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culture of Yemen
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Watch video about yemen escortAmran Check Point , Yemen 2009
Iranian navy plans to escort a cargo ship bound for the Yemeni port of Hodaida, which is controlled by Houthi fighters, Iranian news agency IRNA reported on Tuesday quoting a naval commander.
The Iran Shahed cargo ship, owned by Tehran-based Valfajr Shipping, is said to be carrying humanitarian aid to the country’s population in dire need of food and supplies.
Only emergency food and medical aid vessels are allowed entry and even then only after being searched.
The intention behind the decision is to stop shipments that could assist the Houthi led forces in their conflict with the government forces.
As a result, the Iran-flagged Iran Shahed that headed for the port on Monday, faces interception and inspection by Saudi-led coalition forces as well.
The fleet in question is comprised of a destroyer and support vessel patrolling international waters off Yemen.
The two conflicting sides in Yemen agreed on a five-day ceasefire to allow food and medicine into the country.
Yemen imports 90% of its foodstuffs, making it particularly vulnerable to naval siege tactics.
World Maritime News Staff
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BEIRUT—Yemen’s leaders are pushing the United States to increase its military aid roughly 40-fold for their country to fight al Qaeda — but Yemen isn’t just relying on aid to generate cash from the international security threats burgeoning on its lands and seas.
For more than a year, Yemen’s financially pragmatic civilian and military officials have been contracting with at least one maritime-security broker to hire out commissioned Yemeni warships and active-duty and armed Yemeni coast guard and navy sailors as private escorts for merchant ships and oil tankers crossing the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden. The cost for Yemen’s escort service: up to ,000 per ship, per trip.
The broker’s website offers testimonials from satisfied sea captains. The Yemeni sailors were "always on high alert, followed all crew officers’ instructions," one happy customer noted.
Although the Yemeni sailors follow the orders of a ship’s captain when aboard a private vessel, said Khaled Tariq, Lotus Maritime’s spokesman, they follow Yemen’s rules of engagement in any contact with pirates.
That sets up possible conflicts of private and public interests not encountered by countries that do not rent out their militaries, naval experts said. In one encounter, according to Lotus’s website, the hired Yemeni service members fired shots at suspected pirates, raising the question of whether they did so with the full protection of a sovereign state, or as private individuals.
Christian LeMiere, an analyst at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, said he could not think of any other current instance of a government hiring out its warships or active-duty sailors to private customers for a fee.
The entrepreneurial activities of Yemen — a country where the security services and active military officers hold a great deal of political clout and allegedly control much of the country’s economy, both legal and otherwise — with its own navy shows "one of the vagaries of foreign military assistance," LeMiere said. "You can give them as much equipment as you like, but you can’t necessarily tell them where to direct it."
The Gulf of Aden, which lies between Yemen and Somalia, is one of the world’s main shipping lanes, navigated annually by 20,000 oil tankers and cargo vessels. Somali pirates in 2008 made it the world’s most dangerous place for hijackings. Since that year, the United States, the European Union, NATO countries, China, India, and others have created or strengthened anti-piracy task forces for the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Dozens of warships of different countries now patrol there daily, guarding international shipping.
The attacks persist despite the intensified multinational patrols. Somali pirates have carried out more than 100 attacks so far in 2010 and still hold more than 400 hostages from ship hijackings for ransom, the International Maritime Bureau says. The use of armed guards aboard private ships itself remains controversial, with opponents arguing the guards’ presence serves to drive up the overall violence of the pirate attacks.
Given those worries, the United States, Britain, and others over the past decade, and especially this year, have invested millions of dollars in aid, training, and equipment to try to build up the Yemeni coast guard’s ability to protect its own shores. The aid includes seven patrol craft that the United States donated to Yemen in 2004. (Yemen bought the Austal vessels noted on the security companies’ websites from an Australian company in 2005.)
The United States is also greatly increasing training, intelligence cooperation, and donations of funding and gear for Yemen’s special operations forces to help them combat al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, as the group’s Yemen branch is known.
Opposition activists in Yemen, as well as arms dealers there, said in interviews they are certain that the more than 30-year-old regime of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is fighting insurgencies in both Yemen’s north and south, will put the donated war materiel to use against his own people. In response, U.S. officials said they have greatly increased efforts to track the end use of donated U.S. military aid to Yemen.
Few officials from either country appear willing to discuss Yemen’s navy-for-hire program, however. Spokesmen for the U.S. 5th Fleet and for the Combined Maritime Forces, the international coalition formed in response to the Somali pirates, both refused comment in phone calls, referring questions to the Yemeni navy and coast guard. Calls last week to Yemen’s Ministry of Defense, which runs the country’s navy, went unanswered. Officials for Yemen’s Ministry of Interior, which runs the coast guard, said no one was available to comment.
Speaking by phone from Yemen, Tariq, the legal advisor for Lotus Maritime, said that Yemen started the for-fee service only in response to demand from shippers for extra, personalized protection going through the Gulf of Aden.
Yemeni authorities feared bringing hard-to-control "Blackwater type" contractors to Yemen if they authorized private security companies to do the work in the country’s waters, Tariq said. So they decided to assign the for-pay escorts to Yemen’s military instead, he said.
Tariq said Yemen’s navy and coast guard agree to the escorts only if they already have patrols planned in the areas where shippers are asking for the guards. The navy and coast guard turn down "more than half" of the escort requests that his company forwards from shippers because the duties of Yemen’s national defense require them elsewhere, he said.
Government officials in Yemen ”will not risk jeopardizing their relationship with supporting countries just for this,” Tariq insisted, in a reference to any qualms the United States and other donor countries might have.
But nothing is ever straightforward for donors dealing with Yemen.
Yemen is by far the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula — for instance, its rate of childhood stunting, caused by malnutrition, is the third highest in the world, below that of most countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Saleh allows active Yemeni military officers and others in a consortium called the Yemen Economic Corporation (YECO) to take sometimes substantial financial interests in private businesses ranging from the mills that grind the majority of Yemen’s flour to Tourist City, an enclave in the capital city of Sanaa where foreigners can find alcohol and young African prostitutes. In between, YECO holds stakes in Yemen’s construction, manufacturing, food supply, and other industries.
Allegedly, not all Yemeni military enterprises are aboveboard.
The United States has doubled military aid to Yemen to 0 million for this year. The Pentagon wants to give the country more than 0 million in military aid next year, part of a planned .2 billion military-aid package over the next several years.
Yemen has an extra incentive to think big when it comes to aid. It funds its budget — at least a third of which is devoted to defense and security services — through oil, which is due to run out later this decade. Faced with a choice of aid or economic collapse, Yemeni leaders arguably could be pressed into accepting military, economic, and political reform.
Don’t count on that, warns Nicolas Gvosdev, a national-security studies professor at the U.S. Naval War College. "If they decide to stop cooperating" against al Qaeda, pirates, and other regional security threats, "we don’t have a Plan B," Gvosdev said. "We don’t really want to go on shore for Yemen."
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