Iona Craig reports: At 11.30pm, 10 nautical miles off Yemen’s western Red Sea coast, seven fishermen were near the end of the four hours it had taken to haul their nets bulging with the day’s catch into their fibreglass boat. Suddenly, away from the illumination of the vessel’s large spotlight, one of the men spotted a black silhouette coming towards them.
Moments later a helicopter began circling overhead. The fishermen were well within the 30 nautical mile boundary they had been warned not to cross by leaflets airdropped on land by the Saudi-led coalition. But, without warning, gunfire erupted from the helicopter.
Osam Mouafa grabbed his friend, Abdullah, dragging him into a corner, curling himself into a protective ball as bullets flew through the boat. Shot in both knees, with a third bullet having grazed his thigh, Osam began to feel water rising around him. “The boat became like a sieve,” he said, sitting next to the wooden stick he now needs to walk.
By the time the onslaught stopped, the captain – a father of eight – and Abdullah were dead. Another crew member, Hamdi, was deafened and paralysed down one side after being hit in the head by shrapnel. All bleeding heavily, the five survivors frantically began bailing water out of the sinking boat.
The partially submerged vessel, with the fishermen’s clothes plugging the holes, drifted at sea for 15 hours until another boat rescued them, towing them ashore.
Since Saudi Arabia launched its military intervention in Yemen in March 2015, more than 10,000 civilians have died. More than 250 fishing boats have been damaged or destroyed and 152 fishermen have been killed by coalition warships and helicopters in the Red Sea, according to Mohammed Hassani, the head of the fishermen’s union in Yemen’s western port of Hodeidah.
“They have declared war on fishermen,” said Hassani. More than 100 miles further south in the port of Mocha, fishermen have been barred from going out to sea since the Houthi-Saleh forces, who the Saudi-led coalition have been fighting for more than two and half years, were pushed out by Yemeni fighters backed by a coalition partner, the United Arab Emirates, in February. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: The killing of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former Yemeni president, removes the country’s most important political figure for four decades from a complex equation that has plunged the Arab world’s poorest nation into conflict and sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
His death marks a dramatic shift three years into a war in a state of stalemate. It risks the conflict becoming even more intractable.
Saleh was an important player in Yemen’s descent into civil war. His reluctant departure from power in 2012 – forced upon him by the Arab spring after 33 years of rule – brought his Saudi-backed deputy, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, into office.
But in 2014 Saleh forged an uneasy, unlikely alliance with his former enemies, the Houthis, to facilitate their takeover of Sana’a and ultimately to force Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.
It was an alliance doomed to fail, but few predicted the man who sided with the rebels he fought six wars against between 2004 and 2011 would eventually be killed by them.
While it lasted, the alliance benefited both sides. Saleh used Houthi firepower and manpower, while the rebels gained from Saleh’s governing and intelligence networks.
In the past week, that equation changed as Saleh moved to increase his power in Sana’a and signalled that he was swapping sides, seeking a dialogue with the Saudis and their allies, including the United Arab Emirates. There were reports that Saudi bombing of Sana’a in recent days was targeting Houthi areas in a move to help Saleh – but that did little to prevent the rebels killing him.
Without Saleh, the Houthis are strengthened – at least in the short term. “There’s a possibility that [Saleh’s] apparatus will be radically weakened, if not marginalised in the coming period; this leaves the Houthis as the key power in northern Yemen,” said Adam Baron, visiting fellow at European Council on Foreign Relations. [Continue reading…]
Krishnadev Calamur writes: Ali Abdullah Saleh once described ruling Yemen as “dancing over the heads of snakes.” The former president’s reported death Monday, at the hands of Houthi rebels who were his allies just a few days ago, shows not only the perils of that balancing act, but also the political shifts in a country wracked by civil war since 2015. More importantly, perhaps, is that it shows how difficult it will be to resolve the civil war—and the proxy fight between Saudi Arabia and Iran that helps fuel it—in the most impoverished country in the Arab world.
Saleh’s apparent death, six years after Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was killed and his body paraded on the streets of his hometown of Sirte, will send a signal to strongmen around the world, most notably Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Assad is more firmly in control of Syria than at any point since the civil war began in March 2011. But his rule, despite military and diplomatic support from Russia and Iran, is fragile. Syria’s Arab neighbors and Turkey all want him gone—as does the United States. As long as he remains in power, instability will almost certainly remain a feature of Syrian politics and life. But the fate of Saleh and Qaddafi before him is a powerful example of what dictators most fear—not just losing their power, but losing their lives. Assad could thus cling closer to his political benefactors in order to ensure he doesn’t meet the same fate.
After Saddam Hussein, who was hanged in Iraq in 2006, and Qaddafi, Saleh is the third former Arab dictator to be killed following a regime change in the region. Other longtime Arab leaders, from Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, were also ousted in the Arab uprisings of 2011, but survived. Where leaders clung on to power in the face of protests, such as in Syria and Bahrain, civil war and political unrest, respectively, have become the norm. And the fates of Hussein and Qaddafi, in particular, are believed to preoccupy another incumbent dictator outside the Middle East: Regional experts say Kim Jong Un accelerated his nuclear and missile programs in part because both leaders, after giving up such programs, saw their regimes and their lives ended. They say he sees these weapons as an insurance policy against ending up like them. [Continue reading…]
Nawal Al-Maghafi writes: In the main hospital in the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah this August, the malnutrition ward overflowed with patients. In the corridor, a man sat on the floor, with two children beside him whose ribs protruded under their pale skin. Inside the makeshift ward, every bed held two skeletal children. Saleha, a mother in her thirties, sat on the corner of a bed with her nine-year-old daughter, Fateena, on her lap. The child appeared thin and weak, and gasped for air. She urgently needed tests, according to doctors, but the hospital’s labs were overwhelmed. Saleha told me that the local hospital in her village was closed. It took the family three days of hitchhiking with strangers most of the way to reach the city, on the west coast of Yemen, and its hospital. “The war has really taken its toll on her,” Saleha told me, pointing to her daughter. “Now she just lays there until her body seizes again.” The staff of the government-run hospital said that they hadn’t been paid for months. “We are hungry, but we might as well come to work than starve to death at home,” one doctor told me. “We can’t go to war on the frontline but this is our way of fighting against the aggression, by saving people.”
On Thursday, the heads of three United Nations relief agencies called on a nine-nation military coalition led by Saudi Arabia to end a tightened blockade it imposed on Yemen after Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile into Riyadh, the Saudi capital, last weekend. “Closure of much of the country’s air, sea and land ports is making an already catastrophic situation far worse,” a joint statement issued by the United Nations Children’s Fund, World Food Program, and World Health Organization, said. “The space and access we need to deliver humanitarian assistance is being choked off, threatening the lives of millions of vulnerable children and families.”
The U.N. officials said that more than twenty million people, including more than eleven million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance; at least 14.8 million lack basic medical care, and a cholera outbreak has infected more than nine hundred thousand. Yemenis are caught in a nearly three-year conflict that began as a domestic power struggle and evolved into a brutal proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, killing more than ten thousand people and shuttering more than half of the country’s medical facilities. Saudi armed forces, backed by more than forty billion dollars in American arms shipments authorized by the Trump and Obama Administrations, have killed thousands of civilians in air strikes. They have also blockaded the country to varying degrees for two years and intermittently prevented journalists and human-rights researchers from flying into the country. [Continue reading…]
Iona Craig writes: Along with a coalition of regional nations, Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen since March 2015 in an effort to push back Houthi rebels, whose political alignment to Iran has been cited as the pretext for the campaign. And from the get-go, the U.S. has helped.
In the first year of the bombing campaign, the U.S. government authorized the sale of 2,800 guided bombs to Saudi Arabia that were equipped with the MAU-169L/B computer control group, according to the Defence Security Cooperation Agency. That transaction was a mere fraction of more than $100 billion in arms sold to the Kingdom under then-President Barack Obama. Those sales were suspended in December, 2016, due to growing concerns over civilian casualties, but that stand didn’t last long under President Donald Trump, who signed a deal during his visit to Riyadh in May, pledging nearly $110 billion in future weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.
Yet it’s not just weapons sales that tie the U.S. to Yemen’s war: The U.S. continues to provide political and logistical support to Saudi Arabia’s campaign, most notably the refueling of Saudi coalition fighter jets used in daily bombing runs.
For Yemenis, the results have been disastrous: Coalition airstrikes have punished Yemen’s civilians, and its children specifically, destroying hospitals, schools and vital infrastructure. In total, Saudi-led airstrikes are responsible for over 60 percent of civilian deaths in Yemen’s war, according to the United Nations, leading many human rights organizations to accuse the U.S. of taking part in potential war crimes. [Continue reading…]
Nathalie Weizmann writes: Every day brings worse news from Yemen. This morning, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that water and sewage systems in three cities in Yemen – Hodeidah, Sa’ada and Taiz – had stopped operating because imports of fuel were at a standstill. And just yesterday, the heads of the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and the World Health Organization described the current situation in Yemen as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”
Yemen was already struggling with a humanitarian disaster after two years of war, but the situation grew far worse last week, when the Saudi-led military coalition stopped critical commercial supplies and humanitarian aid deliveries from entering Yemen, and blocked the movement of relief workers into and out of the country. The coalition announced the closure of all Yemeni airports, seaports and land crossings in response to a ballistic missile fired by Ansar Allah (also referred to as Houthi) opposition forces in Yemen and intercepted by the Saudi military over Riyadh’s international airport.
Reacting to the shutdown, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, warned that if it isn’t lifted, “it will be the largest famine the world has seen in many decades, with millions of victims.” According to key members of the humanitarian community in Yemen, “There are over 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance; 7 million of them are facing famine-like conditions and rely completely on food aid to survive.” [Continue reading…]
In an editorial, the New York Times says: Yemen would suffer “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims” if Saudi Arabia did not immediately allow food and medicine to be offloaded at all of Yemen’s seaports, and permit the resumption of air services to the cities of Sana and Aden, the United Nations official Mark Lowcock warned Security Council diplomats last week.
Saudi Arabia tightened its blockade against Yemen on Nov. 5 after Iran-backed Houthi rebels threatened Riyadh with a ballistic missile. The Saudis have since partly lifted the blockade, but only of ports controlled by its allies. That is not nearly enough to get urgently needed food to nearly seven million Yemenis facing famine.
Misery has been Yemen’s lot after more than three years of unrelenting war. At least 10,000 people have been killed, many by Saudi-coalition bombings carried out with military assistance by the United States. A raging cholera epidemic has sickened some 900,000 people, and 17 million Yemenis are now completely dependent on humanitarian aid for survival. Ships and cargo planes ferrying food, medicine and vital fuel to Yemen’s war-ravaged civilians are inspected by the United Nations to make sure they are not transporting arms.
Politico reports: In a rare exercise of its war-making role, the House of Representatives on Monday overwhelmingly passed a resolution explicitly stating that U.S. military assistance to Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen is not authorized under legislation passed by Congress to fight terrorism or invade Iraq.
The nonbinding resolution adopted 366-30, does not call for a halt to the American support but publicly acknowledges the Pentagon has been sharing targeting information and refueling warplanes that Saudi Arabia and other allies are using to attack Houthi rebels in a conflict that is widely considered a proxy war with Iran — and a humanitarian disaster.
It states, in part, that U.S. military operations are authorized to fight only Al Qaeda and other allied terrorist groups in Yemen, not Shiite Muslim rebels.
“To date,” the resolution says, “Congress has not enacted specific legislation authorizing the use of military force against parties participating in the Yemeni civil war that are not otherwise subject to” the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force or the 2003 AUMF in Iraq.
While mostly symbolic, the House vote was seen as a key victory for members of both parties who believe Congress, which is relegated the power to declare war in the Constitution, needs to reauthorize U.S. military operations overseas, which have expanded to many more countries and conflicts than envisioned a decade and half ago when Congress last voted for the use of force. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: With the tacit backing of his father, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince has established himself as the most powerful figure in the Arab world, rushing into confrontations on all sides at once.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the arrest of 11 princes in his royal family and nearly 200 members of the Saudi business elite, and has begun to take power from the kingdom’s conservative clerics. He has blockaded neighboring Qatar, accused Iran of acts of war and encouraged the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister. And in Yemen, his armed forces are fighting an Iranian-aligned faction in an intractable war that created a humanitarian crisis.
The crown prince has moved so quickly that American officials and others worry that he is destabilizing the region. Signs of potential blowback are growing.
Investors, nervous about his plans, have been moving money out of the kingdom. Prince Mohammed has sought to counter the capital flight by squeezing detainees and others to surrender assets. He has presented the arrests as a campaign against corruption, but his targets call it a shakedown, and he has turned for advice to a former Egyptian security chief who has been pilloried at home for brutality and graft.
Prince Mohammed’s supporters say he is simply taking the drastic measures needed to turn around the kingdom’s graft-ridden and oil-dependent economy while pushing back against Iranian aggression.
But analysts around the region debate whether the headlong rush might be driven more by a desire to consolidate power before a possible royal succession, desperation for cash to pay for his plans or simply unchecked ambition to put his stamp on the broader Middle East. And despite President Trump’s enthusiasm for the prince, some in the State Department, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies say they fear that his impulsiveness could both set back his own goals and destabilize the region.
“He’s decided he doesn’t do anything cautiously,” said Philip Gordon, the White House Middle East coordinator under President Barack Obama. But, Mr. Gordon said, “if the crown prince alienates too many other princes and other pillars of the regime, pursues costly regional conflicts and scares off foreign investors, he could undermine the prospects for the very reforms he is trying to implement.”
The extrajudicial arrests have spooked investors enough, analysts say, to extinguish the prince’s plans for an public stock offering of Aramco, the Saudi state oil company, in New York or London next year. It had been a centerpiece of his overhaul. [Continue reading…]
Robert Malley writes: Lebanon has long been a mirror for the broader Middle East. The region’s more powerful actors use it, variously, as a venue for their proxy wars, an arena in which to play out the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a testing ground for periodic bouts of Saudi-Iranian coexistence. It’s where the region wages its wars and brokers its temporary truces. This past week, like in so many others, the Middle East has not been kind to Lebanon.
The news came on November 4 in the form of three back-to-back developments in a mere 10 hours. First, Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s prime minister, announced his resignation. That he made the statement from Riyadh told much of the story; that he delivered it with the genuineness of one forced to read his own prison sentence told the rest. The decision was announced by the Lebanese prime minister but it was made in Saudi Arabia. Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto leader, had reason to want it to happen. Saudi-Iranian tensions are rising and bin Salman is determined to depict Tehran as the source of all regional evils. For Hariri to preside over a government that includes Hezbollah fundamentally undercut that core message: It meant allowing one of Riyadh’s closest allies to cooperate with Tehran’s most loyal partner. Hariri as prime minister created the impression that coexistence with Hezbollah and by extension with Iran was possible; his departure is designed to erase any doubt. He was asked to assume the prime ministership a year ago, at a time when the goal was to inoculate Lebanon from Saudi-Iranian rivalry; with him gone, Lebanon now is fully exposed to it. It has joined the camp of Saudi Arabia’s enemies.
Act two was news that Saudi Arabia had intercepted a missile launched from Yemen and purportedly aimed at Riyadh’s airport. This was not the first missile that the Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group enjoying Iranian and Hezbollah support, had fired at its northern neighbor, but its timing and unprecedented range could make it one of the more consequential. The extent of outside backing to the Houthis is a matter of some debate, though neither U.S. nor Saudi officials harbor any doubt that the dramatic progress in the rebel movement’s ballistic missile program could not have occurred without its two benefactors’ considerable training and help. Like Hariri in his act of self-immolation, Saudi officials quickly and publicly drew a direct line connecting the strike to Iran and Hezbollah; it was, they proclaimed, an act of war for which they held both responsible and to which they would respond. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: At a hospital in the Yemeni city of Marib, demand for artificial limbs from victims of the country’s war is so high that prosthetics are made on site in a special workshop.
A soldier with an artificial arm hitches up his robe to reveal a stump where his leg once was. He is angry that authorities have done little to help him since he was wounded.
“I was at the front and a mortar exploded near me. We fought well, but now I get no salary, no support from the government or anyone. They just left us,” said Hassan Meigan.
More than two years into a war that has already left 10,000 dead, regional power Saudi Arabia is struggling to pull together an effective local military force to defeat the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement that has seized large parts of Yemen.
The dysfunction is a reminder to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that his campaign to counter arch-enemy Iran in the Middle East, including threats against Tehran’s ally Hezbollah, may be hard to implement. [Continue reading…]
BBC News reports: Yemen faces the world’s largest famine in decades “with millions of victims” if aid deliveries are not resumed, a senior UN official has warned.
Mark Lowcock, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, urged the Saudi-led coalition to lift its blockade of the conflict-torn country.
On Monday, the coalition shut air, land and sea routes into Yemen after Houthi rebels fired a missile at Riyadh.
The ballistic warhead was intercepted near the Saudi capital.
Saudi Arabia said the blockade was needed to stop Iran sending weapons to the rebels.
Iran denies arming the rebels, who have fought the Saudi-led coalition since 2015. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: The International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday it was unable to get clearance to ship chlorine tablets used to prevent cholera from Saudi Arabia into Yemen, where a massive outbreak of the disease has affected more than 900,000 people.
Saudi Arabia announced Monday it was temporarily closing all of Yemen’s ground, sea and airports in retaliation for a missile strike on the Saudi capital carried out last week by a rebel group in Yemen. The Saudi government had vowed it would “take into consideration” the delivery of humanitarian aid supplies.
The United Nations on Tuesday urged the Saudi authorities to reopen the air and sea ports, fearing the blockade would sharply exacerbate an already dire humanitarian crisis in a country that has suffered through more than two years of a civil war, according to Reuters news agency.
In addition to the cholera epidemic, roughly 7 million Yemenis are on the brink of famine, aid workers said.
The blockade was part of the continuing fallout from an escalating confrontation between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran that has reverberated across the Middle East in recent days, but landed especially hard on Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Saudi Arabia charged Monday that a missile fired at its capital from Yemen over the weekend was an “act of war” by Iran, in the sharpest escalation in nearly three decades of mounting hostility between the two regional rivals.
“We see this as an act of war,” the Saudi foreign minister, Adel Jubair, said in an interview on CNN. “Iran cannot lob missiles at Saudi cities and towns and expect us not to take steps.”
The accusation, which Iran denied, came a day after a wave of arrests in Saudi Arabia that appeared to complete the consolidation of power by the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, 32. Taken together, the two actions signaled a new aggressiveness by the prince both at home and abroad, as well as a new and more dangerous stage in the Saudi cold war with Iran for dominance in the region.
“Today confrontation is the name of the game,” said Joseph A. Kechichian, a scholar at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who is close to the royal family. “This young man, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is not willing to roll over and play dead. If you challenge him, he is saying, he is going to respond.”
The accusations raise the threat of a direct military clash between the two regional heavyweights at a time when they are already fighting proxy wars in Yemen and Syria, as well as battles for political power in Iraq and Lebanon. By the end of the day Monday, a Saudi minister was accusing Lebanon of declaring war against Saudi Arabia as well.
Even before the launching of the missile on Saturday, which was intercepted en route to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, the crown prince had staged another surprise demonstration of the kingdom’s newly aggressive posture toward Iran and Lebanon. The prince hosted a visit from Saudi Arabia’s chief Lebanese client, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who stunned the region by announcing his resignation, via video from Riyadh, in protest against Iran’s undue influence in Lebanese politics.
Even some of Mr. Hariri’s rivals speculated that his Saudi sponsors had pressured him into the statement. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia, said over the weekend that the Saudis had all but kidnapped Mr. Hariri. Mr. Nasrallah urged Mr. Hariri to return to Lebanon for power-sharing talks “if he is allowed to come back.”
On Monday, Saudi Arabia released a photograph of Mr. Hariri meeting with King Salman that was widely seen as an effort to contradict the theory that the prime minister was effectively a hostage.
The Saudi claims that Iran had provided the missile could not be independently verified.
Mr. Jubair, the foreign minister, said the missile had been smuggled into Yemen in parts, assembled in Yemen by operatives from Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran, and fired from Yemen by Hezbollah.
A statement from the Saudi Arabian news agency said “experts in military technology” had determined from the remains of that missile and one launched in July that both had come from Iran “for the purpose of attacking the kingdom.”
Citing allegations of Hezbollah’s role, Thamer al-Sabhan, minister of state for Persian Gulf affairs, said Monday that Saudi Arabia considered the missile attack an act of war by Lebanon as well. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: The Saudi-led military coalition fighting against the Houthi movement in Yemen said on Monday it would close all air, land and sea ports to the Arabian Peninsula country to stem the flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran.
The move, which follows the interception of a missile fired toward the Saudi capital Riyadh on Saturday, is likely to worsen a humanitarian crisis in Yemen that according to the United Nations has pushed some seven million people to the brink of famine and left nearly 900,000 infected with cholera.
“The Coalition Forces Command decided to temporarily close all Yemeni air, sea and land ports,” the coalition said in a statement on the Saudi state news agency SPA. It said aid workers and humanitarian supplies would continue to be able to access and exit Yemen.
