Cyclone Strikes Yemen, 40,000 People Displaced
Cyclone Chapala, the second most powerful storm on record to strike the Arabian Peninsula, caused catastrophic flooding along Yemen’s southern coast yesterday. The city of Mukalla, which is currently administered by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and local tribal councils, bore the brunt of the storm. Photos from residents posted to social media show torrential ...
Cyclone Chapala, the second most powerful storm on record to strike the Arabian Peninsula, caused catastrophic flooding along Yemen’s southern coast yesterday. The city of Mukalla, which is currently administered by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and local tribal councils, bore the brunt of the storm. Photos from residents posted to social media show torrential flooding in the heart of the city that overwhelmed drainage canals and rose above cars. Meteorologists estimate that some mountains above Mukalla could have seen 20-30 inches of rain, as much as seven times the local annual rainfall average, contributing to the flash floods. There have been no immediate reports of casualties in Mukalla, but 25 people were left injured and 21 are missing according to local reports from Hadhramout province. At least 40,000 people have been displaced by the storm, according to U.N. estimates, and the United Arab Emirates is providing aid to people affected on the Yemeni island of Socotra.
The severe cyclone did not affect Yemen’s ongoing civil war in other regions of the country. The flashpoint city of Taiz continues to be the scene of intense fighting that has left more than 30 people dead in the past day. At least 21 Houthi rebels were killed in a Saudi airstrike, four pro-government forces were killed in ground combat, and eight civilians were killed when a bus struck a landmine, Yemeni officials told the press. Additionally, the United Nations has confirmed that Houthi rebels have detained two U.S. contractors for the last two weeks. The contractors were not U.N. employees but arrived on a U.N. flight and work for the company that manages U.N. facilities in Yemen.
Russia Opens New Base in Syria near Islamic State
Russia appears to be operating from a new military facility in Tiyas, Syria, near the Islamic State-held city of Palmyra. Five attack helicopters have been moved to the base, raising the possibility that the Russian military will begin strikes against the Islamic State. Russian strikes in central Syria this week are believed to have resulted in at least 23 civilian casualties, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone this morning about the recent talks on Syria held in Vienna and reaffirmed their commitment to continuing discussions.
New from FP: In this week’s Global Thinkers podcast, 2014 Global Thinker Arye Kohavi and writer Charles Fishman explain why the world’s water problems are solvable — or would be if it weren’t for the clunky policies standing in the way. Download and listen to FP’s Global Thinkers podcasts and others on iTunes and Stitcher: http://atfp.co/1N5rv3Z
- A U.S. satellite detected a flash of infrared activity shortly before the crash of the Russian commercial plane in the Sinai Peninsula this past Saturday; the heat is suggestive of an explosion, but it is unclear if it could have been caused by a bomb or a technical malfunction.
- U.S. and Russian warplanes flew to within five miles of each other in southern Syria yesterday to conduct a planned test of communications procedures for deconflicting operations.
- Iran appears to be bolstering its anti-American stance; in addition to the recent arrest of an Iranian-American businessman, officials reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to the slogan “Death to America” and closed down a knock-off KFC franchise two days after it opened.
- The Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate, Sinai Province, claimed credit for a suicide car bomb attack on a police club in the Sinai town of El Arish that killed four police officers this morning.
- Iranian state media is claiming that Nizar Zakka, a U.S.-based businessman and Lebanese citizen who went missing in Iran in September, is being held by the Iranian government for espionage; friends of Zakka say a picture shown of him wearing military clothes was taken at a recent reunion of the military high school he attended.
Arguments and Analysis
“Turkey’s Right Rises Again” (Max Hoffman and Michael Werz, Center for American Progress)
“The big postelection question is whether the AKP can deliver on its campaign promise of stability and peace. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu promised to be a leader for all Turkish citizens in his victory speech, but the polarization of the past two years — particularly the alienation of many Kurds as the peace process has faltered — will be difficult to reverse. The AKP will face competing pressures: a political impulse to continue cracking down on dissent, particularly Kurdish dissent, and an economic imperative to ease tensions. On the one hand, President Erdoğan and the AKP gained 9 percent of the nationwide vote over just five months by appealing to conservative, Turkish nationalist voters; the government will feel pressure to secure this new voting bloc by continuing the fight against the PKK and the crackdown on the HDP. The bombing of PKK positions in northern Iraq by Turkish jets the day after the election may indicate as much. Such a path would perpetuate fighting in Turkey’s southeast region as the AKP works to root out PKK insurgents and improve the government’s negotiating position in any eventual peace talks. This course is also very risky; it could alienate a new generation of Kurdish youth and could bring retaliatory PKK attacks in major Turkish cities. Indeed, the question of whether anyone can control the armed Kurdish youth groups operating in some southeastern cities remains open — and any serious accusations of electoral fraud could spark Kurdish and leftist protests.”
“Ahmed Chalabi, The Man Who Gave Us ISIS” (Aram Roston, BuzzFeed)
“Chalabi thought the U.S. would help install him as Saddam’s replacement, and he envisioned riding through Baghdad to cheering crowds of Iraqis, like de Gaulle returning triumphant to France. But that never happened. He had lost his influence in Washington, D.C., and he had too many enemies in the U.S. and Iraq. It was after the invasion he’d pushed so hard for that his true weakness was exposed. He tried again and again to become the ruler of Iraq, convinced he was entitled to it. But he never scored more than 1% of the vote, and instead he survived by building blocks of coalitions and by allying himself with powerful Shiite politicians. He tried one more time, last summer, to lead Iraq. He convinced his supporters, Americans and a handful of Iraqis, that it was a done deal, that he’d arranged a partnership by which he would become prime minister. In the end, that didn’t happen, and he was left, associates told BuzzFeed News, furious but impotent, convinced that he had been betrayed.”
-J. Dana Stuster
SALEH AL-OBEIDI/AFP/Getty Images