Wednesday, March 2, 2016

On Yemen, Inner City Press Asks UN's John Ging of Saudi Bombs & Funds, Threats to Aid Workers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 -- The UN Secretariat's bungling of Yemen mediation has become ever more clear, according to multiple sources and documents exclusively seen by Inner City Press, see below. 
 In the UN Security Council on the Yemen sanctions resolution adopted on February 24, language was added to try to discourage the Panel of Experts from looking into the act of the Saudi-led Coalition. Concessions were made, of a kind not made for or about other countries under sanctions.
  (Inner City Press had to follow the process from outside the UN, literally, the park on 43rd Street across First Avenue, because only days after Inner City Press asked why the UN was so quiet about false claims of Iranian military equipment in a UN WFP aid ship, Inner City Press was summarily thrown out of the UN, and Banned, without due process.Petition here.)
 On March 1, back in on a reduced access pass, Inner City Press asked UN OCHA official John Ging about taking "aid" money from Saudi Arabia while it blasts away at Yemen. Video here.
 Ging said these two are "ring fenced," and that the UN doesn't allow Saudi Arabia to put conditions on aid or where it is delivered.

  Inner City Press asked, what about the Saudi threat that aid workers should leave Houthi-controlled areas? Ging said the UN had pushed back.
But quietly, as was the case with the Saudi diversion of the WFP ship. Does money talk?
 On February 28, Ban Ki-moon but not his invisible envoy issued a canned statement about the previous day's airstrike:
"The Secretary-General is concerned about the continuing intense airstrikes and ground fighting in Yemen despite his repeated calls for a cessation of hostilities. In this regard, he strongly condemns the apparent airstrike on 27 February 2016 that hit Khaleq market, in Nahem District in Sana’a, killing at least 32 civilians and injuring at least 41 civilians. The death toll is among the highest from a single bombing since September 2015. The Secretary-General expresses his sincere condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims.

The Secretary-General reminds all parties to the conflict of the utmost necessity to fully respect their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, which prohibits attacks directed against civilians and civilian objects, including populated markets. The Secretary-General stresses that such attacks are considered serious violations of international humanitarian law.

He calls for a prompt and impartial investigation of this incident.

The Secretary-General reiterates his call on all parties to the conflict in Yemen to engage in good faith with his Special Envoy for Yemen in order to agree on a cessation of hostilities as soon as possible and to convene a new round of peace talks."
  Ban's call for an impartial investigation rings hollow, when he has allowed his Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach to oust Inner City Press, which reports on Yemen, based on an "investigation" which never even SPOKE to Inner City Press. This incongruity, and its consequences, has been raised directly to Ban and his most senior advisers. Impartial?
  On February 16, Inner City Press asked the President of the UN Security Council for February, Rafael Ramirez of Venezuela, about what OCHA said in the Council, that the Saudi-led coalition diverted a UN World Food Program ship, the MV Mainport Cedar, from Hodeidah to the Saudi port of Jizan.
  Ramirez said this had been discussed and that the UN's Stephen O'Brien is trying to clarify it.
  On February 17, before the Security Council heard from UN enovy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Inner City Press asked Yemen's stated Permanent Representative to the UN Khaled Alyemany about the WFP ship. 
  Alyemany said that that ship had been found to have Iranian military equipment. Video here. Inner City Press asked OCHA and then three WFP spokespeople as well. The response from Gerald Bourke:
"We can confirm that on Thursday February 11 one of WFP’s charter vessels, the MV Mainport Cedar, carrying humanitarian relief supplies, travelling from Djibouti with a scheduled and approved stop in the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, was diverted by Coalition forces to the Saudi Arabian port of Jizan. WFP is in communication with the Coalition Forces regarding the circumstances of the ship’s diversion to Jizan Port. On behalf of the Yemen humanitarian community, the vessel was transporting commodities including canned tuna, medical supplies for delivery to Hodeidah Port and United Nations Emergency Telecommunications Cluster IT equipment for delivery to the Port of Aden. WFP has been asked by the Coalition Forces to resubmit the paperwork regarding the humanitarian IT equipment. We hope the vessel will depart shortly. WFP has been in touch with the owner and the crew of 13."
 And so on February 18, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: on the issue of Syria to ask WFP, but I wanted to ask you about Yemen and WFP.  Yesterday, in front of the Council, the Permanent Representative of Yemen, Mr. [Khaled Hussein] Alyemany, said that the WFP ship that was diverted to Saudi Arabia had within it, his quote, “Iranian military equipment”.  So I asked WFP, but they haven’t answered.  The envoy did say that this was false.  But what I’m wondering is, at what point was WFP or OCHA going to, not just sort of say that a ship had been diverted, but say that it was on false charges by a country that’s actually a maiden donor to the aid operation in Yemen…?  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  What I have from WFP, which I can hope answers the question raised, which said that WFP can confirm that, on 11 February, on Thursday, one of WFP’s charter vessels, the MV Mainport Cedar, carrying humanitarian relief supplies, travelling from Djibouti with a scheduled and approved stop in Hodeidah, was diverted by coalition forces to the Saudi Arabian port of Jizan.  WFP is in communication with the coalition forces regarding the circumstances of the ship’s diversion to the port in Saudi Arabia.  On behalf of the Yemen humanitarian community, the vessel was transporting commodities, including canned tuna, medical supplies for delivery to Hodeidah Port and United Nations Emergency Telecommunications Cluster IT (information technology) equipment for delivery to Aden.  WFP has been asked by the coalition forces to resubmit the paperwork regarding the humanitarian IT equipment.  The agency hopes the vessel will depart shortly.  And WFP has been in touch with the owner and the crew of 13.

