Mittwoch, 28. September 2011

Thin hope for political change in Yemen



Yemen's unhappy ending. Sometimes, the bad guys win.
Foreign Policy, September 27, 2011
Foreign Policy, September 27, 2011
Foreign Policy, September 27, 2011
by Charles Schmitz
Foreign Policy, September 27, 2011
by Charles Schmitz


Foreign Policy, September 27, 2011
by Charles Schmitz


Back in June, when Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh left for Saudi Arabia for treatment of his wounds, most observers thought Yemen's political crisis would be resolved in favor of the political opposition and the revolutionary street protesters. If Saleh -- who was badly burned in an attack on his presidential mosque -- did not die, then he would at least be prisoner of the Saudis, who had been actively seeking his resignation. Few thought he would ever return. And inside Yemen, the pro-Saleh forces would be weak without the president, so it was a hopeful time for those opposed to Saleh's rule. A transitional government would oversee a new set of elections that would usher in a new post-Saleh era.

That was then. 

Over the bloody summer, the Saleh clan proved itself more than capable of holding on to its political position. The president's sons and nephews, who preside over key security and military positions, aggressively sought conflict. Sporadic fighting raged all over the country: in Taiz, in Sanaa, in Arhab, in Abyan, in Aden, and elsewhere.  

In Sanaa, most victims of the fighting were civilians. Saleh's supporters seemed to almost relish provoking the military defectors aligned with Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the top general who joined the "revolutionaries" in March and promised to protect them. 

The attacks on civilians not only sent a message to protesters, but also revealed the weakness of Ahmar's forces. Indeed, all the various groups opposed to Saleh's rule -- including Ahmar's 1st Armored Division, the revolutionaries in the streets, the forces allied with tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar (not related to Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar), and the political parties of the Yemeni opposition -- together appeared incapable of tipping the balance of power in their favor. There were no elections, nor was the opposition able to form a successful transitional government, despite attempts to do so. 

And Saleh did not die from his wounds. As a "guest" of Saudi Arabia, he recovered and over the summer was seen acting presidential -- meeting in the hospital compound with some of the other Yemeni government officials who were injured in the attack. 

Western officials tried to quickly manufacture facts on the ground by dealing with the vice president, Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, as if he truly were the acting power in Yemen. Formally, Hadi was the acting head of state, but Ahmed Saleh, the president's son and commander of the Republican Guard, locked Hadi out of the presidential palace and forced him to work at home -- sending a clear signal about who was in charge. 

Hadi did prove useful to the Americans, however. With his military background and local connections, he was able to rally the local forces and turn the tide against al Qaeda's ground assault in Abyan governorate. Hadi promised his cooperation and assured the Americans that Yemen would not allow al Qaeda to take advantage of Yemen's crisis. Local reports from Abyan say that Saudi and American airdrops were critical in keeping the loyalist 25 Mika Brigade alive while it was besieged for three months by militants in Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan. (Saleh thanked both the Americans and the Saudis for their support in the war on al Qaeda in a speech shortly after his return to Sanaa.) 

The Americans and Europeans wanted Hadi to go further and implement the Gulf agreement that called for Saleh to step aside one month after signing it and for a transitional government to oversee new elections. They wanted a political settlement that would resolve the crisis that was clearly feeding Yemen's instability and preventing the country from addressing its badly deteriorating economy. 

But Saleh's clan effectively prevented any political settlement, subjecting street protesters to live fire by snipers or random shelling, almost to show that it could act with impunity against its opponents. 


Read the rest of the article here.

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