Montag, 31. Oktober 2011

Occupy Sanaa

The Time Magazine has a great new photo story out on Change Square in Sanaa:

Yemen's Change Square: Occupy Sana'a
Time LightBox, October 31, 2011
by Aryn Baker

Change Square, the locus of anti-government protests in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, has become a veritable tent city, home, for more than eight months, to several thousand protestors. And like any city, it caters to the needs of its citizen population: Doctors tend to the wounded at a makeshift hospital, volunteers prepare food, imams call the faithful to prayer, and a few entrepreneurs provide entertainment in the form of pellet-gun rifle ranges for revolutionaries frustrated with the peaceful part of their protest.

But unlike other cities, where the dead are forgotten in far away cemeteries, the martyrs of Change Square are at the center of attention. Photographs of those killed in the clashes flutter from the tent ropes that crisscross the city’s walkways. Portraits are plastered on the walls of the mosque.  Some protesters even wear bandanas printed with pictures of the dead wrapped around their forehead. And in the center of the square is a vast billboard where the protest’s grim toll is laid out in a mosaic of death intermingled with pride.  “We all want to be martyrs,” one young protestor told me. “To have change, we need to sacrifice, and sometimes that means our lives.” His friend agreed. “The only way we will get international attention for our cause is if there is blood on the streets.”

It’s a subtle condemnation of waning interest from the West as the Arab Spring moves into its ninth month. Thousands waving placards demanding the fall of the regime no longer garner the fevered media attention of Tunisia and Egypt. But death does. So in service to their dreams of liberation, some Yemeni revolutionaries aspire to the snipers bullet, or the machine gun spray. Not all of course. “I don’t want to be a martyr,” another protestor told me. “I want to see our dreams of a new Yemen come true.”

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME who has covered the Arab Spring since January. To see his previous work from Libya, click here.

Aryn Baker,
TIME‘s Middle East Bureau Chief, is based in Beirut. Find her on Twitter at @arynebaker. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

See the photo story here.

Freitag, 28. Oktober 2011

Yemen prepares for civil war

Intensive army recruitment feeds ongoing conflict
Yemen Times, October 27, 2011
by Nadia Al-Sakkaf & Mohammed bin Sallam

Estimates predict that between 15 and 20 percent of the men involved in Yemen’s armed combat are under 18. YT Archive photo

Despite recent news of a truce between the state security and splinter army, recruitment of new soldiers from both sides has not stopped. Thousands of new recruits, mostly driven by poverty and many of whom are children, are being prepared for a feared civil war.

Armed recruitment on both sides of the conflict has reached an unprecedented level this month with thousands of young men, many under 18, have been joining the ranks of both the official and the splinter army since April.

A source from within the defected First Armored Division said, on condition of anonymity, that at least five thousand young men had signed up during October alone.

Similarly, a source in the state’s Central Security said that in anticipation of a heavy armed conflict, President Saleh had issued orders on October 18 to initiate the recruitment of thousands of Yemenis. The source said that at least 12,000 new soldiers needed to be recruited before the end of the month. The new soldiers will be recruited mostly from the governorates and deployed both in Sana’a and conflict areas elsewhere.

On Tuesday young unemployed men lined up outside the Central Security offices in Ibb city hoping to be enlisted as part of the 2,000 sliders needed to be recruited from that area. A local from Ibb said that Brigade Rashad Mutahar Al-Masri, Central Security Commander and son of Interior Minister Mutahar Al-Masri had ignored a number of recruitment requirements so as to reach his target as soon as possible.

Currently, most state army units are in Sana’a governorate, with strong focus on the three Republican Guard camps in the Arahab district on the outskirts of the city where regular battles are fought with the Salafi tribes.

The second concentrated presence is in Taiz, where the armed opposition is most active. Sources from the city’s armed opposition said that the five thousand new recruits of Al-Ahmar’s division are set to back up the armed conflict in Taiz. “It is supposed to be the Benghazi of Yemen. From there we will take over Sana’a,” said the source.

Recruits on both sides receive minimal training before they are sent off to the battle grounds. Bakeel Mohammed, a fresh graduate from university and one of the new recruits in the splinter army, said they had a six-day-in-camp training before given a rifle and asked to join the fight. “But I am not doing this for the money but because I am tired of this regime and believe that a peaceful way for ending it is no longer possible,” he said.

“He suddenly disappeared from home after telling his sisters that he is joining the defected army,” said his panicked mother. “This is my son whom I raised and nurtured, how can he throw himself into the danger just like that?”

Many of the new recruits in the splinter army have had close association with either the Eman University headed by Abdulmajid Al-Zindani, an alleged AQAP member.

“My son was doing his masters degree at the Eman University in Sana’a when I heard the news that he was killed by the state army,” said the father of Mahdi Abdulghani, who joined the ranks of the splinter army this month and died in armed conflict on October 8. “He was supposed to graduate and have a life, not die for an unclear battle. Even then, the army that recruited him did not take the effort to provide for his burial and funeral service. Is that how they reward their men?” questioned Abdulghani’s father.

Commenting on the increased recruitment by the opposition forces, the army’s official media as well as the website of the Ministry of Defense warned that it was illegal and that any men recruited by anti-government forces would not be acknowledged by the state and should not consider themselves officially enrolled.

Child soldiers

Several international organizations highlighted their concern that many of new recruits are children. In an April report this year, Human Rights Watch stated that it had encountered dozens of armed soldiers who appeared to be younger than 18 in Sana’a since unrest began in February.

“On April 12, Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 soldiers in Sana’a who gave their ages as 14, 15, and 16, and said they had been serving in the army for one to two years,” said the report.

The same report stated that six officers from the First Armored Division told Human Rights Watch that the unit allowed the recruitment of 15-year-olds and occasionally makes "exceptions" by recruiting younger children.

Most of the state’s newly recruited youth within Sana’a were allocated to the various checkpoints within the city and at its entrance points.

“At the check point a very young man – I would not give him more than 16 years – stopped me very arrogantly and checked my car in an unprofessional manner,” said Fathi Abdu, a resident in Sana’a. “He didn’t seem to know what he was doing, but was enjoying the power he had to stop people and make them wait.”

Ali al-Sayyaghi, a recruitment officer at the Ministry of Defense, told IRIN, the UN’s news agency, that some new recruits looked younger than the date of birth on their ID cards, but said the ID card was “the only reliable document for determining the age of an applicant".

Moreover, the pro-government tribal militia and the Houthi rebellion in the north were included in the UN’s 2011 list of shame report. Each year the Secretary-General lists those parties to conflict who recruit and use, kill and maim or commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children in conflict.

The UN listing stated that 15 percent of the pro-government militia were children compared to 20 percent of the Houthi rebels. While the conflict in Sa’ada, north of Yemen, between the Houthis and the state ended in 2009, the composition of both armies remains the same.

Despite the UN highlighting the risk of child soldiers being used in Yemen, the White House issued a memorandum allowing military funding to Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Chad last month – all of which are on the UN’s list of shame for recruiting child-soldiers.
This article was originally published here.

Donnerstag, 27. Oktober 2011

On the complex role of women in the Yemeni "revolution"

Women cry for tribal protection   

Yemen Times, October 27, 2011
by Amira al-Arasi

Some 800 women burned their veils as they called on tribal leaders to protect them from armed attack. Photos by Adnan Al-Rajihi
SANA’A, Oct. 26 — Women burned their veils as they called on Yemeni tribes to protect them from attacks by the regime yesterday.

Around 800 women, some travelling from as far as Taiz 200 kilometers south west of Sana’a, burned veils and headscarves at 60 Meter Street on Wednesday.

They read a statement signed by women’s alliances in Change Square before starting the fire and calling on the “honorable proud men of all Yemeni tribes” to come to their aid and end the killing of women by the regime.

Yesterday’s protest came 10 days after a woman from Taiz was killed when the Republican Guards attacked an opposition protest on October 16. She is said to be the first female protestor killed since the uprising began and was shot in the head by snipers because of her political activities. Two weeks ago in Sana’a two women who were thought to be part of a mixed protest were shot in the legs by pro-regime snipers.

Asma’a Al-Uthari, a campaigner in Change Square, said that they began organizing this event after Aziza Al-Mahajri was killed in Taiz. The women collected nearly 400,000 veils in Taiz, which they brought to Sana’a. They wanted to call on the tribal sheikhs to help them against the regime that has killed and suppressed women and children. The protest started at 11am on Wednesday and the burning began at noon.

“This is not a message to only the tribal sheikhs but to also all the free people in the world. We want to tell them that Yemeni women have been attacked and killed,” she said. Al-Uthari added that the cover the regime has used to hide itself should be revealed.

The burning of the veil in Yemeni tradition is a cry for help used by women in tribal culture to complain of injustice. It is supposed to move men to action when they see that the women have been violated, with the veil or headscarf symbolizing women’s honor.

