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Yemen southern provinces reject separatists’ claim to self-rule

Authorities in five southern provinces in Yemen have rejected a separatist group’s claim to self-rule, further heightening tensions among ostensible allies in the Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi rebels elsewhere in the country. The separatists’ Southern Transitional Council (STC), which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, scrapped a peace deal with the Saudi-backed government of…

Authorities in five southern provinces in Yemen have rejected a separatist group’s claim to self-rule, further heightening tensions among ostensible allies in the Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi rebels elsewhere in the country.
The separatists’ Southern Transitional Council (STC), which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, scrapped a peace deal with the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and declared a state of emergency overnight.
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Timeline: History of separatism in southern Yemen

Yemen: Who is the Southern Transitional Council?

Separatist group announces self-rule in southern Yemen

The separatists said they would “self-govern” the key southern port city of Aden and other southern provinces, accusing the government of corruption and mismanagement.
The STC seeks the return of the independent state that existed in the south until 1990.
Yemen’s internationally recognised government rejected the STC’s self-governance, and described the move as a continuation of the armed rebellion that started last August.
The government said local and security authorities in the provinces of Hadramout, Abyan, Shabwa, al-Mahra and the remote island of Socotra dismissed the move as a “clear and definite coup”.

Separatist group announces self-rule in southern Yemen

Some of the provinces issued their own statements condemning it.
The authority to declare an emergency lies with the president only, and militias cannot replace state institutions, Shabwa security forces said in a written statement.
The administration of Hadramout, the biggest province in the south, said the STC’s announcement is “a violation of legitimacy and the Riyadh Agreement”, referring to a 2019 power-sharing deal between the separatists and the Yemeni government.
Abyan and Socotra administrations called for loyalty to the president, while the local authorities of al-Mahra province said the STC’s step aimed to deepen the crisis already existing in the country.
The STC did not immediately comment on the statements from the five provinces.
Saudis ‘caught in the middle’
In August, STC-aligned forces seized control of Aden, the temporary seat of Hadi’s government. The STC and the Yemeni government later agreed on a power-sharing deal. Brokered by Saudi Arabia, the agreement included arrangements for a government reshuffle and for military and security forces to be incorporated into the defence and interior ministries, although it has not been fully implemented.
Peter Salisbury, a Yemen expert at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank, said tensions between Hadi’s government and the separatists have been rising for months.
He said both sides have exchanged accusations of noncompliance with the peace deal, and were building up forces with intent to resume infighting.
He said Saudi Arabia, which brokered the power-sharing deal and had been overseeing its implementation, was expected to intervene.
“Each side wants the Saudis to support its narrative and Riyadh is really caught in the middle right now,” Salisbury said.

Will Yemen be divided into two countries again?

Catherine Shakdam, head of the Yemen department at the London-based Next Century Foundation, a peacebuilding think tank, told Al Jazeera that the main issue for Saudi Arabia has to do with the fact that it has backed the Hadi government.
“Hadi has lost whatever legitimacy he may have had at some point. We need to remember that the only legitimacy that he had was, in fact, given by the international community,” Shakdam said.
“There was an understanding that if he wasn’t supported by the international community, then de facto sovereignty would fall onto the Houthi movement,” she added.
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Houthis took control of the country’s north, including the capital, Sanaa, and drove Hadi from power.
A Saudi-led military coalition intervened against the rebels in an attempt to restore the government the following year.
The conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical shortages.
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Southern District of New York probes restricted ‘October surprise’ rules

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has a reputation for targeting conservative and Republican political figures, but a review of federal cases by The Washington Times revealed that plenty of Democratic players also feel the sting of the office’s aggressive prosecutions. The office, which handles some of the highest-profile cases,…

Southern District of New York probes restricted ‘October surprise’ rules

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has a reputation for targeting conservative and Republican political figures, but a review of federal cases by The Washington Times revealed that plenty of Democratic players also feel the sting of the office’s aggressive prosecutions.

The office, which handles some of the highest-profile cases, can’t deny that it has repeatedly tried to put the pinch on President Trump’s entourage.

Over three years, prosecutors oversaw multiple investigations into Mr. Trump’s inner circle. They scorerd a guilty plea from his longtime fixer Michael Cohen and lodged indictments against two associates of his personal attorney, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and, separately, former White House adviser Steve Bannon.

Two probes, including one into the business dealings of Mr. Giuliani, are reportedly still active.

Prosecutors have ensnared even minor figures in the Trump orbit. Last year, SDNY attorneys lodged an indictment against Chicago bank executive Stephen Calk, a member of the Trump campaign’s economic advisory team in 2016.

The investigations have rankled Mr. Trump and his supporters, who fume that Democrats aren’t receiving equal scrutiny.

Mike Davis, a former attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee and founder of the conservative Article III Project, ticked off a litany of Democrats who seemingly got a pass when they faced allegations of wrongdoing.

“With all of these other groups like David Brock’s Media Matters, the Clinton Foundation cash machine, Black Lives Matter and Antifa, it’s just amazing to me that these federal prosecutors only seem to find wrongdoing on the right,” he said.

While those major left-leaning entities haven’t been snared in SDNY’s net, the prosecutors won convictions against at least six Democratic political figures in the past five years.

Those taken down included New York Assembly Speaker ex-Sheldon Silver, who was considered the second most powerful politician in New York behind Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former Rep. Anthony Weiner and anti-Trump celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti.

Roland Riopelle said the office, where he worked as a prosecutor for several years, has earned a reputation for independence.

“I think that office has a huge commitment to avoiding the appearance of political influence. Sheldon Silver is a good example,” he said. “There is no consideration of what would be the political fallout from any prosecution.”

The office historically has operated almost independently from the Justice Department. That lack of oversight earned it the nickname “the Sovereign District of New York,” a moniker used both derisively and as a badge of honor.

SDNY’s litigation sometimes gets confused amid the barrage of New York legal action aimed at entities and people in the Trump orbit.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit accusing the National Rifle Association of a slew of financial wrongdoing and seeking its dissolution. In 2016, the gun rights group spent $50 million to elect Mr. Trump and other Republicans.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, also not a federal prosecutor, issued a subpoena seeking financial documents and tax records from Mr. Trump and his real estate business, the Trump Organization. He scored a win last month when the Supreme Court upheld the subpoena’s validity.

Any of the investigations could upend the presidential race or create an October surprise.

However, time is running short on the federal SDNY probes. Under Justice Department regulations, federal prosecutors cannot bring charges against a political candidate or influence “electoral matters” 60 days before an election.

That would give the SDNY about two weeks to pull the trigger on any investigations or wait until after Election Day. Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, could override the federal guideline against “October surprise” indictments.

The investigations fall within the jurisdiction of local and federal prosecutors in New York because that is where Mr. Trump has resided and where the Trump Organization has headquarters.

An impressive list of alumni rose through the SDNY’s ranks to have national successes on both sides of the political aisle. Two Supreme Court justices, Felix Frankfurter, a Democratic appointee, and John Marshall Harlan, a Republican appointee, got their start prosecuting cases for the Southern District.

Two political rivals, Mr. Giuliani and former FBI Director James B. Comey, worked together at the SDNY.

Mr. Giuliani hired Mr. Comey, a longtime Republican turned Trump opponent, to join his team of prosecutors in 1987. The two now repeatedly slam each other in cable television appearances.

Conservatives last week bristled when SDNY prosecutors indicted Mr. Bannon on fraud charges. He, along with three others, is accused of defrauding donors who contributed money to build a wall along the southwestern border.

Mr. Bannon pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“The talking point will be that this particular office has been political, but I think there is a difference here because it was conservatives who were allegedly defrauded,” said Matthew Schmidt, who has worked with the Senate and the House Armed Services Committee and now teaches at the University of New Haven.

The SDNY ordinarily has to give the Justice Department advance notice for a high-profile case, such as the indictment of Mr. Bannon, but does not necessarily need permission.

U.S. attorneys’ offices usually do seek approval from the Justice Department before advancing a significant case, although it is not known whether Mr. Barr green-lighted the Bannon case.

“Someone like Steven Bannon would have to be signed off by people in Washington,” Mr. Riopelle said. “They may have signed off on it because they thought it would leak that they didn’t sign off on it. And that would be a worse hit.”

The Bannon prosecution adds to the tension between the Trump administration and the SDNY. Prosecutors filed charges just weeks after Mr. Barr bungled the firing of Geoffrey Berman, then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Mr. Barr in June unexpectedly announced that Mr. Berman would be “stepping down.” But Mr. Berman refused to resign, creating an embarrassing tug of war for the administration. The standoff finally ended when Mr. Trump fired him, but only after his deputy Audrey Strauss was named as acting replacement.

At the time, Democrats clamored that the attorney general wanted Mr. Berman out to halt investigations into Trump associates. Mr. Barr dismissed those claims as “ludicrous,” but Democrats revived the accusation after Mr. Bannon’s arrest.

“This could be the reason former SDNY head Berman was removed from his position by Attorney General Barr last month,” tweeted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat.

In closed-door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Berman said he worried that his firing would delay or disrupt ongoing investigations, but he did not say whether his departure affected any probes.

Republicans said there is no evidence that Mr. Berman’s termination hampered any investigations and noted that they continued under Ms. Strauss.

Eliminating Mr. Berman wouldn’t stop investigations by line prosecutors, Mr. Davis said.

“This notion that firing Berman was to obstruct these investigations is utterly nonsense and evidence-free,” he said. “Anyone who knows anything about how U.S. attorneys offices, especially SDNY, work, would laugh at that conspiracy theory,” he said.

Still, Ms. Stauss is a registered Democrat who has donated to Democratic candidates in the past, making her an easy target for Mr. Trump to claim the prosecutions are political.

“The Trump campaign is going to convince [supporters] the Southern District of New York is part of the deep state,” Mr. Schmidt said. “They don’t know the Southern District of New York. They have never been to the Southern District of New York.”

Mr. Davis said the best course of action would be to let the SDNY prosecutors move forward without political interference.

“Do you need to rein in federal prosecutors who are charging people with crimes? No. That would be wrong as a legal matter and a policy matter, and it would be utterly stupid as a political matter,” he said.

The SDNY in 2018 won a guilty plea from Cohen for campaign finance crimes. SDNY prosecutors also indicted two Giuliani associates tied to the Ukraine investigation that led to Mr. Trump’s impeachment.

Mr. Giuliani has not been charged with a crime, but the SDNY is reportedly investigating his financial dealings with the two indicted associates. It is also looking at corruption accusations against Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee.

Prosecutors also accused Mr. Calk of approving high-risk loans to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in exchange for a position in the administration, which he did not receive.

On the Democrat side of the ledger, SDNY prosecutors convicted Avenatti on charges related to an attempted shakedown of sportswear maker Nike.

It also secured a 21-month prison sentence for Mr. Weiner, who pleaded guilty to sending obscene photos to an underage girl.

They also convicted Eric Stevenson, a Democratic member of the New York Assembly, of bribery and extortion, New York state Sen. Larry Seabrook, a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, of money laundering, extortion and fraud; and Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret of bribery.

Mr. Silver also was convicted of seven counts of corruption, triggering the longtime speaker’s automatic expulsion from the Assembly.

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Yemen’s southern separatists abandon self-rule, push peace deal |NationalTribune.com

Yemen’s southern separatists have pledged to abandon their aspirations for self-rule and implement a Saudi-brokered power-sharing agreement with the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Southern Transitional Council’s (STC) announcement on Wednesday marked a big step towards closing a major front in Yemen’s chaotic war, and came hours after Saudi Arabia presented a plan…

Yemen’s southern separatists abandon self-rule, push peace deal |NationalTribune.com

Yemen’s southern separatists have pledged to abandon their aspirations for self-rule and implement a Saudi-brokered power-sharing agreement with the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The Southern Transitional Council’s (STC) announcement on Wednesday marked a big step towards closing a major front in Yemen’s chaotic war, and came hours after Saudi Arabia presented a plan to “accelerate” the stalled peace deal’s implementation.
Signed in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in November last year, the agreement set the stage for the end of a long-running rivalry between the Saudi-supported Hadi government and the UAE-backed southern separatists. Both sides are supposed allies in the Saudi-led military coalition’s war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who control the country’s capital, Sanaa.
The Riyadh agreement stipulated the formation of a new unity government within 30 days and the appointment of a new governor and security director for Aden, an STC stronghold and the interim seat of Hadi’s government.
It also specified, among others, the centralisation of all armed groups under government control.
But the deal was never implemented and in April, the separatists declared self-rule and seized control of Aden, a move that ignited fierce fighting across southern Yemen and the Socotra archipelago.

The standoff between Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s respective allies in Yemen has threatened to shatter the coalition and complicated broader peace efforts to end the five-year conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people and created the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
“We have achieved our goals,” Nizar Haitham, STC spokesman, said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.
“The Southern Transitional Council announces the abandonment of the declaration of self-administration in order to allow the Arab alliance to implement the Riyadh agreement,” he said. 
The move followed intervention from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, noted Haitham, who went on to affirm “the continuing and deepening” of the STC’s “strategic partnership with the Arab coalition”
Saudi proposal
Earlier on Wednesday, the Saudi plan had laid out commitments that have been obstacles for months, such as the formation of a government composed of 24 ministers with equal representation for northerners and southerners, including the separatists.
It also asked for the withdrawal of rival forces from Aden and the flashpoint southern province of Abyan, and gave Yemen’s current prime minister, Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, the mandate to form a government over the next month. 
Shortly after the STC’s pledge to rescind self-rule, Yemen’s state-run SABA news agency named the newly appointed security director and governor of Aden – Ahmed al-Amlas. 
Rajih Badi, a spokesman for Hadi’s government, welcomed the Saudi initiative and expressed hope that the separatists would make good on their promise to implement the agreement “out of necessary and urgent national interest”.
Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s vice minister of defence, said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “efforts have succeeded” to implement the Riyadh deal “and achieve lasting peace, security, and prosperity for Yemen”.
The rapprochement comes as Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sought to inch away from their war with the Houthi rebels, which has pushed millions to the brink of famine and settled into a bloody stalemate.

Saudi Arabia announced a unilateral ceasefire earlier this year, which swiftly collapsed. Last summer, the UAE announced it was ending its role in the conflict, although it continues to wield influence through its proxies, such as the separatist group.
Mahjoob Zweiri, director of the Gulf Studies Center in Doha, Qatar, said Wednesday’s developments indicate that “all parties are tired and exhausted by this conflict”.
He cast doubts, however, on the Riyadh agreement’s implementation.
“Riyadh and Abu Dhabi do not agree 100 percent on how things should be moved,” he told Al Jazeera. [And] it’s not only those two countries that can decide the situation in Yemen. They also need the international community on board, including the United Nations, Iran. But none of these players have confidence in [Saudi and the UAE].”
He added: “There is no long-term vision. There are different parties with different agendas and no agreement on where things should go.”
Human Rights Watch in November also criticised the Riyadh agreement, saying it failed to address serious human rights violations, including the arbitrary detention and forcible disappearance of dozens of people.
Bleak warning 
Wednesday’s developments come as Yemen’s devastated health sector grapples with a major coronavirus outbreak and the country faces a drastic shortfall of humanitarian aid that has forced 75 percent of UN programmes to end or reduce operations.
On Tuesday, UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths painted a bleak picture of the situation in Yemen to the Security Council.
UN-mediated peace negotiations between the rebels and government have failed to produce an agreement, he said.
Houthi forces were pushing fiercely into the oil-rich province of Marib “with profound humanitarian and economic consequences”, Griffiths said, while missile attacks across the northwest have resulted in civilian deaths, many of whom were children.
Yemen’s economy is collapsing, he continued, food prices are surging, and to make matters worse, an abandoned oil tanker moored off the coast and loaded with more than 1 million barrels of crude oil is at risk of rupture or exploding.
“I do not wish to sugarcoat things,” Griffiths said, warning that the country could plunge at any moment into “a new phase of prolonged escalation, uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, and economic decline”.
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