News / Middle East

Sharp Divisions Cloud Yemen's Political Future

Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside Sanaa University, March 24, 2011
Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside Sanaa University, March 24, 2011
Mohamed Elshinnawi

A tense and sometimes bloody standoff continues between the president of Yemen and thousands of demonstrators trying to bring down his government after 32 years in power.  The dispute reached a boiling point when supporters of the president shot and killed dozens of protesters last week, prompting key military and tribal leaders to join the opposition.

Divisions inside Yemen’s armed forces led President Ali Abdullah Saleh to warn his military chiefs that any attempt to stage a coup will bring on a civil war and split the country.

"Those who want to climb up to power through coups should know that this is out of the question. The homeland will not be stable; there will be a civil war, a bloody war," he said.

And in case the threat was not enough, President Saleh also offered to hold parliamentary elections later this year and leave office by January.

But despite the threats and offers, key military commanders and tribal leaders are lining up with government opponents who insist the president resign now.

Both the government and defecting army units have deployed armored vehicles in the streets of Sana’a, the capital.  The government has declared a state of emergency.  

American officials and analysts fear the situation is spiraling out of control. 

"There is a significant danger of violence in Yemen because there is really no unity among the opposition or any obvious figure acceptable to the opposition, so that if the president goes, there is a very real question how will the country be governed and how Yemen’s many very difficult problems [can] be addressed," said David Newton, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen.

Among those difficulties, Newton notes that Yemen’s 24 million people are among the poorest in the Middle East, and that the country is also dealing with separatist movements and an active al-Qaida terrorist presence.

Even so, Newton says there is a chance at success if the various opposition groups can unite and form an interim government.  

Such a government, he says, might then be able to reach out to secessionists in the south and the Shi'ite Houthi rebels in the north of Yemen.

It all depends, he says, on whether Yemen’s army maintains discipline and serves as a force of stability during any transition phase.

Ibrahim Karawan, a professor at Utah University and former director of its Middle East Center, says the army role will depend on how President Saleh handles the next few days or weeks. "The army thus far did not want to intervene and some of its leaders began to split and began to distance themselves from the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh and that will open the door towards other forms of disentanglement with the regime and distancing the military leadership from the regime," he said.

For the United States, the departure of President Saleh would mean the loss of a key ally against the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorist group  that has been operating openly in Yemen.

Karawan notes, however, that it should be possible for Washington to work out similar cooperation on terrorism with a new government in Yemen. "The military will be the force that will call for continued cooperation with the U.S. and would call on the U.S. to maintain its military support for Yemen, and America will try to play on that link between the regime and the American interest itself," he said.

Most U.S. experts on Yemen say that whatever kind of regime takes power in Yemen, it could limit the threat of al-Qaida by maintaining ties with the United States and addressing the country’s social and economic problems.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs