Thursday, March 31, 2011

Expected Demonstrations, Security Checkpoints in Sana'a

Warden Messages
Sana'a, Mar 31, 2011
Public demonstrations in Sana'a, Yemen, are expected during the upcoming Yemeni weekend, March 31 and April 1, 2011. Such demonstrations in recent weeks have led to violence, confrontation, and casualties. The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens in Sana'a to limit their movements this weekend, and to avoid areas where demonstrations or confrontations are likely. In particular, citizens should stay away from the Presidential Palace, the Saleh Mosque, Sana'a University, Tahrir Square, and other places where large crowds or security forces are gathered.
U.S. citizens traveling by road in Sana'a, whether this weekend or after, are likely to experience checkpoints patrolled by security forces. The Embassy recommends that citizens approach these checkpoints slowly, then follow instructions as given, and proceed past the checkpoint only upon a clear signal from security personnel.
The U.S. Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens in Yemen consider departing the country. U.S. citizens remaining in Yemen despite the U.S. Government's Travel Warning should make their own contingency plans, enroll their presence in Yemen through the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), and provide their emergency or next-of-kin contact information. The Department of State has authorized the voluntary departure from Yemen of the family members of U.S. Embassy staff and non-emergency personnel.
The U.S. Embassy is located at Dhahr Himyar Zone, Sheraton Hotel District, P.O. Box 22347. The telephone number of the Consular Section is (967) (1) 755-2000, extension 2153 or 2266. The fax number is (967) (1) 303-175. Email contact is available at The after-hours emergency numbers are (967) (1) 755-2000 (press zero for extension) and (967) 733-213-509. Current information on travel and security in Yemen may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada, or from elsewhere at 1-202-501-4444. In addition to the Travel Warning, U.S. citizens should consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Yemen and the Worldwide Caution.

US Doesn't Intend to Shut Down "Cirque de Saleh" in Yemen Anytime Soon

By Kevin Gosztola

Mar 31, 2011

Cables recently posted by the Spanish news organization El Pais provide more details on the manic and overbearing Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The cables appear just as Saleh seems to be closer to transferring control of Yemen to another leader, who can diffuse the growing revolt against his regime and as The Nation's Jeremy Scahill, one American journalist who has not shied away from using the WikiLeaks cables to inform his work, publishes a major story on what is at stake for the US in Yemen.

Over the weekend, widespread rumors suggested Saleh would be stepping down. But, by Sunday, March 27, Saleh's zealous hold on power only tightened in the face of this notion that he would no longer be ruling Yemen. On the American Sunday morning talk show "Meet the Press," US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said his fall or replacement by a weaker leader would be "a real problem" for US counterterrorism operations, pretty much solidifying the fact that Saleh would not be leaving yet.

A cable from August 31, 2009, illuminates a leader, who has grown increasingly unstable in recent years. One Member of Parliament explains to then-US Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche how the country has serious problems but when he talks about them, Saleh gets angry and tells him to go.

The MP echoes the concerns of many of Saleh's former confidants and advisors and descirbes how Saleh has over the past fifteen years increasingly shut people like him out and chosen to rely on close family members and himself when making important decisions. The nepotism occurs without challenge because Parliament, the judicial system and all of the Ministries report directly to Saleh. This, as the MP has argued, totally subjugates the Parliament to the Saleh regime.

Also, the MP asserts one third of those in Parliament are uneducated and are afraid to lose their "privileges." He adds that Saleh is bothered by the fact that he has lost popularity among the general Yemeni population and tells Seche that he plans to launch an "action group" to "compel" the regime to implement reforms. He hopes to conduct a "massive citizen education campaign" that would inform Yemenis about their rights in a democratic system and eventually mobilize the population to "agitate for change through public demonstrations."

A second cable from October 6, 2009, compares the president's personal hospital to the oldest hospital in the country in Aden. The 64-year-old Republican Aden Hospital is a 300-bed facility in a "dilapidated state" that has one single x-ray machine that is a "government symbol of neglect," even by Yemen's "low public health standards." Seche describes the hallways and operating rooms as something that evoke "a sci-fi writer's post-apocalyptic vision."

It was inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 and last renovated in 1985. Renovations that were meant to plug holes in the ceiling to keep out rats and cockroaches were made but have failed to "keep the pests out." The hospital has to send patients to Sanaa for laboratory tests and anything beyond basic surgical procedures. The Ministry of Health ignores a wish list of easily procurable that includes bedpans and stethoscopes.

Saleh's personal hospital, the Sanaa Defense Compound, is a different story entirely. The Yemen government-financed hospital, which was completed in May 2009, has sixteen beds and cost $8 million USD, is headed by Dr. Hisham al-Zubairi, Saleh's personal physician. It is staffed with German and Indian doctors and has "state-of-the-art orthopedic, ear, nose and throat (ENT), and 3-D medical imagery technology."

Someone whose name is redacted once convinced Saleh to open the hospital to top military commanders in critical condition. But, normally, the nurses and doctors can be seen on the three floors smiling and looking bored.

Money that has gone toward fighting the Houthis in the Saada war could easily be used to better fund hospitals like the Aden hospital but Saleh callously disregards the needs of his people.

In a cable from September 15, 2009, released months ago (and recently posted on El Pais with the aforementioned cables), Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan meets with Saleh, who pledges "unfettered access to Yemen's national territory for counterterrorism operations." Brennan raises the issue of economic reform and corruption and delivers a letter from President Obama that contains a 10-point plan outlining necessary economic reforms but has no details on when goals in the plan must be implemented. Fascinatingly, when Brennan expresses concern that economic and other assistance might be diverted through corrupt officials for other purposes, Saleh proposes a solution.

Responding to Brennan's concerns that economic and other assistance might be diverted through corrupt officials to other purposes, Saleh urged the U.S. to donate supplies and hardware rather than liquid funds in order to curb corruption's reach. Saleh also told US officials that they could have full access to financial records to ensure proper usage of donor funding. (COMMENT. Saleh's preference for infrastructure and equipment over cash displays a lack of confidence in his own regime's ability to handle liquid assets and hardly provides a viable solution for stemming the curb of corruption in the long run. END COMMENT.)

During the meeting, Saleh is immensely frustrated with the fact that the US government will not support his war against the Houthis in northern Yemen. He says the war that is being launched is "a war on behalf of the US"the Houthis are your enemies too." Seche, however, notes the Houthis have not attacked US interests or personnel in the "six wars" that have taken place between Saleh's regime and the Houthis since 2004. Saleh complains Yemen government forces are "suffering a lot of casualties and loss of material" and renews his requests for armored personnel vehicles, aircraft and medical evacuation vehicles telling Brennan, "We need deeds, not only words." To which Brennan further emphasizes that the US is "prohibited by law from providing military support" to the Yemen government against the Houthis since the US government "considers the group a domestic insurgency." [Note: The US can always find a way around legal restrictions so it's more likely the Pentagon just doesn't want to be part of a Saleh's war.]

Saleh continues to persistently push Brennan for support:

Restating claims of Iranian support to the Houthi movement, ROYG officials present said they had provided files supporting an Iranian-Houthi connection to USG officials and would provide more if necessary. (NOTE. The Ambassador acknowledged receiving a file that was reviewed here and in Washington; however, no conclusive evidence of an Iranian-Houthi link has been made from these or other records. Brennan said that he would request a fresh scrub of all available intelligence to see if it turned up any evidence of Iranian involvement. END NOTE.) Saleh said, "Iran is trying to settle old scores against the U.S. by ruining relations between Yemen and GCC countries and the U.S." He also made a tangential reference to Hezbollah, claiming the organization's influence in the region also rendered the ROYG-Houthi war a fight on behalf of the U.S. Referencing the high poverty rate and illicit arms flows into both Yemen and Somalia, Saleh concluded by saying, "If you don't help, this country will become worse than Somalia."

Saleh, known in Yemen as The Boss, became the country's leader in 1990 following the unification of the north, which he had ruled since the 1970s, and the south, which had been run by a Marxist government based in Aden. Saleh is a survivor who has deftly navigated his way through the cold war, deep tribal divisions and the "global war on terror." Under the Obama administration, the United States committed increased military funding for his regime. Though he was known as a double-dealer, Saleh was tacitly viewed as Washington's man on the Arabian Peninsula.

Scahill quotes an individual who recently left his job as a Yemen analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency:

Without a guarantee that a successor government will grant US forces such access, peaceful protesters being gunned down will not be the top priority. "The feckless US response is highlighting how shortsighted our policy is there," says Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project who recently left the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he was a Yemen analyst. "We meekly consent to Saleh's brutality out of a misguided fear that our counterterror programs will be cut off, apparently not realizing that, in doing so, we are practically guaranteeing the next government will threaten those very programs."

The entire article is a must read but this particular paragraph shows how the US has become a slave to Saleh's wiley authority. It demonstrates what the US (especially the Pentagon) fears most is change because change introduces new variables into the equation and forces adjustments in policy and operations. Someone like Saleh who has been around for a long time can be made to work for the US. Trade deals, economic assistance and military aid can be used to win someone like Saleh over. And, that is why the US has held fast to a policy of supporting strongmen in the Middle East, even when its diplomats knew full well domestic conditions were ripe for popular revolution.

Saleh may indeed be on his way out. He may transfer power and become a ceremonial leader until elections later this year. If he does leave power, the US will have, by then, found a way to ensure that its counterterrorism operations can continue under the next regime and they will have selected a few presidential candidates they think they can support. But, really, Saleh doesn't have to go. Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis can continue to demonstrate and as long as Saleh has the US backing him up Saleh can insulate himself, further lose touch with reality and continue to lead his regime. Saleh can buy off members of Parliament. The people will soon find out their protests are exacerbating the unjust economic conditions and instability is making it impossible for necessary reform to take place.

Saleh can wait demonstrators out because he, unlike Libyan Leader Muammar el-Gaddafi, plays an integral role in the "global war on terror." Plus, the US isn't worried a massacre will occur in Yemen. Saleh's been annihilating Houthis for years and the US has been killing Yemeni civilians in attacks against individuals presumed to be part of Al Qaeda.

Source: Oped News

About 200 Russians stay in Yemen, where situation tense: ministry

MOSCOW, March 31 (Itar-Tass) - A total of 198 Russian nationals and 350 citizens of the Commonwealth of Independent States are staying in Yemen, where a tense political situation persists, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday.

At the present moment, 198 Russian citizens and 350 CIS citizens are registered at the consular department,” the diplomat said. He said the number of staffers at the Russia’s Embassy to Yemen and the Consulate General has been cut. “In case of a need and taking into consideration the situation in Yemen, additional necessary steps will be made,” the diplomat said.

The situation in the country continues causing serious concern here,” Lukashevich said. “A high level of tension and continuous mass demonstrations often with the use of arms persist in that country,” the diplomat emphasized.

Gunmen from the so-called Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have become active in some parts of the country. They are fighting with government troops and try to establish control over different settlements,” he added.

He reiterated Foreign Ministry’s appeal to Russian nationals to refrain from trips to Yemen if they are not urgent, stressing that those who already stay there are asked to leave the country as soon as possible.

President Saleh Calls his Supporters to Rally in Sana'a

By Fatik Al-Rodaini

Sana'a, Mar 31, 2011- President Ali Abdullah Saleh called on Thursday his supporters in all Yemen's provinces to rally in Sana'a on "Friday of Solidarity.''

Yemen's state run reported that tens thousands of pro Saleh protesters from different Yemeni provinces came to Sana'a to participate in the solidarity demonstration.

On the other hand, the Yemen opposition coalition parties called their Supporters to participate on Friday of Rescue in Sana'a and other Yemen's provinces against Saleh's regime, where thousands of anti-Saleh protesters have been protesting against President Saleh demanding the fall of his regime.

Tanks, soldiers deployed around central Sana'a, but clashes in the capital have been minimal since a crackdown by security forces two weeks ago that killed more than 50 unarmed demonstrators.

Yemen Protesters Rally in North; About 40 Wounded in Clashes

By Mohammed Hatem - Mar 31, 2011

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in Yemen, and about 40 were wounded in clashes with security forces and pro-government demonstrators, a protest leader said.

Several demonstrators in the northwestern governorate of Hajja were hit by bullets today and five were in critical condition, Ibrahim al-Shami, a protest organizer, said in a telephone interview.

The opposition has repeatedly said it will not end protests until President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled for 32-years, steps down. Demonstrators have called for rallies tomorrow following Friday prayers. Anti-government protests in Yemen have been taking place for more than two months, inspired by revolts that overthrew the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt. A crackdown in the capital, Sana’a, earlier this month killed as many as 46 protesters.

The U.S. has backed the government’s fight against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said this week that he sees the possible fall of Saleh as a “real problem.” Saleh’s government blamed al-Qaeda for an explosion at a weapons factory in Abyan province on March 28. At least 100 people were killed in the blast, according to an e- mailed statement from the Joint Parties Meeting, the country’s six-party opposition coalition.

Source: The Bloomberg

Yemen Opposition in Standoff With President

By MARGARET COKER in Abu Dhabi and HAKIM ALMASMARI in San'a, Yemen

Mar 31, 2011

Yemen's political opposition is at a stalemate with President Ali Abdullah Saleh over his latest demands that he says must be met before he steps down from power peacefully: guarantees that multiple male relatives will retain military and political opportunities as the country charts a new democratic future.

Mr. Saleh has clung to power for weeks amid an intensifying array of opponents—including the country's leading general, tribal sheikhs and political leaders—protesting to end his 32-year rule. In the past 10 days, amid often acrimonious political negotiations, the president has rejected at least seven separate deals offered in hopes of heading off possible civil war in the strategically important Arab country, according to Mr. Saleh's family members and aides and members of the opposition's negotiating team.

Now, heading into another Friday in which hundreds of thousands of Yemenis are expected to protest in the capital and other cities, nerves are raw and patience with the longtime leader is thin, increasing the likelihood for violence in the capital. Tanks and soldiers who have defected to the opposition have faced off for days against troops and tanks still loyal to the government.

"Saleh must leave while he still has a chance. Time is not on this side. He needs to know that we will not bear anymore of his games," said Nasr Ahmed, a senior official in the Joint Meetings Party, an umbrella group of political opposition parties.

It remains unclear if President Saleh's intentions are to give up power or not. Last week, he said in a nationally televised address that he would willingly give up power only to responsible individuals. He has also publicly criticized the opposition leaders and Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar as being "emotional" and "corrupt."

Given the uncertainty and tension looming over Yemen, one of the world's most heavily armed populations and a key al Qaeda stronghold, diplomats observing the negotiations have been surprised that the crisis hasn't descended into widespread violence. Tanks are deployed around central San'a, but clashes in the capital have been minimal since a crackdown by security forces two weeks ago that killed more than 50 unarmed demonstrators.

Some opposition leaders believe that their dedication to a negotiated solution has backfired. They see Mr. Saleh's gaining leverage in talks because he knows the opposition is reluctance to use force to bring him down.

A fundamental factor complicating a political solution to the crisis is intense lobbying by President Saleh's family urging him not to not leave office without guarantees for their political and financial future, according to one of his relatives and two people close to the family.

Mr. Saleh and his close relatives hold virtually all levers of power in Yemen. In addition to his three-decade uncontested rule, Mr. Saleh's eldest son, Ahmed, commands the U.S.-funded and trained Republican Guard, and two nephews, Yahya and Ammar, head the internal security forces and another elite counterterrorism unit. The three are the leading counterterrorism liaisons for the U.S. At least half a dozen other family members control other military commands.

Last weekend, the president and the opposition appeared close to finalizing a deal in which both the president and Gen. Ahmar—a former longtime ally and now political rival—would resign; power would shift temporarily to a civilian government, most likely headed by the current prime minister; and elections would be held without any Saleh official running for office. That deal also stipulated that Ahmed and the two nephews would retain their military roles in efforts to keep continuity with international counterterrorism relationships—but other family members weren't mentioned.

When other relatives got wind of the deal, they caused a ruckus in the presidential palace, shouting and accusing the president of abandoning them, according to the family member and two people close to the family. "They went crazy" and confronted the president, said the family member. They told Mr. Saleh that he was acting "selfishly and thinking only about himself and his son Ahmed."

It remains unclear how much pressure—if any—international counterterrorism allies such as the U.S. or Saudi Arabia are putting on Mr. Saleh to break the stalemate.

The president has long been comfortable using brinksmanship politics to stay in power, a Western diplomat said. Without a show of force against him, President Saleh may try to capitalize on any new street violence as a way to pressure international countries to keep him in power longer, the diplomat said.

"No one wants chaos in Yemen. A compromised and de-legitimized Saleh is better than chaos," the diplomat said.

Source: The Wall Street Journal