Russia Is Helping Iran Extend Its Influence in Yemen

March 14 2019

Tehran continues to deny its involvement in Yemen’s civil war, but there is no doubt it has become the main force behind the Houthi rebels, supplying them with materiel, military advisers, and perhaps manpower as well. And Moscow, much as it does in Syria, is aiding the Islamic Republic in these efforts. Micky Aharonson and Yossi Mansharof write:

Iranian activity [in Yemen] depends on cooperation with Russia, which protects [Iran] against unfavorable UN Security Council resolutions and enables [it] to continue exporting terrorism there [and] to extend its hold and influence in that country. Among other things, Russia makes it possible for Iran to foster the deadly terrorist attacks committed by the Houthis and their missile barrages aimed at Saudi Arabia, [which supports the government that the Houthis seek to overthrow].

After having been in contact with Russia a number of times since 2015, a Houthi delegation met with the Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov. The Houthis then declared that Russia should be involved in any settlement in Yemen. In 2018, the Houthis sent President Putin a letter calling on Russia to intervene in the war. Russia’s widely reported willingness to conduct a dialogue with the Houthis provides them with an international platform for voicing their demands. It also establishes Russia as an international patron of relevance to events in Yemen. . . .

To summarize, Yemen is another focus of instability in the Middle East. This instability, ostensibly a result of internal tensions, is exacerbated by external countries: both those in the region, like Iran, and more remote ones, like Russia. . . . One result of the cooperation [between the two] is the arming of groups that are inflicting horrendous damage on the people of Yemen. The result may be that the capabilities and interests of external players, such as Iran and Russia, in continuing their military and economic support for the parties in the conflict may be of more importance in determining its outcome than are the parties themselves.

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Iran, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Yemen

Despite What the UN Says, the Violence at the Gaza Border Is Military, Not Civilian, in Nature

March 22 2019

On Monday, a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry issued its final report on last spring’s disturbances at the Gaza border. Geoffrey Corn and Peter Margulies explain why the report is fatally flawed:

The commission framed the events [in Gaza] as a series of demonstrations that were “civilian in nature.” Israel and its Supreme Court, [which has investigated some of the killings that occurred], framed the same events quite differently: as a new evolution in Israel’s ongoing armed conflict with the terrorist organization Hamas. Consistency and common sense suggest that the Israeli High Court of Justice’s framing is a more rational explanation of what occurred at the Israel-Gaza border in spring 2018.

Kites, [for instance], played a telltale role [in the violence]. When most people think of kites, they think of a child’s plaything or a hobbyist’s harmless passion. In the Gaza confrontation, kites [became] a new and effective, albeit low-tech, tactic for attacking Israel. As the report conceded, senior Gaza leaders, including from Hamas, “encouraged” the unleashing of waves of incendiary kites that during and since the spring 2018 confrontations have burned thousands of acres of arable land within Israel. The resulting destruction included fires that damaged the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which conveys goods and gasoline from Israel to Gaza. . . .

Moreover, the incendiary-kite offensive was an effective diversion from the efforts encouraged and coordinated by Hamas last spring to pierce the border with Israel and attack both IDF personnel and the civilian residents of the beleaguered Israeli towns a short distance from the border fence. . . .

The commission also failed to acknowledge that Hamas sought to use civilians as an operational cover to move members of its armed wing into position along the fence. For IDF commanders, this increased the importance of preventing a breach [in the fence]. Large crowds directly along the fence would simplify breakthrough attempts by intermingled Hamas and other belligerent operatives. The crowds themselves also could attempt to pour through any breach. Unfortunately, the commission seems to have completely omitted any credible assessment of the potential casualties on all sides that would have resulted from IDF action to seal a breach once it was achieved. . . .

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Read more at Lawfare

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Laws of war, UNHRC, United Nations