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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs