Saudi Arabia, Egypt Lead Arab States Cutting Ties With Qatar

A  number of Arab nations cut ties with Qatar.  The move escalates a dispute over Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood and accusations it backs the agenda of Iran.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and Maldives severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism and opening up the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world.

Iran — long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move — immediately blamed President Donald Trump for setting the stage during his recent trip to Riyadh.

Gulf Arab states and Egypt have long resented Qatar’s support for Islamists, especially the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, which they regard as a dangerous political enemy.

The coordinated move, with the Maldives and Libya’s eastern-based government joining in later, created a dramatic rift among the Arab nations, many of which are in OPEC.

Announcing the closure of transport ties with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave. Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

Oil giant Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups — some backed by regional archrival Iran — and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.

“(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly,” Saudi state news agency SPA said.

It accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in its restive and largely Shi’ite Muslim-populated eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain…

Iran saw America pulling the strings.

“What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance,” Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted in a reference to Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia. CNBC

Jordan also downgrades ties with Qatar

Jordan will downgrade its diplomatic representation with Qatar, it said on Tuesday, standing with several Arab powers that have cut ties with the tiny Gulf state.

The decision was made after Amman examined the “cause of the crisis” between Doha and the other Arab states, government spokesman Mohammed al Momani said.

He added that Jordan also revoked the TV license for Al Jazeera, Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel. Haaretz

Struggle For Regional Dominance

The decision by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to punish the Gulf Cooperation Council member over its support for Islamist groups — as well as their key rival, Iran — pits some of the world’s richest nations in a struggle for regional dominance. Qatar’s population is smaller than Houston’s, but it has a sovereign wealth fund with stakes in global companies from Barclays Plc to Credit Suisse Group. It’s also a home to the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s central command in the region. Bloomsberg

FLASHBACK: Obama Sent Taliban Terrorists To Qatar

In May of 2014, then President Barack Obama released five Islamic terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility into Qatar’s custody in exchange for the Taliban’s return of Bowe Bergdahl; the Taliban partly operates its international diplomatic operations via representatives in Qatar…

The New York Post reported that the five Islamic terrorists released to Qatar – dubbed “The Taliban 5” – received a “hero’s welcome” upon arrival in the Islamic Gulf State. DailyWire

Yemen Government To Jews: Leave Or Convert To Islam

Ayoob Kara
Ayoob Kara

The Iran-backed Houthi in Yemen has given the country’s few remaining Jewish citizens an ultimatum: leave or covert to Islam.

The government of Yemen recently issued a proclamation that all Jews in the country must leave or convert to Islam, Israeli Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation, Likud MK Ayoob Kara told The Algemeiner on Sunday.

According to Kara, failure to exercise one of the two options would spell grave danger for the country’s estimated 80 remaining Jews, whom the government said it would “not be able to protect.”

Kara, a member of Israel’s Druze community, revealed that he received this information in a meeting today with a Yemenite Jew, who was able to come to Israel by disguising himself as a Muslim. According to Kara, the man left Yemen a few days ago, traveling via Saudi Arabia and Jordan to Israel.

Kara said he was contacted because of his appearances in Arabic media outlets, and his efforts to aid minorities – including Jews, Christians, Druze and others – living in fear in Muslim countries.

Kara said he will be meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tomorrow — and with Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver shortly thereafter – to discuss rescuing the Jews of Yemen.

When contacted by the Jerusalem Post about the matter, both the Jewish Agency and Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on their efforts, due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Yemen’s Jewish community numbered around 50,000 in the 1940s, but the vast majority fled to Israel shortly after the founding of the Jewish state in 1948. Algemeiner

U.S. Navy Sends More Warships Near Yemen

Gulf of Aden and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait
Gulf of Aden and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait. Click map to enlarge.

Update:  “A convoy of Iranian cargo ships that had been headed toward war-torn Yemen, possibly with advanced weaponry for Houthi rebels, has reversed its direction, at least temporarily, a US defense official said Thursday.”

Update:  Iranian warships arrive near Yemen.

“A fleet of Iranian warships arrived near the southern coast of Yemen on Wednesday in a move likely to add greater tension in a developing U.S.-Iranian standoff in the region, according Iranian military leaders.”

Monday the U.S. sent more warships near Yemen to block Iranian ships that possible are carrying weapons to Yemen.

The U.S. Navy has sent an aircraft carrier and a guided-missile cruiser into the waters near Yemen, officials said on Monday, heightening the U.S. maritime security presence as concerns mount over Yemen’s escalating conflict.

The U.S. Navy sent the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its escort cruiser, USS Normandy, from the Gulf into the Arabian Sea on Sunday. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, denied reports the ships were on a mission to intercept Iranian arms shipments to Yemen.

The ships will join seven other U.S. warships in the waters near Yemen, which is torn by civil strife as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels battle forces loyal to the U.S.-backed president.

The U.S. Navy said it had increased its presence in the area because of the instability. It said in a statement the purpose was to “ensure the vital shipping lanes in the region remain open and safe.”

The movements come as U.S. officials closely monitor an approaching convoy of seven Iranian ships believed to be headed toward Yemen with unknown cargo aboard.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged concerns about arms shipments from Tehran to the Houthis.

“We have seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying weapons and other forms of support to the Houthis in Yemen,” Earnest said. Reuters

Last month Egypt sent warships to the Gulf of Aden.

“Two gunboats and two destroyers have crossed the Suez Canal en route to the Red Sea to help secure the Gulf of Aden and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait,” a source from Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority told The Anadolu Agency.

NBC’s Richard Engel: Middle East Allies No Longer Trust U.S. With Intelligence Information

3dmanreadingnewsThe U.S. military was taken by surprise when Saudi Arabia began airstrikes against Yemen this week.

NBC’s Richard Engel reported Friday that U.S. officials were stunned they were not given any notice before Saudi Arabia launched attacks against Houthi rebels. According to Engel, military leaders were finding out about the developments on the Yemen border in real time.

Engel said officials from both the military and members of Congress believe they were not given advanced warning because the Arab nations do not trust the Obama administration after they befriended Iran.

“Saudi Arabia and other countries simply don’t trust the United States any more, don’t trust this administration, think the administration is working to befriend Iran to try to make a deal in Switzerland, and therefore didn’t feel the intelligence frankly would be secure. And I think that’s a situation that is quite troubling for U.S. foreign policy,” Engel said.  WashingtonFreeBeacon

Saudi Arabia Begins Airstrikes In Yemen

saudiarabiayemenmapThe Saudi ambassador to the United States says his country has begun airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who drove out the U.S.-backed Yemeni president.

Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir says the operations began at 7 p.m. Eastern time. He says the Houthis, widely believed to be backed by Iran, “have always chosen the path of violence.” He declined to say whether the Saudi campaign involved U.S. intelligence assistance.

Al-Jubeir made the announcement at a rare news conference by the Sunni kingdom, reported the Washington Times

Saudi Arabia is concerned that a Shiite advance in Yemen (along the southern Saudi border) puts that country into the control of Iran.  The Saudi’s have been moving heavy military equipment into areas of Saudi near its border with Yemen.  Now airstrikes have been launched by the Saudi’s against Yemen.

The border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen is tough with mountains in the west and the barren Empty Quarter in the east. There is a 1,800km (1,100mile) Saudi Yemen border fence that runs from the Red Sea coast in the west to the border of Oman in the east.  The Houthi offensive in Yemen has created security concerns in Saudi Arabia. This week Saudi Arabia announced a maritime military base will be built  border in the southern area of Saudi Arabia, close to its border with Yemen.

Online:  VOA-Saudi Arabia Launches Airstrikes in Yemen

U.S. Troops Flee Yemen

gaofirearmsyemenLast month the U.S. closed its embassy in Sanaa, after the Houthi rebels took over the Yemeni capital.   Today, as terrorist attacked the city of al-Houta near their base the U.S. began evacuating 100 Special Operations forces members from the Al Anad airbase in Yemen due to that country’s deteriorating security situation.

Quadruple suicide bombers on Friday hit a pair of mosques controlled by Shiite rebels in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, unleashing blasts through crowds of worshippers that killed at least 137 people and wounded around 350 others in the deadliest violence to hit the fragile war-torn nation in decades.

A group claiming to be a Yemeni branch of the Islamic State group said it carried out the bombings and warned of an “upcoming flood” of attacks against the rebels, known as Houthis, who have taken over the capital and much of Yemen. The claim, posted online, could not immediately be independently confirmed and offered no proof of an Islamic State role. NYTimes

The U.S. troops being evacuated are the last U.S. troops stationed in Yemen, which is home to al Qaeda.

The Pentagon is unable to account for more than $500 million in U.S. military aid given to Yemen, amid fears that the weaponry, aircraft and equipment is at risk of being seized by Iranian-backed rebels or al-Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.

With Yemen in turmoil and its government splintering, the Defense Department has lost its ability to monitor the whereabouts of small arms, ammunition, night-vision goggles, patrol boats, vehicles and other supplies donated by the United States. The situation has grown worse since the United States closed its embassy in Sanaa, the capital, last month and withdrew many of its military advisers. WashingtonPost

There needs to be more thought before aid is given to a country and there needs to be accountability for all foreign aid. Since 2007, Yemen has received $500 million in aid from the United States under an array of Defense Department and State Department programs (GAO).

Houthi Rebels Seize Presidential Palace in Sanaa, Yemen

Yemen-mapOn Monday, the Houthis fought with the Yemeni army near the presidential palace, in some of the most intense fighting in Sanaa in years On Tuesday, shots were fired at a U.S. embassy vehicle in Yemen’s capital. Houthi rebels seized the presidential palace, Yemeni state television and the official SABA news agency after clashes with security.  There are rising fears of a coup in Yemen.

The U.S. government should immediately close and evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, according to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic vice-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

I asked her today whether the embassy, which remains open despite raging violence throughout the Yemeni capital, should be closed. She responded: “Based on what I know so far, yes.”

“I’m very concerned about our embassy there, who is still there, who isn’t still there, and what the plans are,” Feinstein added.

Who Are The Houthis?

The Houthis are a rebel group in the northwest Yemen, they have fought sporadically with the government since 2004.  Yemen is an estimated 65% are Sunni and 35% are Shitte.  The Houthis are a offshoot of Shitte Islam known as Zaydism.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Zaydi, but not a religious one, was overthrown in 2012. He was replaced by his vice president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Since then the Houthis have grown into a national movement.

Iran is a supporter of the Houthis. Iran has supplied weapons, money and training to the Shitte Houthis.  Exactly how much support Iran gives to the Houthis is not known as Iran continues its regional power struggle with Yemen the latest battleground between Iran and Middle East Sunni countries.

Online:   What Is Yemen’s Houthi Rebellion?
BBC:  Yemen crisis: Who are the Houthis?