorist attack close to an army conscription office east of Homs. Here, the same day, ISIS positions were bombed Russian, and Syrian airplanes.

About 30 people were killed in an air assault on a refugee camp near Sarmada. This attack were not claimed, but it’s probably by Russian or Syrian airplanes.


On Thursday May 5, Islamic State militants attacked some village between Sirte and Misurata: 5 people were killed.

As already foretold by international press, General Khalifa Haftar began attacking on Daesh in Sirte on May 4. He’s determined to continue despite Fayez Serraj wants to suspend every attack.


Regular army offensive against Kachin independence army positions on Wednesday May 4. At least 5 people killed and several casualties, including women.


U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Iraq yesterday, “ Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported on May 8.

Iraqi security forces and al Hashed al Sha’bi militia killed 25 ISIS jihadist on May 7. “The security forces conducted proactive operations that targeted the headquarters and gatherings of ISIS in the areas of al-Hur and Zebin al-Hanshl in the vicinity of al-Ameriyat (18 km south of Fallujah), resulting in the death of 25 ISIS elements.” the commander of the 1st brigade within al-Hashed al-Sha’bi militia in al-Ameriyat, Abbas al-Issawi, said in a statement obtained by

An U.S soldier killed after ISIS attack on Peshmerga defense near Mosul at the beginning of May, as the international coalition spokesman Steve Warren announced said on Thursday. but “The Peshmerga forces managed to kill 60 members of ISIS and destructed three car bombs, as well as tightening their grip on the region,” he ended. While at least 100 civilians escaped from ISIS territory in Kirkuk.

On May 1, two Samawah explosions killed about 40 people and at least 86 casualties.


3 people killed following clashes between Ukrainian army and rebels, despite the ceasefire.


Between April 30 and May 1, AAF bombed militants in eastern Nangarhar province killing about 60 of them, while ANSF killed at least 65 jihadists during raids in Khash Rod district of Nimroz, Badakhshan province, Qads district of Badghis and in Deh Yak and Gilan districts of Ghazni province, as reported by the Ministry of Defense.

Saudi Arabia

Daesh militants killed a Saudi soldier during a battle in the western Taif region on May 7. Two assailants opened fire on a police station before retreating to the mountain village of Thaqeef where the soldier was killed.


Iran-Saudi Arabia: the most dangerous fight

Politics di


The contrast between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which has been a sort of Cold War for years, is likely to turn into a “hot” conflict. The rivalry between the two Middle East big powers is everything but new. However, latest events –the execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, the continuous drop in oil price and the end of international sanctions against Iran- have added fuel to the fire, thus causing concern about the regional and global stability.


The reasons behind tensions

The religious factor. Saudi Arabia, almost entirely Muslim, has a Sunni-majority population (the real family professes the Wahhabi ideology, a minor stream of Sunni Islam). Shiites, around 15% of the population, are concentrated in the eastern province of Al-Sharqiyah. They push for autonomy and the monarchy accuses Iran to foster their aspiration. By contrast, the Islamic Republic represents Shia Muslims, who are more than 90% of Iranian population. Self-proclaimed as protectors respectively of Sunni and Shia communities, SA and Iran stand for opposite tradition and interests, which result in a real sectarian conflict.

The black gold. SA is one of the biggest producer of crude oil and in 2014 the country has significantly increased its production, resulting in a price collapse which was aimed to target not only Iranian market and Moscow’s revenue, but also to make it economically inconvenient for the USA the extraction of shale oil. However, Riyadh’s plans haven’t gone perfectly, with US and Russia still playing a leading role in the energy market. A considerable setback for Saudi Arabia, at a time when the lifting of international sanctions against Iran pushes one of SA biggest competitor back in the game.

The regional hegemony. SA has a significant geopolitical weight, due both to its strong participation in regional and global affairs, but also to its relationship with the Gulf countries and the US. This position has often turned into an attempt to impose its political and religious leadership in the region. This fact not only raises friction within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) –for example with Qatar- but also makes it almost impossible a peaceful coexistence with Iran. On the other hand, in fact, the Islamic Republic, after decades of international isolation, aims to establish its supremacy in the Middle East, where SA, along with Israel-a Jewish country, friend to the US- curbs its ambition.

What future?

It is hard to believe that some form of cooperation between Iran and SA is possible, especially after the killing of the Shia leader Nimr al-Nimr, who encouraged Saudi Shiites to take side against the government and along with Iran. The execution of the leader is a clear message to the population, while the following break of diplomatic relations is a clear political signal. The consequences are not late to come: the UAE, Kuwait, Sudan, Qatar and Bahrain have already ceased the relations with the Islamic Republic.

Similarly, an open conflict is unlikely to happen. With a budget deficit of about $100 billion, it would be illogical for the Saudi monarchy to undertake an armed conflict. Iran has just been freed from those sanctions that have hampered country’s development, while it’s showing openness towards the US. Declaring war to SA could play against its own interest, inevitably involving other powers-USA, Russia, Israel- and adding new instability to the already volatile game of power in the region.

This condition of “cold war” is the most likely scenario, with peaks of tension between the Iranian and Saudi capitals, and “hot” clashes confined to peripheral theatres like Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, where Tehran and Riyadh support respectively Shia and Sunni groups.

Unfortunately, another actor plays a key role in this context: the Islamic State. ISIS is spreading among Sunni community, thus worrying Riyadh, which is trying to preserve its influence among Sunni population. On the other hand, Iran is fighting ISIS forces but only to a certain extent. Indeed, Iran could benefit from a conflict between ISIS and SA, as this could gradually weakens both the actors, thus leaving Iran free to confirm itself as regional leader. However, the serious risk is that this game gets out of control, considering the support that ISIS is still finding locally and globally.

It seems that the instability in Middle East is doomed to persist. Moreover, these tensions might break out in a series of conflicts at several levels, involving several actors and following multiple and different political agendas. Will there be a second Iraq, with a vacuum of power and foreign powers ready to step in or it will be one of the regional rival to take the lead? Or will the most feared actor win and the entire Middle East fall under the brutal force of jihadist terrorism?


Paola Fratantoni


Iran nuclear deal: pros and cons

After 16 days of negotiations, yesterday the US, EU, Russia, Great Britain and China, and Iran reached historical deal on the nuclear program in Vienna. A pact that works for reduction of he production of uranium in Teheran for the next 10 years. And, at the same time, it stops sanctions and trade sanctions.

Although this is the formal end to decades of conflict with the West, especially during the Presidency of George W. Bush, the Israel’s contrary reaction and the contemporart and inconsistent alliance between Washington and Sunni’s countries, like Saudi Arabia, could be a warning for the International Community.

Inspired by the cartel the previous April 3, the agreement includes four key points. The cut of 98% of the stocks of enriched uranium. The use of centrifuges reduced to two-thirds. The possibility, not automatic,of Alea inspections on Iran’s nuclear facilities, after approval of the court arbitrary composed by the same countries that have signed the agreement. The gradual reduction of the arms embargo within the next five years. The UN resolution is expected next week, when it meets the Security Council.

The heart of the matter between the US and Iran is mainly the use of enriched uranium for civilian and not military. But also there’s the will to create a diplomat axiswith the biggest Shiite state in the Middle East, able to support the Assad regime in Syria or Hezbollah in Lebanon and decisive in the reconquest of the north-western territories in Iraq, now under the Caliphate.

Additionally, beyond this agreement, there’s the oil question. Iran is the fourth largest producer in the world and, with the end of the embargo, will increase its production. The effect could be the oil drum’s fall in price on the International Markets. Moreover, until the seventies, Europe was the first foreign market for Teheran.

US President Obama said: “No deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East. America negotiated from a position of strength and principle and stopped the spread of nuclear weapons. The comprehensive, long-term deal, demonstrated that American diplomacy can bring meaningful change”. And warned Congress he would veto any legislation that prevented its successful implementation.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani talks about “historic deal which opened a new chapter in Iran’s relations with the world”. Eu High Representative Mogherini thinks that the deal is ‘a sign of hope for the entire world’. While is a “sigh of relief for the entire world” in Russian President Putin’s opinion.
The chorus, however, was not unanimous at all the International Community. Predictably, Israel’s response was not long in coming: “The agreement is a historical mistake. “The world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday. The leading international powers have bet our collective future on a deal with the foremost sponsor of international terrorism. “In the coming decade, the deal will reward Iran, the terrorist regime in Tehran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region and its efforts to destroy Israel, which are ongoing”. Whereas an official of the government of Saudi Arabia denounced the possibility that Iran could “devastate the Middle East”.

The contradictions within the deal, as the contemporary US alliance with Saudi coalition in Yemen against Houtii (Shiite’s faction supported by Tehran), could bring a long-term strategy. The chance given by the United States and its allies to Iran is directed to the Iranian civil society. The opening to the outside could bring the Shiites and the Sunnis to talks again. This could be an effective weapon against the expansionism of the Islamic State.

Not only abroad. Much of the criticism have come from the United States’s press. Bret Stephen (Wall Street Journal) said that “the agreement will be disastrous” and “unlikely Iran’s foreign policy will change”. Indeed, the deal could backfire on Washington.


Giacomo Pratali


Yemen: hope for truce

Middle East - Africa di

The President grants the UN requests. The peace movement has connected to certain guarantees. More than a million are the refugees after three months of conflict.

The Yemeni government announced its agreement to the truce requested by the United Nations. A temporary peace which looks converge the Houthi movement. A choice which, as admitted by a Yemeni spokesperson, will be constrained by clear guarantees.

The first is the release of prisoners, including the Minister of Defense, from Houtii. The second, however, is that the same Shiites leave the four occupied provinces.

This is a small step forward in a geopolitical context so hot. The United Nations, as well as many non-governmental organizations, have recently reported crimes against the Yemeni population.

The numbers have not mince words. More than 1500 civilians killed, over a million refugees. And the same refugee camps targeted by the Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the United States. So, the peace is essential to bring aid to the displaced and to create humanitarian corridors.
Giacomo Pratali


Yemen: Saudi Arabia employed Us cluster bombs

Middle East - Africa di

Human Rights Watch exposed Riyadh and Washington to use unexploded mines against Houtii rebels.

Saudi Arabia used Us-supplied cluster bombs against Houtii rebels. It’s disclosed by Human Right Watch, which explained to have evidence about it. Riyadh denied every charges, but some YouTube videos posted by local residents validated Hrw denunciation. Every cluster bomb leave behind about 300 unexploded mines. These should made from Us, which Hrw accused to procure them to Saudi Arabia aviation.

Meanwhile, Yemen will put in for accession to Gulf Cooperation Council (Gcc). Born in 1981, this International organization was founded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Uae, Kuwait, Bahrein and Oman as reaction to Iranian Revolution of 1979.

Yemen should be entered in Gcc in 2015 like other countries decided in 2005. After a monitoring decade, where members tried to help Yemen failure economy, this countries decide to bomb Houtii establishments to substain President Hadi. Now, Saudi Arabia and other nations have to set if Yemen’s admission will be a benefit or will damage Gulf countries.

Giacomo Pratali


Yemen: Saudi coalition is targeting civilians

Middle East - Africa di

People killed by Sunnis bombing are constantly increasing. Houtii are trying to conquer Aden. It’s crucial the International Community partecipation to stop civilians’ slaughter.

Yemen’s war is becoming more and more bloody. On the one hand, the Houthis are continuing their advance towards Aden. On the other hand, the Sunni coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and supported by United States, has targeted Sanaa, Shiite stronghold.

Over 200 deaths (74 children) and at least 1300 injured since two weeks ago: are figures of the recent clash between local rebels and the Saudi aviation. These numbers are even more dramatic if we think that the civil war of the millennium, between Shiites and regular army, brought almost 13 thousand people live in refugee camps. Same refugee camps affected by the Sunnis bombing.

While consultations are ongoing at the UN Security Council, Houthi leaders said they were ready to negotiate peace if the Sunni coalition would cease forcing by land and sea. Saudi King Salman said to be available to the ceasefire, but the events are proving wrong him.

Indeed, Riyadh is supporting the regular army yemen in an attempt to halt the advance Shiite at Aden. And, as reported by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has requested military aid.

In this story, the determining role is once again for United States. Yemen looks increasingly like the uncontrollable Afghanistan. However, this war could further increase the Islamic State pretensions in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Nigeria. Finally, it is not acceptable that Washington remains silent over this violation of international law against civilians.

Giacomo Pratali


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