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Pompeo calls for Yemen’s Houthi movement to be classed a foreign terror group

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(Last Updated On: January 11, 2021)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday the Department of State will notify Congress of his intent to designate Yemen’s Houthi movement, as a foreign terrorist organization.

“I also intend to designate three of Ansarallahs leaders, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs)”, he said in a statement.

According to the State Department, these designations will provide additional tools to confront terrorist activity and terrorism by Ansarallah, a deadly Iran-backed militia group in the Gulf region.

“The designations are intended to hold Ansarallah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping,” the statement read.

“The designations are also intended to advance efforts to achieve a peaceful, sovereign, and united Yemen that is both free from Iranian interference and at peace with its neighbors. Progress in addressing Yemen’s instability can only be made when those responsible for obstructing peace are held accountable for their actions,” the statement added.

The State Department said the United States recognizes concerns that these designations will have an impact on the humanitarian situation in Yemen but that they are planning to put in place measures to reduce the impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen.

“We have expressed our readiness to work with relevant officials at the United Nations, with international and non-governmental organizations, and other international donors to address these implications.”

The United States was the largest humanitarian donor to Yemen in 2020, providing $630 million in humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people.

American assistance has reached all corners of Yemen and has been used in critical program support for food, nutrition, hygiene, and for internally displaced people. The United States is also providing more than $18 million to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in Yemen.

The statement cited Pompeo as saying “we need not look further than the callous attack targeting the civilian airport in Aden on December 30, in which the Houthis struck the arrival terminal killing 27 individuals, including three staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, to see the destruction the Houthis continue to inflict upon civilians and civilian infrastructure.

“The Yemeni and Saudi governments as well as multiple experts have directly tied this attack to Ansarallah.”

If Ansarallah did not behave like a terrorist organization, we would not designate it as an FTO and SDGT, Pompeo stated.

“It has led a brutal campaign that has killed many people, continues to destabilize the region, and denies Yemenis a peaceful solution to the conflict in their country.

“Rather than distance itself from the Iranian regime, it has embraced the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism even more. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has supplied Ansarallah with missiles, drones, and training, allowing the group to target airports and other critical infrastructure.

He also said the US has worked through its partners in the region to urge Ansarallah to stop engaging in terrorist activities, including those involving attacks threatening civilian infrastructure in the region, as well as to cut off ties with IRGC officials and stop the practice of kidnapping, which has included the deaths and kidnappings of US nationals.

“The international community has collectively agreed through UN Security Council resolutions and in other fora that unilateral actions to take over the institutions of the legitimate Republic of Yemen Government are unacceptable and that a legitimate political transition – long sought by the Yemeni people – can be accomplished only through political negotiations,” he said.

“However, the political process has produced limited results over several years. This compels us to look for additional means by which to change the behavior of Ansarallah and its supporters in our search for peace and security in Yemen,” he added.

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

Twitter permanently banned an account believed to be linked to Iran’s supreme leader Friday after it posted a threatening image that included former President Donald Trump, NPR reported.

According to The Associated Press, the account, @khamenei_site, was linked to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s website and the same account had previously posted portions of Khamenei’s speeches and official content.

However, a Twitter spokesperson told the AP that the account was fake, without elaborating on how it determined that.

The image that resulted in the ban, Trump playing golf in the shadow of what appears to be an aircraft, is captioned “Revenge is certain,” written in Farsi.

The same image can be found on Khamenei’s English website. Below the picture is a quote from Khamenei from last month: “Soleimani’s murderers and those who ordered his murder must face revenge. … Both the murderers and those who ordered it should know that revenge may come at any time.”

Trump and other administration officials have said the US targeted Qassem Soleimani — a powerful Iranian general and a key strategist against the U.S. — who was killed in an airstrike last year.

Trump’s social media presence was all but silenced after he was accused of inciting violence at the US Capitol on January 6. As a result, both Twitter and Facebook moved to ban him permanently from their platforms.

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” a Twitter statement said.

Trump was also banned from the @POTUS account for the last days of his term and from his reelection campaign account.

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Ghani fires finance minister, appoints caretaker to the position

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday dismissed finance minister Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal from his post and approved a new acting minister, said the Administrative Office of the President (AOP) in a statement.

The AOP cited a number of reasons for this move including the delay in the collection of taxes, weak management, lack of commitment to good governance, not obeying Article 77 of the Constitution, violating Presidential decrees and directions, the lack of cooperation in an assessment of illegal appointments at the ministry and for trying to prevent the assessments, the statement read.

The AOP added that Ghani approved Mohammad Khalid Payenda as acting finance minister.

Arghandiwal was a close ally of Ghani during his election campaigns and was appointed as acting minister of finance in March last year. 

He received a vote of confidence from the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) in November last year.

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Biden to keep Khalilzad as peace envoy for now

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

Former president Donald Trump’s peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will retain his position, for now, three sources familiar with the matter told CNN. 

This move is not typical as traditionally an incoming administration replaces all politically appointed officials – especially those dealing with foreign policy issues. 

Khalilzad, a diplomatic veteran, has worked on the peace process for more than two years and has been the key official from Washington to meet with both the Afghan government and the Taliban as well as all other stakeholders and regional leaders. 

No further details were released and according to CNN the State Department did not comment when asked about Khalilzad staying on board. 

However, in a statement issued late Friday, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib that the United States intends to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement.”

He also said Washington would assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.

Sullivan also expressed America’s desire that all Afghan leaders embrace this “historic opportunity for peace and stability.”

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