World View: Saudis to Hezbollah: Yemen is None of Your Business

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Saudis to Hezbollah: Yemen is none of your business
  • United Nations is ‘deeply shocked’ at Europe’s failure to save migrants

Saudis to Hezbollah: Yemen is none of your business

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah giving televised speech in January
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah giving televised speech in January

As the conflicts in Syria and Yemen increase the bitterness between the two countries Iran and Saudi Arabia, the conflicts are also increasing the bitterness in Lebanon between the two factions allied with these countries, Hezbollah and the Future Movement, respectively.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, said late last month:

The real reason the Saudi-led coalition is [attacking Yemen] is that Saudi Arabia has failed. It has lost control over Yemen… and fears that Yemen now belongs to the people. The goal of the coalition is for Saudi Arabia to regain control over Yemen.

Ali Awad Asiri, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, said that Nasrallah “aimed to distort facts and mislead public opinion”:

The speech made by Hezbollah’s General Secretary Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah expressed the confusion experienced by the sides he represents [Iran], and contained a lot of slander and false allegations against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. […]

The same side [Iran] supporting Sayyed Nasrallah and directing the Houthis does not want good for Yemen and has been behind obstructing all agreements and pushing the security situation in the country toward escalation and deterioration.

We wish some sides would emulate the wisdom of the kingdom’s leaders.

Lebanon has been unable to elect a president for months because of the differences between the two major political factions, Hezbollah, which is linked to Iran, and Future Movement, which is linked to Saudi Arabia.

Hezbollah and Future Movement have tried to maintain a dialogue, and senior officials from both groups met on Tuesday in a round of talks to calm tensions. At the end of the session, they released a statement saying that the two parties discussed “continuing security measures in all Lebanese areas in order to immunize the domestic scene.”

By Wednesday it was pretty apparent that, if anything, the meeting had made things worse. On Wednesday, Hezbollah issued a statement saying that Iran cannot be compared to the “backward, ignorant and murderous” Saudi regime, and that Future Movement was supporting “genocide”:

Future Movement leaders and officials, over the past few years, have waged violent attacks against the Islamic Republic of Iran, unleashing a spate of false accusations and unfounded slander, in the service of foreign and Arab agendas. […]

The backward, ignorant, murderous regime that exports terrorists, extremists and aberrant radical ideas… cannot be fairly compared to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

That statement came after Asiri, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, told Hezbollah to mind their own business:

First of all, I have the right to respond to issues concerning my country and its leaders, especially when you listen to a language that has gone beyond the limits of reasoning.

Secondly, I do not see that Yemen is Hezbollah’s business. Hezbollah is in Lebanon, not in Yemen, which has its statesmen and privacy.

I see that Hezbollah’s intervention in Yemen and its support for the Houthis as reported by the media, and the usage of [Hezbollah’s] media in the ongoing war in Yemen, is unacceptable.

Nasrallah has called for major street protests in Lebanon in Beirut’s southern suburbs on Friday (17-Apr). Daily Star (Lebanon, 29-Mar) and Mideast Confidential and Daily Star (15-Apr) and Daily Star (15-Apr)

United Nations is ‘deeply shocked’ at Europe’s failure to save migrants

The day after 400 migrants drowned when their boat traveling from Libya to Italy capsized, Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed shock at Europe’s poor search and rescue program:

I was deeply shocked when hearing the news that another boat, an overcrowded boat capsized in the Mediterranean and where 400 people died. This only demonstrates how important it is to have a robust rescue-at-sea mechanism, in the central Mediterranean.

Unfortunately Mare Nostrum was never replaced by an equivalent capacity to rescue people, and at the same time the legal avenues for those who need protection to be able to come Europe.

Mare Nostrum (“Our Sea”) refers to the program set up by Italy in October 2013, when hundreds of migrants lost their lives in the Mediterranean attempting to reach Italy. For over a year, Italy ran a search and rescue program called “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea”) that saved the lives of thousands of migrants attempting to travel from Libya to Italy. This program required Italian naval vessels near the Libyan coast. Italy demanded that all of EU share the burden of saving migrants’ lives, and in November of last year, the program ended and an EU program called Triton replaced it. But Triton restricts its operations to only 30 miles off the Italian coast. Triton has been considered unsatisfactory because many more migrants are drowning, and the loss of 400 lives earlier this week may be the death knell for Triton in its current form.

However, there is a great deal of opposition to a full-scale search and rescue program, especially in Britain, arguing that such a program simply encourages more migrants to take the trip, since they can be fairly certain of being rescued if there is a problem.

This opposition received a boost this week from an interview with Graham Leese, who is a special advisor to the EU program that oversees Triton:

My understanding is that the facilitators [migrant traffickers] are often phoning up the Italian authorities in advance and saying that boats are on their way. They are not putting as much fuel in the boats as they usually do because they expect them to be picked up.

A lot of the migrants are interviewed afterwards, and this is what they say, and my professional contacts also say it. We have started to hear about it since Mare Nostrum was launched, when those on the Libyan side became aware that there were more boats being deployed to rescue people.

So the traffickers charge each migrant several thousand dollars, often a lifetime savings, to be put on a boat that is sure to sink, except that the traffickers then call Italian authorities, who send their own boats out to rescue the migrants. One wonders why the Italians can’t just pick up the migrants from Libya directly, and pocket the thousand dollar fee themselves.

The Mediterranean is the most dangerous of the four main sea routes used in the world by migrants and refugees. The four routes are:

  • Mediterranean Sea
  • The Bahamas and the Caribbean
  • The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden
  • The Bay of Bengal

With regard to the Mediterranean, UNHCR commissioner Guterres says:

I am here in Lebanon and we know that Syrians are more and more risking their lives to have access to European territories. But for all those in need of protection it is very important to increase the number of resettlement opportunities, humanitarian admission opportunities, to have a more flexible visa policy, to have enhanced family reunification programs, and again I repeat to have an effective mechanism to rescue people at sea in the central Mediterranean.

Ansa Med (Italy) and Telegraph (London)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Lebanon, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah, Syria, Yemen, Future Movement, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Ali Awad Asiri, Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, Mare Nostrum, Triton, Italy, Graham Leese
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