The United States has suspended a record aid deal for Yemen, a sharp about-face in U.S. policy toward the "anti-terror" ally.
This comes amid ongoing government crackdown on anti-government protesters that has already claimed over 300 lives.
The Republic of Yemen is a country located in the Middle East. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east. mongabay.com
The Republic of Yemen was established on May 22, 1990, with the merger of North Yemen (the Yemen Arab Republic) and South Yemen (the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen). mongabay.com
Since unification, Yemen has been modernizing and opening up to the world, but it still maintains much of its tribal character and old ways. Tensions persist between the north and the south; some southerners say the northern part of the state is economically privileged. human-rights-online.org
Yemen is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Arab World, with a formal 65% unemployment rate, dwindling natural resources, a young population and increasing population growth. theafronews.ca
President Saleh has already been in office for 33 years, with several opposition members arguing that his long-promised reforms have not materialized. saudielection.com
The country's opposition and religious figures have envisioned a roadmap for the ruler's departure before the end of this year. saudielection.com
The head of state has, however, said he would stay in power until the end of his term in 2013. saudielection.com
Al-Qaeda in Yemen
According to the United States, the group, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was behind the attempted bombings of U.S. cargo planes last fall and a passenger jet on Christmas 2009. Star Telegram
The Obama administration responded by stepping up airstrikes in Yemen and urging Saleh to carry out raids based on U.S. intelligence. Aid to Yemen more than doubled. Star Telegram
"In the counterterrorism area, it will be a great loss," said Wayne White, a former senior State Department intelligence analyst. Star Telegram
President Saleh has frequently conflated both the Houthi fighters and the southern separatists with Al-Qaeda. In a meeting in September 2009 with White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan, Saleh specifically pressured the U.S. to provide armored vehicles, airplanes and ambulances for his campaign against the Houthis. foreignpolicyjournal.com
Yemen's people say al-Qaeda is a myth
Most Yemenis consider the group a myth, or a ploy by their president to squeeze the West for aid money and punish his domestic opponents. beforeitsnews.com
The Yemeni authorities have long paid tribal leaders to fight domestic enemies, or even other tribes that were causing trouble for the government. That policy has helped foster a culture of blackmail: some tribal figures promote violence,…through mere criminals, and then offer to quell it in exchange for cash. beforeitsnews.com
"Al-Qaeda (sic) literally 'the database,' was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahedeen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians," admits former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, whose Foreign Office portfolio included control of the British Intelligence Agency MI-6 and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), in a column published by the UK Guardian newspaper. Guardian
Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since the mid-1990s, one that has little to do with al-Qaeda and everything to do with the historical and religious currents that have swept over this poverty-stricken nation of some 20 million since the end of World War I. antiwar.com
President Saleh's government has cooperated with the U.S. in its "war on terror" and has settled border disputes with its neighbors, Saudi Arabia and Oman. BBC
The United States has long supported Yemen's president, even in the face of recent widespread protests. The Obama administration has maintained its support of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in private and refrained from directly criticizing him in public, even as his supporters fired on peaceful demonstrators, because he was considered a critical ally in fighting the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda. NY Times
This position has fueled criticism of the United States in some quarters for hypocrisy for rushing to oust a repressive autocrat in Libya but not in strategic allies like Yemen and Bahrain. NY Times
Washington has long had a wary relationship of mutual dependence with Mr. Saleh. The United States has provided weapons, and the Yemeni leader has allowed the United States military and the C.I.A. to launch drone attacks on Yemeni militants. NY Times
Fall of Yemeni president a great loss for US
Saleh's grip on this volatile Arabian Peninsula nation is unraveling after weeks of bloodshed and street protests that have led to the defection of five top army commanders and dozens of government officials. LA Times
Furthermore, the challenge for the U.S. will be to persuade Yemen's next leader to continue an unpopular campaign against al-Qaeda. Sheik Hamid al-Ahmar, a leading member of the opposition mentioned as a possible successor has dismissed al-Qaeda in Yemen as a creation of Saleh's government. democratsforprogress
Yemen strategically borders the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and Saudi Arabia. If Saleh is overthrown, civil wars could erupt in both the north and south, the Saudis would be rattled and possibly intervene militarily, and the U.S. would be dealt a major setback in containing al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an entrenched terrorist affiliate. LA Times
US military aid to Yemen
Washington has provided "more than $300 million in military and security aid to Yemen in the past five years," the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. AFP
Aid to Yemen under the U.S. government's main counterterrorism program has grown from less than $5 million in fiscal 2006 to more than $155 million in fiscal 2010, the Pentagon said.
Yemen is desperate for assistance in sustainable economic development. The vast majority of U.S. aid, however, has been military. The limited economic assistance made available has been of dubious effectiveness and has largely gone through corrupt government channels. Foreign Policy in Focus
In September 2010, the U.S. military's Central Command proposed pumping as much as $1.2 billion over five years into building up Yemen's security forces, a major investment in a shaky government, in a sign of Washington's fears of al Qaeda's growing foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.
Turnabout towards "anti-terror ally"
The United States has halted a record aid deal for Yemen amid growing unrest, marking a sharp about-face in U.S. policy toward the anti-terror ally. Telegraph
Unnamed U.S. officials were reported as saying that the latest package, potentially worth over $1 billion, was an attempt to get floundering U.S.-Yemen counterterrorism co-operation back on track. Telegraph
The proposed package included up to $200 million in counterterrorism support for the fiscal year that ends on September 30. Wall Street Journal
Washington had been due to deliver the first installment of the aid package in February 2011, the White House's biggest investment yet, in order to secure more active support from President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the fight against al-Qaeda. Telegraph
President Saleh had long sought development aid from the U.S. in order to convince the Yemeni public of the benefits of co-operating with Washington after he allowed U.S. Special Forces to target militants inside his country despite widespread public opposition. Telegraph
Source: Press TV