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Are Yemen Houthi Rebels exploiting Saudi-UAE security loop holes?

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Yemen Houthi rebels

Last updated on September 24th, 2018

Attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels and their aim to rage war against Saudi and UAE is becoming the biggest threat to the two of the biggest economies of the world. Several incidents in the past weeks have already shown the power Houhi’s claim to possess.

According to Saba news agency, which is linked to Houthi’s rebel, it has been reported that an unnamed drone had successfully carried out an attack on Abu Dhabi’s International airport in UAE. However, following the incident UAE authorities denied about the attack carried out at the airport. Besides, what made the allegations made by Houthi’s look plausible was the delay of the flights at Abu Dhabi Airport.

General Abdullah al-jafri, a Houthi spokesperson, said that the attack was a means towards showing the UAE the ability they possess to even launch strikes against the country, which has the best infrastructure in the world. Further stating, “Our attack on Abu Dhabi airport shows our force are no paper tiger like our enemies.”

Clearly, the messages to masses is the destruction and Houthi rebels are not only mocking UAE, but also Saudi Arabia. Jafari, on his stand against Saudi clearly stated that their next attack would on Riyadh and if civilians are of any value to Saudi Arabia the statement cannot be taken lightly.

Recently, Yemen’s Houthi’s attacked two of Saudi’s oil shipments in the waterway, at the Bab al Mandeb strait. The following incident led Riyadh to pause oil shipments through the narrow straits, a major route for the international oil trade and maybe the Houthi’s did not like the fact that Riyadh issued a statement to pause oil shipments. Likewise, Houthi’s have also brandished about the drone strikes on Saudi’s oil giant Aramaco, which they said was caused by them, however Aramaco denied the claims, calling it an operational incident.

yemen houthi rebels

Going down the memory lane even last year Houthi’s claimed that they fired missiles at the UAE on a number of occasions, including a claim that stating that they even targeted Barakah , a nuclear power plant under construction in UAE. Likewise, with Saudi Arabia there have been numerous missile attacks, including an attack on King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh.

The Saudi authorities though claim that they own best missile systems, including a high-tech US made Patriot anti-missile batteries, which are successfully averting the dangers and protecting its territory. However, the reports of casualties are often making the headlines. Similarly, for UAE, which lures many with its best-in-class facilities and infrastructure, the loop holes in the security look at abundance.

Elucidating on the recent attack claimed by Houthi’s on Abu Dhabi’s, it is clear that for a drone to travel a distance of 1300-1500km it needs to be completely controlled. Also, the geographical location of Yemen clearly states that for the drone to fly towards UAE, it must cross the airspace of either Saudi Arabia or Oman. Now, if none of the two countries was able to pick the unidentified movement, the situation, especially for Saudi Arabia is quite dangerous.

Therefore, a Saudi-led UAE coalition that is raging war against the civilians in Yemen, might soon come face the same issue itself. The continuous claims by Houthi rebels cannot be taken lightly and certainly the loop holes in the system have been exposed again and again, with successful missile launches claiming lives for fun.

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Rescue operation underway as Typhoon Hagibis strucks Japan

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Rescue operation underway as Typhoon Hagibis strucks Japan

The search and rescue operations have stated in Japan after Typhoon Hagibis hit the country on Saturday. Hagibis is said to be the worst thunderstorm in decades that claimed the lives of at least 40 people, and 16 are reported missing.

Three Rugby World Cup matches were canceled due to the destruction caused by Typhoon, but a pivotal match between Japan and Scotland forged ahead. The Typhoon-struck country won 28-21, debuting in the quarter-finals. After the matched concluded, national team coach Jamie Joseph paid tribute to the people affected by the destruction.

“Everyone who is suffering with the typhoon, this game was all for you guys. The crowd was massive for us, and today was more than just a game,” Joseph said.

Japan has one of the best flood defences among other Asian countries. The infrastructure for dealing with floods in Tokyo is designed to endure a once-in-a-hundred-years natural calamity.

However, the other metro cities in Japan, including Shanghai and Manila are comparatively not so well-equipped.

Post typhoon, over 92,000 households have suffered a power cut, which is less as compared to 262,000 households on Sunday – with 120,000 witnessing water interruptions.

The warning for typhoon was launched in the anticipation of storm, urging over seven million people to abandon their homes, but it is believed only 50,000 took shelter in camps.

Thousands of police forces, disaster management team, firefighters, coastguards and military have launched rescue operation to reach the people trapped in landslides and floods.

The typhoon Hagibis damaged eight prefectures in the country, with storm speeds of up to 225km/h (140mph).

The town of Hakone recorded more than 1m (3ft) of rain, which is the highest total ever fallen in Japan over 48 hours, whereas the capital city of Tokyo remained nearly unaffected.

Just one month ago, Typhoon Faxai had devastating consequences in parts of Japan, completely destructing 30,000 homes, the majority of which have not been repaired till date.

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Burkina Faso Mosque Attack Kills 16 Worshippers Amidst Rising Violence

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Burkina Faso Mosque Attack

A mosque in Burkina Faso, where worshippers were praying on Friday evening, was attacked by an armed man. Security sources have reported that at least 16 people have died in the massacre. Gunmen entered the Grand Mosque in the northern village of Salmossi in the Oudalan region bordering Mali, and opened fire.

According to the previous report by AFP, 13 people died on the spot and three died of the severe injuries later. Besides, two wounded people were reportedly in a critical condition. The news agency was also informed by a resident from a nearby town of Gorom-Gorom that many locals have “started to flee the area”, since Saturday morning.

He also stated that there was a “climate of panic, despite military reinforcements” that were deployed after the attack. The gunmen’s identities were not yet clear; neither did any group admit of carrying out the attack.

In the recent years, Burkina Faso has witnessed a rise in violence associated to jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS). Hundreds of people have become a victim to such attacks over the past few years, and have lost their lives.

Crossing from neighbouring Mali into Burkina Faso, these groups have created ethnic and religious tensions, especially in the northern regions. According to a toll compiled by AFP, the armed groups have killed nearly 600 people, combining the hit-and-run tactics of guerilla war with road mines and suicide bombings.

Combining the hit-and-run tactics of guerilla war with road mines and suicide bombings, the armed groups have killed nearly 600 people. However, the civil society group put the figure at over 1,000, with the attacks being conducted almost everyday.

Situation in Burkina Faso is increasingly deteriorating, with nearly 3,000 schools being closed. Meanwhile, the impact on predominantly rural economy is escalating, undermining trade and markets. The United Nations refugee agency also warned of a humanitarian crisis affecting 1.5 million people. It also reported that nearly 500,000 people have fled their homes because of violence.

Last week, a gold-mining site in the north was attacked by gunmen killing 20 people.

Besides, the defence and security forces of Burkina Faso are poorly trained, badly equipped and so far unable to halt the surging violence. Maintaining a force of 200 in the country, France also frequently intervenes as part of its regional Barkhane operation. However, the Burkinabes oppose the presence of foreign troops in their region, despite being hit by violence.

A crowd of nearly 1,000 people protested in the capital Ouagadougou on Saturday, “to denounce terrorism and the presence of foreign military bases in Africa”.

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Neo-Nazi Man Arrested for Killing Two in Germany Synagogue Shooting

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German Shooting

A synagogue in Germany became a target of globally rising hate crime on Wednesday, where a neo-Nazi was arrested for killing at least two people in the attack. According to a senior security official, the suspect was identified as Stephan Balliet, a 27-year-old German citizen from the state of Saxony-Anhalt.

On October 9, at least two people lost their lives in the shooting outside the synagogue and at a nearby kebab shop in Halle city in Germany, the police said. The attack came during Yom Kippur, a Jewish religious festival, where the observers fast and pray to atone for sins. Authorities said it appeared to be an anti-Semitic attack by a far-right extremist.

The man, who called himself “anon” and a Holocaust denier, broadcast the rampage on a live-streaming video platform, Twitch. The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King’s College London verified the 35-minute livestream, after it was shared online.

“Feminism is the cause of declining birth rates in the West, which acts as a scapegoat for mass immigration, and the root of all these problems is the Jew,” the man said while filming himself in a car before the attack.

