Thursday, October 6, 2016

On Yemen, New US Travel Warning Cites UAE Vessel, UN Told Inner City Press Not "Humanitarian"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS,  October 6 -- After a UAE warship was hit - and sunk - off the Yemeni coast near Mocha, Inner City Press on October 3 asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq for a comment, and if the UN knows if it was a warship or as claimed an aid ship.  See October 6 US travel warning, below.
On October 4 Haq returned with, "it doesn't sound as if it was on a humanitarian mission." Vine video here.

But eight hours later, the UN Security Council issued a condemnation of the attack on this UAE "vessel," full text below.
So on October 5, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Haq again, if what he said about the UAE ship not being on a humanitarian mission still stands.  He said, "Yes," and "that was the information I had." Vine video here. But the UN Secretariat has not given any update, much less correction. So what precedent does this Security Council Press Statement create?
Now on October 6 the US has issued this travel warning, including on the ship:
"The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Yemen because of the high security threat level posed by ongoing conflict and terrorist activities.  The Department of State is updating this Travel Warning to reflect concerns regarding detentions of U.S. citizens by armed groups in Sanaa.  The Department continues to urge U.S. citizens to defer any and all travel to Yemen. We urge U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart when they are able to safely do so. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on June 28, 2016.

Since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015, rebel groups in Sanaa have systematically detained U.S. citizens.  Reports indicate that U.S. citizens are being targeted by virtue of their citizenship, regardless of the amount of time they have spent in Yemen, their established connections with the rebel groups, or their connections with local businesses or humanitarian organizations aimed at providing relief to those in need...
 In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition initiated an air campaign in support of the exiled Yemeni government. A nationwide cessation of hostilities deteriorated in August 2016, and high levels of violence, to include armed conflict, artillery shelling, and air strikes, now persist in areas throughout the country.  There are also reports of land mines being placed in areas vacated by withdrawing forces. The military conflict has also significantly damaged infrastructure, limiting the availability of electricity, clean water, and medical care, and causing travel by internal roads to be dangerous....

Vessels in the region of the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden should operate under a heightened state of alert as increasing tensions in the region escalate the potential for direct or collateral damage to vessels transiting the region.  These threats may come from a variety of different sources such as missiles, projectiles or waterborne improvised explosive devices.  Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for an October 1, 2016, attack on a UAE vessel. "

  What KIND of vessel?
From the UN's October 3 transcript:

Inner City Press:  on Yemen, I wanted to know if the UN system has any comment or knowledge of this reported sinking of a UAE (United Arab Emirates) warship.  Some are saying it was an aid convoy.  The Houthis' side is saying it was a warship enforcing a blockade on them.  Since it's a pretty high-profile incident that has the potential to result in reprisals, what's the UN's understanding of what the ship was?  Was it an aid ship, or was it part of the military operations of the Saudi-led coalition?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we're aware of the latest reports, but we'll need to get some further information about the nature of this vessel before we make any particular comment.

Question:  Given the UN's role in the humanitarian operation in Yemen, do countries like the UAE coordinate with UN if they're, as they say, moving medical supplies from one place to another, or is it just, everyone goes it alone?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as you know, we do have a verification and inspection mechanism that's designed to help expedite the process by which aid gets into Yemen, and so we do expect that countries will use that mechanism.   On Yemen, Inner City Press on October 4 asked UK Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft how his country reviews its arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other members of the Saudi-led Coalition that has been bombing Sanaa, Saada and elsewhere. Beyond the Vine video here, UK transcript here: 
Inner City Press: Q: On Yemen, what’s the process for the UK to review its sale of weapons to the Saudi-led coalition? That seems to be an issue. What would it take to stop that flow?
Amb Rycroft: The UK has a very clear set of arms control policies in place, and they are of a very high standard indeed, and we use those to make sure that we are satisfied with any arm sales to anywhere around the world, including in relation to Yemen.
Inner City Press: But the airstrikes on MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres), did that trigger some sort of second review?
Amb Rycroft: Well, we continue to look at all of our policies in relation to Yemen. We provide political support to the Saudi-led coalition, we are not members of the coalition, and whenever there is any one of these incidents, or allegations of incidents, then we are the first to call on the Saudis themselves to be following up and investigating.
  Rycroft began with this, about the Human Rights Council session and resolution:
Amb Rycroft: on Yemen I just wanted to reassure you that the UK did not block a text from the Human Rights Council in Geneva last week calling for an investigation. In fact, the UK worked very hard to get as strong a text as possible, and we got consensus. And we’re very glad that it was agreed by consensus. 
  But it was weak.
The UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon's bungling of Yemen mediation has become ever more clear, according to multiple sources and documents exclusively seen by Inner City Press, see below.  And see this Vine, & this.
 On October 3 Inner City Press asked Vitaly Churkin of Russia, president of the Security Council for October, about the sinking of the UAE ship. He said there is a draft Press Statement pending but there's a need to check more. He added that the UN is a cynical place, "in some places they want to whip it up, in other places they want to hush it up." 
Churkin noted Russia abstained on the last resolution - and said that the UK blocked an investigation because they sold $6 billion in weapons, the US is involved too.
  (Churkin also said it is Eastern Europe's turn to be Secretary General, and that Russia does want more posts -- Inner City Press said DPA -- and that there will be a meeting on Western Sahara on October 18, and on Burundi at some still undefined date.)
 On October 4 Inner City Press asked Churkin again about Yemen and he said the draft statement was in the works. And now?
  While awaiting more, we note that Bernardino Leon while working ostensibly for the UN on Libya negotiated a job with a UAE diplomatic institute. That was just another piece of UN for sale under Ban Ki-moon. But now it may be time for Bernardino Leon to work for that money. Watch this site.
On September 23, Inner City Press went up to document Ban Ki-moon's meeting with Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The latter walked slowly in to the room for the ceremonial handshake and book signing. Ban Ki-moon appeared to position Hadi (more than one reader called Hadi puppet). Hadi in turn in term spread out his hands. Photos here andhere.  Beyond the Vine video here.  
Amid airstrikes on Yemen, Saudi Arabia this week at the UN has sponsored a garish multimedia display, workshops and culminating event with Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General who let the Saudi-led Coalition off the Children and Armed Conflict annex.
   In the UN's 1B basement by the Vienna Cafe, a long TV screen has shown footage of palm trees and journalists, holograms testifying to a hallway draped in a large carpet. Inner City Press arrived at 4 pm for what was to be Ban Ki-moon's get-down, or most recent get-down, with the Saudis. 
Ban Ki-moon arrived at 4:30 pm and was led by the arm around the exhibit, Inner City Press Vine video here. He was taken to a table and put on virtual reality goggles, presumably without cluster bombs or Yemeni children shown. Periscope video here.
Interviews were conducted; Inner City Press rushed up to the UN's fourth floor, but the full-floor event was being taken down. Ban's next appearance would be that evening, for South Korea where he hopes to be President. Watch this site. 
Now it seems Ban Ki-moon's UN is equally out of it, perhaps more intentionally so. Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric on September 30 of the much weakened UN Human Rights Council resolution which rather than setting up a panel merely attaches some UN to Yemen's whitewash. I haven't seen the details, Dujarric said. Vine here.
He added that Ban's envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed is headed to... Saudi Arabia. We'll have more on this.