This custom obliges the women to actually remove their veil or headscarf because she then exposes her symbolic hidden shame. However, the women in yesterday’s protest did not remove their veils but instead brought additional veils to be burnt.

“What happened today is a ridiculous mockery that depicted women as helpless and weak while we are strong and revolutionary,” said Wameed Shaker, a member of the Tahaluf Watan Women’s Collation for Peace. She said that by doing this, the women had sidelined their role, which should have been in the forefront of action rather than crying for help.

“This is also a call for violence and war, because it is a call to the tribes as if saying ‘come and protect me no matter what you do’,” she said, adding that the protest should have been more modern and civilized. While she watched protest and tried to convince the women not to go ahead with it, she heard the surrounding men mocking it and making fun of Yemen’s women, added Shaker.
The article has originally been published here.

Samstag, 22. Oktober 2011

UN Security Council Resolution on Yemen

Yesterday, on October 21, 2011, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2014 (2011) with the following text:

The Security Council,

Recalling its Press Statements of 24 September 2011, 9 August 2011, and 24 June 2011,

Expressing grave concern at the situation in Yemen,

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen,

Welcoming the Secretary-General’s statement of 23 September 2011 urging all sides to engage in a constructive manner to achieve a peaceful resolution to the current crisis,

Welcoming the engagement of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and reaffirming the support of the Security Council for the GCC’s efforts to resolve the political crisis in Yemen,

Welcoming the continuing efforts of the Good Offices of the Secretary-General, including the visits to Yemen by the Special Adviser,

Taking note of the Human Rights Council resolution on Yemen (A/HRC/RES/18/19), and underlining the need for a comprehensive, independent and impartial investigation consistent with international standards into alleged human rights abuses and violations, with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring full accountability, and noting in this regard the concerns expressed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,

Welcoming the statement by the Ministerial Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council on 23 September 2011 which called for the immediate signing by President Saleh and implementation of the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, condemned the use of force against unarmed demonstrators, and called for restraint, a commitment to a full and immediate ceasefire and the formation of a commission to investigate the events that led to the killing of innocent Yemeni people,

Expressing serious concern at the worsening security situation, including armed conflict, and the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation due to the lack of progress on a political settlement, and the potential for the further escalation of violence,

Reaffirming its resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009) and 1960 (2010) on women, peace, and security, and reiterating the need for the full, equal and effective participation of women at all stages of peace-processes given their vital role in the prevention and resolution of conflict and peacebuilding, reaffirming the key role women play in re-establishing the fabric of society and stressing the need for their involvement in conflict resolution in order to take into account their perspective and needs,

Expressing serious concerns about the increasing number of internally displaced persons and refugees in Yemen, the alarming levels of malnutrition caused by drought and soaring fuel and food prices, the increasing interruption of basic supplies and social services, and increasingly difficult access to safe water and health care,

Expressing further serious concern at the increased threat from Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the risk of new terror attacks in parts of Yemen, and reaffirming that terrorism in all forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivations,

Condemning all terrorist and other attacks against civilians and against the authorities, including those aimed at jeopardizing the political process in Yemen, such as the attack on the Presidential compound in Sana’a on 3 June 2011,

“Recalling the Yemeni Government’s primary responsibility to protect its population,

Stressing that the best solution to the current crisis in Yemen is through an inclusive and Yemeni-led political process of transition that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people for change,

Reaffirming its support for the Presidential decree of 12 September which is designed to find a political agreement acceptable to all parties, and to ensure a peaceful and democratic transition of power, including the holding of early Presidential elections,

Stressing the importance of the stability and security of Yemen, particularly regarding overall international counter-terrorism efforts,

Mindful of its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security under the Charter of the United Nations, and emphasizing the threats to regional security and stability posed by the deterioration of the situation in Yemen in the absence of a lasting political settlement,

“1.   Expresses profound regret at the hundreds of deaths, mainly of civilians, including women and children;

“2.   Strongly condemns the continued human rights violations by the Yemeni authorities, such as the excessive use of force against peaceful protestors as well as the acts of violence, use of force, and human rights abuses perpetrated by other actors, and stresses that all those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable;

“3.   Demands that all sides immediately reject the use of violence to achieve political goals;

“4.   Reaffirms its view that the signature and implementation as soon as possible of a settlement agreement on the basis of the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative is essential for an inclusive, orderly, and Yemeni-led process of political transition, notes the signing of the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative by some opposition parties and the General People’s Congress, calls on all parties in Yemen to commit themselves to implementation of a political settlement based upon this initiative, notes the commitment by the President of Yemen to immediately sign the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and encourages him, or those authorized to act on his behalf, to do so, and to implement a political settlement based upon it, and calls for this commitment to be translated into action, in order to achieve a peaceful political transition of power, as stated in the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and the Presidential decree of 12 September, without further delay;

“5.   Demands that the Yemeni authorities immediately ensure their actions comply with obligations under applicable international humanitarian and human rights law, allow the people of Yemen to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms, including their rights of peaceful assembly to demand redress of their grievances and freedom of expression, including for members of the media, and take action to end attacks against civilians and civilian targets by security forces;

“6.   Calls upon all concerned parties to ensure the protection of women and children, to improve women’s participation in conflict resolution and encourages all parties to facilitate the equal and full participation of women at decision-making levels;

“7.   Urges all opposition groups to commit to playing a full and constructive part in the agreement and implementation of a political settlement on the basis of the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, and demands that all opposition groups refrain from violence, and cease the use of force to achieve political aims;

“8.   Further demands that all armed groups remove all weapons from areas of peaceful demonstration, refrain from violence and provocation, refrain from the recruitment of children, and urges all parties not to target vital infrastructure;

“9.   Expresses its concern over the presence of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and its determination to address this threat in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law including applicable human rights, refugee and humanitarian law;

“10.  Encourages the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to Yemen, and in this regard requests all parties in Yemen to facilitate the work of the United Nations agencies and other relevant organizations, and ensure full, safe and unhindered access for the timely delivery of the humanitarian aid to persons in need across Yemen;

“11.  Requests the Secretary-General to continue his Good Offices, including through visits by the Special Adviser, and to continue to urge all Yemeni stakeholders to implement the provisions of this resolution, and encourage all States and regional organizations to contribute to this objective;

“12.  Requests the Secretary-General to report on implementation of this resolution within 30 days of its adoption and every 60 days thereafter;

“13.  Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

Donnerstag, 20. Oktober 2011

New Crisis Group Report on Yemen

A new International Crisis Group Report was issued today on "Yemen's Southern Question" (Middle East Report No. 114):

Executive Summary:
Ten months of popular protest spiked by periodic outbursts of violence have done little to clarify Yemen’s political future. Persistent street protests so far have failed to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh or bring about genuine institutional reform. The country is more deeply divided between pro- and anti-Saleh forces than ever, its economy is in tatters and both security and humanitarian conditions are deteriorating. Amid the uncertainty fuelled by this lingering crisis, the country’s unity – and notably the status of the South – hangs in the balance. Old grievances are coming into sharper relief and, among some, secessionist aspirations gaining steam. There remains an opportunity for Yemen’s rulers, opposition groups and protesters to reach agreement on a political transition that would give priority to the Southern question and redefine relations between centre and periphery, for example by moving toward a federal model. Should this chance be missed, the conflict risks getting bloodier. And Yemen’s unity could be a thing of the past.

The People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) merged with its northern neighbour, the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR), on 22 May 1990 to form the Republic of Yemen. From the start, this was a troubled unification that resulted in a short, bloody civil war in 1994. The North emerged victorious, but this hardly closed the chapter. In the wake of the conflict, two profoundly different narratives took shape. Under one version, the war laid to rest the notion of separation and solidified national unity. According to the other, the war laid to rest the notion of unity and ushered in a period of Northern occupation of the South. 

The most recent tensions did not suddenly erupt in the context of the January 2011 Yemeni uprising. In 2007, a broad-based popular protest movement known as the Southern Movement (Al-Hiraak al-Janoubi) had come to the fore. The Hiraak originated as a rights-based movement requesting equality under the law and a change in relations between North and South – all within a united country. The government responded to the demands with repression; it also largely ignored its own promises of reforms. By 2009, the Hiraak had begun to champion Southern independence. In the months leading up to the uprising that became the Yemeni Spring, its influence and popularity in the South clearly were on the ascent.

Could the popular uprising open up fresh opportunities to peacefully resolve the Southern issue? If the various sides act reasonably, it should. From the start, it facilitated cooperation between Northern and Southern protesters and broke through barriers of fear, allowing a larger spectrum of Southerners to join the national public debate on the status of the South. Most importantly, it has facilitated debate and growing consensus around federal options. If political foes can reach agreement on a transition of power in Sanaa and launch an inclusive national dialogue, they could seize the moment to negotiate a peaceful compromise on the Southern issue as well.

