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The Un-Revolution: Yemen’s Mediocre Transition

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | August 13, 2013

Considering the off-putting reality, one fails to imagine a future scenario in which Yemen could avoid a full-fledged conflict or a civil war. It is true that much could be done to fend off this bleak scenario such as sincere efforts towards reconciliation and bold steps to achieve transparent democracy. There should be an unbending challenge to the ongoing undeclared US war in the impoverished nation.

Alas, none of the parties in Yemen’s prevailing political order has the sway, desire or the moral authority to lead the vital transition necessary. It is surely not the one proposed by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), but rather a homegrown political evolution that responds to Yemen’s own political, security and economic priorities, and not to the strategic interests of ‘Friends of Yemen’ being led by the United States.

Although it is much less discussed if it is to be compared to Egypt’s crippling political upheaval, or even Tunisia’s unfolding crisis, Yemen’s ongoing predicament is in fact far more complex. It directly involves too many players, notwithstanding al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the US bloody drone war that is unleashed from Djibouti among other places.

In the period between July 27 to August 9, 34 people were killed in Yemen by US drone attacks. The US government mechanically considers those killed al-Qaeda terrorists, even if civilians are confirmed to be among the dead and wounded. Most media qualifies such statements by describing the victims as ‘suspected militants’. International human rights groups and Yemen’s civil society organizations – let alone the enraged people of Yemen – insist on delineating the toll on civilians. Entire Yemeni communities are in a constant state of panic caused by the buzzing metal monsters that operate in complete disregard to international law and the country’s own sovereignty.

Frankly, at this stage it is hard to think of Yemen as a sovereign and territorially unified nation. While 40 percent of the country’s population is food insecure, and more are teetering at the brink of joining the appalling statistics, the country’s foreign policy has been long held hostage to the whims of outsiders. There is a lack of trust in the central government which historically has been both corrupt and inept by allowing non-state actors to move in and fulfill the security and economic vacuum.

Prior to the Yemeni revolution in Jan. 2011, the US was the most influential outside power in shaping and manipulating the Yemeni central government. Its goal was clear, to conduct its so-called war on terror in Yemen unhindered by such irritants as international law or even verbal objection from Sana’a. The now deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose family-controlled dictatorship of thirty years was the stuff of legends in terms of its corruption and self-centeredness, obliged. He too had his personal wars to fight and needed US consent to maintain his family-controlled power apparatus. Just weeks prior to the revolution, then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Sana’a. She applied gentle pressure to Saleh to dissuade him from pushing the parliament to eliminate term limits on his presidency, as if three decades in power was simply not enough. At the heart of the mission was the expansion of the counter-terrorism campaign in Yemen. The bloody US campaign involving the Pentagon and the CIA has been under reported. One of the reasons why the war was never classified as ‘war’ is because it was conducted under a political cover by Sana’a itself and sold as if it were military cooperation between two sovereign governments against a common enemy: Al Qaeda.

But reality was of course vastly different. Much of Saleh’s supposed anti-AQAP efforts were in fact channeled against the revolutionary forces and political opposition that had assembled together in millions, demanding freedom and an end to the dictatorship. What are the chances that the US didn’t know such a well-reported fact?

In fact, AQAP expansion was unprecedented during the revolution, but not because of the revolution itself. Saleh seemed to have made a strategic choice to leave large swathes of the country undefended in order to allow sudden AQAP expansion. Within a few months, al-Qaeda had mobilized to occupy large areas in the country’s southern governorates. This was done to strengthen Sana’a official discourse that the revolution was in fact an act of terrorism, thus quashing the revolution was more or less part of Yemen and US’s ‘war on terror.’ Despite the many massacres, the revolution persisted, but Saleh’s strategy allowed for greater US military involvement.

Unlike Egypt, the US military interest in Yemen is not merely done through buying loyalty with a fixed amount of money and sustaining a friendly rapport with the army. It is about control and the ability to conduct any military strategy that Washington deems necessary. And unlike Afghanistan, Yemen is not an occupied country, at least technically. Thus the US strategy regarding Yemen has to find a sustainable balance between military firmness and political caution. This explains the leading role played by the US in negotiating a safe path for the central government, army and the ruling party – excluding Saleh himself – to elude the uncompromising demands of the country’s revolutionary forces. To some degree, the US has succeeded.

