Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No blank check for al Qaeda in a post-Saleh Yemen

April 12, 2011

By James Fallon and Ayham Kamel

It's lonely at the top, at least for the embattled president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh. His former friends in the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council are pushing for an accelerated transition of power, while thousands of Yemenis brave ugly clashes with security forces and Saleh supporters to demand his ouster. While Saleh could still refuse to budge, the overwhelming likelihood is that in the coming weeks he will relinquish his position, leaving an even weaker central government in his wake. Unrest has sapped Sanaa's already tenuous control over the country, and further upheaval in the Yemeni capital would allow al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to gain ground in the provinces. But Saleh isn't AQAP's only obstacle, and the group is unlikely to exert direct political influence or operate with impunity after he leaves.

While the particulars shift on a near-daily basis, Yemen's security situation is trending in one direction: down. Government forces have reportedly given up parts of Shabwa, Abyan, Marib, Sa'ada, and al Jawf provinces, with local tribes assuming de facto control. Influential regional military commanders have defected to the opposition, and while Saleh continues to advocate a transition "within the framework of the constitution," the deteriorating situation on the streets will limit his options. Even if his departure is negotiated, it could result in violence.

In the short term, any scenario is likely to include more leeway for AQAP. With Sanaa focused on political transition, and the country's military and security forces in (at least temporary) disarray, the central government will be less able to rein in the terror group. If Saleh's sons, nephews, and close associates are bumped from their positions in the security and counterterrorism forces, the United States and Saudi Arabia will lose their main point people for counterterrorism. And if Saleh's friends are allowed to stay, their credibility in key provinces will be even shakier than it was before. (Their units are already abandoning some areas in the face of local opposition.)

While all of this is good news for AQAP, the group is unlikely to have a blank check in a post-Saleh Yemen. Both the United States and Saudi Arabia have extensive intelligence and strike capacity and will use it if necessary. The United States began to shy away from unilateral strikes last year, after a provincial deputy governor was mistakenly killed in an air strike and a U.S. drone was revealed to have fired the missile (despite Saleh's claim of responsibility). Washington subsequently pared back such strikes to avoid jeopardizing its cooperation with Sana'a. But absent effective Yemeni leadership, the United States would be inclined to renew unilateral action -- however reluctantly -- if circumstances warranted it. Saudi Arabia could also intervene militarily along its shared border. Even the domestic environment could frustrate AQAP. Popular support for the group is generally low in Yemen, and tribal decisions about whether to back AQAP are based largely on local interests. There's no guarantee that those calculations would shift radically in AQAP's favor just because Saleh got the boot.

Source: Foreign Policy

EU Condemns Yemen Violence

Council conclusions on Yemen

3082nd FOREIGN AFFAIRS Council meeting Luxembourg, 12 April 2011

The Council adopted the following conclusions:

“The Council reiterates its utmost concern at the deteriorating situation in Yemen. The Council strongly condemns the new wave of violence and repression against peaceful demonstrators and deeply deplores the further loss of life. It reiterates that protests must be dealt with peacefully.

The Council calls on the Yemeni authorities to abide by their responsibility to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons, including their freedom of expression, to ensure their safety and prevent further bloodshed. The Council and Member States underline that they will keep the full range of their policies towards Yemen under continuous review in the light of developments.

The European Union calls for a full and independent investigation into all recent events which have resulted in loss of life and injuries. Those responsible must be held accountable and brought to justice.

The Council repeats its call on the government of Yemen and all parties to engage immediately in constructive, comprehensive and inclusive dialogue with the opposition parties and the youth. The EU stands ready to support this process. In this regard the Council welcomes the initiative of the GCC and fully recognises the role the GCC can play as a mediator. The Council urges President Saleh to take without delay concrete steps to enable a credible and peaceful political transition in Yemen.”

Yemen: Calvalley starts oil flow from two fields

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, Apr. 13 – Calvalley Petroleum Inc., Calgary, began oil production from Ras Nowmah and Al Roidhat fields on Block 9 into the Masila Export Pipeline System under a temporary arrangement using the Block 51 metering system.

All of Calvalley’s blended crude oil will receive the Masila Blend price, which is benchmarked to Brent crude pricing. The company’s own metering system is expected to become available in May 2011.

Despite the unsettled security environment in Yemen, Calvalley continues its activities as close to normal as possible with two drilling rigs and one service rig in operation.

Completion of the TOF is a major milestone in Calvalley’s program of increasing production, by bringing significant volumes of shut-in production on line, takes advantage of higher oil prices and market accessibility provided by the MEPS.

Tribesmen in Abyan Release Russian Doctor

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By Fatik Al-Rodaini

Sana'a, Apr 13, 2011- Tribesmen in Yemen's southern province of Abyan released a Russian doctor on Wednesday after being kidnapped for more than one month.

Private sources said that kidnappers, who belong to Al-Mahfad district handed over the Russian doctor to the governor of Shabwa province.

In February, the Russian doctor was abducted by gunmen and taken to the town of Al-Mahfad district in the nearby province of Abyan.

The tribesmen kidnapped the doctor in retaliation for an air strike by the Yemeni air force on a suspected Al-Qaeda training camp two years ago, and they held the Russian doctor to force the authorities to hold accountable those who carried out the raid on Al-Majaala in December 2009.

Protests in Yemen turn deadly

April 13, 2011

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- Five people were killed in clashes between rival forces in the Yemeni capital Sanaa as nationwide protests against the government continued Wednesday.

Of the dead in Sanaa, two were loyal to Gen. Ali Muhsen Al-Ahmar, who has defected to the opposition, a government security official said. The other three were regime soldiers.

Government forces were sending in armored vehicles as reinforcements to the demonstrations in Sanaa, the official said.

Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in Aden, Taiz, Hodeida and Dhamar.

In addition to the dead in Sanaa, two people were killed in Aden, according to medical staff at the city's Naqeeb Hospital.

Meanwhile, Yemen's attorney general threatened to resign unless the government went after the killers of anti-government protesters last month.

Abdullah Al-Olufi said "those who were responsible for killing almost 60 protesters and injuring hundreds of others should be identified and brought to justice soon."

"If the security authorities don't identify those responsible for the massacre including those who were masked, I will step down," Al-Olufi said as public and external pressure mounts on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

Protests erupted in Yemen this week despite an attempt by Persian Gulf nations to decrease tensions.

The Gulf Cooperation Council has urged Saleh to transfer powers to his vice president, a move that falls short with the protesters who returned to the streets for marches. Opposition leaders vowed not to back down.

The Joint Meeting Parties bloc, Yemen's largest opposition group, said the Gulf initiative "does not clearly state that Saleh must step down and only focuses on Saleh's transferring power."

"We all know the VP is not strong and will never be able to tell Saleh no, even if all his powers are transferred," said senior bloc official Hasan Zaid.

Saleh, in power since 1978, said he welcomes the council's efforts to help resolve the political crisis in his country. He has said he intends to step down but only under a peaceful and constitutional transition process. He has already promised not to run in the next round of elections.

The United States, which has been allied with the Saleh government in its fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has welcomed past Gulf council initiatives to resolve the crisis in Yemen.