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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora