US backs coalition action in Yemen

In this file photo taken on August 21, 2018 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 September 2018

US backs coalition action in Yemen

  • Pompeo, Mattis say all steps taken to reduce civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure
  • The coalition supports the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi

WASHINGTON: Two senior US officials gave Washington’s seal of approval on Wednesday to the Saudi-led Arab Coalition’s military campaign to restore the legitimate government in Yemen.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had certified that coalition partners Saudi Arabia and the UAE were acting to reduce risks to civilians in their military operations.

The assessment is required by the US Congress for it to continue allowing US air tankers to refuel Saudi and UAE warplanes.

Pompeo said both countries were “undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments.”

Pompeo said Washington would work closely with the coalition to ensure Saudi and UAE support for UN peace efforts and to allow unimpeded access for commercial and humanitarian relief supplies to reach Yemenis. “The Trump administration has been clear that ending the conflict in Yemen is a national security priority,” he said.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a separate statement endorsing the certification, and said the UAE and Saudi Arabia were making “every effort” to reduce the risk of civilian casualties and collateral damage. Mattis had cautioned last month that US support for the coalition was “not unconditional,” and it must do “everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life, and support the UN-brokered peace process.”

The coalition supports the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which is fighting Iran-backed Houthi militias who seized control of the capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

Pompeo’s assessment that the coalition is making a concerted effort to minimize civilian casualties and collateral damage is correct, Fahad Nazer, a political consultant to the Saudi Embassy in Washington and an International Fellow at the National Council on US Arab Relations, told Arab News.

“I have personally attended a briefing by a coalition representative that highlighted the various measures and multiple safeguards that are in place to minimize civilian casualties,” he said.

“An objective assessment of the military operation in Yemen should confirm that these precautionary measures have been effective in minimizing collateral damage. 

“The coalition has sought and received the assistance of the US and the UK to improve targeting and reduce civilian casualties. It is also important to note that the Joint Incidents Assessments Team investigates claims of civilian casualties and the coalition has accepted its findings.

“The coalition has acknowledged that mistakes have been made during the course of the conflict and has issued statements expressing its regret for certain incidents. It has also maintained that those who do not follow its strict guidelines on targeting will be held responsible.

“And here one must draw a sharp distinction between mistakes and targeting civilians as a matter of policy. There is ample evidence that is exactly what the Houthis have done and continue to do.”


New Tunisia protests over unemployment

Updated 44 min 21 sec ago

New Tunisia protests over unemployment

  • “Either we get a better life or we all die,” demonstrators, including women, could be heard shouting, according to the reports
  • Nearly a decade after the revolution that toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the government has yet to resolve regional inequalities

TUNIS: Hundreds of Tunisians demonstrated in the south of the country on Saturday against unemployment and the death of a young man they say was killed by soldiers earlier this week.
Protesters in the town of Remada demanded that President Kais Saied visit their region to discuss their living conditions, witnesses told AFP and videos published online showed.
“Either we get a better life or we all die,” demonstrators, including women, could be heard shouting, according to the reports.
“We want to see President Kais Saied. We voted for him and he must come here to Remada to hear us out and see how our children are being killed,” a woman seen in one video said.
On Tuesday night, a young man suspected of being a smuggler was killed during a police operation in the town, which is close to the border with conflict-riddled Libya.
The defense ministry has opened an investigation to determine if he died when soldiers opened fire on four vehicles transporting smuggled goods from Libya.
Southern Tunisia is one of the country’s most marginalized regions, with above-average unemployment, failing infrastructure and a stunted private sector.
Nearly a decade after the revolution that toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the government has yet to resolve regional inequalities.
In recent weeks, protests have also rocked the southern town of Tataouine, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Remada, with demonstrators demanding the government honor a 2017 pledge to invest millions to develop the region and provide jobs to thousands.
Protesters in Tataouine have blocked roads and sought to prevent trucks from accessing the remote El-Kamour pumping station in the desert outside the town.
“The situation in the south of Tunisia is unacceptable,” Saied said in a video published Thursday on the presidency’s official Facebook page.
Saied, who had focused on Tunisia’s disenfranchised youth during his 2019 election campaign, said protests were “legitimate” as long as they respected the law.