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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid