Greater Middle East
Yemen

Yemen peace talks point to long road ahead

A first round of official peace talks between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels concluded in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, followed by the release of 880 prisoners from both sides of the country’s eight-year war. It’s not the first time that Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition backing Yemen’s internationally recognized government, has spoken directly with the rebels. But some see new momentum in this effort to end the war, particularly given the recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has close ties to the Houthis. Still, getting a truce back in place (the last one expired in October) and sorting out the various sides’ grievances will not be easy—especially as not all the groups vying for power in Yemen are represented at the talks: The government is notably absent, as are the powerful separatists of the Southern Transitional Council. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Syria
ssnyc

Syria: reject ‘normalization’ of Assad regime

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad arrived in the United Arab Emirates for an official visit—another advance in the attempt to normalize his genocidal regime. The trip was accompanied by more pomp than Assad’s visit to the UAE last year, his first to an Arab state since the Syrian revolution began in March 2011. The UAE trip follows a visit to Oman last month. Days before the UAE visit, Assad was in Moscow for a meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin. In addition to voicing support for Putin’s war in Ukraine, Assad told Russia state media that he welcomes any expansion of Moscow’s military bases in Syria. Meanwhile, opposition activists held a demonstration in Idlib, within Syria’s diminished pocket of rebel control, marking the 12th anniversary of the revolution. Thousands gathered under the Free Syria flag in the city’s center, to proclaim that the revolution survives and to oppose normalization of the regime. (Photo: Syrian Revolution commemoration in Times Square, NYC. Via Syria Solidarity NYC)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

Will Iran-Saudi deal end Yemen’s war?

As part of its China-brokered deal to re-establish diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran has reportedly agreed to stop arming Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Officially, Tehran denies arming the rebels, who are fighting forces aligned with Yemen’s internationally recognized government—including a Saudi- and UAE-led coalition. Many have portrayed the conflict in Yemen as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. It’s actually far more complicated than that: the violence is rooted in real grievances, and political and military alliances are also at play at a much more local level. Powerful Yemeni actors—all vying for a stake in the country’s future—have been left out of official peace talks. (Map via University of Texas)

Africa
maasai

Tanzania: troops fire on Maasai herders

Tanzanian security forces fired on Maasai herders in a dispute over seizure of traditional grazing lands for a new game reserve. The trouble started when hundreds of troops of the Field Force Unit arrived at the village of Wasso, to demarcate a 1,500 square-kilometer area for the new reserve. Maasai gathered to protest, and were met with bullets. Some 30 were reportedly shot, and two killed. Afterwards, troops went house-to-house in Maasai villages, beating and arresting those they believed took part in the protests or distributed images of the violence on social media. Thousands of Maasai fled their homes into the bush following the raids. UAE-based Otterlo Business Company, which runs hunting excursions for the Emirates’ royal family, is reportedly to operate trophy-hunting concessions in the new reserve. (Photo: Survival International)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

Weapons manufacturers sued over Yemen war

Three human rights organizations filed a lawsuit in France against three arms manufacturers for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yemen. The European Center for Constitutional & Human Rights, Mwatana for Human Rights and Sherpa allege that Dassault Aviation, Thales and MBDA France, through their military sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have enabled the killing of Yemeni civilians. Humanitarian organizations and rights groups have charged that air-strikes from the Saudi-UAE military coalition have targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure since 2015. (Photo via Jurist)

Palestine
Israeli police

Israel: detention of ‘terror suspects’ without charge

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett instructed security services to hold “terror suspects” in “administrative detention,” even without charge. The order extends to Palestinians in Israel a policy long applied to Palestinians on the West Bank. Bennett cited “a new situation that requires suitable preparations and adjustment by the security services to the circumstances within which extremist elements of Arab society, directed by extremist Islamic ideology, are carrying out terror attacks and taking lives.” The order follows deadly attacks by Israeli citizens who were said to be supporters of the so-called “Islamic State.” (Photo: Wikimedia)

Greater Middle East
yemen

‘Disappointing’ aid for hunger-stricken Yemen

As the country heads into an eighth year of war, Yemen is considered one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian crises: debilitated basic services, a collapsed economy, an estimated 20.7 million people (more than two thirds of the population) in need—all amid escalating conflict involving numerous different actors. Yet in the UN’s emergency appeal for $4.3 billion in aid for Yemen, donor states coughed up less than a third of that request, with pledges amounting to $1.3 billion. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia—top donors to Yemen in previous years—pledged nothing, while Kuwait pledged a surprisingly low $10 million. The UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, called the result “a disappointment.” The outcome is in stark contrast to Ukraine’s pledging conference just two weeks prior, considered the “fastest and most generous” response ever to a flash appeal. As the world’s attention is fixated on Ukraine, aid workers worry that it could draw resources away from other crises, such as Yemen. (Photo: OCHA)

Greater Middle East

UN warns of ‘catastrophic’ crisis in Yemen

UN agency chiefs stated that war-torn Yemen’s hunger crisis is “teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe,” with more than 17.4 million Yemenis facing food insecurity and an additional 1.6 million expected to fall into emergency levels of hunger in the coming months. The number experiencing “catastrophic” levels of hunger is projected to increase five times from the current 31,000 to a staggering 161,000, taking the number of those with emergency needs to 7.3 million by the end of 2022. “These harrowing figures confirm that we are on a countdown to catastrophe in Yemen and we are almost out of time to avoid it. Unless we receive substantial new funding immediately, mass starvation and famine will follow. But if we act now, there is still a chance to avert imminent disaster and save millions,” World Food Programme executive director David Beasley said. (Photo: Fahd Sadi/WikiMedia)

Planet Watch
Tengiz

Ukraine war portends new oil shock

Long-depressed oil prices are suddenly soaring in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with impacts already being felt globally. Exports from Kazakhstan and the Caspian Basin are virtually paralyzed, as the Black Sea pipeline terminal delivering the crude to Western markets is incurring a prohibitive “war risk insurance premium.” Berlin has suspended the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany—and Russia has retaliated by threatening to cut gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 line. In his executive order barring Russian oil and gas imports to the US, President Biden issued a warning to the oil companies, urging that the war should not serve as an excuse for price-gouging. But it is actually the oil futures market that plays a determinant role in fixing the international price. There’s a big psychological element involved, which is why every escalation in the Middle East (without fail) jacks up oil prices. A war in Europe will almost certainly mean another oil shock, with grim implications for the world economy and Biden’s political chances. (Photo of Kazakh oil-field via Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
babiyar

Fascist pseudo-anti-fascism: Moscow’s propaganda offensive

Russia announced plans to host an international “Anti-Fascist Conference“—with hideous irony, on the same day its forces bombarded a Holocaust memorial site in Kyiv. The surreal announcement came from Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who said Moscow will hold the conference in August, in conjunction with an arms expo sponsored by his ministry. Among the invited countries are China (accused of genocide in Xinjiang), India (now emulating China’s mass detention policies), Pakistan (a fast-consolidating police state), Saudi Arabia (similarly moving toward a mass detention state), the UAE (a burgeoning police state), Azerbaijan (accused of war crimes in last year’s war with Armenia), Uzbekistan (an entrenched dictatorship), and Ethiopia (accused of crimes against humanity in the Tigray war). (Photo of Babi Yar memorial in Kyiv via Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

Greater Middle East
Marib

Yemen: Biden warned against Houthi ‘terrorist’ tag

President Joe Biden is said to be considering re-designating Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization following the group’s missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates, which leads the anti-Houthi military coalition with Saudi Arabia. Aid groups—part of a successful lobbying campaign that saw Biden remove the label shortly after he took office last January—warn that a redesignation would have “catastrophic consequences for Yemeni civilians.” Not only would it hit the economy hard, making it even more difficult to import food, fuel, and medicine, but it would also decrease the flow of much-needed aid to Houthi-controlled territory. Violence is meanwhile escalating, and not just around the battlefields of the contested province and city of Marib. Between early October and early February, 1,535 civilians were reportedly killed or injured, more than double the figure for the previous four months. (Photo of displaced persons camp in Marib by Mohamed Ghazi/TNH)

Greater Middle East
UAE

UAE ‘cybercrime’ law restricts free speech: civil society

A coalition of human rights and civil society organizations published a joint statement protesting the United Arab Emirates’ new cybercrime law, saying it “severely threatens and unduly restricts the right to freedom of expression (both online and offline) and the rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly.” The letter says that the language of the statute creates ambiguity prone to misuse, especially regarding issues related to “national security,” which provide the authorities with “excessive discretion to impose lengthy prison sentences” for political dissent. The wording of these provisions is so broad that they can be used to target journalists, whistle-blowers, activists, and peaceful critics of the government. The letter notes that the law stipulates no maximum prison sentence for acts that “harm the State’s interests,” which violates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Photo: Pixabay)