The United Nations, however, said it was not given approval for two scheduled humanitarian flights on Monday and was seeking clarification on the coalition’s announcement.
The state news agency Saba, run by the Houthis, quoted a source in the navy warning against the closure of ports and said it would have, “catastrophic consequences”. [Continue reading...]
The New York Times reports: President Trump has spoken with the king of Saudi Arabia to offer a wholehearted endorsement of a drive to modernize the kingdom, as the Saudi authorities arrested scores of prominent business people and ministers in a sweeping anti-corruption crackdown.
In an unusually lengthy and detailed readout of the call made on Saturday, the White House said that Mr. Trump had thanked King Salman for Saudi Arabia’s support in fighting terrorism and for its purchase of military equipment from the United States. And he praised the king’s favorite son and top adviser, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for his recent calls for tolerance and moderation in Saudi society.
“The king and crown prince’s recent public statements regarding the need to build a moderate, peaceful and tolerant region are essential to ensuring a hopeful future for the Saudi people, to curtailing terrorist funding, and to defeating radical ideology — once and for all — so the world can be safe from its evil,” the White House said in the statement.
The White House statement made no mention of the scores of arrests, including that of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire investor who has held stakes in an array of Western companies, including the News Corporation, Citigroup and Twitter. Prince Mohammed, who has already sidelined rivals to the throne, is viewed as the mastermind behind the crackdown.
Prince Alwaleed sparred with Mr. Trump on Twitter during the presidential election, referring to him as a “disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.” Mr. Trump fired back, also on Twitter, that he was a “dopey prince” trying to “control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money.”
White House officials had no immediate comment on whether Mr. Trump’s call should be interpreted as an endorsement of the arrests. But the statement made clear that the White House approved of everything else King Salman and Prince Mohammed were doing in Saudi Arabia. [Continue reading…]
Bloomberg reports: The two leaders did discuss Trump’s request, first issued in a late-night tweet, that the Saudis list the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. – better known as Aramco – on the New York Stock Exchange.
After speaking to Salman aboard Air Force One, Trump told reporters on the plane that he was motivated to send the tweet because the Aramco initial public offering “will be just about the biggest ever” and the U.S. wants “to have all the big listings.” The Saudis were not currently looking at listing on a U.S. exchange “because of litigation risk, and other risk, which is sad,” he said.
The Aramco IPO could be the world’s largest, with the Saudi government hoping to raise $100 billion selling just 5 percent of the company. It is the centerpiece of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” reform plan, intended to diversify the kingdom’s economy and invest more heavily in infrastructure. [Continue reading…]
James M. Dorsey writes: The most recent crackdown breaks with the tradition of consensus within the ruling family whose secretive inner workings are equivalent to those of the Kremlin at the time of the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, the dismissals and detentions suggest that Prince Mohammed rather than forging alliances is extending his iron grip to the ruling family, the military, and the national guard to counter what appears to be more widespread opposition within the family as well as the military to his reforms and the Yemen war.
It raises questions about the reform process that increasingly is based on a unilateral rather than a consensual rewriting of the kingdom’s social contract. “It is hard to envisage MBS succeeding in his ambitious plans by royal decree. He needs to garner more consent. To obtain it, he must learn to tolerate debate and disagreement,” quipped The Economist, recently referring to Prince Mohammed by his initials. [Continue reading…]
UN News Centre reports: Already struggling to cope with a dire humanitarian crisis, war-torn Yemen is now facing the fastest-growing cholera epidemic ever recorded, with some 895,000 suspected cases as of 1 November, the United Nations relief wing reported Thursday.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that nearly have the suspected cases are children. Overall, there have been nearly 2,200 associated deaths since 27 April.
The outbreak is affecting over 90 per cent of districts across 21 of the country’s 22 governorates. Despite the enormous challenges, humanitarian partners have established 234 Diarrhoea Treatment Centres and 1,084 Oral Rehydration Corners in 225 affected districts in 20 governorates, according to OCHA.
Some 3.6 million people have been connected to disinfected water supply networks in 12 governorates. Over 17 million people in all governorates were reached with cholera prevention messages.
OCHA warned today that Yemen is also facing the world’s largest food emergency and widespread population displacement. After more than two years of war, nearly 21 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance, seven million of whom are severely food insecure, staving off the threat of famine. [Continue reading…]