Thursday, March 15, 2012

US steps up intervention in Yemen

Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA’A: March 16, 2012- No doubt that the United States of America exploited the presence of al-Qaeda in Yemen as a scarecrow to widely increase its intervention in the region.
The American intervention in Yemen has become even more open as the country’s political crisis continues to deepen. Determined to promote its interest in the country, regardless of Yemenis’ people aspirations or even the government’s own policies, the US is more than ever pursing its agenda, pressuring newly elected President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi into complying no matter what.
U.S ambassador to Yemen Gerard Feierstein actually made no secret of the Pentagon deep interventionist policy when he declared in a press conference that he was now single-handedly leading the power-transfer process.
Interestingly, it is under President Hadi that the white House is gaining further “access to Yemen as it increases its air strikes and military interventions in the country’ southern
Provinces, with rumors of ‘boots on the ground’ near the southern sea-port of Aden.
Ever since the presidential elections, scores of civilians have been killed by drones as America continues to target alleged al-Qaeda fighters across Yemen, oblivious of the growing resentment and popular anger which could lead to another insurrection.
The U.S war against terror in Yemen started back in 2002 when its missile hit in November Abu Ali al-Harthi a then “enemy of the state”, killing alongside him 5 other operatives.
The killing of al-Harthi is considered the first intervention by the U.S. in Yemen following the 9/11 attacks. Since then, the U.S. intervention in the country has increased to include everything, such as cutting the electricity power and water, and stopping entering oil and gas to the capital Sana’a, under the label “war on terrorism.”
Another example of the U.S meddling in Yemen is the intervening of President Obama to stop the release of Yemeni journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, on February 2, 2011. In a phone call to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, President Barack Obama expressed his concern over the release of the journalist in the context of a general amnesty stressing that sine the man was linked to al-Qaeda he should not be let go. It is important to note at this stage that no concrete proof of his guilt was ever brought forward, neither by the U.S nor the Yemeni authorities.
The reality is that Shaya was a brave journalist who dared exposed America’s butchering of innocent civilians. He is only the journalist who exposed the massacre of the U.S in the village of al Majala in December 2009 in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan, in which dozens of innocent women and children were killed in the raid that targeted a training camp in the village. No AQAP militants were actually among the victims.
Moreover, Shaya revealed that the strike which the Yemeni government claimed was its own was conducted by American drones, revealing a clear breach of Yemen’s airspace.
The Pentagon would not comment on the strike and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied US involvement. Shaye was later vindicated when Wikileaks released a US diplomatic cable that featured Yemeni officials joking about how they lied to their own parliament about the US role, while President Saleh assured Gen. David Petraeus that his government would continue to lie and say “the bombs are ours, not yours.”
For these reasons the US asked the Yemeni government to stop the release of Shaya. That action reflected the reality of the U.S which while advocating democracy and freedom of speech across the world, breaches the law whenever it sees fit.
It is this double standard policy and a clear disregard for Arab lives which incenses Yemeni and to an extent the Middle East.
It has recently come to light that the United States is now building a secret CIA airbase at an undisclosed location in the Persian Gulf for the express purpose of carrying out increased air strikes in Yemen.
The new airbase will be led by the U.S. military’s top counterterrorism unit, the Joint Special Operations Command, with the CIA providing intelligence support. Air strikes by US drones and warplanes in Yemen, which have been occurring for some time, have been expanded recently, all conveniently justified by the alleged presence of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen.

Iran backing Houthi rebels, U.S. claims

WASHINGTON, March 15 (UPI) -- Iranian military forces are shipping light weapons to rebel groups in Yemen, a senior U.S. official claimed.
Yemeni forces in August 2009 launched a campaign against Houthi rebels in northern Yemen. The conflict threatened to spill into Saudi Arabia before the Yemeni government reached a cease-fire agreement with the Shiite rebel group in 2010.
An elite unit within Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps is using small boats to smuggle assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades to the rebel groups in Yemen, a source identified by The New York Times only as "a senior American official" said.
Yemen is in the midst of a political transition period following February elections. Long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down last year after his country was caught up in the so-called Arab Spring.
Yahya al-Houthi, identified by the Times as a spokesman for the Shiite group, denied the movement was getting military support from the Iranians. He said the claims are reiterations of previous allegations made by the United States and their allies in the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

President’s office denies sacking Major Brigadier Tariq Mohammad Saleh

Marwa Najmaldin
SANA’A, March 15 — President Hadi’s press secretary, Yahya Al-Arasi, has denied the truth of assorted news reports that Hadi had dismissed former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s nephew, Tariq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, from his post of commander of the Presidential Guard. 
Several Yemeni news websites and newspapers reported on Tuesday and Wednesday that Hadi had dismissed Saleh and had replaced him with colonel Abd Rabbu Meyad.
 “This story is source-less and incredible, and the President and the Minister of Defense have both denied it,” Al-Arasi told the Yemen Times on Wednesday.
The UAE-based Al-Khaleej newspaper said that in late February, Hadi had rejected a proposal by foreign diplomats for the restructuring of Yemen’s army.
The GCC initiative, signed on November 23, 2011, stipulated the restructuring of Yemen’s army based on national and professional standards.
However, both military leaders who remained loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh and defected army commanders continue to run the military.
Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh - the former president’s eldest son -  continues to command the Republican Guard, Yemen’s elite army division. The division possesses advanced military equipment and its troops comprise one-third of the national army.
Saleh’s nephew, Yahya Mohmmed Abdullah Saleh, also manages the Central Security Forces, while Saleh’s half-brother, Mohamed Saleh Al-Ahmar, continues to head Yemen’s Air Force.
Leading Army Defector Major General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar has maintained his position of commander of the northwest military region. Mohsen’s son, Mohammed, has meanwhile continued to serve as commander of the eastern military region.

Ex-Yemen chief in no rush to exit

The Associated Press
March 15, 2012
SANAA, Yemen - Ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Wednesday that 10 of his rivals among the country's top military commanders, politicians and tribal leaders must leave the country with him for the sake of stability.
The new condition appears to be a way for Saleh to remain longer in Yemen. His presence is blamed for much of the country's turmoil.
Though Saleh transferred power to his vice president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi last month after a yearlong uprising, he has lingered on in Yemen.
In a statement Wednesday, Saleh said "elements of the Yemen crisis" must leave the country, based on a deal he struck last year.
"It was agreed upon that all of them would give up power for the sake of stability and security of Yemen," the statement said.
Saleh was referring to a meeting that took place in March last year in Hadi's house, during which Saleh proposed that he and the rest of his opponents leave the country.
However, his proposal was not included in official agreements he and the opposition parties signed, including the U.S. and Gulf-backed power transfer deal. The deal gave him immunity from prosecution in return for stepping down.
The 10 include Saleh's rivals, among them Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who defected to the rebels, Islamists and sons of Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, leader of an anti-Saleh Hashid tribal confederation.
Abdel-Hadi al-Azazi, one of the Yemen's many young protesters, commented on Saleh's statement by saying, "This man is a liar and plays with words. We are used to his tricks. This is no surprise."

Yemenis say ousted leader undermining al-Qaida fight

March 15, 2012
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — It was a stunning attack by al-Qaida in a country that is one of the world's hottest fronts against the terror group. Militants rampaged through an army camp in southern Yemen before dawn, catching soldiers asleep and killing more than 180. Amid the turmoil, the defense minister ordered helicopters to evacuate the wounded.
The air force commander, Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, refused, according to a senior official at the main air force base in Sanaa.
Notably, al-Ahmar is a half brother of ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh. Many in the military and government say the refusal last week is one example of how Saleh is working behind the scenes to obstruct the new U.S.-backed government as it tries to bring reform and step up the fight against al-Qaida militants in this impoverished Arab nation.
Saleh was the fourth ruler to fall in the Arab Spring wave of revolts in the Mideast, stepping down in the face of protests after more than three decades in power. But while he's no longer president, he has effectively emerged as a parallel ruler: His loyalists and relatives still pervade state bodies and military, and officials who back the new government say he uses those levers to persistently undermine them.
The goal, they fear, is to pave the way for Saleh to return to power by showing the new government is incapable of dealing with the country's multiple problems. Saleh has set up an office in the giant, extravagant Sanaa mosque that he built during his rule and that bears his name, just around the corner from the presidential palace. There he meets with his loyalists and powerful tribal leaders who back him.
The result is constant friction between Saleh's supporters and the new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
The Americans hope Hadi can reinvigorate the fight against al-Qaida, which many Yemenis say Saleh's military waged only halfheartedly. Al-Qaida's branch here is seen by Washington as the most dangerous arm of the terror group after repeated attempts to carry out bombings on American soil. It only grew stronger during the past year's turmoil, when militants seized control of several towns in the south, including Zinjibar, a provincial capital.
U.S. officials say the Pentagon plans to assist Hadi with about $75 million for military training and equipment. After talks in Sanaa last month, President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said Hadi was "committed to destroying al-Qaida."
But Brennan acknowledged Hadi could face resistance in reforming an army that is seen as hobbled by corruption and divided loyalties. He said some in the military "have tried to take advantage of their positions for personal gain."
Restructuring the military, he told reporters, "threatens their personal interests."
One of Hadi's first acts after being sworn in Feb. 25 was to order the removal of the top military commander in the south, Gen. Mahdi Maqoula, a Saleh loyalist. Officers complained that Maqoula was hindering supplies to forces fighting militants.
But Maqoula remained in his position for another week, several military officials in the south said. During that week, ammunition and weapons from a military storehouse in the south disappeared, apparently smuggled out and sold, the officials said. A supply of sophisticated sniper scopes vanished, they said, blaming Maqoula and his fellow officers for the theft. The officers spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Maqoula finally left his post on March 4. Hours before he stepped down, a force of al-Qaida fighters carried out the surprise, pre-dawn attack on the army camp. The fighters sprayed tents where soldiers were sleeping with gunfire and killed at least 185. They dumped their bodies in the desert, some beheaded, and paraded dozens of captured soldiers through a nearby town.
The massacre fueled accusations that Saleh loyalists in the military have been unwilling to fight militants — or even have colluded with them.
The replacement of Maqoula does appear to have brought progress in the fight. A series of airstrikes hit militant positions since Friday. Yemeni military officials say the strikes were carried out by the United States and say they reflect improved communication and intelligence under the new commander, Maj. Gen. Salem Katton. American officials have not confirmed any U.S. role in the strikes.
But security and military officials say Saleh supporters in the Interior Ministry still impede the flow of security information to higher-ups in Hadi's government, including information on al-Qaida militants. They like other officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
After nearly a year of protests against his authoritarian rule, Saleh handed over his powers in November to Hadi, his vice president, under a U.S.-backed agreement. Saleh left the country for medical treatment in the U.S., raising opponents' hopes he would live in exile. The prime minister appointed by Hadi, Mohammed Basindwa, pleaded with Brennan to ensure Saleh stayed out, warning his return "means another war."
But days after Hadi was elevated to president in February elections, Saleh returned and vowed to remain involved in politics as an "opposition leader."
Now authority is divided.
Members of Saleh's National Congress Party remain in ministerial posts in the unity government. Saleh's son, Ahmed, heads both the powerful Republican Guard and special counterterrorism forces. One of Saleh's nephews, Yahia, heads the Central Security forces, and another nephew, Ammar, is the intelligence chief. Saleh supporters control the government Al-Thawra newspaper and others have resisted efforts to restructure state television, giving the ex-president a powerful platform.
"Our people will remain present in every institution," Saleh proclaimed Saturday in a speech from his mosque. "Two months have passed since this creation of this weak government, which doesn't know the ABCs of politics. It won't be able to build a thing or put one brick on top of another."
Basindwa has complained to Hadi that Saleh loyalists in ministries block orders from his government, an official in Basindwa's office said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal workings.
On Monday, tribal fighters tried to storm the Finance Ministry, angered because the ministry cut off funds that Saleh had been funneling to the tribe's leader, according to a ministry official.
The next day, traffic police barricaded their headquarters to prevent a new chief of Sanaa's traffic police from entering his office. The chief had been named to replace a Saleh loyalist.
Political expert Abdel-Bari Taher says Saleh wants to show Yemenis and the United States that without him, the government will fail and security will spiral out of control.
"This is his attempt to tell the opposition that he is still present and send a message to the United States that they lost an ally who could secure the country," said Taher, who works at a government think tank.