Part of that success was due to Yemen’s existing political and territorial fragmentation. With Houthis controlling large parts of northern Yemen, the southern secessionist movement Haraki in the south, militant infiltration throughout the country, and a political opposition that has constantly lagged behind a much more organized and progressive Yemeni street, Yemeni society is much too susceptible to outside pressures and manipulation. The Yemeni revolution was never truly treated as such, but instead as a crisis that needed to be managed. The GCC brokered power transfer initiative was meant to be the road-map out of the crisis. However, it merely replaced Saleh with Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi and set the stage for the National Dialogue Conference – underway since March 18. The transition thus far has been buttressed with the backing of the ‘Friends of Yemen’, so as to ensure that the process leading up to the elections that are scheduled for 2014, is done under the auspices and blessings of those with unmistakable interest in Yemen’s present and future.

It is barely helpful that Yemen’s supposedly united opposition is hardly that, and differences are widening between the coalition of the opposition groups named the Joint Meeting Parties (JMPs). An example of that was publicly displayed following the army-led coup in Egypt on July 3. While supporters of the Islah Party – considered an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood – protested the coup, other coalition members and the Houthis greeted the news of coup with gun shots and public celebration. To make matters worse, the interim president Hadi congratulated Egypt’s transitional government for its post-coup role.

Even if the revolution is yet to reap tangible results in its quest for fundamental change towards democracy, the national mood, separate from Hadi and the opposition, is unlikely to accept half-baked solutions. Meanwhile, the militants are regaining strength and so is the US political intervention and drone war. All in turn are contributing to a burgeoning discontent and anti-American sentiment.

Between revolutionary expectations and less than mediocre reforms, Yemen is likely to embark on yet a new struggle whose consequences will be too serious for any disingenuous political transition to manage.

August 14, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yemen’s Revolution Far From Accomplished

By Noon Arabia | Al Akhbar | September 10, 2012

Most Western headlines about Yemen lately have focused on the “al-Qaeda threat” and “US drone strikes on suspected militants.” Unfortunately, neither give much credence to the real challenges facing Yemenis since former President Ali Abdullah Saleh transferred his powers to his Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi on 27 February 2012 through a Gulf-brokered transitional plan.

The Gulf initiative was widely rejected among Yemenis as it did not fulfill the democratic demands of the revolution. The deal was more of an attempt to salvage the regime, yet some argue that it was the only option available. Sam Waddah, a Yemeni blogger, points out that “Yemenis in their revolution were not just up against Saleh and his regime, but also against the international community where major regional and international powers including the United States and Saudi Arabia backed Saleh up to the last minute.”

The initiative was viewed as an attempt by Saudi Arabia to subvert Yemen’s revolution and stop it from spilling across the border. The US worked behind the scenes and strongly backed the initiative after finding in President Hadi a suitable successor who would support their drone campaign in Yemen. US drone strikes have only intensified since Hadi assumed power and are causing popular outrage towards both the US and the Yemeni government as civilian death tolls mount.

Yemen’s 2011 revolution demanded an overall change in the economic, political, social and military spheres. Among the main demands of the 10-month revolution were the change of the regime, an end to Saleh’s corrupt family rule and the reconstruction of the army. According to the Gulf transitional plan, begrudgingly signed by Saleh on 23 November 2011, President Hadi will serve for an interim two-year period in which his main tasks will be the reconstruction of the military, conducting a national dialogue, drafting a new constitution and preparing for the 2014 elections.

Six months on, Hadi and his interim government are still facing many challenges impeding the achievement of these goals. Among these challenges are the weekly, if not daily, suicide attacks and car bombs allegedly by al-Qaeda, the assassinations and assassination attempts of military and political figures, the continuous attacks on the power grids and gas pipelines allegedly by tribes in Mareb, the Hirak separatist movement in the South, the Houthi rebels in the North, the deteriorating humanitarian conditions, and catastrophic food and refugee crises gripping the country. However, thwarting Hadi’s attempts to advance on any of these fronts is former president Saleh himself.

Those who are not following Yemen closely might be amazed to know that Saleh still lives in Yemen’s capital Sanaa and has awarded himself the title of “leader” to replace the lost title of “president.” He still heads the General People’s Congress (GPC), the former ruling party that is a 50 percent partner in the current National Unity Government, and is thus constantly disturbing the transitional process through loyalist supporters. His family members still hold key military positions. Ahmed Saleh, the son of the former dictator, remains the leader of the Republican Guards and Yahya, Saleh’s nephew is still the head of the Central Security Force. Yemen is paying dearly for the Gulf plan, which did not ban Saleh or his family from participating in the country’s political and military spheres.

The Saleh family still plays a prominent role despite some efforts by Hadi to remove some members and loyalists from the military and governmental posts. Some argue that Hadi lacks the power or the will to remove the two men close to Saleh entirely from their posts. “The fact that these two forces [Republican Guards and Central Security] were the reason behind almost all the blood spilt in the revolution and yet their leaders are still reigning is beyond me,” says Luai Ahmed, an 18-year-old Yemeni student and activist.

In a blatant sign of defiance to Hadi’s decision to reconstruct the military, the pro-Saleh Republican Guards troops besieged the Ministry of Defense on 14 August, while the president was out of the country, killing five people and wounding nine others. In late July a group of policemen and tribesmen loyal to Saleh occupied the Ministry of the Interior and looted its contents, killing 15 people. According to a local report, Hadi himself has already survived six assassination attempts in only seven months in office.

Yemen is often touted as an Arab Spring success story that has deposed its dictator, but reality is Yemenis are still suffering from political instability, violence, electricity and water cuts, inflation, unemployment, and food shortages, all of which have only intensified in the aftermath of the revolution.

“The fact that people are more aware of their rights and the corrupt deals the previous government made, forces them to escalate their demands and put pressure on the government,” said Shatha al-Harazi, a political and human rights journalist.

Many Yemenis do not feel that substantial change has been achieved since the ouster of Saleh. The state has lost control over some areas of Yemen, and the military is divided and on constant standby for any possible confrontation. They feel the intense power struggle between the old regime and the current one. A Yemeni journalist who asked not to be named describes the situation in Yemen as dire and chaotic. “The likelihood of a successful transition is up in the air and similarly the possibility of a potential civil war or armed conflict is also there.”

UN Envoy to Yemen Jamal Bin Omar stated that non-military sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Security Council Charter will be imposed against any official who attempts to hinder the political settlement, including the freezing of assets and a travel ban. However, the empty threats by Hadi and the UN, repeated ad nauseum, have not deterred Saleh and his loyalists from seeking to undermine Hadi’s power and hinder the implementation of the Gulf plan which ousted him from power.

Unless Saleh’s family is truly dismissed from positions of power and international sanctions are immediately imposed on them, Yemen will continue to suffer from political instability and insecurity.

Noon Arabia is a Yemeni blogger, wishing to write under a pseudonym for personal and security reasons

September 10, 2012 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | 1 Comment

Bomb blast hits anti-US rally in Yemen, injures 22

Press TV – March 2, 2012

A bomb explosion has hit an anti-US protest rally in northern Yemen, injuring at least 22 people, Houthi fighters reported.

The resistance group, which controls much of the north of the country, said the explosion occurred in Sa’ada Province on Friday without providing further details.

Yemen has been the scene of anti-US rallies since a Washington-backed power transfer deal granted the country’s long-time dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution in return for stepping down.

Yemenis say Saleh and his aides must stand trial and face justice over the deadly crackdown on protests over the past year which killed nearly 2,000 anti-government demonstrators.

Yemenis also accuse the US and its ally Saudi Arabia of derailing their revolution by brokering a deal that transferred power from Saleh to his deputy, the UK-trained army Field Marshal Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, in a single-candidate election.

On Tuesday, thousands of Yemenis gathered outside the US Embassy in the capital, Sana’a, demanding the expulsion of Washington’s ambassador to Yemen over his intervention in the country’s internal affairs and the desecration of the Holy Qur’an in a US-run military base in Afghanistan.

Angry protesters burned the US flag and an effigy of US Ambassador Gerald Michael Feierstein.

Feierstein is accused of having a role in holding the recent single-candidate presidential election in Yemen and returning Saleh home from a ”medical visit” to the US.

March 2, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Bomb blast hits anti-US rally in Yemen, injures 22