Inner City Press:   I wish they’d sent that yesterday if they had it.  But my question really is, given that the Permanent Representative is saying publicly and on the record that this was somehow Iranian military equipment, it seems like maybe there’s more… in other circumstances, I think the UN pushes back against this kind of allegation, and I think… I guess I’m just asking, because Saudi Arabia has been allowed to be the main, or even only, donor to this… to this Yemen humanitarian operation…

Spokesman:  I don’t think this… [inaudible]

Inner City Press:  … does this constrain…

Spokesman:  I don’t think they’re the only donor.  And I think the Special Envoy for Yemen spoke about it yesterday, and I’ve spoken about it today.
 Things have gotten worse. Inner City Press is exclusively informed that UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, he of the failed talks and murky trips to Dubai, South Korea and Japan, has put at least a half dozen no-show jobs on the UN payroll, with the post holders getting paid up to $15,000 a month to stay in their homes, in London, Mecca, Sweden, Dubai, Cairo and Beirut and do... nothing.
  We'll start, as the first example, with the last of these. Salim Raad, previously a Ban Ki-moon designated Libya sanctions expert, was hired by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as his "military adviser" -- as the Saudi led coalition blasts away from the air.
  Inner City Press' sources tell it that Salim Raad is in Beirut, reportedly to his credit "depressed" at how little is being accomplished. But the paychecks are still clearing in Beirut -- as they are in London, Mecca, Sweden, Dubai and Cairo. Inner City Press has heard some from, and is open to hearing more from, each of these places. 
   In New York -- which Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed doesn't like to come to because he doesn't get UN "Daily Sustenance Allowance" travel pay in NYC since it is ostensibly his headquarters -- Inner City Press on February 9 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric why the envoy was in South Korea and Japan.

   Dujarric curtly confirmed the envoy was in South Korea, "for a conference." When Inner City Press asked how it related to his mandate, the failing talks and DSA, Dujarric simply pointed to another, less critical correspondent. Video here.
 On February 12, Inner City Press asked again about Japan, and was told by Dujarric he would provide more information after the briefing. He hasn't.
  As we are now filling in, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed has the UN paying top dollar to people who are hardly working, chilling in London and in one case Mecca, an associate of Hadi. This is UN money, thus public money. The question is, what will the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services do? We'll have more on this.

 And now this - Inner City Press is informed that the Saudi-led Coalition hit with a missile the UN's own UNFPA compound. The UN should have complained and gone public, but didn't. Why not? Because the UN envoy IOCA has been told to stay away while Saudi Arabia bombs. How's that working out?
 We'll be at the Security Council, on February 17, covering Yemen. On January 29, the UN Spokesman threw Inner City Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room then on February 1 made this threat, here.
 On January 27, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, transcript here.
 Back on January 19, Inner City Press asked Uruguay's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Jose Luis Cancela, chairing the day's Security Council debate on Protection of Civilians, if the Council does enough to protect civilians in Yemen, including monitoring the effects of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Video here.
 Cancela diplomatically replied that he was not there to comment on specific countries -- inside the Council, there was much talk of Syria, a smattering on Burundi -- but turned the question toward not hitting schools and hospitals, both of which have happened in Yemen.
  On January 18, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq:
Inner City Press: I wanted to on Yemen ask you, there's been this pretty extensively reported airstrike by the coalition in Sana’a on a police station that's apparently killed 25 people.  And also IRIN, previously a UN affiliate, has said that one of its journalists was killed in an airstrike.  And I wanted to know, does the UN… can they confirm particularly the death of the journalist Almigdad Mojalli and do they have any comment on it?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  We don't have the confirmation that we can provide, but certainly we would be concerned about the killing of any journalist.  We're aware of the media reports in this case.
  So, nothing on the airstrike on the police station, and non-acceptance, it seems, of even the statement by Voice of America, which has alsowritten to the UN against the Press. What's wrong with the UN?
Now that the Houthis and the GPC have both said they won't participate in any more talks facilitated by the UN's Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed -- who insists on retweeting praise about himself after skipping any public Q&A at the UN -- Inner City Press on December 28 asked the UN's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric: "On Yemen, what is Ban Ki-moon's or Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's response to Saleh saying GPC will only negotiate directly with Saudi Arabia, and seeming rejection of the UN-faciliated talks?"
 Dujarric replied at 2 pm on December 28 to another question, partial (on Burundi) then added: "On the other issues, if we have an update to share with you, we will."
 So on Yemen, as usual, there is no UN response.
In the talks in Switzerland, despite the happy-talk Note to Correspondents issued on December 20, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was repeatedly accused of merely operating “for the Saudis,” while the Saudi-led coalition took more military action.
 Inner City Press intended to put the question directly to Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, after UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq at the December 22 noon briefing said he would be speaking at the Security Council stakeout after briefing the Security Council.
  But after the Council meeting, in which High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid al Hussein said that of harm to schools and hospitals, "a disproportionate amount appeared to be the result of airstrikes carried out by Coalition Forces" -- Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed did not as promised appear at the stakeout.
 Last time he was at UN Headquarters, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed took only three questions at the stakeout, then went upstairs to the clubhouse of UNCA, now the UN Corruption Association after selling seats with Ban Ki-moon for $6000 and did an interview with the same pro-Saudi / GCC media.
 So where did Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed go this time? Watch this site.
  Inner City Press on December 20 reported that the UN-facilitated talks have been such a failure that there is already a clamor to replace Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. Sources exclusively tell Inner City Press that among the names being mulled is Germany's Bettina Muscheidt, the European Union's Ambassador to Yemen.

  UN insiders point to Germany having lost a UN post when Kim Won-soo replaced Angela Kane as Under Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs. Achim Steiner was passed over for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees post, in favor of Italy's Grandi.  Germany already "got" Libya with Martin Kobler - why not Yemen too? 
Previously: Inner City Press obtained UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's documents for the delayed talks in Switzerland, and exclusively put them online here.

Back on November 10, while Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was on the next to last day of his trip to Saudi Arabia to discussed among other things Yemen, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric to confirm that envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is not even IN Saudi Arabia with Ban.
 Dujarric confirmed that he is not there, but would not confirm that he is in his native Mauritania, to which Inner City Press is informed he flew on the UN's dime, for a vacation, signed off on by the top of the Department of Political Affairs.
Inner City Press has reported from sources dates on which the UN's envoy went to Dubai, purpose UNknown. Given his follow UN enovy Bernardino Leon's deal with the UAE, this must now be explained and acted on by the UN.
Inner City Press previously reported on and published the Houthis' letterdenouncing UN envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed as little more than a Saudi tool. Now it's gotten worse: even Kenny Gluck who works for the envoy and went to Muscat trying to meet the Houthis was unable. He waited then returned to Riyadh. 
    The envoy, meanwhile, is said by those who know him to not only be “laughably” cheap -- putting in for reimbursement for an eight dollar taxi ride from the UN to a Mission on 67th Street, for example -- but also still involved in the same business for which Inner City Press previously dubbed him “the Fisherman” or the “Fishy Envoy.”  
  He has traveled on the UN's funds to Dubai, claiming he would meet the Houthis there. Not only will the Houthis not meet with him -- even if they would, they would not be found in Dubai, given that the UAE is part of the coalition. In any event, Abu Dhabi is the capital, not Dubai. There is something... fishy.
  Now we can report what UN sources say are dates of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's travel to Dubai: May 11; June 3 and June 5; August 1 and August 4; September 12-15; October 9-11; October 26; November 4; and prospectively November 10 and November 12.  
 What are Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's trips to Dubai for? Given the UAE's offer to UN Envoy Bernarndino Leon, while he was UN Envoy to Libya, this question must be answered.
  So on November 4, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Dujarric,video heretranscript here.
  On October 26 Inner City Press reported that its sources exclusively told it of a new low, that the UN brought into Sana'a what the Houthis call two members of US intelligence, with the cover identification that they work for the company running the former hotel now occupied by the UN. But, the sources say, security in Sana'a recognized the two and they are now detained. 
  On October 30, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it, video heretranscript here and below. Dujarric acknowledged he knew about two "contractors."
 On November 2, amid wire reports derivative and worse, Inner City Press followed up, video here, UN transcript here.
 Meanwhile on November 2 the US Statement Department was referring questions to this UNresponsive UN: "We’re aware of those reports. Due to privacy considerations, I’m not going to comment on them...  I would direct your questions to the UN."
  After Inner City Press' October 26 report and October 30 noon briefing questions, on October 31 Reuters "reported" a piece citing an unnamed UN spokesperson about two "contractors," with no mention of the Houthis claim they work with US intelligence, which by now had also been reported, along with Inner City Press' October 30 Q&A with Dujarric, by Al-Akhbar.
  But it's worse. Reuters initially (mis) reported that "'Two contractors have been detained and the Deputy Secretary-General (Jan Eliasson) is looking into it,' a U.N. spokesman said without elaborating or confirming if the two were American citizens."
  Then a day after that, Reuters blamed the UN for its correction to "'Two contractors have been detained and DSS (Department of Safety and Security) is looking into it,' said a U.N. spokesman."
  It would seem the UN spokesman, left unnamed by Reuters, said "DSS" and Reuters mis-heard it as "DSG," didn't note it would be strange for the UN's second highest official to be on two contractors when lower official Herve Ladsous is the one who made a call for 13 contractors in South Sudan.
 But Reuters, including the Thomson Reuters Foundation,running its correction, says "UN corrects source of information in second paragraph." So the UN made the mistake?
 This is the same Reuters which on Friday regurgitated a UN report which Inner City Press had reported and asked the UN about fully two weeks earlier, same Reuters which refused to make public its policies, and tries to censor its anti Press complaints to the UN, here. We'll have more on this. 

 We'll have more on this.
  Meanwhile the Houthis are denouncing UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad and his (mis) representation to the Security Council regarding what they agreed to. This has happened before and the goal seems to be delay to allow for more air strikes. There's work of mercenaries, in essence, including from Colombia in Aden, joining the troops from ICC-indicted Sudan.
 A new level of dysfunction was hit with the deployment in Aden of hundreds of troops from Sudan, putting ICC-indicted Omar al-Bashir on the same side as the US and UK. (Inner City Press is exclusively informed that "UN" envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is working on a similar Saudi deal with his native Mauritania, see below.)
  On September 10, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft if the UK had met with the Houthis and GPC in Muscat, without the UN Envoy present. Video here. 
  Meanwhile Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed says the same parties will now meet with him. Replay?

  On September 9, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, video heretranscript here

  On August 7 Inner City Press was informed that as Houthis and Saleh's GPC headed to Oman for consultations on August 8 and 9, the UN's replacement envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was not even initially invited. He had to beg to get included, which after sweating has been allowed, in the run-up to his briefing on August 12 to the Security Council.
 On August 12, Inner City Press asked Yemen Permanent Representative, outside the Council meeting, questions ranging from the destruction of schools and health care facilities in Sa'ada by Saudi airstrikes to when, according to him, the Houthis might be "driven" out of Sa'ana. Video here. He said in a few weeks - and added that the Oman talks were "not UN."
 So how then might the parties negotiate? UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was headed back to Riyadh. That seems to be his base, where he works from - and for? Watch this site.

   After publishing its multi-sourced story, Inner City Press on July 22 asked the UN's Associate Spokesperson about new APC and weapons in Aden, and if Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is on vacation. Video here. She replied that she would check - but did not revert with any response either way.
  So on July 23, amid reports that without Cheikh Ahmed or any UN presence talks were occurring about Yemen in Cairo, Inner City Pressasked, here.
  On June 25, Inner City Press asked new UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien three questions about Yemen: cholera, the destruction of ambulances in Sa'ada and about international staff. Video here.
  O'Brien replied that cholera is a risk; he had no information on WHO it was that destroyed the ambulances in Sa'ada (we can guess.) On international staff, which the UN evacuated earlier, he spoke of a rise from 17 to 70, with the goal of getting to 200. He would not say if they are anywhere in the country outside of Sana'a, citing security. But at least he spoke - the Free UN Coalition for Access thanked him.