Category Archives: Yemen

Yemen Declares Force Majeure, Ban on Maritime Navigation

Posted on in Yemen title_rule

On Monday, Yemen declared force majeure on the country’s sole liquefied natural gas plant, citing security concerns. In an emailed statement on Monday, Yemen LNG Co. stated, “Due to further degradation of the security situation in the vicinity of Balhaf, Yemen LNG has decided to stop all LNG producing and exporting operations and start evacuation of the site personnel. The plant will remain in a preservation mode.” Tribal fighters seized posts outside the city of Balhaf in south-eastern Yemen near the plant after soldiers fled. Yemen LNG processes and exports gas from the Marib area. The project has three long-term sales contracts with GDF Suez SA, Korea Gas Corp. and Total SA. With a stake of nearly 40 percent, Total is the biggest shareholder in the project. Others include Hunt Oil Co. and SK Innovation Co., the website shows.

Houthi fighters have seized areas near the LNG facility, however they have not attacked the plant itself, according to residents. Yemen’s LNG output comprises nearly 2.2% of the world’s total liquefied natural gas, according to data from the International Group of LNG Importers. The halt of operations is expected to have any immediate, significant impact on the market. More worrying is the transport of oil through Yemen’s strategic location on Bab el-Mandab Strait, which at its narrowest point is 18 miles wide. The strait is a critical chokepoint in international shipping; according to US figures, over 3.4 million barrels of oil per day passed through the waterway in 2013.

As of Monday, Yemen has banned entry into its territorial waters. Commercial and military vessels cannot enter the designated zones without authorization from the Yemeni government. Currently, only emergency goods and medical aid vessels will be allowed entry into Yemen, and must submit to search and approval by the coalition forces.

The decision came after several Iranian attempts were discovered to smuggle aid to Houthi rebels and militias loyal Saleh, according to Yemen’s Defence Minister. The ban is being enforced by the Saudi-led, anti-Houthi coalition, which is blocking access to ports in areas believed to be under Houthi control. BIMCO has advised all vessels to transit the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea at least 12 nautical miles outside Yemeni territorial waters when possible.

Marine insurer Skuld has stated that a significant number of reports have indicated that the Saudi-led forces have begun are enforcing the blockade, with emphasis on ports which may be under the control of the Houthi-led forces in the north and west of Yemen. There is a blockade of vessel traffic from Bab Al Mandab to Yemeni territorial water, with particular focus on vessels that may have recently called at Iranian or Iraqi ports.

An urgent member advisory from Skuld P&I Club yesterday warned: “Members with vessels at Yemen, or proceeding to Yemen need to urgently review the situation in the light of this development.” They have further advised any vessel currently berthed in a Yemeni port to consider raising its ISPS level to 3. Ships still intending to go to Yemen should review their charterparty terms and inform hull, war and P&I insurers.

Coalition warships are particularly focusing on vessels that may have called recently at ports in Iran or Iraq. UK P&I Club said that coalition forces had boarded several of its members’ vessels. Shipowners and operators – including Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM and Evergeen are diverting to safer ports in the region. Container ships, bulkers and tankers are all said to be affected.

Last week, BIMCO stated, “If a port is taken/held by the Houthis and a ship is seen to be supplying the rebels, the ship could be at risk from air strikes or indeed naval action from the coalition.” Insurers are said to be refusing to cover vessels berthing in Yemen’s ports. Dryad Maritime has recommended shipowners, operators, and masters give Yemen “as wide a berth as possible”. Skuld told its members to “instruct the master to prioritise the safety of the crew and vessel”.

The escalating tension has increased the likelihood of an incident at sea between Iran and the coalition or international forces. MS Risk advises merchant vessels to be aware and vigilant to this threat – these tensions have led to increased naval boardings and inspections with little or no notice. MS Risk continues to advise vessels to avoid all Yemen ports until further notice. We continue to advise vessel operators to notify their insurers prior to sailing through the Bab el-Mandeb. Any vessels currently in the Gulf of Aden are advised to remain vigilant at all times. Pirate Action Groups (PAG’s) are likely to continue to operate in this region and may easily be mistaken for refugees fleeing the chaos in Yemen.

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Yemen update: 7 April

Posted on in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen title_rule

Saudi Arabia has announced plans to raze 96 deserted border villages in order to prevent their use by infiltrators from neighbouring Yemen, where the kingdom is leading airstrikes on Shiite Houthi rebels, according to a report released on Sunday. Hassan Aqili, border guard chief in the area, stated in the report that the operation would prevent the empty houses from turning into “a safe haven for traffickers and infiltrators.” The Kingdom has already demolished ten villages since the Saudi-led coalition began conducting airstrikes on Houthi rebel targets on 26 March.  Three Saudi border guards have been killed by gunfire from within Yemen since Riyadh launched air raids against the Houthis.

Despite the intensity of fighting, the ground situation in Yemen has only changed slightly, with the most change occurring in the contested Aden region. Over the weekend, southern tribal alliances have appeared to become more organised and effective at combatting the Houthi militia. On 5 April, the tribal militias claimed they recaptured the town of Lawdar from the Houthis, and will use the town to as a base to assist anti-Houthi forces in Aden. However, because the Houthis withdrew from the region, there is no effective gauge to measure the effectiveness of the tribal militias.

Amid the fighting, a humanitarian crisis is developing as infrastructure and utilities have been destroyed. Fighting on the ground and coalition-led airstrikes have prevented the delivery of essentials, including water, to civilian populations. Russia, China, and the International Committee of the Red Cross have called for a 24-hour humanitarian ceasefire in order to deliver much needed aid. The Red Cross planning to send two planes carrying medical help and other aid to Yemen over the next 48 hours. The humanitarian organisation is still seeking clearance to bring a team of surgeons from the ICRC and the medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres to Aden from Djibouti by boat.

Meanwhile, on 6 April, Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told a joint session of parliament that during his visit to Saudi Arabia last week, the Kingdom formally requested Pakistani military assistance for the Yemen campaign, including combat planes, warships and soldiers. The two nations have a shared a strong relationship for decades, however there have been no public statements by Pakistani leasers to show support or intentions of sending troops. Pakistan is likely wary of straining its ties with Iran. The Pakistan parliament is deliberating the degree of assistance they will provide.

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Yemen Update: 25 March 2014

Posted on in Yemen title_rule

Early this morning, five officials stated that Yemen’s embattled President Had had fled his Aden home for an undisclosed location as Shiite Houthi rebels near his last refuge. The officials spoke just hours after the Houthi controlled station announced that they seized near the city where Hadi had relocated administrative operations.

The Houthi rebels have issued a bounty of 20 million Yemeni rial ($100,000) for the capture of President Hadi as they near his last refuge. It has been reported that Hadi left Aden by helicopter, accompanied by diplomats from Saudi Arabia, from the Maasheeq presidential palace. Other sources, however, denied that Hadi fled Aden, and claim that he is still leading the armed resistance against the Shia militants.

Both the rebels and officials close to President Hadi both have also said that Yemen’s Defence Minister, Major General Mahmoud al-Subaihi, and his top aide, had been arrested by the Houthis. The Minister was reportedly captured while fighting the Houthis in Lahj province.

The Houthis captured al-Anad base, where U.S. troops and Europeans advised the country in its fight against al-Qaida. The rebels were reportedly advancing toward Hawttah, the capital of Yemen’s southern Lahj province. Hawttah is less than 19 miles, from Aden. President Hadi fled after escaping weeks of house arrest under Houthi guard in Sana’a. One source who lives near the air base said the Houthis were backed by “army soldiers.”

A day earlier, Hadi called on United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution allowing “all willing countries” to take any necessary measures to stop the Houthis’ aggression. He did not rule out military action. The violence in Yemen is threatening to escalate into civil war. Yemen’s northern neighbour, Saudi Arabia fears that the kingdom will be drawn into the fighting.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said this week that Gulf Cooperation Council countries will take “necessary measures to protect the region” from the Houthis. The six-nation GCC includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain.

As a measure of defence, Saudi Arabia is moving heavy military equipment including artillery to areas near its border with Yemen. The Sunni kingdom and its Saudis and their allies say Iran’s Shiite dominated government is behind the rise of the Houthis. The Houthis are also reportedly loyal to Yemen’s ousted former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was removed from office in 2012. The conflict risks spiralling into a proxy war with Shi’ite Iran backing the Houthis, and Saudi Arabia and the other regional Sunni Muslim monarchies backing Hadi. The Houthis have denied taking material or financial support from Tehran, but last year Yemeni, Western and Iranian sources provided details of Iranian military and financial support to the Houthis before and after their takeover of Sanaa. US officials have said that Iranian has been largely limited to funding.