The suspect started the attack at around noon local time (11 a.m. BST) on Humboldtstrasse, housing the synagogue and Jewish cemetery. Witnessed described that the gunman was dressed in military clothing, wearing a helmet with a camera and was armed with two guns, as he tried to storm the synagogue and shot a female passerby. She was shot multiple times in the back, as she shouted at the gunman.

In the livestream footage, the attacker was seen spending several minutes while trying to break into the synagogue, but failed. Repeatedly swearing in German, he opened fire at a gate in its perimeter wall, and threw homemade grenades into the nearby Jewish cemetery.

A spokesperson of the Jewish community stated that nearly 80 worshippers at the time were inside the synagogue, but the entrance security measures successfully “withstood the attack”.

“Sorry guys … one time loser always a loser,” the gunman said while heading to the kebab shop, where he killed another man. Two people were wounded during the incident and were being treated at Halle’s university hospital.

The livestream video was viewed by nearly 2,200 people in 30 minutes before it was identified, said Twitch, a streaming platform owned by Amazon.com Inc. It was also reported that the account that live streamed the video was created two months ago.

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US Holds British Militants amid Turkey’s Intervention in Syria

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Syrian detention centre

The US’ recent agreement over Turkey’s military intervention in north-eastern Syria was accepted by many in the country except that the Syrian leaders were sceptical of the entire act. They worried for the hostages present in the Syrian detention centre, thinking that they might escape seeing the opportunity in hand.

During 2014, much of Syria and Iraq were captured by the ISIS militants. To bring peace in the region the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which was a coalition of Kurdish soldiers, representing the ethnic minority group in Syria, and Arab soldiers backed by the US, British and French special forces liberated Syria in March, defeating the ISIS.

Though the ISIS has been defeated in Syria yet their presence in the country cannot be neglected. Thousands of ISIS fighters who were captured during major battles against the terrorist group are being held by the SDF and would later be handed over to Turkey. But the error on part is since Syria has not agreed for Turkey’s military intervention, there are greater chances of rebel in the country.

In such a situation, when many Syrian Kurds would prepare to fight against Turkey, there would be others who would run for a safe place to hide. The chaos would in turn lead to displacement of ISIS members, leaving the ISIS survivors ungoverned. This in turn could poses a huge risk of reestablishment of Islamic State terror in the country.

Recognising the issue as an important aspect, the US defence official on Wednesday said that they have asked the international leaders to take back their detained foreign fighters from Syria. Though the plea seems to be pending with no good response from the world communities.

Presenting itself as an example, the US on Wednesday took custody of the two British militants who were believed to be linked with the ISIS, while removing them from the Syrian detention centre.

Recognised as the members of a group nicknamed “The Beatles”, both El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey were captured by Kurdish forces amid the collapse of ISIS in January. They are currently held in a third country under terms of the “law of war”. Both of them were known for their British accents and in the past held more than 20 Western hostages, while torturing many of them.

The group executed seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers, as well as a group of Syrian soldiers, touting the slaughtering to the rest of the world with video evidences. Recalling the history of the two British militants, the US’ move of displacing the “most dangerous” Islamic State prisoners from Syria was praised by many American leaders.

The entire question of what would happen to the remaining criminals in the Syrian detention centre, if the security breaks down during the Turkish military intervention, still remains unanswered. The US President’s announcement of troops withdrawal from Syria on Sunday has increased the chances of such misconduct.

Since then, nearly 30 to 40 US forces have been moved to the safe zone, while the lives of many other still remain endangered. Amid the chaos, the Kurds believe that Turkey’s intervention would unleash offensive on them, destabilising their entire efforts of maintaining peace in the region.  

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Big Power Rivalry in the Gulf Requires a US Strategy Rethink

Dr. James M Dorsey

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Gulf Rivalry

Last updated on October 10th, 2019

As French, Pakistani and other leaders seek to engineer a meeting between the US and Iranian presidents on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, big power rivalry could rack up tension in the waters of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

With prospects for a face-to-face encounter between presidents Donald J. Trump and Hassan Rouhani slim at best, attention is likely to focus on beefing up the security of key Saudi oil facilities after drone and missile attacks, blamed by the kingdom and the United States on Iran, and identifying an appropriate response that minimizes the risk of a full-fledged military confrontation.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, days after the attacks severely damaged oil installations, joined a US-led coalition to secure the Middle East’s waterways. Earlier, Britain, Bahrain and Australia pledged to participate in the coalition.

Japan declined to join but said it was considering sending its Maritime Self-Defense Force (SDF) on information-gathering missions in the region. It said it would coordinate with the US-led coalition and would include the Strait of Hormuz in its operations if Iran agreed. Japan has unsuccessfully sought to mediate between the United States and Iran.

The US Defense Department, meanwhile, in response to a request from Saudi Arabia and the UAE and in an effort to reassure Gulf allies said last week that it was sending an unspecified number of troops and equipment to the two countries to bolster their defences.

Iranian Brigadier General Ghadir Nezami, head of international and diplomatic affairs of his country’s armed forces, raised the stakes by saying that the Iranian navy would be holding joint exercises with Russia and China in the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman.

General Nezami, who is believed to have recently accompanied chairman of the Iranian Joint Chiefs of Staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri on a visit to China, gave no date for the exercises. Chinese and Russian media have yet to report the planned exercise while spokesmen in the two countries declined to confirm or deny the Iranian announcement.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said in July that the Russian and Iranian navies would be conducting a joint exercise within a matter of months to boost military cooperation.

Russian and Chinese hesitancy to confirm the exercise may be designed to avoid hiking tensions as efforts at the United Nations to mediate between the United States and Iran proceed.

Moreover, Russian president Vladimir Putin is likely to want to avoid a shadow being cast over his planned visit to Saudi Arabia in October. Mr. Putin has urged the kingdom to proceed with the acquisition of Russia’s S-400 anti-missile system that was agreed in principle two years ago.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov met this week with his Saudi counterpart Ibrahim Assaf at the United Nations to discuss the visit.

Russia and China may also not want to undermine a Chinese-backed Russian proposal for a collective security agreement in the Gulf that would replace the US defence umbrella at a time that Saudi Arabia, uncertain about American reliability, may reach out to other countries for support in protecting its oil assets.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency last week reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had requested South Korean assistance in the strengthening of the kingdom’s air defense system.

Gulf concern about US reliability, dating back to US president Barack Obama’s negotiation of an international nuclear agreement with Iran and reinforced by Mr. Trump’s transactional response to the recent attacks on Saudi oil fields, leaves the Saudis and the Americans with no good choices.

Middle East scholar and former advisor to the US Defence Department Bilal Y. Saab argues, against the backdrop of a widespread feeling in Gulf states that the United States is gradually reducing its commitment to their defense as Washington focuses on Asia and the Indo-Pacific, that the United States in particular is caught in a Catch-22.

Its options of reducing commitment without surrendering its umbilical defense cord and making way for America’s rivals are limited.

Mr. Saab believes that the United States should focus its security cooperation less single-mindedly on arms sales and more on building the Gulf states’ institutional national defense infrastructure. Failure to do so, would risk regional tensions repeatedly spiraling out of control and ultimately prevent a gradual US drawdown.

The problem is, in Mr. Saab’s words, that what the United States should be doing to “responsibly reduce its security burden and footprint in the region” while safeguarding opportunities for lucrative arms sales would likely reinforce perceptions of America as unreliable and willing to sacrifice its friends – a perception that dates from the 2011 popular Arab revolts when Washington ultimately backed the toppling of Egyptian president and US ally Hosni Mubarak.

Mr. Saad is the first person to admit that his proposition may be pie in the sky.

“It would mean building and empowering institutions that have the guns, and thus the ability, to conduct coups. Only a foolish Arab autocrat would be interested in that. It would also mean liberalizing or professionalizing national-security ministries and intelligence agencies. Few Arab leaders would voluntarily undermine the favourable clientelistic networks that are run by their governments. In short, defense reform requires political reform,” he says.

Moreover, institution building would bring the different threat perceptions of the Gulf states and the US into sharp relief and force Gulf states to rethink their arms acquisition policies and grant the United States access to their jealously guarded most secret data and programs.

Said Mr. Saab: “There is no shortage of problems on the US end or on its partners’ end when it comes to security cooperation. But it will be impossible to address any of those without making a total switch on how the United States thinks about security cooperation.”

That would require a US president who thinks in strategic rather than transactional terms.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s.

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