Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Slip Sliding Into Civil War

May 3, 2011: The death of Osama bin Laden yesterday in Pakistan put the spotlight on two things. One, al Qaeda no longer depends on Pakistan as its main base. This is largely because Pakistan has become so hostile to the Arab dominated al Qaeda. Instead, the Yemen branch, AQIA (Al Qaeda in Arabia), has become the al Qaeda home office. Months of unrest, as opponents try to overthrow longtime Yemeni leader Saleh, are thought to strengthen AQIA, but that is only temporary. If a new Yemen government does not increase the pressure on AQIA, Saudi Arabia stands ready to go in and destroy an organization that loudly proclaims its goal of overthrowing the Saudi monarchy. But Yemenis have contempt for Saudi military power, an attitude based on thousands of years of history. However, in the last half century, Saudi oil has changed this ancient balance of power. Yemen is no longer more populous than the rest of Arabia, as it had been since the end of the last ice age (12,000 years ago), which gradually turned most of Arabia (except Yemen) into uninhabitable desert. Yemen, with little oil, has become an over-populated, poverty-stricken political mess. Yemeni military power is still formidable, but split among dozens of tribal and political factions. Saudi Arabia does not want to invade Yemen, but if faced with a stronger AQIA, launching more attacks into Saudi Arabia, the Saudis have shown a willingness to do whatever it takes to defend themselves.

AQIA, and the rest of al Qaeda, is finding that the death Osama bin Laden was not a big deal in the Arab world. That's because the wave of uprisings against Arab despots this year has become the focus of Arab attention. Al Qaeda has, over the last decade, become a despised organization among Arabs. The slaughter of Moslems by al Qaeda in Iraq, and other nations, destroyed most of the support al Qaeda had on September 11, 2001. Worse, the current Arab uprisings are calling for democracy more than religious dictatorship. Nevertheless, the pervasive corruption in Arab nations has kept the use of Sharia (Islamic) law a popular approach to cleaning up government. Historical, and recent, experience has shown that Sharia does not work, and simply provides more opportunities for corrupt clerics. So Sharia may not last long when applied in practice. Meanwhile, iIn Yemen, and other Arab countries, al Qaeda is seen as a failed idea that has come and gone.

President Saleh's Republican Guard is gradually being withdrawn from towns and cities in the south, and being brought back to the capital, to insure Saleh's safety. The security forces contain 150,000 men. There are 80,000 troops in the armed forces, plus 70,000 in paramilitary forces (50,000 police and 20,000 in tribal militias that are on the payroll, an effort to keep them loyal.) Over half of the government budget goes to maintaining these 150,000 armed men. Most are currently neutral, or loyal to Saleh. The president has about 20,000 armed men (half Republican Guard, half secret police) he can really depend on. Most of the others are less dependable, but only a minority of them are actively opposed to him. So far, about 150 protestors have been killed in three months of demonstrations against president Saleh. There have been fewer deaths among the security forces, tribal rebels and Islamic radicals (mostly al Qaeda).

Civil war in Yemen is now more of a possibility. Opposition groups are reluctant to negotiate with Saleh anymore, even with Saudi Arabia and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) providing mediators (and pressure on Saleh to make a deal.)

May 2, 2011: Soldiers killed one demonstrator in the south, as protests continued.

May 1, 2011: Demonstrations began to grow again because president Saleh refused to sign the agreement that would remove him from power. In southern Abyan province, Al Qaeda gunmen attacked a government building, killing three soldiers before being driven away.

April 30, 2011: President Saleh refused to sign the transfer of power document he had earlier said he would sign. Opposition leaders see this as another effort by Saleh to wait out the demonstrations and remain in power. The violence today left two soldiers and four civilians dead, and over twenty people wounded in the port city of Aden.

April 29, 2011: Several hundred thousand people demonstrated throughout the country, mainly in the capital. There, many of the people in the streets were supporting president Saleh.

In the port city of Aden, police killed an al Qaeda leader and disrupted a bombing operation. Elsewhere in the south, an al Qaeda attack on a checkpoint left two soldiers and a civilian dead.

April 28, 2011: Nation-wide demonstrations continued, in part to protest the previous day's violence by the security forces.

April 27, 2011: In the capital, twelve protestors were killed (and over 200 wounded) by security forces, who were trying to disperse the large demonstrations. In southern Abyan province, Al Qaeda gunmen attacked troops, killing two soldiers before being driven away.

April 25, 2011: President Saleh and the opposition made a peace deal, brokered by the GCC. Once signed (on the 30th), Saleh would leave the presidency within 30 days, and new elections would be held 60 days after that.

Source: Strategy Page

Tribesmen Released Saudi Diplomat

By Fatik Al-Rodaini
Sana'a, May 3, 2011- Said Al-Maliki, a Saudi diplomat was released on Tuesday after being kidnapped by Yemeni Tribesmen in Sana'a for ten days.
The release was through tribal mediation that required the resolution of the conflict between a Yemeni and a Saudi over a money issue
Al-Maliki was kidnapped from outside his home in Sana'a. Tribal sources confirmed that the kidnapping of the Saudi diplomat had financial rather than political motives.
Foreigners have frequently been kidnapped in Yemen by tribes who use the tactic to pressure authorities into making concessions.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped over the past 15 years, and most have later been freed unharmed.

Security agencies focus on local links to Yemen

May 03, 2011

AUSTRALIAN security and counter-terrorism agencies are sharpening their focus on local militants with connections to Yemen.

It's where the terrorist group al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula is seen as the most likely perpetrator of future terror strikes against the West after the death of Osama bin Laden.

Between 20 and 40 Australians known to have travelled to Yemen in recent years are being monitored by the authorities, a senior security official said yesterday.

Some are believed to have had direct contacts with al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and its leader, the dual US-Yemeni citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, or to have trained in AQAP's terrorist camps.

Authorities have monitored telephone and email communications between some of the Australians and Yemeni militants, while others have been monitored actively participating on jihadist internet forums.

One Australian who travelled to Yemen to study in an Islamic school was later found to have made a propaganda video featuring footage of bin Laden and posted it on a pro-al-Qa'ida website.

Australian officials share the view of their foreign counterparts that bin Laden's killing is likely to prompt reprisals.

"I think what it may do is radicalise a proportion of people who otherwise would not become radical," an intelligence source said yesterday on condition of anonymity.

"It may mean a couple of operations that are in the pipeline will be brought forward and that others which were not previously being planned will now be planned."

The source added that any retaliatory attacks were far more likely to occur abroad than in Australia.

Bin Laden's death has provoked mixed reactions within the Australian Muslim community. Most Islamic groups and leaders welcomed his death and the prospect for a phasing down of the decade-long war on terror, which many viewed as a war on Islam.

Sydney cleric Sheik Khalil Chami said yesterday he had encountered little sympathy for the al-Qa'ida chief.

"No one can offer any argument that this person (has) done anything good for us. The people who've been hurt most of all (by terrorism) is Muslims," he said.

However, the Sydney branch of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir lashed out at the US and Western governments, which it described as "the real terrorists".

"The reality is that Osama bin Laden was fighting in resistance to Western aggression against, and subjugation of, the Muslim world," said a Hizb ut-Tahrir statement.

The group's Sydney spokesman, Uthman Badar, told The Australian most Muslims did not believe bin Laden was behind the September 11 attacks on the US, and felt a sense of grief and sadness over his death.

Asked whether he believed there would be retaliatory attacks, Mr Badar said: "Maybe. There are always people who will respond emotionally." However, he said he did not believe any such reprisals would occur in Australia.

Counter-terrorism analyst Lydia Khalil, a visiting fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said Australia must adjust its domestic counter-terrorism focus as the al-Qa'ida threat migrated from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia.

"AQAP in Yemen and al-Shabaab in Somalia are seeking to transform their narrow national conflicts into part of the global jihad and have welcomed foreign fighters, particularly from the US, Europe and Australia," Ms Khalil wrote in an ASPI paper in March.

Even before bin Laden's death, US intelligence officials had assessed that al-Qa'ida's Yemeni offshoot was more of a threat than the core organisation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, describing AQAP as "more agile and aggressive" and the more potent threat to Western interests.

Ms Khalil wrote that AQAP had been responsible for all of the major terrorist plots against Western targets in the past two years, such as the attempt to blow up a US airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, and the plot to put parcel bombs on two flights bound for the US in October last year.

News Analysis: Bin Laden's death not to influence al-Qaida in Yemen

by Fuad Rajeh, Wang Qiuyun

SANAA, May 2 (Xinhua) -- As Yemeni officials hailed the U.S. operation that killed the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, local analysts said that bin Laden's death will not influence his groups, including the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

"We heard on Monday the U.S. president's announcement of bin Laden's death. This is a victory for the whole world, especially for those countries, including Yemen, which have been waging wars on terrorism inside their lands," an Interior Ministry official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

However, local analysts said the death of bin Laden will not affect the activity of AQAP and other terrorist groups in the world.

"In recent years, bin Laden was not the real and field commander of al-Qaida groups, instead he was the inspirer of terrorists to attack local and foreign interests, especially the U. S. interests," said Faris al-Saqqaf, head of the Future Studies Center.

But his death would add to the continuous blows to the terrorist organization of al-Qaida, making it clear that al-Qaida was being hunted and surrounded, "the news of bin Laden's death will be a big shock to al-Qaida groups," said al-Saqqaf.

In recent years, the AQAP, which claimed responsibility for most of the recent terrorist plots in Yemen and abroad, has drawn the world's attention to Yemen. The United States, as well as other Western countries, deemed the AQAP as more dangerous than the main al-Qaida group of bin Laden in Afghanistan.

In response to the serious threat posed by the group, Yemen, with support from the West, waged a relentless war and launched a massive hunt for AQAP members across its territory. Many suspects were killed, injured and arrested and some went on trials, receiving sentences ranging from jail terms to death.

"Lately, we have seen the U.S. and other Western countries focus on Yemen, saying it is more dangerous than Pakistan and Afghanistan, due to the existence of AQAP," said al-Saqqaf.

Meanwhile, al-Saqqaf said the operation in which bin Laden was killed exposed the deep relationship between the intelligence agencies of the U.S. and its allies.

"Though bin Laden's death paved the way for the U.S. to control other governments as it had succeeded in using the card of anti- terrorism, it will really help to establish better ties between the Muslim world and the West," he said.

Nabil al-Bukairy, a researcher specialized in Islamic groups, agreed with this, saying al-Qaida's second-in-command Ayman al- Zawahri has replaced bin Laden in recent years to instruct al- Qaida groups in the world.

"Bin Laden was seen just as an inspirer while al-Zawahri actually led al-Qaida. I think the death of bin Laden will only influence the morale of al-Qaida groups, not their ideology and organizational structure," al-Bukairy said, "the impact of Laden's death will be inevitable, but on morale not on ideology."

Al-Qaida would definitely take revenge attacks, although how big or where the attacks would take place are unpredictable, said al-Bukairy.

Russian Delegation Attempts Intervention in Yemen Crisis

Sana'a, May 3, 2011- (VOA) A Russian delegation is in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, trying to salvage a political deal that would ease Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power.

Yemeni media reported on Tuesday that the delegation is meeting with government officials and the main opposition group after a Gulf Arab plan to end Yemen's political stalemate stalled.

The plan called for President Saleh to hand over power to a deputy and resign within 30 days of signing the initiative. It would have established a unity government that would have included opposition members. A presidential election would take place two months after Saleh leaves office.

Both the opposition and Saleh said last week that they agreed to the deal. But Saleh said over the weekend that he would sign the deal only as leader of the ruling General People's Congress party but not in his capacity as president - as required by the plan.

Officials with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which sponsored the accord, said the deal's signing ceremony has been indefinitely postponed.

Gulf officials said a top official is due back in Yemen on Tuesday to try to get the deal moving again.

At least 140 people have died in anti-government unrest since January. Protesters are demanding Saleh's immediate removal.

Officials say the army opened fire on protesters in the port city of Aden Monday, killing one demonstrator. Activists and medics say at least two protesters were killed in Aden on Saturday as security forces moved in to clear a square they had occupied.