Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Forces loyal to the former Yemeni regime say they are being assisted by ground troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their battle against Ansarullah fighters and allied forces from the army and the Popular Committees.
According to the loyalists of the regime of Yemen’s fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, the reinforcements supported them in an alleged Monday offensive to seize Yemen’s largest air base, al-Anad, located in the southwestern Yemen Lahij Province.
Pro-Hadi militnats claim they have seized the base. Ansarullah fighters and their allies, however, say they have repelled the attack and remain in control of the air base, located north of the strategic port city of Aden.
The London-based al-Hayat newspaper reported on Monday that Saudi Arabia had stationed 1,500 forces in southern Yemen, saying most of the deployed forces were from the UAE and had entered Yemen’s southern Aden Province.
Citing sources affiliated to Hadi, the daily said the forces had entered the province through al-Buraiqeh port to fight Ansarullah and Popular Committees.
It also reported that Riyadh had transferred heavy military equipment, such as tanks, personnel carriers and armored vehicles, to Hadi’s loyalists.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, continued pounding Yemen. Yemen’s official Saba Net news agency said Saudi airstrikes had killed four Yemeni civilians in the al-Ghayl district of Yemen’s northwestern province of al-Jawf.
The Al Saud regime launched its military aggression against Yemen – without a UN mandate – in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and restore power to Hadi, an ally of Riyadh.
According to UN figures, the Saudi war has killed nearly 1,900 civilians since late March. However, local sources have given a much higher death toll.
Prominent Syrian MP Khaled Al-Aboud told Sputnik’s Arabic service that a joint Russia-Iran effort may represent a real solution for the Syrian crisis.
BY TIERNEY MCAFEE
The gloves are off.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton went after her Republican rival Jeb Bush on Twitter Tuesday, hours after he said, "I'm not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women's health issues," during a discussion on Planned Parenthood at a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Responding to a Tweet quoting the former Florida governor, Clinton said:
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his counterpart Barack Obama a card Tuesday to celebrate the U.S. president's 54th birthday.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman told reporters, "a telephone conversation is not on schedule but a telegram has been sent," TASS reported.
The erratic relationship of the two world leaders has faced varying moods in recent months. The U.S. Treasury Department last week imposed additional sanctions against Russian entities and individuals working with the Kremlin's defense sector.
While Russia criticized Obama's decision to authorize airstrikes to protect Syrian rebels to protect Syrian rebels from the Islamic State, the U.S. president personally thanked Putin for his integral role in reaching a nuclear deal with Iran.
"Such conversations do not remove disputable issues and cannot do so. Nevertheless, they are at least rather useful from the point of view of demonstration of the preparedness to resolve disputable issues by way of dialogue, which is definitely satisfying," the Kremlin press service said in a statement, as reported by Russia Beyond the Headlines.
President Obama on Wednesday made a powerful case for the strong and effective nuclear agreement with Iran. In a speech at American University, he directly rebutted critics like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and rightly warned of the damage to global security if the Republican-led Congress rejects the agreement.
“If Congress kills this deal, we will lose more than just constraints on Iran’s nuclear deal or the sanctions we have painstakingly built,” he said. “We will have lost something more precious – America’s credibility as a leader of diplomacy. America’s credibility is the anchor of the international system.”
He debunked the notion that there was a better deal to be had if American negotiators and the allies — France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — had demanded that Iran capitulate and completely dismantle all of its nuclear facilities. That was not going to happen. The truth is, if Congress rejects the deal when it votes in September, the robust web of multinational sanctions the administration persuaded other countries to impose on Iran will crumble and the only way to keep Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon will be war, he said.
Mr. Obama’s defense of the deal, which is designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon in exchange for relief from sanctions, was blunt and forceful. He likened Republicans to Iranian hard-liners, saying both are more comfortable with the status quo.
Congressional Republicans, Mr. Netanyahu and other opponents have mounted a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign, including ads and a webcast on Tuesday by Mr. Netanyahu to American Jewish leaders in which he denounced the agreement as having “fatal flaws.”
Mr. Obama said he understood Israel’s security concerns and doesn’t doubt the sincerity of Mr. Netanyahu’s objections, but he believes the deal is in the interests of both America and Israel. Mr. Obama also promised to redouble American support for Israel’s security.
The speech was so trenchant because Mr. Obama ably connected the opposition to the Iran agreement to recent history. “If the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should, for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal,” he said.
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama opposed the Iraq war. Invading Iraq was a catastrophic mistake that destabilized the country and, more than anything, has enabled Iran to expand its influence in Iraq and in the region. Mr. Netanyahu, of course, was a strong supporter of the Iraq war and in September 2002 made that case in congressional testimony as a private citizen.
After 14 years of war, thousands of American and Iraqi lives lost and many thousands more people wounded, it is appalling that so many opponents of the Iran deal either would cavalierly support military action against Iran or are willing to risk it by rejecting the deal. This is an irrational posture, since, as Mr. Obama pointed out, he and future American presidents would be able to use force if Iran tries to build a bomb in coming years.
In putting the current situation into its proper context, Mr. Obama drew one crucial lesson from Iraq — the need to get beyond “a mind-set characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy, a mind-set that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus, a mind-set that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported.” Some members of Congress may not have learned that lesson after so many years of war, but surely the American public has.
After the speech, in a meeting with a small group of journalists, Mr. Obama said the possibility of war if the deal fails was a matter of logic. Though Iran may not attack the United States directly, it could threaten American troops in Iraq with Shiite militias there, threaten Israel with rocket attacks by Hezbollah or send a suicide bomber in a small craft against American naval ships in the Strait of Hormuz, he said.
Despite fierce opposition, Mr. Obama expressed confidence the deal would get through Congress, even if by the slimmest of margins. After nearly seven years in office and lots of tough decisions, he said, “I’ve never been more certain that this is sound policy.”
UN reveals 1,591 civilians killed and 3,329 wounded as war enters its 14th year, as fighting in residential areas and greater role of militias contribute to increase.
The war in Afghanistan is killing or wounding increasing numbers of civilians, with women and children showing the sharpest rise in casualties as it enters its 14th year, according to new figures from the UN.
“Afghan civilians have suffered far too long from this destructive conflict. The devastating consequences of this violence against civilians as documented in this report should serve to strengthen the broad conviction that peace is urgently needed,” said Nicholas Haysom, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan.
The first six months of 2015 saw 13% rise in child casualties compared with the same period last year and a 23% increase in the number of women killed or injured. Total casualties were up 1% from record levels seen in 2014, with 1,591 civilians killed and 3,329 wounded.
The numbers reveal the war’s changing dynamics. After the end of Nato’s combat mission, Afghan government forces are fighting with less airpower and material support.
As a result, the conflict has moved closer to residential areas, where the warring parties are fighting with indiscriminate weapons such as mortars, rockets and grenades. In fact, government forces are responsible for most casualties, 59%, caused by this type of weapons.
Mortars were, for instance, used on 5 June when Afghan national army soldiers accidentally hit a wedding party on the outskirts of Ghazni, killing eight children. The UN describes how the security forces subsequently gave contradictory explanations, in a sign of a troubling lack of transparency from the government’s side.
While insurgents are still responsible for the majority of civilian casualties, government security forces killed or injured almost 300 more civilians compared to the first half of 2014, which amounts to a 60% spike. In total, pro-government forces caused 16% of civilian casualties, of which international forces are responsible for 1%.
The war’s main killers remain improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and ground engagements. However, a rise in suicide bombings and complex attacks also helps to explain why women and children suffer more than ever.
In April, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up outside Kabul Bank on the main street of Jalalabad, killing at least 35 and injuring 125. Mohammad Naeem, 25, heard the explosion, and rushed to the scene, knowing his father worked in the vicinity.
“When I came to the bank, I saw a lot of dead bodies – men, children, women, old people. I found my father. His body was in several pieces. I found his leg and hands in different places,” Naeem told the Guardian over the phone.
“After I found my father’s body, I walked around the dead bodies like a crazy man,” he said. “There are 16 people in my family, and my father was feeding all of them.”
The Jalalabad bombing targeted queuing government workers, whom the Taliban – contrary to international law – don’t consider civilians. In the first half of 2015, the Taliban claimed 36 attacks on civilian government officials and 18 on judges, prosecutors and judicial staff.
“This report lays bare the heart-rending, prolonged suffering of civilians in Afghanistan, who continue to bear the brunt of the armed conflict and live in insecurity and uncertainty over whether a trip to a bank, a tailoring class, to a court room or a wedding party, may be their last,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
With shifting dynamics, the war is also widening geographically. Since spring, the Taliban have sustained an offensive in the north, targeting especially Kunduz province.
The government is increasingly turning to irregular militias for help. But these forces have acted with impunity, says the UN, committing “deliberate killings, assaults, extortion, intimidation and property theft”. In total, militias account for 11% of civilian casualties caused by pro-government forces.
Abdurrezaq, a village elder from Gur Tepa in Kunduz, told the Guardian that the militias did not bring security. They only increased the chance of getting caught in the crossfire. “Our houses are destroyed but who should we complain to? We are victims of both sides.”