Who Are Yemen’s Houthis?

Interviewee: April Longley Alley, Senior Analyst, International Crisis Group
Interviewer: Zachary Laub, Online Writer/Editor
February 25, 2015

The seizure of power in Yemen by an armed Shia Muslim movement known as the Houthis has thrown the country into disarray and provoked concerns about further Middle East instability. “The Houthis are victims of their own success,” says April Longley Alley, a Dubai-based researcher at the International Crisis Group. After rapid advances beyond their northern base, the Houthis now face blowback as the rival al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has allied with some tribes to repulse their advances. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has perceived the ascent of the Iran-aligned Houthis on its southern border as a new front in its contest with Iran for regional dominance. These developments, Alley says, threaten to add a sectarian dimension to a political crisis that has mounted since Yemenis overthrew long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh during the Arab uprisings in 2011.

Houthi fighters ride a patrol vehicle outside a hotel hosting UN-sponsored negotiations on a political settlement for Yemen's crisis in Sanaa, February 19, 2015.Houthi fighters in Sana’a ride a patrol vehicle outside a hotel hosting UN-sponsored negotiations on a political settlement for Yemen’s crisis. (Photo: Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters) Continue reading

Are Corruption and Tribalism Dooming Somalia’s War on al-Shabaab Extremists?

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 4


February 21, 2014 02:32 PM


By: Andrew McGregor


English: Flag of Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen

English: Flag of Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


An African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldier keeps guard on top of an armoured vehicle in the old part of Mogadishu (Source Reuters)


  After decades of conflict that have nearly destroyed the nation, Somalia now stands poised     to  make a final drive with international assistance to shatter the strength of radical al-Qaeda- associated Islamists in central and southern Somalia, but there are indications that Somalia’s leaders may be posing an even greater obstacle to Somalia’s successful reconstruction.


                                                                 Arms Embargoes and Missing Weapons



In mid-February, the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group issued a report to the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee claiming that weapons obtained by the Somali government under a temporary easing of UN arms sanctions were being sold to Somalia’s al-Shabaab extremists in what was described as “high-level and systematic abuses in weapons and ammunition management and distribution” (Reuters, February 13). A UN arms embargo was placed on Somalia in 1992, but in the last year the Somali government has been able to obtain once-restricted small arms and other weapons such as rocket-propelled-grenades under a partial lifting of the embargo designed to help fight al-Shabaab terrorists.


Among the observations contained in the report were the following:



  • Shipments of weapons from Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda could not be accounted for.
  • The Somali government cancelled several UN inspections of armories
  • A key presidential adviser from President Hassan Shaykh Mohamud’s own Abgaal sub-clan was involved in planning weapons transfers to al-Shabaab commander Shaykh Yusuf Isse “Kabukatukade,” another member of the Abgaal.
  • A government minister from the Habr Gadir sub-clan made unauthorized weapons purchases from a Gulf state that were transferred to private locations in Mogadishu for use by a Habr Gadir clan militia.
  • The Monitoring team photographed rifles sent to Somalia’s national army for sale in the Mogadishu arms market with their serial numbers filed off (Reuters, February13; AFP, February 16).



The easing of the Somali arms embargo is scheduled to end in March. Though a final decision on its future has yet to be made, it seems likely that the easing will remain in place until a new report on arms violations is due in October. The Somali government is looking for a complete removal of the embargo, allowing it to obtain heavy weapons and sophisticated military materiel (Reuters, February 14). Continue reading

Iran’s Middle Class on Edge as World Presses In

The New York Times

Prices on many imported goods are way up, reflecting a weaker Iranian currency.

By ROBERT F. WORTH  Published: February 6, 2012

TEHRAN — One measure of the profound anxiety now coursing through Iranian society can be seen on Manouchehri Street, a winding lane at the heart of this city where furtive crowds of men gather every day like drug dealers to buy and sell American dollars.

The government has raised the official exchange rate and sent police into the streets to stop the black marketeers, but with confidence in Iran’s own currency, the rial, collapsing by the day, the trade goes on.

“Am I afraid of the police? Sure, but I need the money,” said Hamid, a heavyset construction engineer who was standing by a muddy patch of greenery amid a crowd of other illicit currency traders here. “Food prices are going up, and my salary is not enough.” Glancing nervously around him, he added that he had converted almost all of his assets into dollars. Like many Iranians, he had also stockpiled months’ worth of rice and other staples.

The fuel for this manic trade is not an actual economic collapse — the new European oil embargo has yet to take effect, and there is plenty of food on the shelves — but a rising sense of panic about Iran’s encirclement, the possibility of war and the prospect of more economic pain to come. The White House announced a further tightening on Monday aimed at freezing Iranian assets and constricting the activities of Iran’s Central Bank.

Already, the last round of sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank has begun inflicting unprecedented damage on Iran’s private sector, traders and analysts say, making it so hard to transfer money abroad that even affluent businessmen are sometimes forced to board planes carrying suitcases full of American dollars.

Yet this economic burden is falling largely on the middle class, raising the prospect of more resentment against the West and complicating the effort to deter Iran’s nuclear program — a central priority for the Obama administration in this election year.

“For the past few months, our business customers have been coming to us saying their clients are giving up on them, because they believe they will not be paid,” said Parvaneh, a 41-year-old woman working at a Tehran bank. Like others interviewed for this article, she declined to give her full name, fearing repercussions for herself and her family. “They are starting to lay off employees. Iran’s economy has always been sick, but now it seems worse than ever.”

