News / Middle East

Yemen Unrest Complicates Anti-Terrorist Effort

Yemeni Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (C), who is acting leader in the president's absence, heads a meeting with members of the ruling party in Sana'a, Yemen, June 6, 2011
Yemeni Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (C), who is acting leader in the president's absence, heads a meeting with members of the ruling party in Sana'a, Yemen, June 6, 2011
Gary Thomas

Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh flew to Saudi Arabia on Saturday for treatment of wounds sustained in an attack on the presidential palace the day before. His departure sparked waves of jubilation among Yemenis, who have been agitating for him to step down. The unrest in Yemen and his departure - whether temporary or permanent - has sparked uncertainty over counter-terrorism efforts against the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Former U.S. ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine said Saleh’s flight to Riyadh appears to have been for legitimate medical treatment and was not part of a negotiated departure.

"I do not think he would have gone to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment unless he absolutely needed it," she said. "I think he’s smart enough to know that, having left, coming back is going to be very difficult, yes. It is a lot easier to hold on to power if you are there and it is really hard if you have to come back. But I do not think that in his mind he has abdicated."

But analysts say his departure, whether temporary or permanent, is something of a blow to U.S.-led counter-terrorism efforts.

Yemen is home to what is generally agreed to be the most potent offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s original al-Qaida - al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. Kate Nevens, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the British think tank Chatham House, said Saleh skillfully parlayed fears of terrorism into aid and support.

"The U.S. administration has been pouring money into Saleh’s family, into his son Ahmed and his nephew Yahya, to run elite counter-terrorism units in Yemen," said Nevens. "This transition means that Saleh’s family lose power, the U.S. will lose their counter-terrorism allies and will have to renegotiate some kind of deal in Yemen. Whether al-Qaida in Yemen will be able to take advantage of this remains to be seen, I think."

Under Saleh’s rule, the United States has ramped up its drone attacks on suspected AQAP targets in Yemen. But, as Bodine points out, the drone attacks cannot happen without targeting help from Yemeni authorities.

"Drone attacks, which look like the ultimate unilateral action, require an enormous amount of current, accurate human intelligence," she said.  "And that has to come from the Yemenis, as much as from our guys, trying to figure out where are the bad guys so that you can hit them.  So we are dependent on this situation stabilizing in order to really gear up again our counter-terrorism efforts."

The counter-terrorism situation is further complicated by the fact that the conflict in Yemen has multiple facets and sides. There not only is the struggle between the government and the demonstrators in the streets, but the power battle between political elites as defined by the president and the tribal leaders. Nevens said that means there will be no single, clean transition of governmental power.

"I think what we are seeing is not so much a power vacuum, but we are going to be seeing a cycle of transitions - cycles of transitions," she said. "We are not looking at a situation where we are going to get a clean, decisive shift in power. We are looking at a fight between elite factions that could go on for some time, where they negotiate between themselves. We are talking the highest level of politics in Yemen, where they negotiate various power deals.

Bodine said that does not necessarily mean U.S. officials must start all over again in building new relations in Yemen.  

"We do have relations with people in the government, in civil society, in the opposition parties, well beyond Saleh," said Bodine. "It is not a cold start for us. But there is going to be a process, as much on their side as they get into their new jobs, their new functions, to decide what they want to do and what their priorities are that we are going to have to calibrate to fit."

The current temporary leader is Vice-President Abd al-Rab Mansur Hadi. But analysts say his staying power is questionable because of his long and close association with Saleh, who appointed him vice-president in 1994.  

Were Saleh to resign, the Yemeni constitution requires a new presidential election within 60 days.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid