While the entire world follows breathlessly the battles between Kurdish forces and the Islamic State in Kobani, the Syrian city on the border between Turkey and Syria, Iran is slowly completing an impressive takeover of Yemen.
On Tuesday, Houthi separatists took control of the strategic Yemeni port city of Hodeida, west of the capital, Sana’a. They captured the airport to the south of the city on the same day. This came after the September 21 Houthi takeover of Sana’a itself.
The Houthi, Zaidi Shi’a (one of the Shi’a sects), have enjoyed the close support in recent years of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and its al-Quds Brigades, responsible for foreign theaters.
This should arouse worry in Israel. Yemen, due to its strategic location, commands what for Israel is a strategic waterway — the exit from the Rea Sea to the Indian Ocean, also known as Bab al-Mandab. The presence of Revolutionary Guards forces on such a critical shipping lane for the Israeli economy, facilitating access not only to the Indian Ocean but also to targets like Iran itself, could present significant problems for Israeli ships passing through. At the beginning of the 1970s, Palestinian terror groups attacked Israeli ships that passed through Bab al-Mandab. It is possible that the Iranians will try to use the same tactics with the Houthis.
But beyond the Israeli angle, developments in Yemen in recent weeks, and indeed since the beginning of the Arab Spring there, are a classic example of the shifting sands in the Middle East.
In November 2011, Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh quit after 33 years. He was one of the longest-serving leaders in the Middle East, similar to Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. They were the same age, and the lynch that killed Qaddafi in 2011 was, it seems, one of the factors that led to Saleh stepping down on his own accord. In his place, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi was appointed president.
But for the Houthi, this personal change was not enough. They wanted a bigger slice of the government pie, and, likely with Iranian encouragement, they sought to take over the country, as they are still attempting to do now. In recent months, the Houthi have recorded significant military achievements, the most important being the capture of Sana’a.
It is uncertain where Yemen is heading. What is clear, however, is that in the shadow of attacks and massacres from the Islamic State, the Shi’ite axis headed by Iran is not resting for a moment. During the Houthi demonstrations, passwords appeared that sounded like they were taken directly from the Iranian Islamic Revolution’s phrasebook: “Death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews.”
The Palestinians have been under intense pressure not to push forward with the resolution — including with alleged threats of cuts in US aid — but Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary General Yasser Abed Rabbo said a decision was made late Wednesday to push ahead.
“The political council of the PLO decided during its meeting last night… to go to the UN Security Council with the aim of getting a resolution passed to end the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories… by the end of this month,” he said.
Voting could take place “two weeks or more after the request is presented,” Abed Rabbo told a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “There is no excuse for a delay.”
Sermon Fight In U.S. City
A lawsuit over that apparent defiance of the law followed, and the city responded with a legal demand to obtain copies of sermons of pastors who were not even part of the lawsuit.
It was on that blog where members of the public were encouraged to participate in social media efforts to “let the city of Houston know that this is a problem.”
“These sermons, emails and texts have nothing to do with whether the coalition gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot,” he told the newspaper.
“The shame that the city of Houston has brought upon itself is real, but the claim that it has changed course is not. The city has so far taken no concrete action to withdraw the subpoenas. Furthermore, the subpoenas themselves are the problem – not just their request for pastors’ sermons,” she said.
“The city is not off the hook from its illegitimate request for emails, text messages, and other communications in which these pastors, who are not even party to this lawsuit, may have disagreed with the mayor. The way to fix this is to withdraw the subpoenas entirely. Otherwise, the city’s and the mayor’s overtures are simply more window-dressing intended to shield them from public scrutiny.”
Christian-Right Lumped With ISIS, Boko Haram
A human rights foundation that lists “homophobia and transphobia” as its first concern has released a “Manifesto for Secularism” that labels the “Christian-Right” as an example of a community based on “ethnicity, religion and culture” – alongside the violent Islamic jihadist groups ISIS and Boko Haram.
The Christians have been advocating for their right to exercise their faith, including opposition to homosexual behavior and abortion, while ISIS has been slaughtering Christians and others in Iraq and Boko Haram has been slaughtering mostly Christians in North Africa.
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