Saturday, June 18, 2011

Yemen's stand-in leader lacks political experience

Mohammed al Qadhi

Jun 19, 2011

SANA'A // Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi had spent most of his career in the military until he was elected secretary general for the ruling General People's Congress in 2008. Three years later he is running a country on the brink of civil war while President Ali Abdullah Saleh recovers in Saudi Arabia following a June 3 assassination attempt.

"He has no political experience and when he was involved in political issues, he was just acting as a firefighter for problems of Saleh - like when he was sent to sort out the separatists' problems in the south, though he did not succeed," Ahmed al Zurkah, an independent analyst and freelance writer, said yesterday.

Born in the southern province of Abyan in 1945, Mr Hadi graduated in 1964 from a military school in Aden. He went to Great Britain, Egypt and Russia for additional military study and training. Mr Hadi was the leader of an armoured division until the independence of South Yemen from Britain in 1967.

He later became the chief of the supply department at the defence ministry and then the assistant chief of general staff in the former south republic.

During the civil war in 1994, Mr Hadi was appointed Yemen's defence minister.

Mr Saleh named him vice president in 1994 in part to demonstrate that southerners were still partners in the united country after the south's socialist leaders were forced into exile.

After months of mass protests calling for an end to Mr Saleh's 33 years of rule and fighting in recent weeks between government forces and tribesmen, the burden is now on Mr Hadi to stop the country plunging into conflict.

The main opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties, the youth-led protest movement and the tribal leaders are pushing Mr Hadi to facilitate the transition of power from Mr Saleh as quickly as possible. "We will be able to overcome this exceptional situation with the co-operation of all political parties and civil-society organisations," Mr Hadi was quoted as saying by the state news agency, Saba, during a meeting this month with the minister of industry and commerce and business leaders.

Mr Hadi has the support of the opposition and many of the protesters. But the ruling party leaders and Mr Saleh's relatives have refused any talks on power transfer until Mr Saleh returns from Saudi Arabia.

Mr Saleh's son, Ahmed, leads the Republican Guards, an elite army regiment. Other relatives maintain senior positions in the military and security forces.

"He is in the middle of the hammer and the bench," Sultan al Atwani, a leader of the opposition, told the Washington Post. "Parts of the regime, the sons and nephews, do not see him as legitimate. They see him only as the vice- president until the president comes back."

Most telling is the fact that Ahmed Ali Saleh has moved into the presidential palace, not Mr Hadi.

Last week opposition leaders met Mr Hadi and two senior governing party officials at his Sana'a home in the first known meeting between the sides since the beginning of the year.Mr Hadi "is known for his wisdom and his tendency to compromise. His strength lies in the support of all opposition groups ... But his plight lies in the objection of his party and the relatives and cronies of Saleh ... They want him to remain just a watchdog till Saleh comes back," Mr al Zurkah said.

The US state department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said this month the US government has "been encouraged that vice president Hadi has started some outreach to the opposition and started some dialogue. Because ... we believe that there is no time to lose in moving on to the democratic future that Yemen deserves."

So far Mr Hadi has publicly rejected any suggestions that he replace Mr Saleh. As acting president he has worked to keep a ceasefire in the capital with forces loyal to Sadeq al Ahmar, the head of Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation.

"The man is not looking to hold on to power. He has not got the tribe or military that can turn him into a dictator," Mr Zurkah said.

"Any pressure on Hadi might push him to quit and this will embroil the country into absolute power vacuum and a potential civil war."

Source: The National

Many possible scenarios in Yemen

The departure of the Yemeni president to Saudi Arabia has changed the balance of power and opened the way to different scenarios emerging of the country's future

Hassan Abou Taleb , Sunday 18 Jun 2011

After the forced departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh from Yemen to Saudi Arabia to receive treatment for his injuries after an attack which targeted the presidential mosque earlier this month, the political scales and balance of power have substantially and imperatively changed.

For the first time in Yemen’s modern history, the vice president is exercising presidential powers in accordance to the constitution. The president is incapacitated and his deputy is authorised to rule according to Article 116 of the constitution, which states that the vice president will take over the powers of the presidency if the president is unable to carry out his duties.

The vice president is exercising his powers from his home rather than the presidential palace, which is still under the control of Saleh’s son, uncles and cousins since they are the chiefs of the Presidential Guard, the Special Forces and Central Security. This reveals the trials and tribulations that the vice president could face in the coming phase if his action is not approved by this camp, especially since it carries much political and military influence. If it does not agree with him, it is likely that matters will devolve into open military confrontation against those opposing the president’s return once he recovers.

These tribulations could be eased through international, regional and domestic recognition of the vice president since he is exercising constitutional rights on the one hand, and on the other because he is partially accepted as the leader of the interim period during which he will work with the opposition – especially those who are currently calling for a return to a civic regime which is accepted by the sweeping majority of Yemenis who took to the street demanding change. They all reject Saleh’s return in any way, shape or form.

One possible scenario is for Saleh to remain in Saudi Arabia as a president who was forced to leave the presidency, and a transitional phase which is acceptable to the opposition and the youth of change begins. This could have a partial positive outcome if security conditions proceed calmly or remain under control. The worst case scenario would be if Saleh insists on returning after convalescing to exercise his presidential powers, even if theoretically. This is certain to divide the country once again in a more polarised manner than before, because the new division will be tainted with feelings of revenge by all parties which may have been involved in the attack on the presidential palace, whether the sons of Al-Ahmar, whom Saleh mentioned by name as responsible for the attack, or Al-Qaeda or elements of the Yemeni Army who support the revolution.

The matter could evolve into a war where everyone is against everyone, making Yemen a model of a failed state whose institutes are in complete collapse, and where Yemeni citizens turn to their traditional loyalties such as tribe, region or doctrine for protection and continuity. The Yemeni army itself is divided among supporters and loyalists to the president and those who oppose him and support the revolution. Saleh’s return, if it happens, could usher in catastrophic results on many levels, including distracting the Armed Forces with in-fighting as Al-Qaeda gains more ground similar to what happened in Zanjibar in the governorate of Abeen.

The dividing line in Yemen appears to be between an internally split regime and a violent organisation which succeeded in controlling vital regions, which could be used as a launching pad for a network or state within a state that gives refuge to terrorist groups operating in the name of Islam. These conditions would encourage the supporters of the southern movement to directly move towards ending unity, and once again liberating South Yemen from the control of the North. This would be a move for partition which would certainly end what we have come to know as Yemen over the 20 years.

Another better scenario is also possible, namely that Saudi mediation succeeds in reviving the previously rejected Gulf initiative as a political means to ensure the peaceful transfer of power, especially that the proposal includes a clause which allows the vice president to take power and cooperate with the opposition during the interim period until the next presidential elections. Since fate has forced the transfer of power from the president to his deputy, there are only a few formalities left – most importantly that all parties accept the initiative and commit to its article, and that Saleh, his sons and family accept this transition without resistance or pursuit.

This should be followed by intense efforts to rebuild national conciliation to establish a new Yemen based on specific political and security steps according to an appropriate timeline. Such a scenario would safeguard Yemen against division, failure, war and confrontations on many levels. All these possible scenarios should make us as Arabs feel concerned about the pitfalls in Yemen, because whatever takes place there will have serious repercussions for its neighbours for a long time.

I believe now is an ideal moment for the Arab League to take action that complements Gulf efforts to restore the stature of the Gulf initiative, revive, activate and implement it, in a way that prevents the collapse or partition of Yemen. The starting point is to convince Saleh that returning to Yemen after recovery is not an option, and that he should urge his supporters to come to terms with the new situation. After that, Yemen should be left to its people to rebuild based on a vision of consensus in line with the spirit of the people seeking freedom and resisting all forms of tyranny.

Source: Ahram Online

Unrest Lays Off 60 Per Cent Of Yemen Private Sector Workers

Sana'a, June 18, 2011

Many Yemeni workers at the private sector have been laid off due to the month-long unrest which paralyzed trade and largely affected the national economy, quoted economists as saying on Saturday.

The protests calling for the ouster of the regime also forced many businesses to close, the website said, adding that economists estimated the contracts of almost 60 per cent of the workers at the private sector were terminated.

Some companies were said to have given staffs unpaid vacations until the situation returns normal, it said.

Meantime, state employees complained of late pays and deductions from their salaries, as some public offices were said to have suspended salary rises or other funds allocated for their employees besides the main salaries.

The website cited a source at the private sector as saying that the political crisis in the country paralyzed trade and productive operations at the sector by 70 per cent.

It is worth to mention that casual market absorbs more that a million workers, most of whom have already lost their jobs due to the unrest.

Source: Yemen Post

Mumbai: Yemen Caller Claims Indian Mujahideen Killed Journalist J Dey

Daijiworld Media Network - Mumbai
Mumbai, Jun 18: A caller from Yemen has claimed that Indian Mujahideen (IM) was behind the murder of Mid-Day crime journalist Jyotirmoy Dey. The anonymous call was made to the police control room here on Saturday June 18 at around 5.30 pm.
According to a senior crime branch official, the caller said that IM had hired gunmen from Kashmir for the job, but the police are yet to ascertain the validity of the claim as IM has no known presence in Kashmir.
Asserting that the call is being taken seriously, the official added that the police are now in possession of CCTV images which will help to nail the culprit, along with call records of J Dey between 1.30 pm when he left home and 2.45 pm, the time he was shot dead.
The crime branch has already questioned 150 people in connection to the case, and is hoping to make a major breakthrough very soon.
Earlier, Mateen Iqbal Hatela who had been detained by the police, was said to have confessed to the crime, but the police claim that he was trying to mislead them.
J Dey was shot dead in broad daylight a week ago. He was a crime journalist who had covered the Mumbai underworld extensively and had even written books on the subject.

Yemeni clerics call for presidential elections

The Associated Press
Jun. 18, 2011
SANAA, Yemen -- More than 100 influential religious clerics and tribal leaders are calling for presidential elections in Yemen.
The petition obtained Saturday demands the ouster of embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh and new elections within 60 days.
Saleh is undergoing medical treatment in Saudi Arabia after being wounded in an attack on his palace earlier this month.
A ruling party official said Friday that Saleh intends to return to Yemen within days, but the clerics and tribal leaders say he's unfit to resume his post.
Among the petitioners is the spiritual leader of the country's fundamentalist Islamic opposition party.
Yemen's president of nearly 33 years has held onto power in the face of massive protests demanding his ouster since February.

Analysis – Yemen crisis puts Saudis in powerbroker’s bind

By Joseph Logan

June 18, 2011

DUBAI (Reuters) – Fearing both civil war and sweeping political reform as results of the crisis in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is struggling with its role as regional kingmaker.

While publicly backing Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, still in a Saudi hospital after being wounded in fighting in the capital Sanaa after months of protests aimed at ousting him, Riyadh has also tried to broker a succession on its own terms.

That has entailed forging relationships with tribal chieftains, politicians and army officers long cultivated by the Saudis as counterweights to Saleh’s 33-year rule, but who are too many and too fractious to provide a ready-made successor.

And the very process of negotiating a political exit for a neighbouring ruler it no longer supports has raised talk of representative government, feared by the kingdom that is the world’s No. 1 oil exporter.

“It (Saudi Arabia) will try to stop a move to any real democratic system in the country,” political analyst Ahmed al-Zurqa said. “This is the problem.”

The Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) mediated three aborted deals with Yemeni opposition parties under which Saleh would step down and be spared prosecution for misconduct including bloody crackdowns on protesters who took to the streets as pro-democracy activism swept the Arab world.

Each time, Saleh backed out at the last minute.

His last demurral, in May, triggered two weeks of fighting with the al-Hashed tribal confederation led by the al-Ahmar family, culminating in a June 3 attack on Saleh’s palace.

That may have sealed Saleh’s fate for the Saudis, said Sheila Carapico, a Yemen expert and political science professor at the American University of Cairo.

“We don’t even know if he’ll be well enough to go back (from Saudi Arabia), but apart from that, I think they’ve lost faith in him,” she said.


Saudi and Yemeni state media still stress Riyadh’s relationship with Saleh but the flirtation with his enemies is evident.

Sadeq al-Ahmar, a leading al-Hashed figure, said after a round of clashes which devastated parts of the capital that he was keeping a truce only out of respect for Saudi King Abdullah.

Opposition parties ranging from socialists to Islamists of both the Sunni and Zaydi Shi’ite sects, and which signed off on the GCC deals, lost credibility with “Arab Spring”-inspired youths who have emerged as a separate Yemeni constituency.

“We believed, and still believe, that the Gulf states do not want the youth revolution to succeed in Yemen, so that its effects won’t spread to the other states of the region,” said democracy activist Omar Abdelqader.

Those opposition parties have participated in negotiations with Yemen’s acting leader, Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in which the absent president’s fate was not broached.

U.S. diplomats helped broker those talks. But with Washington apparently preparing to pursue attacks on al Qaeda in Yemen with more use of CIA-operated drones, analysts believe it may have satisfied its real needs in Yemen, and will leave kingmaking to the Saudis.

“I don’t think the U.S. has a policy on Yemen,” Carapico said. “One part is we back the Saudis and whatever they want is good enough for us, and then the other part of it is we really, really don’t like al Qaeda.”

The balance of forces on the ground suggests no one contender will simplify the task of succession by emerging stronger than the others.

Though Saleh’s ruling party suffered high-profile defections, several of his relatives — including a son, Brigadier-General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, who leads the Republican Guard — retain command and seem to have achieved military parity with the president’s enemies.

“I don’t think you’re going to see many more people jumping ship at the moment,” said James Spencer, a defence and political risk consultant. “Saleh’s son and nephews have hung on … Ahmed Ali has made it clear he’s not going to go meekly.”

Yemen's VP Meets Chinese, Russian Ambassadors in Sanaa

Sana'a, June 18, 2011- Yemeni Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi met with Chinese and Russian ambassadors in Sanaa on Saturday, briefing the developments of the country's political crisis and the health condition of the wounded president being treated in the Saudi capital, official Saba news agency reported.

During the meeting, Chinese ambassador Liu Denglin and Russian ambassador Sergei Kozlov condemned the attack against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, reaffirming their governments' stances to support the unity, security and stability of Yemen.

On his part, the acting president Hadi reviewed the latest developments in the Yemeni political arena between the ruling party and the opposition since President Saleh was hospitalized to Riyadh for treatment following an assassination attack on his Presidential Palace on June 3.

Hadi reassured that Saleh's health condition is improving and he will come back to his post in Sanaa very soon.

He also briefed the results of his meeting with the opposition- backed protesters, who called for forming an interim ruling council, adding that the top priority at present is to put the destabilized-hit security and economic situations back on track.