The rising economic panic has illustrated — and possibly intensified — the bitter divisions within Iran’s political elite. A number of insiders, including members of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, have begun openly criticizing Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in recent weeks. One of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s aides indirectly accused Ayatollah Khamenei of needlessly antagonizing the West in ways that pushed down the rial’s value, the latest sign of a rift between the president and the supreme leader that is helping to define the parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for March 2.

“They criticize Ahmadinejad and even the supreme leader by name now; it’s not like before,” said Javad, the 45-year-old manager of a travel agency in north Tehran.

With Iran now importing as much rice and other food staples as it grows at home, trade obstacles could become far more significant in the coming months. Most Iranian traders discount the possibility of real food shortages, saying Iran is already reorienting its trade eastward and has always found ways around sanctions in the past. But with more avenues closing off every month, those evasive measures are likely to be ever more cumbersome and expensive.

Ordinary Iranians complain that the sanctions are hurting them, while those at the top are unscathed, or even benefit. Many wealthy Iranians made huge profits in recent weeks by buying dollars at the government rate (available to insiders) and then selling them for almost twice as many rials on the soaring black market. Some analysts and opposition political figures contend that Mr. Ahmadinejad deliberately worsened the currency crisis so that his cronies could generate profits this way.

Javad’s travel agency is a striking illustration of Iran’s current plight. With six weeks left before the Persian New Year, the phone should be ringing off the hook with reservations for holiday travel, he said. Instead, “there’s been no business for the past three weeks.”

It’s not just that would-be travelers are frightened. The agency cannot price its holiday packages, because with exchange rates fluctuating wildly, they do not know what rate to use.

“Every day it’s something new,” Javad said, gazing up at a tourism poster of China on his office wall. Foreign travel to Iran has almost entirely disappeared. Two years ago, Javad’s foreign clients were mostly Europeans; now they are entirely Russians and Chinese, and even they have been scared off in recent weeks, with Iranian officials threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz and rising fears of a war. (Russia and China remain Iran’s only supporters in the United Nations Security Council.) Continue reading

Pahlavi Reports Iran Leader Ali Khamenei Crimes Against Humanity to UN


On January 24th, author and Iran exile Reza Pahlavi submitted a full report to the United Nations Security Council accusing Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of crimes against humanity and detailing those crimes to the council.

In the report, Reza describes the attacks against unarmed civilians during the popular uprising following the fraudulent re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad in June of 2009.

Mr. Pahlavi called upon the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to initiate a full investigation of those crimes, and to fully prosecute Iran’s “Supreme Leaders” under Article 13 (b) of the Rome Statute.

The 2009 Iranian Uprising

Oddly enough, there were not many U.S. media reports covering the 2009 Iranian uprisings and the subsequent bloodbath. Short of the Huffington Post’s coverage – one of the few U.S. media outlets with it’s origins as an independently owned media blog – published a report on the Iranian blogger posts on the massacre. The Daily Beast also published numerous amateur videos from the civilian Iranians suffering under the attacks.

The BBC, the Guardian and many other non-U.S. media outlets did cover the event in detail.

In a June 2009 article titled “Iran Uprising Turns Bloody”, covered the initial shooting, where it was estimated that 500,000 Iranians had converged in Azadi Square to protest the results of the election, which most believed to be fixed.

Leaked photos of the scene showed one man shot and several other Iranians covered with blood and suffering from bullet wounds. Witnesses claimed that the attack came from Basij militiamen loyal to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


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Inside the Security Council deliberations on Palestine

Posted By Colum Lynch clip_image001Wednesday, November 9, 2011 – 2:16 PM


For more than a month, the U.N. Security Council has deliberated on the question of whether the Palestinians meet the basic requirements to become a U.N. member. The exercise, which involves countless hours of debate and legal analysis by U.N. member-state lawyers, was largely pointless. Everyone knew going into the discussions what the outcome would be: a split, paralyzed, Security Council incapable of rendering a judgment.

So, what did the Security Council do next? It instructed the U.N. Secretariat to provide a written summary of the council’s internal deliberations, outlining the differences — but in classic council fashion concealing the identity of countries that weighed in on the matter.

At the end of the day, what matters is whether the Palestinians proceed, as they insist they will, to press for a Security Council vote on Palestinian membership.

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Israeli ambassador seeks ‘moral minority’ at U.N.

Posted By Colum Lynch

clip_image003The first stop in a tour of Ron Prosor‘s gallery of memories is not the portraits of his three children and wife hanging from his office wall, or the pictures of Israel’s new U.N. envoy shaking hands with ex-presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

It’s a photograph that captures a moment during negotiations over the 1994 Cairo Agreement, when the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, confronted by a visibly livid Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, refused to sign off on a territorial provision from Oslo Peace Process.  In the end, Arafat did ultimately sign the landmark May 4 accord establishing Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

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Iran sends submarines into Red Sea for first time

Protests outside of the United Nations in New ...

Image via Wikipedia

Maryam Sinaiee and Michael Theodoulou (Foreign Correspondent)

Jun 8, 2011

Iranian military submarines reportedly ventured into the Red Sea for the first time yesterday as the Islamic republic flexed its muscles as a self-proclaimed regional superpower.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said that the submarines would collect data in international waters and identify warships of other countries: shorthand for the Bahrain-based United States Fifth Fleet.

Analysts said the Iranian regime hopes that its display of naval prowess will deflect attention from an unprecedented power struggle gripping its ruling hardliners. This has pitted president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s camp against supporters of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The former has been left reeling by several recent setbacks after miscalculating the clout of the Ayatollah’s supporters.

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