Monday, June 13, 2011

US worries about Yemen, Somalia terror ties; al-Qaida group working to gain more ground

By Associated Press,
June 14, 2011
WASHINGTON — The U.S. is worried that the ongoing unrest in Yemen could fuel connections between al-Qaida-linked militants there and al-Shabab insurgents in Somalia, the State Department’s counterterror coordinator said Tuesday.
Daniel Benjamin said insurgents in Yemen are trying to take advantage of the turmoil in their country, are operating more in the open and have been able to acquire and hold more territory. And, he said there are growing concerns that AQAP will be able to acquire more weapons, particularly in areas where there is chaos.
But Benjamin says he is hopeful that counterterrorism efforts will continue as the political transition moves along and a new government takes hold in Yemen.
“Counterterrorism cooperation is not about one man,” Benjamin told reporters.
And while he said the U.S. doesn’t know what the next government in Yemen will look like, and “there has been some distraction because of the political turmoil,” he added that the U.S. believe that cooperation will grow under the new leaders.
He said the U.S. has been in talks with the acting president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
U.S. strikes against the Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula have intensified, but the group is considered the most immediate terror threat to America.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was badly injured in a recent attack and is in Saudi Arabia. He and opposition party rulers are moving slowly toward a transition of the government.
There have been consistent reports of connections between AQAP in Yemen and al-Shabab across the Gulf of Aden in Somalia. And those could deepen if the Yemeni government loses more control of its coastal regions.
The waters are already thriving regions for pirates, who take over commercial ships and hold them for ransom. That money, said Benjamin, is making its way into terrorists’ hands, although the relationship between the pirates and the insurgents is murky.
“We know that militants have shaken pirates down,” he said. “And if that results in money being in terrorist pockets, that’s bad news ... If you ask most of the pirates right now, they would consider the terrorists to be parasites who are not helping them in a constructive way.”

'US seeks base in Yemen'

June 13, 2011

Yemenis continue to wage protests, calling for the establishment of a transitional council to enable the handover of power to the people.

Middle East consultant Peter Eyre in London sheds further light on the development in a Press TV interview, the transcription of which follows:

Press TV: What is your take on what exactly is going on in Yemen? Tell me what you think right now [about] the role of Saudi Arabia and the United States is playing while this power play is going on?

Peter Eyre: Well, it is quite obvious that they are buying for time because they want to get a government in that is user-friendly to America. Obviously the people out on the street want change like most of the Middle East countries do at the moment and we see this domino effect all around the trouble areas where they are demanding change and if democracy prevails then obviously a transitional government should be implemented as soon as possible.

[A] Three-month timescale should be the maximum because these people are going to keep taking into the streets until they get their way. That is what democracy is all about. And one has to ask the question how serious is the illness with Saleh because a week ago he was fine and was going to return in a couple of days, [but] over the last few days he has been critical, and no one seems to know... if America wants him out and Saudi [Arabia] wants him out, then keep him there, why send him back at all?

Press TV: Peter, at this point in time, in Yemen itself, we have various reports saying that basically now Saleh's son, Ali Ahmad, has taken over and [is] really not allowing the vice president even in the presidential palace. How likely is it that even amongst those who say that they are for the government, there could be even another split from within?

Peter Eyre: I think the issue here is that if the son is in a position to take over his father's role as an interim or whatever, you have still got the US controlling the military and whoever who has got the control of the military in the chaos that is there at the moment obviously has the control of the country.

Regarding the American intervention, we have to understand that, quite a few times, Saudis already crossed [and launched] the incursions into the country and have suffered the consequences of that, because they really don't have the man power to take on the situation that is on hand there; and the last incident when the Saudi air force did participate in carrying out incursions into northern Yemen so were the American air force. There were extensive military strikes by the US into that area and now of course it looks like the drones are coming in on the scene and this to me will just aggravate the situation.

I would like to make one correction here [about something] which I totally disagree with. ...What I would like to say is that there is no threat from al-Qaeda. It is quite debatable if al-Qaeda actually exists. I think it is just a legal pseudonym that was attached to militant groups around the world by the US to make things more legal.

There is no threat -- from the Western aspect -- of al-Qaeda. Please understand this. I think we have had more false flag incidents in the West that are self-inflicted rather than from Islamic countries.

Press TV: With what you were just saying, if there is no al-Qaeda, as you were saying there, then what exactly is going on?

Peter Eyre: Well, before the al-Qaeda topic came onto the debate which is only in more recent times, the actual incursions across the border were assaults of a Shiite breakaway group, and Saudi [Arabia] was very concerned, as they are in Bahrain -- you know the Shiites are the majority in Bahrain and there is a distinct suppression there that they do not want the Shiites to come into power.

In the Saudi case, they did not want Shiites extending into their territory on the border with Yemen and so that was the conflict, and when they did carry out the incursions, it was not against this pseudonym al-Qaeda. It was against breakaway elements and as you would have seen around the world, minority groups generally become the victim of the greater party, and that was the case in northern Yemen. Suddenly, this breakaway group has been given the tag of al-Qaeda. I really sincerely believe that al-Qaeda does not exist and it never existed.

Press TV: Peter, what is your take on, at this point in time, the perspective of the United States? Do you think that they have realized that for sure Saleh is out and, if they have what do you perceive they want next? Do you have any names of any individuals or any groups that would be more likely to continue on the same line as Saleh?

Peter Eyre: Well, just before we continue on that topic, let's just reflect back on Egypt, because Egypt was discussed just now. Basically, Mubarak was a US puppet, and slowly the people in the streets took over and obviously demanded change and when that takes over at such a phenomenal rate that has happened in Cairo, obviously the government has to listen to this and then America sees that the cards are turning against them, then it denounces Mubarak, the very person that they supported and they pumped all the money in [for]. As Saleh was an American creation; ... and they put a lot of money into Yemen.

But I have to emphasize that money cannot buy democracy. There is an underlying tone here and this has never been discussed. America has always wanted a base in Yemen. Socotra Island, which is on the horn of Africa, is vital to the Americans to set up as a base. They have always wanted it and before the Americans, it was the British protectorate. I myself was based in Aden. It was a British protectorate that the West has always wanted, -- and for one very good reason, because it is a gateway to trade [allowing] all the traffic through the Suez to Europe, to the UK and to America.

That is vital and if they can control that, if they can turn its traffic on and turn it off, if there is any dispute for instance with Iran, they just stop the Iranian ships from going through there. This is a critical, strategic base that they need and it should never be allowed. This is part of the geo-political war that is going on at the moment.

Press TV: So you are telling me that a lot of this that is going on is related to the United States wanting control over that area?

Peter Eyre: For sure, absolutely, one hundred percent; If you look at the geo-political plan, the Gulf of Aden has always been a critical gateway that they wished to control, and for as far back as I can remember, [since] when we [the British] pulled out, the Americans have always expressed an interest there. And I think there is an undertone here that is not being revealed.

Woman Killed and Five Injured in Al-Hima Al-Kharejia

By Faitk Al-Rodaini

Sana'a, June 13, 2011- Local website reported that a woman was killed and five others wounded in the city of Al-Hima Al-Kharejia, west of Yemen's capital, Sana'a.

The website said that the renewed clashes took place in the city of the Al-Hima Al-Kharejia between Yemen's army camp within the area and armed tribesmen, killing a woman and wounding five others.

Local sources mentioned that an exchange of gun fire erupted between Al-Manar Camp and Al-Mafeheq city in which the both sides used different weapons during the clashes. Al-Mafeheq's tribesmen prohibited the army unit of creating a new camp in their area. No further details were reported.

Separately, an army Colonel was killed on Monday in Yemen's business capital Aden after a bomb was detonated in his car, a security source said.

Unidentified gunmen planted the bomb inside the car of Colonel Muti'a Al-Sayani that exploded after noon while he was on his way to the city of Al-Buraika, the source said, adding an investigation was underway.

Senior Houthi figure: U.S. Carried out Attacks on President Saleh and Al-Ahmer's House

By Faitk Al-Rodaini

Sana'a, June 13, 2011- A senior Houthi figure, Saleh Habera accused on Monday the United States of being behind the two attacks that aimed the Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh and several Sheikhs were at the home of the tribal leader Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ahmer.

Habera said that the U.S. aimed by carrying out the two attacks to drag the whole country into a civil war. He attributed that to the desire of the U.S to play a strong role in Yemen.

Saleh Habera accused the U.S of aborting the Yemen's youth revaluation through supporting President Saleh's regime and brokering several initiatives to solve the current crisis.

A New Role for the US Government in Yemen

June 13, 2011
Today Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh sits in a hospital in Saudi Arabia, the victim of an assassination attempt. Back in Yemen, the opposition is cautiously optimistic about what this means for the future of Yemen. And as the U.S. State Department and its allies continue to publicly call on Saleh to resign from office and make way for genuine, democratic elections, it is paramount to remember that the removal of Saleh should not be the end game in Yemen. A successful, stable, secure Yemen needs more than one man’s fall from power.
In the meantime, what are other areas of the U.S. government doing and saying about Yemen?
Just one week ago the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. Included in this act is updated language that affirms and strengthens the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) with respect to “the ongoing armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces.” In justifying the new language, which gives legal grounding to broadened executive actions in the war on terror, House Armed Services Committee Chair, Representative Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) explicitly cited Yemen’s terrorist threat and the actions of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen.
The accompanying press release directly states that “the threats posed by al-Qaeda cells in Yemen and Africa underscore the evolving and continuing nature of the terrorist threat to the United States.” Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey praises the updated language as adding “order and rationality” to the current ad hoc authorization of military actions and detentions in the war on terror.
Nevertheless, the language does explicitly authorize U.S. military incursions into any country–such as Yemen–perceived to be or contain a security threat to America.
This stance, while bold, does not mark a new era in U.S.-Yemeni relations. Rather it highlights the narrow lens through which the American government views and interacts with Yemen. Under the ongoing Yemen strategy, counterterrorism efforts against AQAP take precedence over all other matters.
For the past four months Yemen has been engulfed in anti-government protests that seek to force Saleh to resign from office. Since January 2011 more than 50 protesters have been killed, hundreds have been wounded, and the economic fragility of this country exposed as oil exports collapse and food and fuel prices soar.
Throughout the protests the U.S. narrative has focused on this crisis as a political matter only, with the primary issues being the implications of Saleh resigning on Yemeni political stability and capacity to combat AQAP.
However, the answer to the question “Is Yemen failing?” does not come down to one man. As early as the 1960s the U.S. government recognized that the key barriers to development and success in Yemen are the country’s lack of natural resources, shortages of educated and trained manpower, scarcity of water, and divisions in the country’s social structure. While Yemen has improved in key indicators such as literacy rates and GDP, to date none of these critical development issues have been significantly addressed.
The current conflict has already exacerbated and will continue to exacerbate these development concerns.
Hydrocarbon development. A net oil and gas exporter, Yemen depends upon oil for more than 70% of its declared GDP. The country nevertheless possesses only 0.2% of the world’s total oil reserves (2.7 thousand million barrels proven in 2009) as is believed to have already reached peak production. Attempts to compensate for the expected oil revenue loss through natural gas development, namely a 5-year $4 billion project to build and supply a liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal, have been stifled by political instabilities, tribal tensions, and reluctant foreign investment.
Since the start of the anti-government protests this national income crunch has only gotten worse. Daily oil exports have been cut by more than 100,000 barrels per day, down by more than one-third from 270,000 barrels, and worker strikes and pipeline cuts have completely halted both production and export for days on end. Internally, over the last three months the combination of pipeline disruptions and limited domestic refining capacity has fueled severe electricity, gasoline, and heating fuel shortages within Yemen.
Water. By 2050 several main cities, including Sana’a and Taiz, are expected to drain their water aquifers—effectively running out of water. Current withdraw rates show the aquifers under Sana’a withdrawing at up to 5-6 meters annually (data from the German Technical Office). In a water sector already characterized by water management struggles, corruption, bloody fights over irrigated land and water access, prolonged absence of central authority will likely reduce the already limited compliance with Yemen’s environmental and water laws. Even if central fighting were to stop tomorrow, the Ministry of Water and the Environment is in disarray in the wake of Minister Abdulrahman al-Eryani’s resignation on March 22nd and the leveling of the Ministry building (located in the Hasaba district, near the Ministry of the Interior) during the last week ‘s violent conflict between government troops and tribesmen supporting Sadiq Al Ahmar.
Population. With or without Saleh, Yemen must confront one of the highest population growth rates in the world (more than 3%), a poor education system, high unemployment, and one of the world’s most significant gender equality gaps. In a population of 23 million, over 45% of people lived on less than $2/day in 2010, a level defined by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as being poverty level. With many livelihoods either directly or indirectly dependent upon hydrocarbon extraction and tourism, this poverty level has without question risen over the past six months.
Food. Once considered the breadbasket of Arabia, Yemen is now a net food importer. The World Food Programme considers 32% of Yemen’s population to be food insecure and 12% severely food insecure. While there is significant evidence that social networks and communities in Yemen ensure that even the poorest families are not calorie deficient, there is significant nutrient deficiency and many families depend upon borrowing in order to meet their basic food needs.
To aid Yemen in addressing their extensive social, economic, and resource challenges the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has requested just over $120 million in aid for FY 2012. Of this, just 57 percent or $68.6 million will go towards all economy building, education, health, and democracy building activities. To offer perspective, in FY 2012 DOS alone requests $5.6 billion for global foreign military funding.
As the U.S. government develops its policies toward Yemen it must look beyond a narrow perspective of counterterrorism and seek to address key causes of insecurity—environmental, social, and economic, as well as political and military. Neither authorizing military force against actors in Yemen nor providing security funding is enough. Addressing root causes of terrorism and instability means sustained and significant engagement over critical issues including education, resource management, governance reforms, and economic and financial restructuring and development.
When the Embassy staff return to Sana’a and engage with the Yemeni government, whatever its form, the US must work with Yemen to:
* rebuild key institutions and capacity;
* support those existing development and business projects that have been most successful;
* initiate new U.S-Yemeni partnerships that strengthen Yemen’s internal scientific, economic, governance, and business capacity; and
* push the Yemeni government for meaningful governance reforms.

Woman Killed and Five Injured in Al-Hima Al-Kharejia

By Faitk Al-Rodaini

Sana'a, June 13, 2011- Local website reported that a woman was killed and five others wounded in the city of Al-Hima Al-Kharejia, west of Yemen's capital, Sana'a.

The website said that the renewed clashes took place in the city of the Al-Hima Al-Kharejia between Yemen's army camp within the area and armed tribesmen, killing a woman and wounding five others.

Local sources mentioned that an exchange of gun fire erupted between Al-Manar Camp and Al-Mafeheq city in which the both sides used different weapons during the clashes. Al-Mafeheq's tribesmen prohibited the army unit of creating a new camp in their area. No further details were reported.