Yemen

Middle East: 'peak wheat' fears amid deep drought

Facing long lines and bread shortages, Lebanon's government has been forced to give private importers $15 million to bring more wheat into the country. But it's a short-term fix for a government that is broke and waiting for the IMF to approve a bailout deal. And nations across the Middle East may be looking for similar solutions as they struggle with the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine—both countries are key wheat producers, and exports are effectively cut off by the war. Oxfam is warning that wheat reserves could run out within weeks in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Mercy Corps reports that food prices are up in rebel-held northwest Syria, where food security was already a major concern. Last month Egypt put a cap on unsubsidized bread prices before they could get too high. Yemen, which imports the vast majority of its food, is of particular concern as it already has so many hungry people and is heavily dependent on Ukrainian wheat. Last week, UNICEF said that "the number of malnourished children [in the region] is likely to drastically increase."

'Disappointing' aid for hunger-stricken Yemen

As the country heads into an eighth year of war, Yemen is considered one of the world's largest and most complex humanitarian crises: debilitated basic services, a collapsed economy, an estimated 20.7 million people (more than two thirds of the population) in need—all amid escalating conflict involving numerous different actors. On March 16, the UN appealed to donor states for $4.3 billion in aid for Yemen. Donors coughed up less than a third of that request, with pledges—mainly from Western states—amounting to $1.3 billion. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia—top donors to Yemen in previous years—pledged nothing, while Kuwait pledged a surprisingly low $10 million. The UN's humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, called the result "a disappointment." The outcome is in stark contrast to Ukraine's pledging conference just two weeks prior, considered the "fastest and most generous" response ever to a flash appeal. As the world's attention is fixated on Ukraine, aid workers worry that it could draw resources away from other crises, such as Yemen.

UN warns of 'catastrophic' crisis in Yemen

UN agency chiefs on March 14 stated that war-torn Yemen's hunger crisis is "teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe," with more than 17.4 million Yemenis facing food insecurity and an additional 1.6 million expected to fall into emergency levels of hunger in the coming months. The number experiencing "catastrophic" levels of hunger is projected to increase five times from the current 31,000 to a staggering 161,000, taking the number of those with emergency needs to 7.3 million by the end of 2022. "These harrowing figures confirm that we are on a countdown to catastrophe in Yemen and we are almost out of time to avoid it. Unless we receive substantial new funding immediately, mass starvation and famine will follow. But if we act now, there is still a chance to avert imminent disaster and save millions," World Food Programme executive director David Beasley said.

Yemen: Biden warned against Houthi 'terrorist' tag

US President Joe Biden is said to be considering re-designating Yemen's Houthi rebels (officially called Ansar Allah) as a terrorist organization, a possibility he mentioned last month after the group claimed responsibility for a deadly missile attack inside the United Arab Emirates. The UAE and Saudi Arabia lead a military coalition that has been fighting the Houthis in Yemen for seven years. Saudi Arabia said its air defense system intercepted a Houthi drone near its southern border on Feb. 10. Aid groups—part of a successful lobbying campaign that saw Biden remove the label shortly after he took office last January—warn that a redesignation would have "catastrophic consequences for Yemeni civilians." Not only would it hit the economy hard, making it even more difficult to import food, fuel, and medicine, but it would also decrease the flow of much-needed aid at a time when "organizations like ours are already struggling to keep pace with immense and growing needs." Violence is also growing, and not just around the battlefields of the contested province and city of Marib. Between early October and early February, 1,535 civilians were reportedly killed or injured, more than double the figure for the previous four months.

Looming oil spill off Yemen coast portends disaster

A prospective massive spill from an abandoned oil tanker in the Red Sea could lead to catastrophic public health effects in war-torn Yemen and neighboring countries unless urgent action is taken, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The FSO Safer is one of the world's largest tankers and is anchored five nautical miles (approximately nine kilometers) off the coast about 60 kilometers north of the port of Hodeidah, a key lifeline for aid supplies to much of Yemen's population. It holds 1.1 million barrels of oil—more than four times the amount spilled in 1989 by the Exxon Valdez. Abandoned since 2015 due to the conflict in Yemen, the dilapidated vessel is increasingly likely to leak oil due to deterioration of its hull, or to catch fire through the build-up of volatile gases or through a direct attack.

Yemen: mass displacement in battle for Marib

Yemen's Houthi rebels have launched an offensive on the central province and city of Marib, where fierce fighting has forced hundreds to flee their homes. Some newly displaced people have reportedly been unable to reach camps, and are taking shelter under trees. Marib province has already swelled by some 2 million over the past years, as those displaced from elsewhere in Yemen have taken refuge there. On Oct. 3, the Houthis came under harsh criticism from international rights groups after  three missiles struck a house in the provincial capital, killing three children and injuring some 30 people. The house was in al-Rawada neighborhood, which hosts thousands of internally displaced people. Marib is a hub of Yemen's oil industry, and its fall could prove a turning point in the seven-year civil war. (ReliefWeb, AFP, TNH, Arab NewsThe National, UAE)

Podcast: 9-11 and the GWOT at 20

In Episode 88 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits his predictions from 20 years ago and from a month ago about what the world would look like on the 20th anniversary of 9-11. The attack, and Dubya Bush's Global War on Terrorism, did not lead to a wave of new attacks within the US, as the jihad has proved more concerned with the struggle within Islam. But this has meant an invisible catastrophe for the Muslim world. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen get at least some international media attention. There are many more nearly forgotten wars and genocides: the serial massacres in Pakistan, the insurgency in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, the Boko Haram war in Nigeria that is now spilling into Cameroon, the mounting massacres in the Sahel nations. Even the insurgency in Somalia, where the US has had a military footprint, wins little coverage—despite the fact that it is spilling into Kenya. The insurgency in Mozambique has now prompted an African-led multinational military intervention. The insurgency on the Philippine island of Mindanao has been met with air-strikes. All waged by entities claiming loyalty to either al-Qaeda or ISIS. The new imperial doctrine appears to be that this violence is acceptable as long as it is not visited upon the West—as now admitted to by the elite global management.

Biden's air-strikes bode poorly for Iran nuke deal

US warplanes carried out strikes June 28 on Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon said the targets were arms depots in the border area used by the militias Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which have carried out attacks against US personnel in Iraq for years. "The United States took necessary, appropriate and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation—but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. Iraqi militia officials told the Associated Press in Baghdad and the Assad regime's SANA news agency that four militiamen were killed. Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada vowed retaliation: "We will remain the shield defending our beloved nation, and we are fully ready…to respond and take revenge."

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