The leaders of the two major factions in Libya's civil war—Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the Tripoli-based "official" government, and the eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar—reportedly agreed to hold new elections after meeting in the UAE last week. The elections, aimed at finally unifying the country, are said to be tentatively scheduled for March 2018. (MediaLine, May 4) An "accord committee" of the new Constitution Drafting Assembly has meanwhile been holding meetings at locales around the country to discuss a draft for the country's long-awaited charter. But the draft, drawn up under the supervision of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), has been meeting with harsh criticism. (Libya Observer, April 22)
Two missiles fired from territory held by Houthi rebels in Yemen fell just short of a US warship patrolling the Red Sea, the Navy said Oct. 10. The attack took place just north of the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. The destroyer USS Mason had been "conducting routine operations in international waters," the Pentagon said in a statement. A day earlier, the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis accused the rebels of firing a ballistic missile toward the southwestern Saudi city of Taif. The missile was one of two that the Saudi-led coalition intercepted that day, the coalition said. Both attacks were apparent retaliation for an Oct. 8 air-strike by the Saudi-led coalition that killed at least 140 and wounded over 500 at a funeral in Sanaa. In the aftermath of the strike, Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh—who has allied his loyalist forces with the Houthis—called for a mobilization along the Saudi border "to take revenge."
It requires a really special kind of cynicism to pull this one off—the kind born of complete impunity, when the world gives you a blank check to carry out any kind of atrocity. Saudi fighter jets on Aug. 21 carried out air-strikes on a peaceful rally in Yemen's capital Sanaa that had been called to protest Saudi air-strikes. Most recent accounts put the death toll at three, but it seems very likely to rise. The protesters were mostly armed, and began firing on the warplanes with their AK-47s after the air-strikes, in a useless act of defiance. The rally was called after Doctors Without Borders (MSF) withdrew its staff from six Yemen hospitals in response to a Saudi sir-strike on a hospital that left 19 people dead in the northern province of Hajja. It was the fourth health facility supported by MSF to be hit by Saudi-led coalition air-strikes over the course of the war, now in its 17th month. The US continues to have military advisors directly supporting the Saudis' air war in Yemen. This week, their number was cut from about 45 to five, although US officials said this was not due to concern over civilian casualties. (Nine News, Australia, Aug. 21; BBC News, Aug. 20; NYT, Aug. 18)
The US Department of Defense on Aug. 15 announced the transfer of 15 Guantánamo detainees to the United Arab Emirates. Twelve of the detainees were from Yemen, and the other three were from Afghanistan. Six of the detainees had been approved for release since 2009, and the others were cleared for release more recently. Thirteen of the detainees had never faced any charges, and two of the Afghan detainees had their military commission charges drops. This marks the largest single detainee transfer so far, as the Obama administration works toward its goal of shuttering the detention center. After these transfers, there are 61 detainees remaining at Guantánamo.
Intensified fighting since January has resulted in a rapidly worsening security situation and large-scale displacement in Sudan’s Darfur region, the top United Nations peacekeeping official warned April 6. UN Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous said that since his last briefing to the Security Council on Jan. 25, the security situation in Darfur has been characterized by fighting between government forces and militants of the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdel Wahid (SLA/AW) in the Jebel Marra region. "The escalation of fighting in Jebel Marra had led to large-scale displacement, especially from mid-January to late March, and humanitarian organizations estimated that at least 138,000 people from that region were newly displaced as of 31 March," Ladsous stated. (UN News Centre, April 6)
The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), seeking autonomy for the Ahwazi Arab minority in Iran's southwest, held its third annual conference in Copenhagen last week—drawing attendance this time from George Sabra, former leader of the opposition Syrian National Council. Sabra told the conference, "What unites our two nations is our joint path and destiny in the struggle to gain our freedom and human dignity." ASMLA chairman Habib Jabor charged that "the mullahs' savage regime has enforced ethnocide policies against the Ahwazi Arab people and other non-Persian peoples... Several million Ahwazi Arabs are denied equal rights by the Iranian regime under a system of apartheid, defined as a deliberate policy of racial or ethnic segregation... [T]he international community's lack of reaction concerning the state of human rights in the Ahwaz region...has given the Iranian regime and its elite a right of life and death over entire communities. Ahwazi Arabs...are victimized, robbed and plundered because of their ethnicity."
Human Rights Watch is calling on the Obama administration to cancel a pending arms sale to Saudi Arabia in the absence of serious investigations into alleged laws-of-war violations in Yemen. On No. 17, the Pentagon announced that the State Department had approved a sale of $1.29 billion worth of air-to-ground munitions such as laser-guided bombs and "general purpose" bombs with guidance systems. "The purchase replenishes the Royal Saudi Air Force's current weapons supplies, which are becoming depleted due to the high operational tempo in multiple counter-terrorism operations," the Pentagon statement said. But HRW's Joe Stork countered: "The US government is well aware of the Saudi-led coalition's indiscriminate air attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen since March. Providing the Saudis with more bombs under these circumstances is a recipe for greater civilian deaths, for which the US will be partially responsible."
A Bahraini court found 11 Shi'ities guilty on Feb. 26 of an attack carried out last year and sentenced three to death. The other eight defendants were sentenced to life in prison and will be stripped of their citizenship. The case centered on the country's deadliest attack since Bahraini security forces repressed Shi'ite protests in 2011. In March three police officers were killed by bombings in a Shi'ite village while breaking up groups of "rioters and vandals" on Manama's outskirts. One of the fallen officers had been a policeman from the United Arab Emirates deployed to Bahrain to assist in security measures. The defendants plan to appeal.