Yemeni FM to Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthis Exploit Red Sea Security for Propaganda Purposes

Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak (Saba News Agency)
Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak (Saba News Agency)

Yemeni FM to Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthis Exploit Red Sea Security for Propaganda Purposes

Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak (Saba News Agency)
Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak (Saba News Agency)

Yemen’s Houthis are exploiting the security of the Red Sea for internal propaganda purposes, warned Foreign Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak, emphasizing that the group’s actions have no connection to supporting Palestinians.

Mubarak, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, reaffirmed the Yemeni government’s commitment to continue engaging in Saudi-led peace efforts.

Despite Houthi mobilization and escalation on all fronts, he stated that the government remains committed to de-escalation and ceasefire.

A French frigate recently shot down two drones over the Red Sea that were believed to be approaching from the coast of Yemen.

“The interception and destruction of these two identified threats” were carried out late on Saturday by the frigate Languedoc, which operates in the Red Sea, the French military said in a press release on Sunday.

With this development, Paris joins US and British forces in attempting to counter Houthi threats without engaging in open confrontation with the group.

On his part, Mubarak underscored the condemnation by Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) of the Houthi militias’ use of the Red Sea security for the sake of domestic media propaganda.

He clarified that the reality of these actions has no connection to supporting Palestinians.

Simultaneously, the top Yemeni diplomat expressed the solidarity of the Yemeni government and people with the Palestinian cause, condemning the brutal Israeli aggression in Gaza and the West Bank.

Mubarak called for an immediate ceasefire and punishment of the Israeli occupation for the crimes, violations, and atrocities committed in Palestine.

The US accuses Iran of fully backing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and Gulf of Aden—a stance deemed “unacceptable” by the US State Department.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan asserted that there is every reason to believe that despite the Houthi involvement, these attacks were fully enabled by Iran.

Observers note that the Houthis, seizing on the Gaza conflict, exploit it as an opportunity to divert attention from its internal crises, disrupt peace efforts, and attempt to whitewash its crimes against Yemenis.

The group has recently escalated its threats, extending beyond Israeli-linked vessels to target international ships in the Red and Arabian Seas. This move marks a shift from previous warnings limited to ships with ties to Israel.

A spokesperson for the US State Department recently told Asharq Al-Awsat that the ongoing Houthi militant attacks on commercial ships in the southern Red Sea flagrantly violate international law and pose a significant threat to global trade, as well as regional stability.

Addressing peace efforts and their latest developments, Mubarak clarified that the Yemeni government’s peace vision centers on addressing the core of the conflict, not just its aftermath.

The minister emphasized commitment to the three agreed-upon references: the Gulf Initiative and its implementation mechanism, the outcomes of the Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference, and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, especially Resolution 2216.

Regarding his recent meeting with US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking, Mubarak noted that they reviewed “developments related to the political process aimed at ending the war and bringing peace to Yemen.”

The minister also reiterated support for the efforts of the PLC and the Saudi-led Arab Coalition, as well as the initiatives led by Lenderking.

“The Yemeni government is fully engaged in peace efforts, committed to de-escalation and ceasefire, despite the mobilization and escalation led by the Houthi militia on all fronts of the conflict,” said Mubarak.

When asked about developments in Lenderking’s recent visit to the region, Mubarak confirmed discussions zeroed on Yemen’s situation and the latest developments in Saudi mediation efforts, emphasizing a commitment to a genuine political process for lasting, comprehensive peace based on national, regional, and international references.

“The US envoy affirmed the welcoming and supportive stance of the US administration towards the efforts of Saudi Arabia in achieving a lasting peace agreement in Yemen,” clarified Mubarak.

He underscored the importance of leveraging available opportunities to advance conflict resolution, prevent a return to hostilities, and mitigate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Discussions also centered on US efforts and coordination with nations supporting the principle of free navigation for secure global shipping.

Mubarak emphasized the need to ensure the flow of goods and international trade in the Red Sea.

Recently, Washington imposed sanctions on 13 individuals and entities responsible for facilitating the transfer of tens of millions of dollars from the sale of Iranian goods to support Houthi terrorist militias, aided by Iran’s Quds Force, the foreign arm of the Revolutionary Guard.

Fakhri Karim: I Conveyed Talabani’s Advice to Assad on Terrorists

Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Fakhri Karim: I Conveyed Talabani’s Advice to Assad on Terrorists

Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Fakhri Karim (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The late Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, excelled at delivering messages subtly. In private meetings, he spoke more freely than in public statements or interviews. His chief advisor, Fakhri Karim, often joined these discussions.

Luncheons were lavish, showing Talabani's respect for different opinions, though he rarely followed doctors’ advice.

Talabani believed that Iranian leaders were smart and hoped they wouldn’t try to control Baghdad from Tehran, citing the failed attempt to manage Beirut from Damascus.

He noted that Iraq’s independent spirit makes it hard for the country to follow the US, Iran, or Türkiye. Talabani also admitted giving refuge to 80 Iraqi officers who had fought against Iran, after they were targeted by certain groups.

Talabani praised Syria’s late President Hafez al-Assad for his invaluable support, providing accommodation and passports.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Karim revealed he had warned President Bashar al-Assad, on behalf of Talabani, that militants allowed into Iraq to fight US forces might later turn against Syria.

This, Karim noted, did happen.

After the Israeli invasion of Beirut in 1982, Karim relocated to Damascus. There, he expanded his Al-Mada organization, focusing on publishing, translation, and organizing book fairs, alongside his political activities.

This allowed him to build relationships with top civilian and military officials.

In 2000, after Bashar al-Assad came to power, he met with Karim.

“I felt Assad was eager to listen, especially given my connections with many intellectuals,” recalled Karim.

“I told him dissenting voices exist but are mostly positive. You talk about modernization and renewal; this is a chance for some openness, even in elections,” Karim said he told Assad.

“Do you think anyone could really compete with you, given your position as the Baath Party's leader with all its resources?” Karim questioned.

Karim then discussed the situation of Syrian Kurds with Assad, noting that many lack identification papers, even basic travel documents. He also mentioned seeing historic Kurdish areas in the Khabur region with their names changed to Arabic, which causes sensitivities.

“I am not satisfied with this situation. Rest assured, this issue is on my agenda, and you will hear positive news about it,” Karim cited Assad as saying at the time.

In a later meeting, after the change in Iraq, Karim met Assad several times.

On one occasion, Karim recalls conveying Talabani’s greetings and concerns about armed fighters moving into Iraq and the dangers this posed to both Iraq and possibly Syria.

“We have deployed large forces to secure the borders, but what can we do? There are tribes and smugglers,” Assad complained about the situation.

“I told President Assad that as Fakhri Karim, I couldn’t share with the Americans what I know. I assured him that terrorists enter Iraq from a specific location I’m familiar with, not from all borders,” Karim recounted to Asharq Al-Awsat.

“I also noted that Syria tightly controls its airspace, shooting down any foreign aircraft,” he added.

Assad then responded to Karim and said: “We’re prepared, let us know what we can do.”

In reality, Damascus was worried because there were reports suggesting that Syria’s Baath regime could be the next target for the US army at its borders. Additionally, Damascus was concerned about the sectarian divisions—Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish—in dealing with Iraq and the potential impact on Syria.

Repairing Kurdish Relations

Karim has spent years working on repairing the relationship between Kurdish leaders Talabani and Masoud Barzani.

This history began with the split that gave rise to the ‘Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’ from the ‘Kurdistan Democratic Party.’

Despite bloody conflicts and external meddling, Karim believes Kurdish leaders unify in the face of danger to their people and region, a pattern he expects to continue.

Karim believes that the Kurdish leadership, symbolized by Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, made a big mistake at the beginning by focusing only on regional issues, ignoring Baghdad’s affairs.

He thinks they should have aimed for a federal democratic system that respects citizenship rights.

Karim pointed out that without a unified Iraq, the region’s rights would be uncertain. He also criticized the Shiite-Kurdish alliance, which he sees as odd.

Additionally, he mentioned mistakes in failing to unify regional institutions and increasing corruption, with party interests often trumping competence in appointments.

Asked about the personal bond between Talabani and Barzani, Karim said: “Both have moved past their tough history, but they haven’t done enough for the future.”

“I want to highlight an act by Barzani that shows his character. When Talabani was sick, Barzani made it clear to anyone thinking of harming Talabani or his family that there would be consequences,” he revealed.

“This isn’t hearsay, it’s firsthand,” affirmed Karim.

“Barzani also refused to discuss the presidency or a successor during Talabani’s illness. I personally organized a gathering for Talabani’s family, where Barzani reassured them, ‘I’m here for you, I’m family.’ His words moved everyone, showing a strong emotional connection,” he added.

When asked about Barzani’s character, Karim said: “He's been a long-time friend, and our relationship has been politically aligned and personally warm from the start.”

“I see him as a loyal friend, and he's shown that loyalty on multiple occasions. He’s smart, decisive, and listens carefully, often changing his mind after thorough consideration,” he noted.

“Once Barzani commits to something, he finds it hard to go back on his word. There was a moment during negotiations with Saddam Hussein when he stood firm despite my advice to reconsider,” recalled Karim.

Regarding the aftermath of the independence referendum, Karim believes that the negative turn in the political landscape began during Nouri al-Maliki’s tenure.

Al-Maliki’s attempts to shift alliances and his refusal to compromise exacerbated tensions.

The referendum itself wasn’t the problem; rather, it was exploited by some to punish the Kurdistan Region.

However, Karim emphasized that holding referendums is a citizen’s right, and the purpose of the Kurdistan referendum was to affirm this right, not to declare independence.