March 27/15

Friday the 40th day of Great Lent: Temptation of Jesus

Bible Quotation For Today/Friday the 40th day of Great Lent: Temptation of Jesus
Luke 04/01-13: "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, "One does not live by bread alone." ’Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours. ’Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him." ’Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you", and "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone." ’Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." ’When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time."

Bible Quotation For Today/Keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us
Second Letter to the Thessalonians 03/06-18: "We command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right. Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 26-27/15
Qassem Soleimani and building an Iranian war figure/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 26/15
A Yemen deal needs a U.N. stick to enforce it/Manuel Almeida/Al Arabiya/March 26/15
Yemen intervention: Gulf states pull the trigger/Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya/March 26/15
Why ‘Operation: Decisive Storm’ was needed in Yemen/Faisal J. Abbas/Al Arabiya/March 26/15

Lebanese Related News published on March 26-27/15
Saniora before STL: Hariri Sought Extension of Hrawi's Term to Avoid Lahoud's Election
Lebanese Cabinet Refers Btedei Crime to Judicial Council
Lifting Iran sanctions would harm region: Machnouk 
Portolano holds separate talks with Salam, Berri 
Lebanon supports 'legitimacy' in Yemen: Bassil
Hariri Says Iran Actions Stimulated Saudi Intervention in Yemen as Jumblat Expresses Grave Concern
Lebanon Says Backs Any Arab Action that 'Reassures Everyone' after Yemen Strikes
Aoun Says Capable of Restoring Stability in Lebanon, Urges Unity
Hizbullah Urges Instant Halt to 'Saudi-American Aggression' in Yemen
Abou Faour Orders Immediate Closure of all Unlicensed Daycares
Hariri Says Iran Actions Stimulated Saudi Intervention in Yemen as Jumblat Expresses Grave Concern
Report: Saniora's STL Testimony Not Expected to Impact Mustaqbal-Hizbullah Dialogue

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 26-27/15
Saudi Launches Operation against Yemen Rebels, Huthi Chief Calls for Confronting 'Criminal Aggression'
Iran president condemns military intervention in Yemen
Iran demands halt to military actions in Yemen
Saudi airstrikes target rebel bases in Yemen
Yemen FM calls for major Arab military intervention
Pakistan Vows 'Strong Response' to Any Threat against Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has no immediate plans for ground operation in Yemen: military spokesman
Saudi says Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan joining Yemen operation
US 'understands' Saudi military action in Yemen: State Department
Arab FMs agree on unified military force: Egypt TV
Powerful explosions rock Yemen capital: AFP
Obama, Turkey's Erdogan discuss Yemen, Iran, Islamic State: White House
Rouhani condemns military intervention in Yemen
Powerful explosions rock Yemen capital: AFP
No immediate plans to launch Yemen ground operation, but forces are ready: Saudi coalition spokesperson
UN chief skirts question of Saudi strikes
Turkey's Erdogan says can't tolerate Iran bidding to dominate Middle East
Turkey may give Saudi Yemen operation 'logistical' support: Erdogan
Ground operation planned in Yemen: Egyptian officials
Syrian government shells kill 18 in south, activists say
US general: No decision to shield US-trained rebels in Syria
After US airstrikes, Iraq troops start final push for Tikrit
Argentine court confirms dismissal of case against president
France: Co-pilot wanted to 'destroy' plane

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Saudi Arabia is Yemen's 'evil neighbor': rebel chief
Agence France Presse/Mar. 26, 2015/SANAA: Yemen rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi denounced a Saudi-led intervention against his Iran-backed forces Thursday as "unjustified," in his group's first reaction since the airstrikes were launched overnight. "The criminal oppressive aggression is completely unjustified," Houthi said in a televised speech, accusing Saudi Arabia of being a "neighbor of evil." This was a breaking news item.

Ground operation planned in Yemen: Egyptian officials

Associated Press/Mar. 26, 201
SHARM EL-SHEIKH: Egyptian security and military officials say Saudi Arabia and Egypt will lead a ground operation in Yemen against Shiite rebels and their allies after a campaign of airstrikes to weaken them. Three senior officials tell The Associated Press that forces would enter by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from the Red Sea and Arabian Sea. They said Thursday that other nations will also be involved. They would not specify troop numbers or say when the operation would start, only that it would be after airstrikes weaken the rebels and allied forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They say the offensive aims to push the rebels into negotiations on power sharing. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

Saudi Arabia has no immediate plans for ground operation in Yemen: military spokesman
Reuters/Mar. 26, 2015 /RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has no immediate plans to launch ground operations inside Yemen but its forces and those of its allies are ready to do so if needed, the military spokesman of the operation said on Thursday.
"There are no plans at this stage for ground forces operations, but if the need arises, the Saudi ground forces and those of the friends and sisterly forces are ready and will repel any aggression," Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri told a news conference.

Iran president condemns military intervention in Yemen
Agence France Presse/Mar. 26, 2015
TEHRAN: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned Saudi Arabia's military intervention Thursday in Yemen and urged all countries in the region to stay out of their neighbor's internal affairs. "Interference by foreign militaries is very dangerous and deepens the crisis," Rouhani said, during a phone call with French President Francois Hollande.He insisted the "solution to Yemen's problems is not military," the presidency said. Saudi Arabia's airstrikes on Shiite rebels in Yemen triggered fury from Iran Thursday, with officials warning the military action threatened to spill over into other countries. During a separate telephone conversation with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Rouhani referred to "this morning's military aggression and condemned all military intervention in the internal affairs of independent nations," his website said.

US 'understands' Saudi military action in Yemen: State Department
Reuters/Mar. 26, 2015/WASHINGTON: The United States favors a negotiated solution to the fighting in Yemen but understands Saudi concerns that led to military action there, a State Department spokesman said on Thursday.
Spokesman Jeff Rathke said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on Thursday with the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council about the Saudi-led coalition. "We understand the Saudis' concerns, the threat that they perceive on their border to which they're responding, and we're supportive of their efforts to address that," Rathke said at a briefing.

Obama, Turkey's Erdogan discuss Yemen, Iran, Islamic State: White House
Reuters/Mar. 26, 2015/WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama spoke with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday about the crisis in Yemen, ongoing nuclear talks with Iran, and cooperation in the fight against Islamic State militants, the White House National Security Council said on Twitter.

Saudi, allies strike Yemen's Houthis, plan invasion
Ahmed Al-Haj/Hamza Hendawi| Associated Press/Mar. 26, 2015 |
SANAA: Saudi Arabia bombed key military installations in Yemen Thursday, leading a regional coalition in a campaign against Shiite rebels who have taken over much of the country and drove out the president. The dramatic military assault turns impoverished, fragmented Yemen into a new front in the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Egyptian military and security officials told The Associated Press that the military intervention will go further, with a ground assault into Yemen by Egyptian, Saudi and other forces, planned once airstrikes have weakened the capabilities of the rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies, military forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The strikes before dawn barraged an air base near the airport in the capital, Sanaa, as well as anti-aircraft positions and military bases - and flattened a number of homes near the airport, killing at least 18 civilians. The Houthis mobilized thousands of supporters in protests against the strikes, with one speaker lashing out at the Saudi-led coalition and warning that Yemen "will be the tomb" of the aggressors.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed support for the strikes in a conference call with Gulf foreign ministers and said the U.S. shared intelligence against Houthi targets, according to a State Department official traveling with Kerry in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Iran, which is allied to the Houthis, denounced the bombing, noting the civilian deaths. Iran "considers this action a dangerous step," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said in a statement. "This invasion will bear no result but expansion of terrorism and extremism throughout the whole region."
The sudden internationalization of the Yemen conflict brewing for months throws a new convolution in the twisted threads of conflict in the Middle East. The new tension puts the United States, a traditional ally of Saudi Arabia, in a precarious situation with Tehran as it tries to negotiate a nuclear deal before the end of this month.
In Iraq, the U.S. and Iran are implicitly on the same side - both helping the Shiite-led government in Baghdad battle Islamic State group militants, though Tehran and Washington are intently avoiding any actual contacts. In Yemen, the U.S. is backing the Gulf and its allies against Shiite rebels allied to Iran - while at the same time, al-Qaida's branch in the country is also fighting the Shiite rebels.
Saudi Arabia and fellow Sunni-led allies in the Gulf and the Middle East view the Houthi takeover as a move by Iran to establish a proxy on the kingdom's southern border. Iran and the Houthis deny that Tehran arms the rebel movement, though Tehran says it gives it diplomatic and humanitarian support.
In a pre-dawn statement as the airstrikes began, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain said their action aimed to "protect" Yemenis from Houthis who are "a tool in the hands of foreign powers."
Over the past months, the Houthis have swept out of their northern strongholds to take over the capital and much of the north. Hadi, the U.S.- and Gulf-backed president, was forced to flee to the southern port of Aden, hoping to cling to authority with the backing of some police and military units and allied militiamen. But as the Houthis and their allies bore down on Aden, Hadi left the country by boat on Wednesday afternoon, according to security officials.
The Houthis have succeeded in their advance in large part because of help from Saleh, the autocrat who ruled Yemen for more than 30 years until he was ousted following a 2011 Arab Spring popular uprising. However, he remained in the country and some of the strongest military units remained loyal to him, undermining Hadi. Those units have now fought alongside the Houthis.
Three Egyptian military and security officials told The Associated Press that a coalition of countries led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia will conduct a ground invasion into Yemen once the airstrikes have sufficiently diminished the Houthis and Saleh's forces. They said the assault will be by ground from Saudi Arabia and by landings on Yemen's Red and Arabian Sea coasts.
The aim is not to occupy Yemen but to weaken the Houthis and their allies until they enter negotiations for power-sharing, the officials said.
They said three to five Egyptian troop carriers are stationed off Yemen's coasts. They would not specify the numbers of troops or when the operation would begin. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the plans with the press.
Egypt's presidency said in a statement Thursday that its naval and air forces were participating in the coalition campaign already. Egypt is "prepared for participation with naval, air and ground forces if necessary," Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said at a gathering of Arab foreign ministers preparing for a weekend Arab summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
In the air assault that began Thursday - codenamed "Operation Decisive Storm - Saudi Arabia deployed some 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and other navy units, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported. Also involved in the air operation were aircraft from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qattar, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Egypt, though it was not clear which carried out actual strikes.
The Arab Summit starting Saturday is expected to approve the creation of a new joint Arab military force to intervene in regional crises. The Egyptian security and military officials said the force is planned to include some 40,000 men backed by jet fighters, warships and light armor. Hadi is expected to attend the summit.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia have both intervened in Yemen before - and struggled in its mountainous, difficult terrain. In the 1960s, Egypt sent its military to back republican forces against a Shiite royal dynasty backed, ironically in current light, by Saudi Arabia. More recently, Saudi Arabia struck against the Houthis by air and with a limited border excursion in late 2009-early 2010, a foray that killed more than 130 Saudi troops.
Support for the Houthis is far from universal in Yemen - but foreign intervention risks bringing a backlash.
On Thursday, thousands gathered outside Sanaa's old city in the Houthi-organized protest, chanting against Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Khaled al-Madani, a Houthi activist, told the crowd that "God was on the side of Yemen." He blasted Saudi Arabia saying it is "buying mercenaries with money to attack Yemen. But Yemen will, God willing, will be their tomb."
Anger against the strikes was already brewing - particularly after airstrikes targeting an air base near Sanaa's airport flattening half a dozen homes in an impoverished neighborhood and killing at least 18 civilians, according to the health ministry.
TV stations affiliated with the rebels and Saleh showed the aftermath of the strikes Thursday. Yemen Today, a TV station affiliated with Saleh, showed hundreds of residents congregating around the rubbles, some chanting "Death to Al-Saud", in reference to the kingdom's royal family. The civilians were sifting through the rubble, pulling out mattresses, bricks and shrapnel.
Ahmed al-Sumaini said an entire alley close to the airport was wiped out in the strikes overnight. He said people ran out from their homes in the middle of the night, many jolted out of bed to run into the streets.
"These people have nothing to do with the Houthis or with Hadi. This is destructive. These random acts will push people toward Houthis," he said, as he waved shrapnel from the strikes.
Strikes also hit in the southern province Lahj and the stronghold of Houthis in the northern Saada province. In Sanaa, they also hit the camp of U.S.-trained Yemeni special forces, which is controlled by generals loyal to Saleh, and a missile base held by the Houthis.
also hit the Al-Anad air base in the southern Lahj province. About 100 U.S. military advisers withdrew over the weekend from base, where they had been leading a drone campaign against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

Saudi Launches Operation against Yemen Rebels, Huthi Chief Calls for Confronting 'Criminal Aggression'
Naharnet/26.03.15/Warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition bombed Huthi Shiite rebels Thursday in support of Yemen's embattled president, who headed to an Arab summit to garner support as Iran warned the intervention was "dangerous."
Defiant rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi slammed the intervention as "unjustified", calling in a televised address for supporters to confront the "criminal oppressive aggression."He also blasted Saudi Arabia as a "neighbor of evil."President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi arrived in Riyadh, with officials saying he was on his way to Egypt to take part in a two-day Arab League summit starting on Saturday. It was the first confirmation of Hadi's whereabouts since the rebels began advancing this week the main southern city of Aden, where the president had been holed up since fleeing the rebel-controlled capital Sanaa last month.
Their advance raised Saudi fears the Shiite minority rebels would seize control of the whole of its Sunni-majority neighbor and take it into the orbit of Shiite Iran. Saudi Arabia launched the air strikes before dawn Thursday, saying it had assembled a coalition of more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies. The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, said the coalition stood ready to do "whatever it takes" to protect Hadi's government. On the eve of the regional summit in Egypt, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi also declared full support for the strikes following a "coup." But Iran reacted with fury, condemning the intervention as "a dangerous step" that violated "international responsibilities and national sovereignty."
- Fresh strikes -
President Hassan Rouhani said it amounted to "military aggression" and "condemned all military intervention in the internal affairs of independent nations."After hitting targets overnight in Sanaa and elsewhere, the coalition launched fresh strikes late Thursday, hitting a rebel-held base in third city Taez and the airport and an arms depot in the Huthis' northern stronghold, officials and witnesses said. Powerful explosions had been heard earlier in Sanaa as warplanes pounded an air base adjacent to the international airport and other locations, an Agence France-Presse correspondent reported. Sanaa families streamed out of the capital seeking the relative safety of the provinces.
"I am leaving with my family -- Sanaa is no longer safe," said one resident, who gave his name only as Mohammed, as he piled his belongings into a minibus. In the south, residents reported hearing explosions at the huge al-Anad air base, north of Aden, which was seized by anti-government forces on Wednesday. Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television said the kingdom had deployed 100 fighter jets to the operation, while the United Arab Emirates had committed 30, Kuwait 15 each and Qatar 10. Bahrain said it had committed 12 fighters.
The channel said Saudi Arabia had also mobilized 150,000 troops near the border, while all civilian flights were halted at seven Saudi airports in the border region. The government in Riyadh said it was boosting security on its borders and across the kingdom, including at the OPEC kingpin's crucial oil facilities.
Washington said President Barack Obama had authorized the "provision of logistical and intelligence support" for the campaign. U.S. officials told Agence France-Presse Washington was looking at providing refueling and early warning radar aircraft to Saudi Arabia in support of the operation. A Saudi adviser said the strikes had taken out Huthi air defenses and destroyed "numerous Huthi fighter planes," adding that the air force "has pretty much secured most of the Yemeni air space." Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Morocco confirmed they were joining the campaign. Egypt, whose government announced it was prepared to commit ground troops, said its air force and Navy were taking part in response to "demands by the Yemeni nation for the return of stability and to preserve its Arab identity."But like Iran, Shiite-majority Iraq said it opposed the Saudi intervention, with Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari calling for a peaceful settlement, as Lebanon's Tehran-backed Hizbullah accused Riyadh of "aggression" in Yemen.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a conference call with Gulf ministers to discuss the operation and "commended the work of the coalition taking military action against the Huthis," a senior U.S. official said. - 'No impact' on nuclear talks -The Saudi adviser said his country's defense minister warned the son of ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, "who is commanding the attack on Aden that his forces face 'obliteration' if they continue their push" on the city. Saleh, who resigned in 2012 following a year of nationwide protests, is accused of allying with the rebels, relying on the loyalty of many army units that he built during his three-decade rule. Dozens of people have been killed as the Huthis backed by troops allied Saleh have clashed with pro-Hadi forces in their drive southwards. Yemen has been gripped by growing turmoil since the Huthis launched a power takeover in Sanaa in February. The Saudi-led intervention triggered a sharp rise in world oil prices on fears the conflict could threaten supplies. Washington insisted the intervention would have "no impact" on nuclear talks with Tehran, as last-ditch efforts to reach a deal before a March 31 deadline were launched in the Swiss city of Lausanne."We have always been clear that the P5+1 negotiations are solely focused on the nuclear issue," a senior U.S. official told AFP, requesting anonymity and referring to the group of six nations engaged in talks.Agence France Presse

Lifting Iran sanctions would harm region: Lebanon minister
The Daily Star/Mar. 26, 2015
BEIRUT: Lifting the economic sanctions on Iran would embolden it to intervene in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries and lead to more sectarian tensions and extremism, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Wednesday
“We support and encourage any initiative that aims at saving the Middle East from the danger of nuclear and chemical weapons,” Machnouk said in a lecture at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C., according to remarks issued Thursday.
“But what concerns us in Lebanon and the Arab world is not the existential threat posed by a nuclear Iran, the concern is that Iran continues its current behavior even after reaching an agreement.”
Machnouk, who criticized the Islamic republic for using extremism to confront extremism, said easing economic pressure on Iran would harm the surrounding countries.
“We are concerned that lifting the sanctions would spare more money and resources for the Iranian government to increase its interventions and influence in the region, and contribute to escalating sectarian tension and extremism,” he said.
Machnouk is a member of the Future Movement, which is backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia.
“Iran considers Lebanon today part of its area of influence, and its policies in Lebanon shake stability and fragment our country,” the minister said.
Iran is the main sponsor of Hezbollah, which enjoys high popularity in certain parts of Lebanon, but is fiercely opposed to by the Future Movement and its allies.
“The worrying news from Yemen today remind of Iran’s real intentions,” he said, referring to the Houthi rebel advances across the country. The Houthis, backed by Iran, have overrun large parts of the country including the capital Sanaa.
Saudi Arabia and allied forces Thursday began launching airstrikes on Yemen to halt Houthi advances. The kingdom was reportedly contributing 100 warplanes to the operation - dubbed "Storm of Resolve" - and more than 85 more were provided by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.
Machnouk's remarks were made before the Saudi airstrike began, but other Future Movement officials have offered them their support.
Moderated by Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Program at the center, Machnouk’s talk was titled “Facing Terrorism: A Lebanese Perspective.”
The minister explored the terrorist threats on Lebanon, Iraq and Syria and the rise of the fundamentalist group ISIS.
“The international coalition’s airstrikes are undoubtedly essential to weaken and defeat ISIS, but these airstrikes alone are not enough,” he said. “Defeating ISIS and other terrorist groups require depriving these organizations of the ability to recruit supporters.”
Machnouk detailed a three-fold strategy that Lebanon had been following to counter terrorism, based on strengthening national unity, training security forces and spreading religious moderation.
He said there was a need of a “religious revolution” to restore the spirit of peace and the true essence of Islam, emphasizing the importance of focusing on preventing young generations from drifting into extremism.

Lebanon supports 'legitimacy' in Yemen: Bassil
The Daily Star/Mar. 26, 2015
BEIRUT: Lebanon supports any decision or action that unifies Arab countries, even when it is to some extent wrong, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said Thursday at an Arab ministers meeting overshadowed by Saudi strikes in Yemen.
Bassil is not known for his oratory skills, but his speech at the Arab foreign ministers conference in Sharm el-Sheikh was particularly tangled and, perhaps intentionally, vague. “We believe that any stand that unites Arabs, even if on some wrongness, is much better that any position that is a bit wrong but does not unify [Arabs],” Bassil told the conference. The conference precedes the annual Arab League summit that will be held this weekend in the Egyptian resort town. The speech did not clearly state Lebanon’s official position on the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen launched overnight, but Bassil said that there was more agreement than disagreement in the case. Warplanes from Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched strikes against Houthi rebels fighting to oust Yemen's president.
The kingdom was reportedly contributing 100 warplanes to the operation - dubbed "Storm of Resolve" - and more than 85 more were provided by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.
Egyptian officials have also said that Saudi Arabia is planning a ground invasion of its southern neighbor with coalition troops. Iran has denounced the assault on the Houthi militia group, which it backs, and warned that the move would worsen the sectarian tensions fueling wars around the Middle East. Bassil said the problem in Yemen, and other Arab countries, was that authority was often claimed by groups separate from the state, and many of these groups are affiliated with foreign powers.
Bassil said Lebanon would always support any Arab unanimous decision because it shows strength and unity, but would abstain from taking a stand on matters where Arabs were divided. He said a basic common principle should be supporting the legitimate forces in any Arab country.“Yemen has many projections on our countries, including Lebanon, which means that when the idea of supporting constitutional legitimacy in any country is let go, any other Arab country will be subject to similar threats,” Bassil said.
However, Bassil also said he believed in the policy of non-intervention in the affairs of any Arab country, as is stipulated in the Arab League’s charter.The minister highlighted the need to adopt peaceful dialogue and political solutions rather than war to solve internal conflicts, saying the experience of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq prove that violence only delays the inevitable political compromise. He said any collective Arab action, including military action, is welcome when it meets the standards that “assure everyone... and respect the unity of countries and their sovereignty.”Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Progressive Socialist Party leader had offered their support to military action against the Houthi rebels, while Hezbollah strongly condemned the intervention as an aggression.

Lebanese Cabinet Refers Btedei Crime to Judicial Council
Naharnet/The cabinet referred on Thursday the crime of Btedei to the judicial council, two weeks after a judge indicted eight members of the Jaafar clan over links to the case. “The crime has been referred to the judicial council,” Information Minister Ramzi Jreij told reporters after the cabinet session at the Grand Serail. Earlier this month, eight Jaafar clan members were indicted in the murder of Sobhi and Nadimeh Fakhri in the town of Btedei in the eastern Baalbek district in November last year. They were referred to the Bekaa Criminal Court for trial. The couple were killed by fugitives from the Jaafar clan who were fleeing army troops. The gunmen entered the family's house with the intent of taking their vehicle but the tenants showed resistance, which prompted the armed men to shoot the couple and their son, who survived the attack. Last month, one of the suspects was killed in a clash with the army. Ahmed Mohammed Salim Jaafar was injured after the military ambushed him in an area between al-Yammouneh and Dar al-Wasaa. But he later succumbed to his injuries.
Asked about the developments in Yemen, Jreij described them as “dangerous,” stressing that Prime Minister Tammam Salam will express Lebanon's stance during the Arab League summit in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The summit will be held on March 28 and 29. Saudi Arabia said more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies, had joined the coalition to prevent the fall of Yemeni embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. The coalition launched a military offensive in Yemen after the Shiite rebels moved on Hadi's last refuge in the southern city of Aden.

Saniora before STL: Hariri Sought Extension of Hrawi's Term to Avoid Lahoud's Election
Naharnet/26.03.15/The Special Tribunal for Lebanon's Defense team continued on Thursday its cross-examination of head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora, with questions focusing on United Nations Security Council resolution 1559 and former Premier Rafik Hariri's ties with ex-President Emile Lahoud.
Saniora said: “Hariri fought hard to ensure that the term of later President Elias Hrawi was extended in 1995 in order to avoid the election of Emile Lahoud as president.”“Hariri exerted all possible democratic efforts to extend Hrawi's term,” he revealed.“Given the choice between Hrawi and Lahoud, Hariri opted for the former,” Saniora added. “Lahoud was probably a bit bitter about this when he came to power in 1998 and it may have been one of the reasons why he did not get along well with Hariri,” remarked the MP before the court.
“But on the first day that Lahoud came to office, raids and rumors about targeting pro-Hariri figures began to circulate in Lebanon and I was one of these targets,” he noted. “Lahoud, as a president, should have worked on bringing the Lebanese people together, but he didn't and this was reflected on the social, economic, security, and financial situation on the ground,” he said.
“A president of a republic should embrace all sides,” he stated. Asked by the Defense whether Hariri had an issue with Lahoud on a personal level, Saniora replied: “The two officials shared different mentalities and approaches on how to govern the country and so it was hard for them to get along.” “Hariri tried all means to overcome differences with Lahoud, but to no avail,” he revealed. Ties between Hariri and Lahoud became even more strained in 2004 when the Syrian regime pushed for the extension of his term. On whether the extension of Lahoud's term and the issuing of resolution 1559 were linked, Saniora noted: “The extension may have been a factor, but other matters came into play in the resolution.”
Earlier during the testimony, the MP emphasized that Hariri did not have a hand in devising the resolution. “Even though he did have strong relations with foreign powers, Hariri could not have swayed all 15 members of the Security Council to vote for the resolution,” he remarked. In the afternoon, Saniora answered the questions of the Defense on Solidere – a joint-stock company that was in charge of reconstructing Beirut's central district after the civil war – the four generals who were arrested after Hariri's murder, and details about the bombing. Saniora noted that “out of $1.8 billion in investments in Solidere, Hariri had only 120 million dollars, which is equivalent to 6.5-7%.”
He also reiterated that “orders were given to fill the crater created by the explosion on February 14, 2005 and to remove all the (destroyed) vehicles.”“This is what was later confirmed through investigations,” he pointed out. Saniora also revealed that he was told personally by U.N. investigator Peter Fitzgerald that the crime scene was “tampered with.” Fitzgerald is the author of the report of the Fact-Finding Mission to Lebanon that inquired into “the causes, circumstances and consequences of the assassination” of Hariri. After arriving in Beirut February 25, 2005, the mission interviewed Lebanese officials and politicians, examined the Lebanese investigation and legal proceedings, inspected the crime scene and collected evidence. It also interviewed witnesses.
Pressed by the Defense for a second time, Saniora firmly responded that he did not discuss the arrest of the four generals with the then U.S. ambassador to Lebanon or any other ambassador because he was “keen on Lebanon's sovereignty.”The so-called Four Generals were at the time of the assassination in charge of Lebanon's General Security, Internal Security Forces, army intelligence directorate, and Republican Guard. They were detained from 2005 until 2009 for their suspected connection to the Hariri assassination. They were later released over lack of evidence. The cross-examination involved an objection by the Prosecution against the Defense's use of a WikiLeaks cable alleging that then-Justice Minister Charles Rizk was pressured by U.S. ambassador Jeffrey Feltman to release the generals in order to speed up the work of the STL.
Saniora for his part denied the claims, stressing that they were totally baseless. Concluding his testimony before the tribunal, the ex-PM said he was “honored” to appear before the court. “I'm honored to have appeared before this court, because it gave me the chance to say the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in order to reveal what I know about ex-PM Hariri and what he did to defend Lebanon and end its subjugation to the Syrian regime, as well as what he did against the Israeli attacks,” Saniora said. “I put myself at the disposal of the tribunal, and whenever you see that there is a need, I'm ready to participate and to tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” he added.
Accordingly, Presiding Judge David Re adjourned the trial to April 9. The court will hear other witnesses on that day while Saniora is expected to testify before the tribunal again in late April. The STL is tackling the assassination of Hariri in a major bombing in Beirut on February 14, 2005. It has so far indicted five Hizbullah members in the crime. It kicked off its trial in 2014 and has so far listened to the testimonies of several witnesses. Testimonies in 2015 have been focusing on the political aspect of the assassination and Hariri's ties with Syria. A number of lawmakers and journalists have given their accounts on the matter.

Aoun Says Capable of Restoring Stability in Lebanon, Urges Unity
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun urged on Thursday the minimum amount of unity among the Lebanese to face the upcoming challenges, expressing belief that he is the only one capable of talking to all the rivals and restoring stability in the country.
“If the region reached a balanced state, then all the countries will benefit from it,” Aoun said in a lengthy interview with the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat. He noted that Lebanon is compelled to have good ties with Syria its neighbor, but stressed that the “relations shouldn't breach Lebanon's sovereignty.” “The relationship between Lebanon and Syria is between two peoples not two regimes... the political system could change, but whatever happens, ties with Damascus should remain good... the disputes between Syria and others shouldn't be imposed on us,” Aoun said. Asked about Hizbullah's intervention in Syria, the Christian chief said that the threats along Lebanon's border compelled it to engage in battles in Syria. “Our border wasn't tightly controlled,” Hizbullah's main Christian ally told the newspaper, describing the party as a “resistance” that is exerting efforts to safeguard Lebanon. Hizbullah has deployed thousands of fighters into neighboring Syria to back President Bashar Assad's army as he battles insurgents who have been trying to overthrow him since 2011.
Aoun noted that the memorandum of understanding between the FPM and Hizbullah didn't harm any component in Lebanon, stressing that “no one should be excluded.”Hizbullah and Aoun signed their memorandum of understanding in 2006 as part of their political alliance.
Concerning the presidential crisis, Aoun expressed belief that he “is capable of talking to everyone and restoring stability in Lebanon.”
“We are not in complete harmony or disagreement over the presidential crisis,” the FPM leader said, praising the dialogue between his party and the Lebanese Forces and that between al-Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah. Aoun said that talks are focusing on finding a common ground, citing the “relative calm” in the country since the beginning of the talks. “Tension has been defused... it is just the beginning of the end,” he told his interviewer. Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal officials have been meeting in Ain el-Tineh since December under the auspices of Speaker Nabih Berri to defuse sectarian hostility linked to the war in Syria. Similarly, the representatives of the LF and the FPM have been holding talks to prepare for a meeting between Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea and issue the “declaration of intent” between the two parties. He expressed hope that he would meet Geagea “soon,” describing talks as “fruitful.”“The veto imposed against my candidacy has been lifted,” Aoun revealed. “They should play fairly in order to find a new president,” he added. Concerning the dispute over the extension of high-ranking security officials, the FPM chief said that “the situation in Lebanon could endure” the appointment of new figures.  He slammed the cabinet of Prime Minister Tammam Salam, saying: “If the government is incapable of appointing new officials then it should leave.” Aoun stressed that ministers will not engage in a dispute during cabinet sessions over the successor of current Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, stressing that “there are several competent replacements.”He reiterated that he didn't nominate his son-in-law Commando Regiment chief Brig. Gen. Chamel Roukoz to succeed Qahwaji as army chief, but “that doesn't mean that I won't.”“If my son-in-law is qualified then why wouldn't he be appointed?” Aoun wondered. He told al-Hayat daily that the raising of the retirement age for military personnel “isn't the problem... but we should preserve the hierarchy.”Roukoz's tenure ends in October while the term of army commander Qahwaji expires at the end of September. Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and the Free Patriotic Movement were recently at loggerheads after Aoun decided to withdraw confidence from him over the extension of the term of the head of the Higher Defense Council, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair. The military positions in Lebanon are suffering as a result of the months-long presidential vacuum in light of the parliament's failure to elect a successor for Michel Suleiman. The vacuum also threatens the position of Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous who is set to retire in June.

Hariri Says Iran Actions Stimulated Saudi Intervention in Yemen as Jumblat Expresses Grave Concern
Naharnet/26.03.15/Mustaqbal Movment chief and Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri praised on Thursday the “wise and courageous decision” taken by Saudi King Salman to intervene militarily in Yemen as Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat feared that it would affect the interest of Lebanese in the Gulf. The Iranian interference in Sanaa compelled an Arab reaction,” Hariri said in comments to the al-Arabiya Arabic language television station. He expressed belief that the Yemeni people will “agree on the Arab military intervention against the Huthi” rebels.Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday at dawn that it was leading a military offensive in Yemen after the Shiite rebels moved on Yemeni embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s last refuge in the southern city of Aden. Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt, Jordan and several other countries “expressed desire to participate in the operation” against the rebels, which the kingdom dubbed “Firmness Storm”. For his part, Jumblat expressed grave concern over the developments in the region, considering that they are “advancing in an alarming manner.”He called for dialogue “before it’s too late” in order to reach a balanced solution, stressing that Lebanon “and above all circumstances supports Saudi Arabia as the developments in Yemen threaten it national security and the interests of the Lebanese, who have been working for decades in the Gulf.”

Hizbullah Urges Instant Halt to ‘Saudi-American Aggression’ in Yemen
Naharnet 26.03.15/Hizbullah on Thursday called for an immediate end to what it described as the “Saudi-American aggression” against Yemen, a day before a scheduled speech by party chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. “Hizbullah strongly condemns the Saudi-American aggression that targets the brotherly people of Yemen, its national army and its vital institutions,” a statement from the group said. Riyadh has said it assembled a coalition of more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies, for the military operation to defend Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansur Hadi’s government. Washington said President Barack Obama had authorized the “provision of logistical and intelligence support” for the campaign.
The military move against the Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen triggered fury from Riyadh’s regional rival Iran, Hizbullah’s main regional ally, with officials in Tehran warning that the military action threatened to spill over into other countries. Slamming “the participation of some Arab and non-Arab countries in this aggression and their political cover for it,” the party warned that “this Saudi-led adventure that lacks wisdom and legitimate and legal justifications is driving the region towards further tensions and threats that will affect its present and future.”
It described the military operation as “a blatant aggression against people seeking to obtain an independent decision, without hegemony from any state, whether regionally or internationally.”
Accordingly, Hizbullah called on “Saudi Arabia and its allies” to “stop this unjust aggression immediately and unconditionally.” “This aggression secures the U.S. interests and gives a generous gift to the Zionist enemy and its choices,” the party added. It also noted that “this brute aggression represents a chance for the sons of the Yemeni people to unite, show domestic solidarity and reach a comprehensive political solution that preserves their country and guarantees its unity and territorial integrity without any foreign interference.”Later on Thursday, state-run National News Agency said Hizbullah chief Nasrallah is scheduled to deliver a televised speech Friday at 8:30 pm that will tackle “the latest developments in Lebanon and the region.”

Report: Saniora's STL Testimony Not Expected to Impact Mustaqbal-Hizbullah Dialogue
Naharnet/The dialogue between the Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah is expected to continue despite the testimony of Mustaqbal bloc chief MP Fouad Saniora before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that revealed that slain former Premier Rafik Hariri was aware of Hizbullah assassination attempts against him, reported the daily An Nahar on Thursday. Observers told the daily: “The dialogue will continue because the factors that preceded Saniora's testimony and those that followed it have not altered the course of the talks even if some March 8 coalition members sought to tarnish it through media campaigns.”Saniora was keen to be very accurate in his recounting of Hariri's revelation of assassination attempts against him and he did not provide his subjective view on the matter, they said. He only repeated what he was told in order to safeguard the credibility of his testimony, they explained. The observers noted that the “STL Defense tried to corner him” into making his own interpretations, but Saniora maintained his objective stance, said An Nahar.
The head of the Mustaqbal bloc also refused to direct any accusation against Hizbullah in the Hariri assassination. He also refused “to make any insinuations about former President Emile Lahoud's intentions” during his time in power even though the MP “discussed at length the practices of the Syrian security system under the ex-president's rule.”The observers therefore said that Saniora “cannot be accused of creating an escalatory atmosphere to eliminate the dialogue with Hizbullah, unless some sides believe that he was supposed to subvert the facts before the STL.”They added that the Mustaqbal-Hizbullah dialogue was launched on the “basis of setting aside all major contentious issues and instead focus on easing Sunni-Shiite tensions and resolving the presidential impasse.”“The STL was and will always be one of the major issues of disputes between the two sides and therefore it is not necessary to use Saniora's testimony as an excuse to hamper the talks,” they remarked. “The upcoming days should be sufficient in determining the path of the dialogue,” they predicted.
Saniora had kicked off his testimony before the STL on Monday. He spoke of the practices the Lebanese-Syrian security system had adopted during the 1990s and early 2000s prior to Hariri's assassination in 2005. He detailed the influence the system had over the judiciary and government practices, as well as the tensions between Hariri and Syria's ally Lahoud. In addition, Saniora told the court that Hariri had confided to him sometime around 2003 or 2004 that he had discovered a number of assassination attempts by Hizbullah against him. The MP stated before the Defense on Thursday that he “was not in any position to accuse Hizbullah of assassinating Hariri.”“The STL is expected to find who killed him,” he continued. The tribunal has so far indicted five Hizbullah members of being behind the February 14, 2005 assassination of Hariri. The party has denied the claims and deemed the STL an American-Zionist entity aimed at destroying the group. The tribunal is trying the accused in absentia and the recent testimonies have focused on the political developments that preceded the crime.

Why ‘Operation: Decisive Storm’ was needed in Yemen
Faisal J. Abbas/Al Arabiya
Thursday, 26 March 2015
For far too long, the Iranian-backed Houthi movement was left to meddle in Yemen. Now, while one realizes that war should always be used as a last resort and that every effort to use political and peaceful means should be exhausted; the reality is time after time, Iran and its agents continue to prove that they can’t be trusted and that they will always behave as the rogue players that they are.
Secretly aided by Yemen’s toppled leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh (who seems to have forgotten that he owes his life to Saudi Arabia and GCC countries which negotiated to guarantee his safe exit following the revolution which overthrew him back in 2011), the Houthis took over Yemen by force and terror.
The Iranian-backed militia turned down every opportunity for reconciliation and opted to snub the GCC initiative and the outputs of the National Dialogue as they took over Sanaa and then – despite a loud and clear Saudi warning - went after the country’s legitimate President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi in Aden (which was named Yemen’s temporary capital.)
Hadi, cornered and concerned over the future and independence of Yemen, called upon Gulf States, the Arab League and the international community to intervene to end the bloody progression of the Houthis.
“Let us not forget that the Houthis - whose official slogan is ‘Death to America’ and are known for their U.S. flag burning practice - are agents of the world’s biggest terrorist regime in Tehran”
A storm was already brewing
Saudi Arabia and its allies – who up until now include all GCC states (excluding Oman), Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Pakistan - answered the call with Operation: Decisive Storm which was inaugurated overnight under the supervision of the Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who alongside Deputy Crown Prince and interior minister Prince Mohammad bin Nayef were personally following up on military action at the command center.
By sunrise, several senior Houthi leaders were already targeted and eliminated as the Royal Saudi Air Force took complete control of the Yemeni airspace.
As the operation continues, Saudis (who generally were unsurprised by the military response since the Houthis had the audacity of undergoing a recent military drill by the Kingdom’s border) and most Yemenis continue to support the brave military mission by the Kingdom’s armed forces as confronting the Houthis is regarded as part of Riyadh’s larger anti-terrorism efforts.
Having been a victim of several atrocious terrorist attacks itself, Saudi Arabia has always been a key ally in the war against terror and has been relentlessly pursuing al-Qaeda and ISIS militants in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. However, while Yemen’s proximity as well as the despicable crimes committed by Houthis against innocent Sunni men, women and children were all factors which led to the Saudi decision to use force; one needs to remember that Saudi Arabia and its allies are waging this war in the name of humanity, civilization and on behalf of the whole world.
‘Death to America’
Let us not forget that the Houthis - whose official slogan is ‘Death to America’ and are known for their U.S. flag burning practice - are agents of the world’s biggest terrorist regime in Tehran.
Indeed, the Iranian regime supports both Shiite and Sunni terrorist groups (according to U.S. State and Treasury departments, key al-Qaeda financiers and planners reside and work from Iran) which are the main source of upheaval and instability across the region, particularly in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. It was not surprising that the Iranians condemned the military response in Yemen as a “military aggression.”
In addition, by degrading and undermining the Houthis’ military capabilities, the Saudi-led military efforts serve as a preemptive campaign against the possible use of ballistic missiles, such as SKUD, which could target GCC countries.
Most importantly, given its custodianship of the two holy mosques, Saudi Arabia must protect the sacred shrines in Makkah and al-Madina from reckless terrorist groups such as the Houthi movement.
Furthermore, given the historical, cultural, religious and even family ties that the Saudis and Yemenis enjoy; there is undoubtedly a sense of duty to help Yemen stand back on its feet, prosper and live in peace.
This was why a “Decisive Storm” was needed; and this is why the ongoing military operation enjoys wide support across the Muslim world as well as the U.S. and international community.

Yemen intervention: Gulf states pull the trigger
Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya
Thursday, 26 March 2015
In announcing the military operation involving nine Arab nations and Pakistan in Yemen, Saudi’s ambassador to Washington Adel Al-Jubeir said the use of force was a last resort, and a decision taken with a “great deal of reluctance” after the Iran-backed Houthi militants and their allies rejected several attempts at a political solution.
For Yemen watchers, the intervention should not have come as a surprise. Since last September, and the Houthis takeover of Sanaa, the Yemeni state has been unraveling. The Houthis aided by the deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh orchestrated an ambitious and phased military coup in Yemen.
The Houthis overreached
In their gradual coup, the Houthis overplayed their local and regional hand, compounding their gains, but at the same time their enemies and prompting a military response. The Houthis not only forced the elected Yemeni government to resign in January, but pushed its draft constitution, took over the security headquarters, brushed off the transition, and stormed into the homes of activists and journalists among them Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakol Karman.
The Houthis wanted everyone to play by their rules or otherwise be eliminated. They overreached in rejecting political talks, alienating opposite sides of the political spectrum such as the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the tribes, and they went against the Western interests as well as Arab countries, even issuing threats to invade Mecca. In strengthening their ties with Iran and ensuing chaos in Yemen, the Houthi militants also played right into the hands of AQAP and ISIS who have rejuvenated their support in the country in the last six months.
Defining moment
The military operation, albeit its limited goals of saving the government of Abd Rabbuh Hadi and preventing the country from becoming a failed state, is a defining moment for the Gulf Cooporation Council, Egypt and intra-Arab relations.
It is the first time since the Gulf war and the liberation of Kuwait in 1990-91, that this many Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi, Qatar, UAE, Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain and Kuwait) joined in one military front. It is also unprecedented since the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, that nine Arab countries decided to go to war without the participation of the United States, the United Kingdom, or Europe. The intervention is a statement of a more confident GCC in its defenses and political vision.
In many ways, the intervention in Yemen is the first foreign policy test for the Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz after less than 100 days in office (23 January). But the political vision on the new king, prompting regional reconciliation within GCC, and focusing on bigger threats such as Iran’s regional ambitions and terrorism, that have fomented this coalition on Yemen.
Saudi’s 1,800 km border with Yemen, and the fate of the Bab el Mandeb strait as the Houthis kept pushing South, gave more urgency for the intervention. But Iran’s blatant support and embrace of the Houthis, training over 600 militants and emboldening their sectarian rhetoric, raised security alarms among the GCC countries.
Obama’s open support
In announcing the military operation from the Saudi embassy in Washington, and less than two-miles-away from the White House, the message from Al-Jubeir emphasized closed consultations and support from the Obama administration.
The White House’s own statement on Yemen shows a loud and vocal support for the military operation. It declared that “President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC-led military operations” and that the United States “coordinates closely with Saudi Arabia and our GCC partners on issues related to their security and our shared interests.”
Obama’s support is not paying lip service or for regional posturing purposed in the Middle East. It has basis in shared goals and interests in the operation, mainly in preventing Yemen from becoming a terrorist hub, and maintaining Gulf security.
The Houthis coup and the level of chaos that is fragmenting Yemen and inviting every terrorist entity into Sanaa, is a nightmare scenario for Washington who had invested intelligence and financial resources in counterterrorism in Yemen. Just last weekend and after closing the U.S. embassy in Sanaa in February, U.S. special operations forces departed Yemen.
The departure of Special Forces and the diplomatic and intelligence void that the U.S. has left in Yemen is a big blow to Washington’s counterterrorism efforts. The Chairman of the House Homeland Security committee Michael McCaul told ABC: “Because we are withdrawing completely, we will have no intelligence footprint or capabilities to monitor what AQAP and ISIS and the Shiite militants are doing in the region.”The Houthis coup has also cost Washington more than $500 million in military aid. We also learned yesterday that the Houthis looted files on U.S. spy operations. The events over the last six months are a recipe for disaster for the Obama administration. While the Yemen intervention will need key components such as tribal support and a multifaceted socioeconomic strategy that goes beyond airstrikes to succeed, it ushers a new era on how GCC responds to threats as well as a more independent framework for its relations with the United States.

A Yemen deal needs a U.N. stick to enforce it
Manuel Almeida/Al Arabiya
Wednesday, 25 March 2015
With Ansarullah’s move toward south Yemen gathering pace by the day, the Aden-based government of the beleaguered President Abd Mansour Hadi has been desperate for military assistance. Rumors that Hadi fled Aden were denied by Foreign Minister Riad Yassin.
Yassin confirmed earlier this week the request for the GCC to intervene militarily against Ansarullah. According to Yassin, Hadi’s government also submitted a request to the U.N. Security Council to allow "willing countries" to take measures to halt Ansarullah’s aggression.
Earlier this week, the revivalist Zaydi movement took over al-Anad air base just 60km north of Aden. It also controlled the airport and parts of the city of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest. A public protest against their presence was met with gunfire which killed at least five civilians. Further east in Bayda and Marib, clashes between Ansarullah’s forces and local tribes who have pledged support to Hadi or at least have long declared their opposition to Ansarullah, left several dead on both sides.
Under the self-declared aim of fighting Sunni extremists, reinforced by the brutal suicide bombings inside two mosques in Sanaa that killed over 130 people, Ansarullah’s ultimate goal is to reach Aden. Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula issued a declaration denying its involvement. Instead, the likely culprit is a local branch of ISIS.
The idea of intervention
The very mention of an intervention in Yemen sounds like a bad idea. It is hard to think of a more complex crisis with so many intervenients and so many competing political and territorial loyalties, adding to a complicated terrain and geography. The thousands of Egyptian troops that President Nasser sent to north Yemen in the 1960s quickly found that out.
Surely, no foreign government is keen on an intervention in Yemen, whatever form it might take. Saudi Arabia’s military build-up on the border looks for now like a defensive move and not part of preparations for a ground invasion.
But what is also looking increasingly clear is that without a more serious threat of use of force against the spoilers, namely former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and especially Ansarullah’s increasing aggression and violence, the situation has all the potential to go from bad to worse. The long-term costs for Yemen and for the security of its neighbors could be huge.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 2201, adopted unanimously in February this year, demanded Ansarullah to give up power. It called on all Yemenis and especially the revivalist Zaydi movement to abide by the GCC Initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, and the Peace and National Partnership Agreement signed by all factions after Ansarullha’s take-over of Sanaa in September. More important, at least in theory, it urged all parties to complete the constitutional consultation process, hold a referendum on the constitution and conduct long overdue elections.
Although it recalled resolution 2140 from February last year that defined the situation in Yemen as a threat to international peace and security, resolution 2201 made no reference to enforcement measures under Chapter VII of the charter. It simply declared a “readiness to take further steps in case of non-implementation.”
The involvement of the permanent members of the Security Council in this crisis has often looked almost detached from reality, moving always a few steps behind developments on the ground. The recent declaration by U.N. special envoy to Yemen, Jamal Ben Omar, talks with all parties would be held in Doha sounded like a desperate call in the face of Ansarullah’s determination to resort to violence to achieve their aims.
The only enforcement measures the U.N. Security Council has pushed for was the imposition of targeted sanctions (in the form of a global travel ban and an asset freeze) on Saleh and two Ansarullah military leaders, Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim. How exactly this was expected to have a meaningful impact on their actions within Yemen on the short-term is puzzling.
If it is not already too late, the U.N. Security Council should urgently pass a resolution under Chapter VII of the charter, calling for the imposition of a no-fly and protection zones over Aden and other areas not controlled by Ansarullah. It should also recall all its previous demands, but this time backed by enforcement measures in case of non-compliance.
The revivalist Zaydi movement will have to be part of a negotiated solution, given their power and strong support base among some tribes. Yet for any deal to happen, their leadership needs to be confronted with some hard power to go back to the negotiations table.
The alternative is a terrible scenario. Various local groups will try to fight Iran-backed Ansarullah in a very complex civil war, with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State’s local franchise taking advantage of the chaos. In the meanwhile, much of Yemen will be jointly ruled with brutality by the forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the main responsible for this whole mess, and Ansarullah, whose radicalism and incapacity to govern are now on full display. That is, of course, if those two factions do not become embroiled in their own northern civil war. Not a pretty sight for Yemen and the region.

Qassem Soleimani and building an Iranian war figure
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Wednesday, 25 March 2015
It is unusual for the Iranian regime to publicize its military and security leaders despite the many wars it has been involved in during the last three decades. This is what makes General Qassim Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian revolutionary Guards, an interesting case. He has received unusual media exposure beyond what’s allowed in the Iranian state-run media and in the Arab media outlets affiliated with Tehran.
It’s obvious that the importance of the general stretches beyond his military command position as he leads Iran’s foreign political and military wars.
Soleimani’s publicity may be a natural result of Iran’s increasing dependency on its own military power after it had mainly depended on its local proxies, like Hezbollah, the Hamas movement and Iraqi Shiite militias. Soleimani was tasked with a prominent role in Syria and the statement that “if it hadn’t been for Iranian help, the Syrian regime would have collapsed” is no exaggeration.
The Americans say that it’s “he (Soleimani) who’s leading the war in Syria.” As a matter of fact, the regime of Bashar al-Assad tottered for two years and Syrian regime forces were besieged everywhere until they were revived when the Iranians assumed many leadership tasks and brought in, funded and managed tens of thousands of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, Iraqi Asaa’ib Ahl Al-Haq militants and Shiite Afghans.
The Syrian scenario, which Soleimani is leading, is being repeated in Iraq. Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Iraqi Badr organization, was quoted as saying that “if it hadn’t been for Iran’s help and for Soleimani’s presence in Iraq, the government of Haidar al-Abadi would have been outside Iraq now.” There is news that General Soleimani is present with his forces, in a lesser number, in Yemen alongside the Houthi rebels.
Fierce offensive policy
Speaking about Soleimani, David Petraeus, former commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, recently said that in the spring of 2008, Suleimani made it clear to him that he was in charge of Iran’s policy regarding Iraq.
It’s obvious that the importance of the general stretches beyond his military command position
This explains Iran’s policy and that it depends on General Soleimani managing conflict zones, like Iraq, Syria and Yemen. And it depends also on him managing political activities, like supporting certain parties over others and achieving results and political decisions which serve the interests of Iran and of those allied with it.
During the past year, it has become clear that the Iranian leadership adopts a fierce offensive policy which could extend beyond its current borders. It’s publicizing its military and security leaderships and presenting them as heroes to the Iranian people and to those allied with Iran. It’s doing so by embellishing a military commander like Soleimani.
This style is often used in big wars. Among the stars of World War II are generals whose importance was equal to political leaders. Some examples were British general Montgomery, German general Rommel and American general Patton. General Soleimani has certainly become the most famous Iranian figure in the arena of regional wars.
Two years ago, the New Yorker published a report on him as the figure managing Iran’s foreign wars. Sanctions against Soleimani by the U.S. Department of Treasury did not prevent his media appearances, confirming that the Iranian policy has become clearer than before when prominent figures were not allowed to be part of foreign political and military battles.
Our region has become full of war generals who decide the region’s fate more than politicians do especially as fronts multiply and circumstances complicate. The frequent question is: how will the war end?
I’ll quote what General Petraeus said: “Yes, ‘Hajji Qassem,’ our old friend. I have several thoughts when I see the pictures of him… What I will say is that he is very capable and resourceful individual, a worthy adversary. He has played his hand well. But this is a long game, so let’s see how events transpire.”