The problem is that there is no indication Yemen is heading there. Instead, as mass protests have continued without result, frustration has grown and so too has Southern distrust that anything that happens in the North will improve their lot. The risks are many. An enduring political impasse could prompt further collapse of security and economic conditions throughout the country, producing greater unrest and instability in the South. Alternatively, a full-fledged civil war could break out between Northern rival elites, a scenario that could prompt Southern stakeholders to pursue a serious bid for separation. Already, the early euphoria generated by coordination between protesters in the North and South is giving way to resurgent calls by some for Southern independence. 

This is a dangerous brew. The South’s secession almost certainly would be resisted by the North and could spark a violent conflict. Any effort toward independence also could trigger in-fighting and additional fragmentation within the South itself. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other violent groups already are prospering amid growing instability and chaos; further deterioration would only expand their reach. 

A clear path toward a redefinition of relations between centre and periphery is badly needed. This can only be achieved through an inclusive dialogue that recognises Southerners’ legitimate grievances and the importance of profoundly amending that relationship. Four possible outcomes are being discussed in various forums, with varying degrees of popularity: maintenance of a unitary state albeit with more inclusive, transparent and accountable central government; maintenance of a unitary state but with significant powers devolved to local governments; a federal state consisting of two or more regions; and Southern secession. 

Of these, the first and last are the more likely recipes for heightened conflict. The former (a kind of status quo plus) would essentially ignore Southerners’ legitimate demands for greater participation, control of local resources and protection of local identity and culture. The latter (Southern independence) would alienate not only Northerners but also many Southerners who strongly prefer reform within the context of unity. 

That leaves the two middle options. Both have their problems. Hiraak supporters suspect that a mere strengthening of local government powers – even under a more democratic and representative central government – could be a subterfuge and fail to truly protect Southerners’ rights. For this and other reasons, they favour either immediate separation or, at a minimum, a federation of two states lasting four to five years, to be followed by a referendum on the South’s ultimate status. 

On the other hand, federalism, especially under a two-state formula (one Northern, the other Southern), is eyed by many with considerable suspicion as only the first step toward the South’s eventual separation. Some form of multi-state federalism, with perhaps four or five regions, potentially could allay those anxieties. It has found relatively wider appeal in the North and arguably could gain traction even within staunchly pro-unity parties, such as the ruling General People’s Congress and the opposition Islamist party, Islah. But much more precision about the details of this model will be required before it does so. Overall, none of these fears ought be brushed aside or downplayed. Instead, they should be aired openly and discussed seriously through robust debate and peaceful negotiations.

External players, including the Gulf Cooperation Council members, the U.S., the UK, the EU and the UN, have a role to play. All officially support a unified Yemen. But that is an umbrella broad enough to accommodate the need for Yemenis to comprehensively renegotiate the relationship between the central government and regional entities.

Yemen’s upheaval presents a rare opportunity to redefine its flawed and failed political compact. At the same time, however, it has considerably raised the price of inaction. If nothing is done soon to peacefully address both national and Southern deep-seated grievances, a darker and more ominous chapter could yet be written.

Read the recommendations here.
Read the full report here.

Mittwoch, 5. Oktober 2011

Yemen Panel in Berlin Tomorrow

Tomorrow, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., a panel on the current social and political developments in Yemen will convene in Berlin at the 18th Congress of the German Middle East Studies Association for Contemporary Research and Documentation (DAVO). The speakers will be as follows:

Mareike Transfeld (Erlangen): Friend or Foe? Islah at Sanaa's Change Square

Thomas Müller (Darmstadt): AQAP in Yemen and the Arab Spring – Onward Irrelevance or an Islamic Emirate Looming?

Sarah El-Richani (Berlin): Yemen’s Youth Protesters and their Use of Social Media

Marieke Brandt (Dägeling): Political Developments in Sa’da, Yemen, since the End of the 6th Sa’da War

Marie-Christine Heinze (Bielefeld): Weapons of the Revolution: The Role of the Yemeni Dagger

The panel will be chaired by me. For more information on the Congress and its venue, click here.

Samstag, 1. Oktober 2011

Anwar al-Awlaki's death

So he is dead and like most Yemenis I wonder more about what this is going to mean for Saleh and the current political situation. By now we know that the US Department of Justice has no misgivings about killing one of its own citizens and had produced a respective fatwa to legalize the drone strike that did away with Anwar al-Awlaki on Friday. But the fact that it was a drone strike that killed al-Awlaki underscores Brian Whitaker's analysis (below) that his death weakens rather than strengthens Salihs ability to cling to power. Obviously, Salih had no hand in this and now that al-Awlaki is gone, the US might feel more inclinded to let Salih go than it was a few days ago. 

What is important now is to seize the opportunity to accomplish a peaceful transition of power while it is still there. Gregory D. Johnsen has laid out a sound approach towards this goal and the US would be well advised to follow in its path before it loses all credibility with the youth of Yemen. This revolution will not turn Yemen into a full-fledged democracy in the short run, even most independent youth on Change Square have realized this by now. But there is still the opportunity of preventing civil war and taking a first step to a stabilization of the political situation in the country upon which further steps in the direction of democracy may follow. And as long as Salih remains in power, this is not going to happen. Right now, the best alternative to Salih (at least for a period of transition) is Vice President Hadi. He is weak enough for all parties vying for power (Salih, Ali Muhsin, and the al-Ahmar brothers) to be able to agree upon.

(I will post Brian Whitaker's post in full as his blog does not allow linking to specific posts. For all those interested in Yemen and Middle East politics in general, however, I highly recommend following his blog regularly.)

al-Bab, October 1, 2011
by Brian Whitaker
The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen raises questions about its likely impact on the country's politics – in particular, whether it will hasten or delay President Saleh's departure.
Internationally, Saleh has tried to present himself as a lone bulwark resisting al-Qaeda and uses it as an argument for his remaining in power. 

He was at it again on Thursday, in an interview with Time Magazine and the Washington Post. Reminded that the US has urged him to step down, he responded by questioning America's commitment to "fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda".  

"We are pressurised by America and the international community to speed up the process of handing over power," he said. "And we know to where the power is going to go. It is going to al-Qaeda, which is directly and completely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood." 

Remove Saleh and the militants will take over Yemen – that, at least, is what he would like people to believe. The reality, as I have pointed out several times before, is somewhat different. Saleh needs al-Qaeda in order to stay in power. Al-Qaeda must remain sufficiently active in Yemen for the world to be scared by it, so that Saleh can continue to be seen fighting it – and reaping the political benefits of doing so. 

One view of Awlaki's killing is that it will strengthen Saleh's hand by making him appear relevant again to the world outside.

"The revolutionaries in Yemen are worried that al-Awlaki's death will ... provide a respite to Saleh in the face of mass protests against his rule," Anis Mansour, a Yemeni journalist, told the German press agency on Friday. 

Jeb Boone, an American journalist who was based in Yemen until recently, also wrote: 
"Having duped the west three times into believing he was about to step down, he has now handed America's most sought-after head (in the shape of Awlaki) to Washington. With a counter-terrorism trophy like that on display for American audiences, US diplomats may find it difficult to maintain the pressure on Saleh to resign."
The alternative view (which I lean more towards) is that without Awlaki lurking in the background Saleh's position is significantly weaker. The American media had become obsessed with Awlaki, inflating his importance out of all proportion – and that also had its effect on US policy. Unless some new threat emerges in Yemen which directly affects Americans, the general perception will be that there is far less to worry about now than before and the US will be better placed to push ahead towards a transition of power. 

A further point is that in Awlaki's killing Saleh appears to have been more of a bystander than an active partner with the United States in the "war on terror". Details are scarce, but as yet there are no indications that Saleh (or the Yemeni military) played a major role. So far, the Americans are taking all the credit and/or blame. That also suggests Saleh is less indispensible than he would like to imagine. 

From a US policy perspective, the main need now is to de-link American security concerns from questions about Saleh's fate. Saleh has always been a tricky person to deal with, as the
WikiLeaks documents showed. The attitude of a future Yemeni government on that score is unlikely to be worse, and might even be slightly better. 

Behind the scenes, there are signs that the US does not really buy Saleh's arguments for staying in power. On Friday evening, according to the German press agency, the Yemeni government and the opposition coalition were close to signing an agreement on the basic principles for dialogue – under US supervision. 

The agency added:
"This comes as a result of three-day roundtable talks led by the United States, with a European participation, in a bid to come up with a peaceful end to the Yemeni crisis ..."
The goal of these and other diplomatic efforts is to implement the "transition plan" cooked up by the Gulf Cooperation Council. As I have said before, I don't much like the plan. If, by some miracle, it can be made to work it is more likely to preserve the status quo (minus Saleh) than to deliver the sort of changes that Yemeni protesters have been demanding. But, at this stage, getting rid of Saleh may be better than nothing.