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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora