Friday, July 20, 2012

Yemeni President Lashes Out at Iran

July 20, 2012
By Edward Yeranian, VOA
CAIRO - Yemen's president lashed out at Iran Thursday for allegedly meddling in his country's internal affairs, after suspected members of an Iranian spy ring were arrested.
Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi blasted Iran for allegedly spying on his country, insisting that Tehran would "pay a price" if it continued to do so. He went on to urge Iran to "mind its own business."
President Hadi stressed that Yemen was recovering from months of chaos, pointing to what he called "delicate circumstances" that Iran should take into consideration. Hadi also praised his own armed forces for holding the country together:
He says that the army is a safety valve that protects the unity of the country and its security and that it is not answerable to individuals, but to the people.
Few details were given by government media about the alleged spy ring which was dismantled. President Hadi also offered no specifics, but threatened to "embarrass [Iran] in front of the world" at some point in the future.
Iran did not immediately respond to the Yemen allegations.
Yemeni officials have accused Iran in the past of aiding Houthi rebels in the north of the country. The rebels have fought a series of wars against the government in recent years.
Veteran Saudi editor and publisher Jamal Khashoggi notes that Iran has a habit of creating problems in various countries by supporting one faction against the rest of the country.
"The Iranians are quite sectarian," he says. "They go and support a segment of the Yemeni society: they inflame it, they strengthen it and that society or that group or that community will go against the majority of the people and that will lead to a confrontation in the society."
He goes on to say that Iranian meddling "destroys the unity of Yemeni society." He adds that Iran has done the same thing in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria by supporting specific minorities.
Yemen analyst Stephen Steinbeiser, who heads the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, points out that Iran initially became involved in Yemen by opening health clinics.
"Iran, either officially, or in name, opened up a number of hospitals and health clinics several years ago," says Steinbeiser. "A lot of them have been shut down. I think most of them are probably pretty poor quality and under that pretext the government shut them down."
Steinbeiser goes on to say that the Yemeni government is convinced that Iran is meddling in its affairs but that it's "difficult to judge." "It's possible in the north," he says, "and ideologically, it probably makes sense, but....there is no real, hard evidence of that."

Pentagon sending new aid to Yemen

July 20, 2012
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is pouring new funding into Yemen for weapons and aircraft to help bolster the embattled country's counterterrorism forces, amid growing concerns about Iranian spying and meddling there.
After freezing military aid to Yemen for the past year, as the country was wracked by internal chaos, the Defense Department has now agreed to deliver more than $112 million worth of equipment and military training this year. The assistance includes $75 million approved last month, and another $37.4 million this month.
In documents delivered to Congress, the Pentagon said the latest funding will be used to buy two new twin-engine transport planes, inflatable boats, communications equipment and a variety of guns and ammunition. The $75 million was targeted for counterterrorism improvements, including small unmanned aircraft known as drones, weapons, military construction and training.
U.S. officials began in March began discussing how best to help Yemen as it worked to put its new U.S.-backed government in place. Widespread protests, coupled with pressure from the U.S., led to the ouster of longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh. And U.S. leaders have said they believe that new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, will be a good partner to the U.S.
The U.S. continues to view the Yemeni-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula as a top terror threat, even though the group hasn't surfaced as a main source in any domestic threats for more than a year. One of its key leaders, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last fall.
Al-Awlaki was linked to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting U.S. and Western interests, including the attempt to down a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and the plot to bomb cargo planes in 2010.
This week, meanwhile, Hadi warned Iran to stop spying in his country, in the wake of claims that an Iranian spy operation had been uncovered.
U.S. officials have also said that Iran is meddling in Yemen's affairs.
In June, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Congress that counterterrorism assistance to Yemen was important to U.S. national security.
The U.S. has poured more than $326 million in security and other assistance into Yemen since 2007, fueled by the escalating threat from the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The aid abruptly stopped last year at a time of political and security unrest.
Initial plans by the Pentagon to send at least $150 million in aid to Yemen last year were shut down, and no military aid has been approved until last month.
In addition to the funding for Yemen, the Pentagon also notified Congress that it is sending aid to Niger, Mauritania and Estonia.
The $11.7 million in aid to Niger to help its counterterrorism forces operate in remote locations and battle al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The aid includes two aircraft, training and communications equipment.
Mauritania will get nearly $7 million in weapons, vehicles and other equipment, also to help battle AQIM. And Estonia will receive $1.7 million in training for its special operations forces that will deploy to Afghanistan.

Gunman kills Yemeni security official, Qaeda blamed

DUBAI | Fri Jul 20, 2012
(Reuters) - A gunman shot dead a Yemeni security official in the southern province of Baydha, the defence ministry said on Friday, in an attack it blamed on the country's wing of al Qaeda.
The attacker killed Ghazi Said Abdallah Baidha of Yemen's political security service in the town of Radda late on Thursday, then fled on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice, an unidentified official said on a ministry website.
It was the latest in a string of assassinations of security officials in southern Yemen, where al Qaeda-linked Islamists established a foothold during the 14-month uprising that erupted against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh last year.
The town was briefly held by Islamists earlier this year, as were several others in another southern province that Islamists seized during the revolt against Saleh.
Oil giant Saudi Arabia and the United States - both targets of abortive attacks by Yemen's al Qaeda wing - backed a power transfer that replaced Saleh with his deputy in February.
Saleh's successor Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office vowing to reunify the military and fight al Qaeda. He launched a U.S.-backed military offensive in May that drove Islamist fighters out of towns they controlled in the country's southern provinces.
Washington has increased "counter-terrorism" activity in Yemen since Hadi came to power and has targeted al Qaeda figures with drone and missile strikes.