The weaponry and artillery being moved by Saudi Arabia could be used for offensive or defensive purposes, however two U.S. government sources said the build-up appeared to be defensive. Once source described the size of the Saudi build-up on Yemen’s border as “significant,” and said the Saudis could be preparing air strikes to defend Hadi.

U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew said, “The Saudis are just really deeply concerned about what they see as an Iranian stronghold in a failed state along their border,” But a former senior U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the prospects for successful external intervention in Yemen appeared slim. He said Hadi’s prospects appeared to be worsening and that for now he was “pretty well pinned down.”

Riyadh hosted top-level talks with Gulf Arab neighbours on Saturday and offered “all efforts” to preserve the Yemen’s stability and Hadi’s authority. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said on Monday Arab countries would take necessary measures to protect the region against “aggression” by the Houthi movement if a peaceful solution could not be found.

The United States and United Kingdom have had evacuated all its remaining personnel in Yemen, including about 100 special operations forces, because of the security situation. The end of a U.S. security presence inside the country has dealt a blow to Washington’s ability to monitor and fight al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate.

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Yemen Calls for Gulf Military Intervention

Posted on in ISIS, Yemen title_rule

23 March– Yemen’s foreign minister Riyadh Yaseen has called on Gulf Arab military intervention in Yemen to stop territorial advances by Houthi fighters opposed to President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. In a televised interview, Yaseen said, “They’re expanding in territory, occupying airports and cities, attacking Aden with planes, detaining whom they please, threatening and gathering their forces.” Yasseen added, “We have expressed to the Gulf Cooperation Council, the United Nations as well as the international community that there should be a no-fly zone, and the use of military aircraft should be prevented at the airports controlled by the Houthis.”

The call for assistance comes as Yemen’s rebel Houthis escalated attacks against President Hadi, who fled to Aden last month after escaping house arrest at the hands of Houthis in Sanaa. Over the weekend, he made a defiant speech challenging the Houthis in his first public address since leaving Sanaa.

Rebel leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, who is reportedly backed by supporters of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, vowed to send fighters into the southern part of the country where Hadi has taken refuge against the rebels. In one of his customary long and heated speeches over the weekend, al-Houthi said the move is meant to target al-Qaeda and other militant groups, as well as forces loyal to Hadi in the south. He referred to President Hadi as “puppet” to international and regional powers, and called the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar conspirators against Yemen.

Al-Houthi’s speech came a day after the Houthis called for a general mobilization against forces loyal to Hadi, and shortly after Houthi rebels seized the country’s third largest city of Taiz, an important station in its advance. The militia had also seized Taiz’s airport. Thousands of protestors swelled into the streets to oppose the capture of the city; the rebels dispersed them by firing into the air and beating them back with batons. The Houthis have taken control of the capital and six provinces.

Amid the unrest, terrorist groups are also gaining greater ground. Over the weekend, al-Qaeda seized the town of al-Houta amid growing violence. And on Friday, ISIS affiliates claimed responsibility for two bombs at mosques in Sana’a, killing up to 150 people. If their responsibility is verified, this marks the first large-scale actions in Yemen, and could drive Yemen further into instability.

In light of the escalating unrest, US troops evacuated al Anad air base on Sunday About 100 American troops and Special Forces units were stationed at the air base. UK Special Forces have pulled out of Yemen as well. The troops were reportedly airlifted from the capital Sana’a over the weekend. Jeff Rathke, US State Department spokesman, said in a statement: “Due to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, the US government has temporarily relocated its remaining personnel out of Yemen.” The UK Government has not commented on the withdrawal of British troops.

The CIA and US military have carried out drone strikes against insurgents in Yemen for many years. Diplomats from the United States and several European nations fled Yemen in February amid embassy closures resulting from deteriorating security conditions.

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Water Scarcity and War

Posted on in Africa, Syria, Yemen title_rule

11 March – New research conducted at Columbia University suggests that climate change was a critical factor in the 2011 Syrian uprising. The research also warns that global warming is likely to unleash more wars in the coming decades.

Three-quarters of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, however only 2.5% of that water is potable freshwater, and nearly 70% of that is trapped in glaciers. Every living thing that requires freshwater for survival relies on 0.37% of the total global water supply. In many places, water consumption has begun to exceed local water recharge. The World Bank estimates that 2.8 billion people live in areas afflicted by high water stress, and they expect this figure to rise through 2050, when the human population crosses 9 billion. The UN estimates that at current rates, as many as 700 million people may become “water refugees”, forced to migrate due to water scarcity by 2025.

The Syria conflict, which has killed over 200,000 and displaced millions, is the first war that scientists have explicitly linked to climate change.  The 2011 conflict was preceded by a record drought that ravaged Syria between 2006 and 2010. The drought caused an exodus of farmers and herders into cities that were already strained form poverty and a growing number of refugees from Iraq. The research, found in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the timing of the uprising is unlikely to be a coincidence. The study combined climate, social and economic data relating to the “Fertile Crescent”, a crucial agricultural and herding area which spans parts of Turkey and much of Syria and Iraq. The region has warmed by between 1 and 1.2C since 1900, and rainfall in the wet season has diminished by an average of 10%.

In Syria, the ruling al-Assad regime encouraged the development of water-intensive export crops such as cotton. Water scarcity was then worsened by the illegal drilling of irrigation wells that dramatically depleted groundwater which would have otherwise provided valuable reserves, the report said. The drought’s effects were immediate. Agriculture production, a quarter of Syria’s economy, plummeted by a third. Livestock decreased significantly and the price of cereal doubled. As many as 1.5 million people fled from the country to the city.Further, these impacts were coupled with rapid population growth, from 4 million in the 1950s to 22 million today amongst the rising population, nutrition-related diseases among children increased dramatically. Lead author of the report, Colin Kelley, says, “Whether it was a primary or substantial factor is impossible to know, but drought can lead to devastating consequences when coupled with pre-existing acute vulnerability.”

Demand for basic commodities such as wheat and copper is expected to rise over the next two decades. Chatham House think-tank has warned that relatively small shocks to supply risk can cause sudden price rises and trigger “overreactions or even militarised responses.”

The report also sites that Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Iraq are among those most at risk from drought because of the intensity of the drying and the history of conflict in the region. Beyond the Middle East, drought can be found in other regions where conflict have emerged, including Afghanistan and East African countries such as Somalia and Sudan, and parts of Central America – especially Mexico, which is afflicted by crime, is politically unstable, short of water and reliant on agriculture.

Yemen: the first country to run out of water?

On the other side of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, which has been beset with conflict and instability for years, is likely to become the first country in the world to run out of water. Experts believe that Sana’a, the nation’s internationally recognised capital (although the president has recently moved his operations to Aden), will run dry by 2025, causing extreme water scarcity for its 2 million residents and leading to a potential exodus. The majority of Yemen’s water resources are used to grow khat. Khat is a mild stimulant and appetite suppressant, but accounts for 40% of the nation’s water supply. Within the nation, between 70-80% of rural conflict stems from water-related disputes.

Water as a weapon

Water has become both a weapon and a military objective during. During Libya’s civil war in 2011, Muammar Gaddafi’s forces shut-off two-thirds of Tripoli’s water supplies, leaving almost half the country short of water. In Syria, rebels have targeted the water system in their fight against the Assad regime. In 2012, terrorist insurgents in Afghanistan poisoned a well near a girls’ school in Afghanistan in order to punish those receiving an education. Similarly during the conflict in Darfur, number of wells were poisoned as part of a campaign to intimidate local residents.

A report on Global Water Security, published in 2012 by the United Sates Director of National Intelligence, states that that the demand for water would lead to an increased risk of conflict in the future. The Pacific Institute, which tracks water-related conflicts, has reported an increase in the number of violent confrontations that have recently occurred over water.

Nearly 1.2 billion people in the Middle East and Africa live in regions where water is a physical scarcity. However the some argue that hostilities may not just emerge over water itself, but water shortages will become a catalyst for other critical issues. The lack of water is likely to worsen problems by driving up the prices of food, impacting economies and costs of living, and forcing migration. This could lead to armed conflict to secure valuable water resources. In this regard, experts believe that conflict over water scarcity may take the form of local intra-state battles rather than nation-on-nation battles. The key take-away: battles of these types are becoming increasingly likely. Poor governments may lack the funding or infrastructure to support growing water needs, and wealthy countries have sometimes been lax with protecting their water supply, leading to contamination. The global market is so interwoven that water shortages can affect exports of commodities around the world. For example, the United Kingdom imports as much as 40% of its food. It is therefore incumbent upon international governments to address water scarcity before water related conflict becomes the norm.

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