Yemen dictator gone, US ambassador still there

This video is about the dictatorship’s violence in Yemen.

By Patrick Martin:

President of Yemen flees to Saudi Arabia

6 June 2011

President Ali Abdullah Saleh fled Yemen Sunday morning and took refuge in a military hospital in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, apparently ending 33 years of authoritarian rule. He was accompanied by a half dozen top government officials, all of them reportedly injured in the same explosion Friday at a mosque in the presidential compound in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.

Joining Saleh in what appears to be long-term exile were a reported 31 members of his extended family. However, his son Ahmed and several nephews, who head the elite military special forces and the intelligence services, remained behind in Yemen, still clinging to the reins of power.

The country’s vice president, Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, took over as acting head of state. His first meeting—even before talks with the Yemeni military and Saleh’s son and nephews—was with the US ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, who thus appears to be the de facto decision-maker in Sanaa.

Saleh has not formally resigned, a step that under the Yemeni constitution would require a new presidential election within 60 days. But tens of thousands of Yemenis flocked to Change Square in Sanaa, outside Sanaa University, and to other protest sites throughout the country, to celebrate his departure.

Saleh is the third long-time Arab ruler to be ousted since the mass movement in the Middle East and North Africa first erupted in Tunisia. He joins former Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, also in exile in Saudi Arabia, and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, now jailed in a military hospital in the resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

The circumstances surrounding Saleh’s removal from Yemen are murky and capable of multiple interpretations. The official Yemeni government account is that tribal militia forces controlled by the family of Sadiq al-Ahmar, head of the Hashed tribe, the country’s largest, fired rockets into the presidential compound during prayers Friday, killing 11 members of Saleh’s bodyguard and wounding most of the top government officials, including Saleh, Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar, a deputy prime minister, the governor of Sanaa, and the top leaders of the country’s stooge parliament.

The Western media has largely echoed this account, differing only on whether a rocket or a mortar shell inflicted the damage. An account by McClatchy News Service, however, notes the contradictions in the official story. The report reads:

“Saleh was injured Friday along with numerous senior officials in an explosion that occurred at the Yemeni presidential compound’s mosque. The cause of the explosion remains unknown. Yemeni officials originally laid blame for the attack on forces loyal to the powerful Ahmar family.

“The Ahmar family, however, denied culpability. Some have argued that the attack on the presidential compound was an inside job. Saleh’s compound, widely considered to be the most secure building in the capital, lies in the south of the city, far from the northern neighborhood of Hasaba where clashes have been concentrated.”

This reading of events suggests several other possibilities, including an internal coup attempt from within the Yemeni military, perhaps abetted or directed by Saudi Arabia, which has turned openly against the Saleh government in the wake of Saleh’s refusal on three occasions to follow through on agreements to step down, negotiated by the Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council.

Moreover, American authorship of the attack on Saleh’s compound can certainly not be ruled out. The CIA has fired missiles from Predator drones at numerous targets in Yemen, most recently at the location where the agency believed it would hit Anwar al-Awlaki, the US citizen who has been linked to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Al Qaeda affiliate active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

The description of the attack on the mosque in Saleh’s presidential compound—a sudden explosion, coming seemingly from nowhere, on a target that, as McClatchy points out, was “widely considered to be the most secure building in the capital,” relatively far from the war zone—is perfectly compatible with a Predator strike.

And Saleh was certainly a potential target for removal from power by his former sponsors in the United States, who regarded his stubborn refusal to leave office as an obstacle to their political and diplomatic maneuvers to contain the political movement in Yemen and prevent it from developing into a revolutionary explosion that could spread throughout the oil-rich Arabian peninsula.

If this was an American “operation,” the decisive role was likely played by John O. Brennan, chief White House adviser on counterterrorism, who traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week to discuss the crisis in Yemen. Brennan had been scheduled to return to the US Friday, but delayed his return after the explosion that injured Saleh. He spoke directly with Vice President al-Hadi Saturday, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

Brennan spent 25 years in the CIA, mainly in the Middle East, including the position of the station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, before becoming chief of staff to CIA Director George Tenet and then director of the National Counterterrorism Center. He was Obama’s initial choice to head the CIA but withdrew rather than face questioning over his record of support for CIA rendition and torture of terrorism “suspects.” Obama then placed him in a White House post that did not require Senate confirmation.

Yemen Feature: Who is Who in the Battle for Power — 2 Useful Guides: here.

VIDEO: Egyptian demonstrators take to Tahrir Square to protest actions by the ruling military council: here.

Egypt‘s ruling junta accepted a $3 billion (£1.8bn) loan from the New York-based International Monetary Fund on Sunday.

CAIRO: A proposed capital gains tax on dividend payments has been scrapped after leading telecom tycoon Naguib Sawiris came out publicly denouncing the proposal: here.

Bahrain clerics accuse police of violating religious freedoms by breaking up religious processions: here.

Fresh Western hypocrisy on Arab Spring: here.

6 thoughts on “Yemen dictator gone, US ambassador still there

  1. US Secret War on Yemen-Based Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula

    by Chana Ya’ar

    The United States is taking advantage of a power vacuum in Yemen to bomb Al Qaeda terrorist bases.

    Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in Saudi Arabia receiving treatment for serious wounds sustained in a major attack on his palace last Friday. Along with Saleh, the government’s prime minister, parliament speaker and four other high-level officials were also injured in the attack which took place while the men were at prayer in the compound’s mosque. Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is meanwhile in control of the government, which at best is struggling as the opposition tribal confederation headed by Sadeq al-Ahmar presses ahead to topple Saleh’s regime.

    According to an article published Wednesday, June 8 in The New York Times, an Al Qaeda operative was killed in southern Yemen last Friday by American fighter pilots. Abu Ali al-Harithi was a central figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Released in 2009 after a three-year prison term, he was believed to have fought alongside deceased Jordanian-born Iraqi Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

    However, he and several other terrorists were not the only ones killed in the air strike; at least four civilians died as well, according to eyewitnesses quoted by the newspaper. These collateral deaths are a concern for U.S. officials who fear pushing Yemeni public sentiment towards, rather than away, from the jihadis (radical Islamist warriors) mingled among them.

    An assassination attempt aimed at American-born radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki failed, just days after the successful Navy SEALS operation that killed Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

    Awlaki, who has emerged as one of the top leaders in AQAP, is considered – together with the Yemen-based group – to represent the gravest threat to the United States. He has been linked to the Ft. Hood massacre in the United States, the Christmas 2009 terrorist plot to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger plane, and a plot to blow up cargo planes.

    The missiles fired by U.S. military drones at a truck in which Awlaki was riding in the Shabwa province represented the first known U.S. air strike in Yemen since May 2010. Shabwa is considered an AQAP stronghold.



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