Yemen army removes 300,000 Houthi landmines in liberated areas

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: April 24, 2018

Yemen’s national army has seized 300,000 mines planted by Houthi militia in liberated areas, it was announced on Monday.

“In the past two years, the National Army has managed to extract 300,000 mines planted by the Houthi militia in liberated areas, including 40,000 mines on the outskirts of Marib province,” a statement on the army’s website read.

According to army officials in Yemen, the country has been subjected to the “largest mine-laying operation since the end of the Second World War.”

That statement added that the total number of mines laid by the militia exceeds half a million mines, and that this “huge amount continues to pose a sustainable threat to the lives of civilians.”

International human rights groups have previously condemned Iran-backed Houthi militias for their use of the banned antipersonnel landmines in Yemen that have caused numerous civilian casualties and hindered the safe return of people to displaced by fighting.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Houthis last year to “immediately cease using these weapons and observe the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which Yemen ratified in 1998.”

According to the group, landmines have been used in at least six governorates since the Saudi-led Arab coalition began military operations in support of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi in March 2015.

HRW said Mines have killed and maimed hundreds of civilians and disrupted civilian life in affected areas.

  This article was first published Arab News


King Salman receives Chairman of NATO’s partnerships subcommittee

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: April 18, 2018

The Chairman of NATO’s partnerships subcommittee, Mateen Lutfi, and his accompanying delegation were received by King Salman at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Lutfi was accompanied by a number of heads of parliamentary delegations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

During the meeting, NATO parliamentary efforts and bilateral cooperation areas between NATO’s subcommittee and the Shoura Council were reviewed.

The meeting was attended by Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif, minister of interior; Shoura Council Speaker Sheikh Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh; the Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir; and a number of officials. Later, the Saudi interior minister and Lutfi reviewed relations between the Kingdom and NATO, and discussed issues of common interest.

Earlier, the Saudi parliamentary friendship committee at the Shoura Council held a meeting with the delegation of the NATO partnerships subcommittee.

The head of the Shoura committee Prince Dr. Khalid bin Abdullah bin Mishari, reaffirmed distinct relations binding the Kingdom and NATO in all fields, and the relations between the Shoura and NATO member states’ parliaments. He praised the visit, which seeks to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two sides, through consultations and dialogue, to face the rapid developments in the region as well as in the world, in order to best serve the interests of peoples and countries.


Saudi Arabia boycotts German arms over sympathy with Qatar

SOURCE: Middle East Monitor

Time: April 18, 2018

Saudi Arabia is said to have been reluctant to conclude arms deals with Germany over the latter’s sympathy with the State of Qatar because of the blockade imposed by the Kingdom and its allies, Germany’s Deutsche Welle newspaper reported.

According to the German site said that “until recently, hopes were high to double Saudi-German trade but this exchange is declining as Berlin is barred from concluding deals with Saudi Arabia, perhaps due to the strained relationship with the Saudi Crown Prince.”

Citing the German Foreign Trade Association, the report pointed out that for the second year in a row, German exports to Saudi Arabia have declined falling nine per cent in 2017 compared to 28 per cent in 2016.

“Since the arrival of the Saudi Crown Prince, political relations between Berlin and Riyadh have become tense and deteriorated even more after a German Foreign Intelligence report leaked which warned of instability in the Middle East because of the compulsive Saudi policy driven by the Crown Prince’s thirst for power,” it said.

The website pointed out that “with the outbreak of the Gulf crisis, the German government and media sympathised with Qatar against the four countries that boycotted it”, while Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel at the time, warned of a Gulf war because of attempts to isolate Doha.

German radio reported that the tension reached its peak after Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil visited Berlin to discuss Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise resignation during his visit to Riyadh and his detention there. That day Gabriel criticised Riyadh without naming it, warning of what he called “the breadth of the spirit of adventure there”.

After that, Riyadh responded by withdrawing its ambassador, who has not returned to Berlin since.

Deutsche Welle stressed that it is clear that tension in political relations between Berlin and Riyadh have negatively affected trade exchange between them, as well as relations with the UAE; an ally of Saudi Arabia. According to the site, German exports to the UAE have declined by more than 23 percent in 2017 compared to 2016.


King Salman receives UN chief

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: April 17, 2018


King Salman received UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Riyadh on Tuesday.

The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir; Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud; Minister of State Dr. Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban; and the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN Abdallah bin Yahya Al-Mouallimi.

During the meeting, Guterres praised the Saudi leadership for its humanitarian efforts, especially for its support for the people of Yemen. Earlier, Guterres lauded the role of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), saying: “It is one of the most important relief operators in dozens of countries.”

The UN chief said KSRelief works professionally to alleviate the sufferings of people in disaster-hit and conflict-ridden areas around the world. “It has established partnerships with the most important UN organizations and NGOs,” he said in a statement.


Saudi King meets with UN Secretary General in Riyadh

SOURCE: Al Arabiya English

Time: 17 April 2018

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz has received UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at his office at Al-Yamamah palace in Riyadh, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Guterres arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday where he met with Saudi leadership. He later held a joint press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir where they discussed the crises in Yemen and Syria.

During the meeting with the Saudi monarch, the UN Secretary General expressed his thanks and appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s contribution to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

He also reviewed the role of the United Nations in its various organizations to support all efforts aimed at stability and international security.

That meeting at Al-Yamamah palace was attended by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of State Dr. Masaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN Abdullah bin Yahya al-Maalami.


King Salman, Arab leaders attend Gulf Shield parade

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: April 16, 2018


Jeddah: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, and heads of state and senior representatives from 25 countries, on Monday, attended the closing ceremony of the Joint Gulf Shield-1 military drills.
King Salman presided over the closing ceremony of the drills, which he said highlighted a “unified alliance” between over 24 countries to combat military threats.
“The event is… meant to demonstrate our ability to take joint military action, the region’s readiness to support Arab unity and its capacity to deter any threats,” military spokesman Abdullah Subaei was quoted as saying in a Saudi information ministry statement.
“This exercise demonstrates that we have the cooperation of friendly nations, our experience and expertise to deal with those threats.
The parades included special forces units, with advanced military vehicles and missile systems and involved combat search-and-rescue drills as well as naval warfare and air operations. Aircraft of the participating air forces carried out various maneuvers that reflected the skills and efficiencies of the pilots.
Several modern aircraft were showcased, including the MRTT, which can carry up to 111 tons of fuel, the highest capacity of all tanker aircraft. It also included auxiliary military aircraft, fighters and attack aircraft featuring auxiliary power systems, as well as the airborne early warning and control system (AWACS), which is an airborne radar picket system designed to detect aircraft, ships and vehicles at long range.
Aircraft flew in shield formation, in acknowledgement of the overall exercise’s appellation.
The show also featured a K-3, a floating fuel station in the sky, allowing aircraft to stay longer in the air in order to achieve their targets and the C-130 transport plane, which is used for quick and flexible cargo transport, troop transfers and aid drops.
A variety of helicopters were also on display, including three high-powered rapid response Apache helicopters, with the capacity to strike from a multiplicity of distances and primarily used to destroy tanks and armored vehicles.
Cougar aircraft, which are utilized for search and rescue operations and the Super-Puma aircraft, used to carry out combat operations against naval targets and to pass information to fleet control centers, also featured. Assembled dignitaries also reviewed a formation of Black Hawk aircraft, which are used to transport personnel.
Finally, Typhoon and F-15S aircraft engaged in mock combat maneuvers.
The Joint Gulf Shield-1 military maneuvers reflect the importance of military cooperation and coordination, with friendly countries, in raising the level of combat readiness and ensuring regional security.


US suggests Russia, Syria may tamper with Douma evidence, Moscow denies

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: April 16, 2018

DAMASCUS/THE HAGUE: The US accused Russia on Monday of blocking international inspectors from reaching the site of a suspected poison gas attack in Syria and said Russians or Syrians may have tampered with evidence on the ground.
Moscow denied the charge and blamed delays on retaliatory US-led missile strikes on Syria at the weekend.
In the fraught aftermath of the suspected attack in Douma and the West’s response, Washington also prepared to increase pressure on Moscow, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s main ally, with new economic sanctions. European Union foreign ministers threatened similar measures.
In London and Paris, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron faced criticism from political opponents over their decisions to take part in the air strikes against Syria.
Syria and Russia deny unleashing poison gas on April 7 during their offensive on Douma, which ended with the recapture of the town that had been the last rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus.
Relief organizations say dozens of men, women and children were killed. Footage of young victims foaming at the mouth and weeping in agony has thrust Syria’s civil war — in which half a million people have been killed in the past seven years — to the forefront of world concern again.
Inspectors from the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) traveled to Syria last week to inspect the site, but have yet to gain access to Douma, which is now under government control after the rebels withdrew.
“It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site,” US Ambassador Kenneth Ward said at an OPCW meeting in The Hague on Monday.
“It is our concern that they may have tampered with it with the intent of thwarting the efforts of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission to conduct an effective investigation,” he said. His comments at the closed-door meeting were obtained by Reuters.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that Moscow had interfered with any evidence. “I can guarantee that Russia has not tampered with the site,” he told the BBC.

Trump wants us troops home
Two days after the missile strikes which he hailed as a well-executed military operation, President Donald Trump still wants to bring US troops home, the White House said on Monday.
But spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said he had not set a timeline for a pull-out. Trump was also willing to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, she added, while indicating that no such encounter was imminent.
Britain’s delegation to the OPCW accused Russia and the Assad government of stopping inspectors from reaching Douma. “Unfettered access is essential,” it said in a statement. “Russia and Syria must cooperate.”
The team aims to collect samples, interview witnesses and document evidence to determine whether banned toxic munitions were used, although it is not permitted to assign blame for the attack.
British Ambassador Peter Wilson said in The Hague that the United Nations had cleared the inspectors to go but they had been unable to reach Douma because Syria and Russia had been unable to guarantee their safety.
Moscow blamed the delay on the air strikes, in which the United States, France and Britain targeted what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities.
“We called for an objective investigation. This was at the very beginning after this information (of the attack) appeared. Therefore allegations of this toward Russia are groundless,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Russia’s defense ministry later said the United States and its allies had hit military targets and not just research facilities, Interfax news agency reported.
The Syrian military destroyed 71 out of 103 cruise missiles detected in Syrian airspace, RIA news agency quoted the ministry as saying.
The inspectors met Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in the presence of Russian officers and a senior Syrian security official in Damascus for about three hours on Sunday.
OPCW inspectors have been attacked on two previous missions to the sites of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Horrible, miserable
Syrian flags flew in Douma on Monday, security forces stood on street corners and Russian military police patrolled the streets. State aid trucks handed out bread, rice and pasta to people who had lived under siege for years.
A government-organized media tour did not include the building where, according to rescue workers and medics who were in town at the time, dozens of people were killed by poison gas.
Doctors at the hospital where suspected victims were treated told reporters on the tour that none of the patients that night had suffered chemical weapons injuries — they were asphyxiated by dust and smoke in a bombardment.
Medical aid groups and the White Helmets rescue organization have said such statements — already aired on state television in recent days — were made under duress.
The US-led strikes did nothing to alter the strategic balance or dent Assad’s supremacy and the Western allies have said the aim was to prevent the further use of chemical weapons, not to intervene in the civil war or topple Assad.
At a meeting in Luxembourg, the 28 EU foreign ministers endorsed the missile strikes and considered steps to deepen Assad’s isolation.
“The European Union will continue to consider further restrictive measures against Syria as long as the repression continues,” they said in a statement after their talks.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on Sunday the United States would announce new economic sanctions aimed at companies dealing with equipment related to Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons, though the White House said on Monday that no decision had been taken yet.
“We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future,” the White House’s Sanders said.

Domestic opposition
The Western leaders faced scrutiny at home over their actions, with Britain’s May facing questions over why she did not seek parliamentary approval for the action.
She told parliament the decision to conduct air strikes against Syria was in the British national interest and not as a result of pressure from Trump.
“We have not done this because President Trump asked us to, we have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do, and we are not alone. There is broad-based international support for the action we have taken,” May said.
May has said she did not seek a green light from parliament for the attacks due to the need to act quickly.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, has questioned the legal basis for Britain’s involvement.


Saudi Arabia shoots down Houthi missile

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: April 16, 2018

JEDDAH: Saudi air defenses have shot down a ballistic missile fired by the Houthi militia in Yemen toward the southern Saudi province of Najran on Monday.

On Thursday, Saudi authorities intercepted another missile headed toward a civilian area in Jazan.

The indiscriminate attacks have been widely condemned by the international community.

The militia have in the past used drones to target Abha airport and civilian areas in Jazan.


Libya uncertainty key issue for El-Sisi during Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia

SOURCE: Arab News

April 16, 2018

  • Haftar is important for Egypt because he believes in the Libyan unity
  • UN is leading efforts to reunify the country

CAIRO: Uncertainty in Libya and the deadlock in Palestinian reconciliation efforts will be the main concerns of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as he attends the Arab League Summit in Dhahran.
Buoyed by his recent resounding and controversial election victory, the Egyptian president will have much to discuss with Arab leaders.
Bassam Radi, a presidential spokesman, said El-Sisi would discuss with his Arab counterparts “important issues affecting Arab security” including developments in Syria, Yemen and Palestine.
El-Sisi’s prime concern is the situation in Libya, where fears are growing over the health of the military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar, one of Libya’s key power brokers, is being treated in Paris after feeling unwell during a foreign tour and is expected to return to Libya within days, Ahmed Al-Mismari, a spokesman for Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), told Reuters on Saturday.
Rumors and contradictory reports about the seriousness of his condition swirled jn the Libyan media last week, especially as Haftar had not made any public appearances recently.
Haftar, 75, is the most powerful figure in eastern Libya and his LNA is aligned with a government based in the east which has opposed a rival government in the capital, Tripoli.
On Friday, UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame and several Libyan officials said they had spoken to Haftar by phone.

Haftar won the backing of Egypt when he arrived as a stabilizing force confronting Islamist and extremist forces in the country’s east, which borders Egypt.
El-Sisi met the head of the Presidential Council of Libya Fayez Al-Sarraj in Dammam on Saturday and urged all the Libyan political factions to cooperate with the UN envoy to restore peace to the troubled state, according to presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi.
“This is the most important part of the Arab Summit agenda for Egypt since Libya’s situation affects the Egyptian national security. Egypt played a significant role and has invested politically to control the terrorist attacks on its Western borders,” said Mohamed Farahat, a political analyst.
“Haftar is important for Egypt because he believes in the Libyan unity and he also proposed a project to build the Libyan unified army and this is what makes him special as a leader.”
El-Sisi has also invested a lot of political capital in reconciling the two main warring Palestinian factions and a return to peace talks with Israel.
Abbas Kamel, senior political and security aide to El-Sisi, visited both Ramallah, home of the Palestinian Authority, and Tel Aviv last week to lay the groundwork for the Arab Summit to adopt a resolution expressing willingness to engage with a US peace plan.
The aim of the talks is not only to persuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to approve the launch of negotiations but to convince Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to exercise restraint before what he sees as the perfect opportunity to deal a blow to Hezbollah and limit Iran’s presence in Syria.

Sururism: The most dangerous Islamized movement, who are they?

SOURCE Al Arabiya

16 April 2018

In his interview with TIME magazine, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the Muslim Brotherhood is the legitimate ancestor of all Islamist movements that have spread across the world. However, he said the followers of the Sururist Movement were the most extremist in the Middle East. This is actually accurate. But what is Sururism? To whom does it belong? And how did it come into existence?

Sururism is a movement that took from Salafist doctrines selectively but adopted the organizational forms of the Muslim Brotherhood, as the latter does not pay much attention to the doctrine, as the majority is Ash’arites.

The Muslim Brotherhood is lenient with groups that claim they are Islamic, but Sururism puts the doctrine first while adding a political dimension as a requirement so much so, that they say one’s Islam isn’t complete without it, calling it the concept of al Hakimiya (the governance), even though the elders of this movement never imposed this condition.

Over time, this movement was able to draw the attention of many enthusiastic youth, who were eager for a new revolutionary Sunni approach resembling Khomeini’s movement in Iran. In the early 1980s, the Sururists were able to infiltrate all the social classes and was embraced by many preachers, teachers and young judges

Mohammed Al Shaikh

Life and ideology of Mohammed Surur

This group was founded in the Saudi Kingdom by Mohammed Surur Naif Zine El Abidine, who worked as a mathematics teacher in the institutes of the Imam University and who has not studied the Sharia methodology.

OPINION: Destroying the structures of extremism

He began advocating his movement in Ha’il, while others say it was in Buraidah. He then relocated to the eastern province. When authorities were alerted about his activities, he travelled to Kuwait and from there to Britain, where he founded As-Sunnah Magazine, which was smuggled by his followers to the kingdom and the rest of the Arab world.

Surur was born in Hauran in the Levant in 1938. He first embraced the Muslim Brotherhood ideology. When he came to the kingdom, he found that political Islamization which does not care about the purity of the faith, as is the Brotherhood’s ideology, was liable to fail in the Kingdom.

So from the 1960s onwards, he began establishing a new approach of mixing faith with politics, embracing the approach as he learned from the Muslim Brotherhood of which he was a follower.

ALSO READ: Dhahran Summit and the dialogue of priorities

Over time, this movement was able to draw the attention of many enthusiastic youth, who were eager for a new revolutionary Sunni approach resembling Khomeini’s movement in Iran. In the early 1980s, the Sururists were able to infiltrate all the social classes and was embraced by many preachers, teachers and young judges.

They even infiltrated officials in the Interior Ministry as Surur himself was assigned with the task of writing a book to defend Sunni people in the face of the Khomeinist revolution. The book was published under the title The Era of the Magi Has Come. Mohammed Surur wrote it under the pseudonym of Abdullah al-Gharib. Back then, fears of the expansion of the Khomeini revolution were at their peak.

OPINION: Is the world inhaling Sarin, too? The international stance on Douma

At first, the state considered Sururism as a pure Salafist movement that abided by the orientations of the Salafist Saudi state. This gave members of this organization in the 1980s the freedom to move and attract young people to their ideology. At the time, much of the sheen of the Muslim Brotherhood was starting to fade, which created a hostile ideological struggle between the two movements. Triumph here was for the Sururists.

The decline of Sururism

Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait and the Sururists’ feeling that they’ve spread and acquired a large number of followers were the defining moment in the divorce between the government and the Sururists, especially after the imprisonment of their senior figures who thought that the state was not capable of confronting them.

However it was a retroactive divorce as the kingdom’s victory in the liberation of Kuwait and the Sururists’ feeling that they had committed the mistake of rushing into a confrontation with the government, made them compromise to survive the storm, carefully awaiting the opportunities to prove their loyalty and pledging allegiance in a tactical maneuver that helped them reconcile with the government.

ALSO READ: Further destruction 15 years after Saddam’s fall

The government cautiously went along with it, trying to contain them. However, an ideologically driven person is like a drug addict, he may convince you that he has gone sober as long as he feels you are stronger than him, but as soon as an opportunity presents itself, he will return to his old habits with the spirit of the stubborn fighter who does not mind sacrificing himself to support his cause.

The regime of Hamad bin Jassim and Hamad bin Khalifa in Qatar managed to infiltrate them and recruit most of the group, especially their key figures. Qatar generously funded them and turned them into a fifth column. When Qatar flared up the Arab Spring, the Sururist Movement was at the forefront of those cheering for it and supporting it.

OPINION: The Douma chemical attack and Trump’s anger

However, the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the decline of their role in Tunisia, the civil war in Libya and the failure of Islamists in Syria have exposed them to all those who were led astray by their ideas. Then came the knockout punch that paralyzed them, which was the severing of relations with Qatar, which was their first funder, as well as the determination and perseverance adopted by the state to confront them and their advocates.

This made many of them raise white flags, surrendering to defeat and trying to save themselves from the fate that the Salman state seems determined to execute, i.e. to eradicate all the politicized Islamized figures from our societies at any cost.

Prince Mohammed’s recent statements seem to mean a lot and signify that eradicating them is a matter of time and prioritization, no more.

This article was originally published in Arabic in Al Jazirah.