Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Possible Return of History in Yemen

President Saleh is returning, biggest feast in the world is waiting, politicians and diplomats are discussing power transition.

By Nasser Arrabyee,22/06/2011

A senior Yemeni official said Wednesday that President Saleh will take two weeks before he return from Saudi Arabia denying earlier official statements that Saleh will return Wednesday,Thursday or Friday.

The Assistant Secretary General of the ruling party Sultan Al Barakani,said president Saleh would take about two weeks before he comes back.

President Saleh is supposed to be reasonably recovered from injuries and burns he suffered in a missile attack on his Palace on June 3.

No one of the top aides of Saleh who were injured with him in the same attack would return from Saudi Arabia as their injuries were more serious.

Saleh's supporters all over the troubled country seem to be confident that their beloved leader is coming back despite the 6-month protests against his 33 year rule.

They enthusiastically swear that the feast they are making to celebrate Saleh's return would be documented in Guinness Records as the biggest feast in the world. The sky of Yemen,cities towns, and villages, was lit up for six about six hours with bullets in what was seen like an all-out war in the night of Wednesday June 8th when Saudi officials said Saleh's surgery was finished successfully. Dozens of people were injured from the falling bullets.

Women and children started Tuesday to give sweets and cookies to soldiers and security people in the streets of the capital Sanaa and some other cities to rejoice the recovery and return of Saleh.

"We love him, we just love him, we'll die for him," said the 55-year old mother and house wife,Rawyah Awadh, one of hundreds of women who have already started to participate in the awaited biggest feast.

Opposition parties refuse his return and wants him only to transfer all his power to the vice president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi according to a US-backed and Saudi-led GCC deal.Now Hadi is the acting president according to the constitution.

The young protesters demand a transitional council and do not recognize constitutional legitimacy and they talk about "revolutionary legitimacy", although the majority of them belong to these opposition parties who support Hadi.

US and Saudi Arabia lead international and regional efforts for peaceful, orderly and constitutional transfer of power to Hadi who is accepted and respected by almost all parties.

Writing this report was based on dozens of interviews with officials, oppositions figures, diplomats and anti-and-pro young protesters and normal people who love president Saleh.

Sultan Al Atwani,Secretary General of the Unionist Nasserite Party, the third largest in the opposition coalition, said, "The transitional council should be the last step.some of the young people are naive and zealous."

The young protesters insist that Hadi and the remaining of the regime should go.

"Yes they have the right to talk about the revolutionary legitimacy , but if the power is transferred to vice president and the ruling party approves it, this will be good," Said Al Atwani.

The acting president and all officials in their meetings with opposition and Americans and Europeans insist to delay talks about power transfer until President Saleb comes back.

"We can not talk about signing while president and top officials of the State are in the hospital," said Sultan Al Barakani,Assistant Secretary General of the Ruling Party, referring to signing the GCC deal for power transfer.

Al Barakani,who survived the missile attack on the presidential Palace on June 3, said the priority now for his ruling party and opposition is to form a unity government to run the country.

"A national unity government should be formed from us and them ,fifty fifty, to run the country for 10 months maximum and then elections," he said.

The senior official praised the role of Saudi Arabia to solve the current crisis in his country.

"Saudi Arabia is the best to resolve the problem because it has good relations with all parties," he said.

However, Saif Al Asali,economic professor,and former minister of finance, has no hope that the opposition and ruling party can do anything together after the failed assassination against Saleh and his top aides.

"The government and opposition can not meet under one ceiling after the bloodshed," said Al Asali.

"The youth should have their own entity without the traditional leaderships of the opposition, the young people should lead themselves."

The independent young protesters blame the US and Saudi Arabia for trying to thwart their revolution.

Najeeb Abdul Rehman, a leading independent protester, said ,"

If this revolution fails,some of the protesters will go fight with Al Qaeda,and the remaining will go fight with AlHouthi rebels."

"They would blame America and Saudi Arabia for that failure and they would side with their enemies," the leading protester added referring to Al Qaeda as the enemy of America and Al Houthi rebels as the enemy of Saudi Arabia.

Opposition leaders and young protesters seem to be very afraid of President Saleh's return.

"Saleh is very bewildering, he can slap you and kiss at the same time, and you do not know what to do,to blame him for slapping or thank him for kissing," said Mohammed Al Sadi, Assistant Secretary General of the Islamist Party, Islah.

Some western diplomats doubt about signing the GCC deal when Saleh returns.

"If Saleh kept maneuvering for four months without signing,why would he sign now after he and his senior officials were nearly killed," said the diplomat on condition of anonymity.

Some of the opposition leaders say Saudi Arabia is now doing everything to find an appropriate successor for Saleh far from the dominance of the Islamist, the brotherhood.

"The Saudi Arabia would not allow the brotherhood to rule in Yemen at all ,at all."said Hassan Zaid,Secretary General of Al Haq Party,one of the opposition coalition party. Al Haq is the Shiite party from which leader of Al Houthi rebels, slain Hussein Al Houthi,dissented.

"The power would not be transferred to vice president Mr Hadi because he is close to Ali Muhsen who is brotherhood and fundamentalist," said Zaid referring to the defected general Ali Muhsen who was mainly blamed for the wars against the Shiite rebels in Saada during 2004-2010.

"The solution is the departure of Ali Muhsen and Saleh and all traditional leaders of the oppositions parties including me," Zaid concluded.

Yemen’s Revolutionary Discontents

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

by Isobel Coleman

Yemeni politician and activist Tawakkol Karman published an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times entitled “Yemen’s Unfinished Revolution.” A leader of Yemen’s democratic youth movement and founder of the NGO Women Journalists Without Chains, Karman is an outspoken advocate of reform in her country. For several years, she has led student protests at Sanaa University, demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s corrupt government step down. In January, as the turmoil of Arab discontent spread across the region, Karman’s protest movement became a focal point of opposition. Every day, she could be found in front of the main gates of the university, leading a growing group of protesters in chants of “No studies, no teaching until the president is out.” When I visited with Karman at her home in Sanaa in mid-January, she insisted that she would not be deterred, even if the regime arrested her—which indeed happened just two days later. True to her convictions, Karman continued her protests after her brief detainment. With President Saleh recuperating in Saudi Arabia from severe injuries sustained in a recent bombing of his palace, it appears that Karman’s first objective has been achieved: Saleh is out, and unlikely to return.

Yemen now suffers from a power vacuum. Karman voices the revolution’s demands that authority must pass to a “transitional presidential council approved by the people,” and that this council must manage the country until elections can be held. She reiterates that a democratic system supported by development and civil institutions is the way forward for Yemen.

Unfortunately, the longer instability persists in Yemen, the more divorced from reality this vision becomes. Yemen’s current situation is not so much a negotiation between the advocates of reform and the remnants of the old regime—as is the case today in Tunisia and Egypt—but instead looks more like a raw power struggle between rival armed factions. The sons and nephews of President Saleh have a monopoly on the country’s security forces, whereas the influential Ahmar clan, a rival family, has its own forces fighting Saleh and in recent months has been bankrolling the protests. A further wild card is General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar (not related to the Ahmar clan), who defected from the military and brought loyal troops with him. These troops have been protecting protesters and have also clashed with Saleh’s forces. This situation could easily devolve into civil war. Moreover, the political opposition is relatively weak and not in a position to argue effectively for lasting reforms amidst this chaos. Most opposition parties are grouped under the umbrella of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), which includes Islamists, socialists, and tribal leaders. The JMP lost the support of many protesters after it signed a deal with the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The GCC had attempted to broker Saleh’s exit, but the arrangement seemed to offer Saleh too much leniency.

Then there is Karman’s own party, al-Islah (meaning “reform”). Although it is the country’s main opposition party, it is largely a conservative force. Resistance from Islah was responsible for indefinitely delaying a vote last year on a law restricting child marriage, a significant problem in Yemen. Islah’s platform across the spectrum of challenges affecting Yemen is not clear, and its standpoint and role in the “new” Yemen have yet to be determined. What we do know is that urgent social, economic, environmental, and demographic issues will not be resolved while chaos continues to reign. (Yemen could be the first country to run out of water.)

One of thirteen female members of the former Islah block in the parliament, Karman herself is a complicated figure. She has become an icon of women’s rights and of the revolution, yet her party is not particularly women-friendly (as per its stonewalling of the child marriage law). While she decries U.S. and Saudi involvement in Yemen, she says Washington and Riyadh are the only ones who can ensure a stable democratic transition in Yemen. I admire and respect Tawakkol Karman for her courage and determination, but I do not share her optimism about Yemen’s revolution. Sadly, the chances of democracy emerging anytime soon are pretty low.

US condemns attack on President Saleh and senior officials

SANA’A, June 22 (Saba) - The United States has condemned the attack on President Ali Abdullah Saleh and senior state officials in the mosque of the presidential palace.

"The United States condemns this senseless act of violence. Our Embassy in Sana’a is working with your government to provide requested assistance, and we are stand ready to do more", U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a letter to Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi.

"My thoughts are with you and the people of Yemen during this difficult time. Violence cannot resolve the issues that confront Yemen", she added, expressing condolences for the serious injuries and loss of life that resulted from the attack.

She went on to say "We look forward to working with you, the Gulf Cooperation Council and other international partners and friends of Yemen to resolve the political crisis in a way that meets the aspirations of the Yemeni people".

Osama bin Laden wife to leave Pakistan for Yemen

Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, 29, expected to return home after being held by security services since US raid on compound

* Jason Burke in Riyadh

*, Wednesday 22 June 2011

* Article history

Osama bin Laden's youngest wife is expected to leave Pakistan for her homeland, Yemen, within days.

Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, 29, has been held by security services since US special forces killed Bin Laden, whom she married in 1999.

Sadah was wounded in the operation and detained by Pakistani authorities in the compound in the northern garrison town of Abbottabad where her husband was hiding. She is believed to have been questioned by US intelligence services.

Reports in newspapers in the Yemen and Saudi Arabia, confirmed by officials in Riyadh, indicate that arrangements have been finalised between Yemeni and Pakistani diplomats for the return of Sadah and her 12-year-old daughter, Safiya, who was also injured in the raid.

Bin Laden's third and fourth wives were also found at the compound by Pakistani authorities after the US operation. Both were born in Bin Laden's home town of Jeddah, on the southern Red Sea coast, and are Saudi citizens. The oldest, Khairiah Sabar, married the former Taliban leader in 1985. The third wife held by the Pakistanis, Siham Sabar, was married in 1987. Both women are college graduates.

Officials in Riyadh told the Guardian that, at least theoretically, there was no objection to their return to Saudi Arabia. Their husband, who was 57 when he died, was stripped of his Saudi Arabian citizenship in 1994 after he turned against the rulers of the kingdom, which he eventually fled, after the first Gulf war.

Hamza, a 22-year-old son of Bin Laden was killed in the raid. The bodies of both men were buried at sea. The women and about 10 of Bin Laden's children and grandchildren were handcuffed by special forces who then left.

Sadah's brother, Zakria al-Sadah, told the Yemen Times this week that Yemeni diplomats in Pakistan had told him his sister would "arrive in the coming days" after the completion of legal formalities. Negotiations over the exact arrangements for the journey had been long and complicated, the newspaper said.

Sadah's family has repeatedly called for her repatriation. Shortly after Bin Laden's death they spoke to a reporter from the Associated Press news agency in their home in Ibb, an agricultural town in the mountains about 100 miles south of the Yemeni capital, Sana'a.

They said they had seen Sadah only once since her wedding in 2000, when she was 17. Since then, communication was largely limited to messages delivered by couriers.

Sadah fled from Afghanistan with her daughter in the months after the 11 September attacks and is believed to have told investigators she had spent five years in the compound in Pakistan without leaving the gates. Their location in the intervening period is unknown.

Bin Laden's two other wives – two earlier marriages ended in divorce – fled the al-Qaida leader's base near Kandahar in late 2011 and were driven by a trusted associate into Pakistan, according to interrogation files from the Guantánamo Bay detention centre recently released by WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian.

Sadah, whose father is a minor civil servant, told her friends and family she wanted to "go down in history", according to her cousin, Waleed Hashem Abdel-Fatah al-Sadah.

Weeks after the proposal, a dowry of $5,000 (£3,000) was wired by Bin Laden and, accompanied by an intermediary, Sadah travelled through Dubai and Pakistan to Afghanistan to meet her bridegroom for the first time.

When the family learned through a courier that she had given birth to a daughter, a group of relatives travelled to Afghanistan, where they spent a month. On the final day of the visit, a cousin recalled Bin Laden telling the young mother she could stay with him in Afghanistan or return home with her family. "I want to be martyred with you and I won't leave as long as you're alive," he recalled her saying.

60 Al-Qa'ida prisoners escape from southern Yemen jail

June 22, 2011
Sana'a, More than 60 al-Qa'ida prisoners escaped from a south Yemen jail today after they clashed with guards, killing one and wounding two others, security and medical officials said.
The prisoners fled the central jail in al-Mukalla, capital of the Hadramawt province, into the nearby mountains after they overpowered the guards and seized some of their arms, a security official said.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had initially said that the prisoners fled after heavily armed al-Qa'ida fighters raided the prison to free them.
The jail is believed to house more than 100 al-Qa'ida militants, 58 of whom have been tried in court and have received jail sentences, the official said.
A spokesman for the civil society organisations in Hadramawt, Nasser Bakazzuz, accused authorities of assisting the prisoners to escape.
"The regime is living its last days and wants to create chaos in Hadramawt province ... there was no attack by al-Qa'ida on the jail to free prisoners," Mr Bakazzuz said.
Another security official told AFP that of the 62 prisoners who escaped, two were rearrested.
A medic at Iben Seena hospital in the city said a security force member was killed and two others wounded, while an al-Qa'ida militant arrived at the hospital in critical condition.
Yemen's army has been fighting heavy gun battles with al-Qa'ida militants in several parts of the Arab nation, which has also been witnessing a massive uprising against the 32-year-old rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Battles are also raging between Yemen's army and suspected al-Qa'ida militants for control of the southern city of Zinjibar.
At least 100 soldiers have been killed since the violence in Zinjibar erupted more than three weeks ago, and 260 have been wounded, according to a military official.
Alleged al-Qa'da militants, who have named themselves Ansar al-Sharia (Supporters of Islamic sharia law), have been controlling most of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, since late May.
Fighting between government forces and suspected al-Qa'ida fighters in southern Yemen have displaced 45,000 people, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Tuesday.
"OCHA is concerned about this conflict situation in southern Yemen in Abyan province," Elisabeth Byrs, an OCHA spokeswoman, told reporters. "We are concerned about the resulting displacement of people."
She said humanitarian agencies estimate that roughly 10,000 people have been displaced in Lahj province, 15,000 in Aden province and more than 15,000 around Abyan.

Yemeni tribal chief: Saleh return could spark war

By AHMED AL-HAJ Associated press

June 21, 2011, 3:34PM

SANAA, Yemen — The head of Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation warned Tuesday in a letter to the Saudi king that Yemen could plunge into civil war if President Ali Abdullah Saleh is allowed to return home.

Saleh is currently in Saudi Arabia, where he is receiving treatment for serious injuries from a blast early this month at his palace in the Yemeni capital that left him with severe burns and chunks of wood in his chest.

In his message to King Abdullah, Sadeq al-Ahmar, the influential tribal chief who was an ally of Saleh before switching sides to join the opposition, appealed to the Saudi monarch to prevent Saleh from returning to Yemen.

"His return will lead to sedition and civil war," al-Ahmar said, according to an aid to al-Ahmar. Saudi Arabia is a key player in Yemen, and has pressed Saleh in the past to negotiate a settlement to Yemen's political turmoil.

Late Tuesday, al-Ahmar had his first meeting with Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi since Saleh departed, a possible step toward resolving the conflict. Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a general who defected to the opposition and deployed his units to defend protesters, took part in the meeting. Hadi is the acting president. He is under pressure to agree to a new government that effectively freeze Saleh out.

The tribal chief's aide said that they discussed steps to implement a cease-fire and withdraw forces from the streets. They also discussed "possible means to exit the current crisis," according to the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis, inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Mideast, have been protesting daily since late January, demanding the ouster of Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for nearly 33 years. Their campaign has been largely peaceful, but fighting erupted in Sanaa between Saleh loyalists and fighters from al-Ahmar's powerful tribal confederation, the Hashid, after troops moved to attack al-Ahmar's residence.

The fighting has tapered off since Saleh left for Saudi Arabia. Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi became acting president following Saleh's departure.

The opposition on Tuesday accused Saleh's inner circle and family of hindering the opposition's dialogue with Hadi.

"Saleh's sons are not helpful in solving the problem, and they don't help the acting president to exercise his constitutional powers," opposition spokesman Abdullah Oubal said.

Yemen's opposition parties have sought to persuade Hadi and Saleh's ruling party to join them in a transitional leadership that would effectively shut out Saleh, who has resisted tremendous pressure at home and abroad to step down.

The president's son Ahmed, who commands the country's best trained military forces, the Republican Guard, and is the main force maintaining his father's grip on power, opposes such discussions.

Saleh's close aide and adviser, Abdul-Karim al-Iryani, arrived Tuesday in Riyadh for talks with Saleh, who requested the meeting. A leading member of the ruling party, commenting on reports that Saleh and al-Iryani were discussing a transfer of power, said he expected "very important decisions" to come out from the meeting.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The United States fears that Yemen's power vacuum will give even freer rein to al-Qaida's branch in Yemen, which Washington believes is the terror network's most active branch. Already, Islamic militants — some suspected of ties to al-Qaida — have taken control of at least two areas in the rebellious southern province of Abyan.

Late Monday and early Tuesday, government warplanes bombed suspected militant hideouts in Abyan, killing at least 22 al-Qaida-linked fighters, a defense ministry official said on condition of anonymity in line with ministry regulations.