News / Middle East

    Yemen's President Embraces US Drones

    Abd-Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi accepts domestic political risks to fight al Qaida terrorists at home and rebuild a fractious nation

    A Sana’a maker of traditional daggers displays loyalties to President Hadi (left) and to Saleh, Yemen’s ousted ex-president (AP)A Sana’a maker of traditional daggers displays loyalties to President Hadi (left) and to Saleh, Yemen’s ousted ex-president (AP)
    x
    A Sana’a maker of traditional daggers displays loyalties to President Hadi (left) and to Saleh, Yemen’s ousted ex-president (AP)
    A Sana’a maker of traditional daggers displays loyalties to President Hadi (left) and to Saleh, Yemen’s ousted ex-president (AP)
    David Arnold
    Following the protests of Yemen’s Arab Spring, its Gulf neighbors brokered a deal to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh after 33 years in the presidential palace. Saleh was replaced in February by Abd-Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, his vice president of the past 13 years.
     
    Mr. Hadi’s task is formidable. He needs to rebuild the central government, unite the nation's fractious tribes, lead a project to rewrite the constitution, hold new national elections and kick-start the country's economy. He’s been at it for eight months and he has about 16 months left to finish the job before holding a new national election.
     
    Since Hadi took office in February, he has surprised many of his skeptics with a few bold security moves. Even so, he is still far from rescuing Yemen from political and economic failure.
                                   
    Whether or not he succeeds, Yemen can boast one distinction among its neighbors: it has gotten rid of its dictator through negotiations and avoided the months of the bloodshed experienced by Libya and Syria.
    But what makes me optimistic is that it is one of the only countries in the world that has embarked on a negotiated solution to its problems 

    Even in the best of times, Yemen has been a troubled nation, one with political and tribal divisions that is loosely held together by patronage. Its government has been known for nepotism and corruption and is threatened by secessionist movements and a forbidding terrain where terrorists have found safe havens.
     
    “It’s very easy to be pessimistic about Yemen because it is a country beset by many problems,” says Leslie Campbell,  the Middle East and North Africa regional director for the National Democratic Institute.  “But what makes me optimistic is that it is one of the only countries in the world that has embarked on a negotiated solution to its problems.” 
     
    Hadi moves to secure Yemen
     
    And Hadi has addressed two major security issues. The first was to restructure the military and to remove Saleh’s eldest son, Ahmed, as commander of the Republican Guard and its special forces. The effort ended in a stalemate when Ahmed’s officers threatened a public protest.
     
    “He (Hadi) had been fairly successful but he hasn’t taken the major step that everybody knows he has to take,” said Gregory Johnsen, a  Yemen expert at Princeton University and author of book, “The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia,” to be published soon.
     
    Hadi also chose to partner with the United States to defeat Ansar al-Shariah, the Yemeni version of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and embraced the U.S. anti-terrorism effort that combined Yemeni ground assaults with U.S. Aerial drone attacks.

    “With U.S. air support and missile strikes, they pushed al Qaida out,” Johnsen said.
     
    The U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, told a VOA reporter recently “… Al Qaida was able to control territory, when they established what they called 'Islamic emirates' in some of the major population centers in the south and in Zinjibar and Jaar. 

    "They seemed to be on the move,” Feierstein said. “The momentum was with them and it was very difficult for the government to push back.” But now, Feierstein said, al-Qaida remains a threat, but is no longer able to control territory in Yemen. 
     
    Hadi’s domestic political risk
     
    In his public enthusiasm for the U.S. military strikes, Hadi has taken responsibility for some of the more than 35 aerial assassination missions carried out by Predator and Reaper drones. Johnsen argues, however, that the drones may eventually present a risk for Hadi, Yemen and the U.S. government.

    “… The drone strikes are dependent upon intelligence on the ground,” Johnsen said, “and that intelligence is far from perfect, which means that the drone strikes sometimes kill the wrong people. 
    The drone strikes are dependent upon intelligence on the ground, and that intelligence is far from perfect, which means that the drone strikes sometimes kill the wrong people.

    “This is a serious problem within Yemen,” Johnsen adds, “… the vast majority of the members of al Qaida are Yemenis themselves, which means that … unlike, say, al Qaida in Afghanistan, where they were Arabs within a non-Arab country. Here you have Yemeni members of al-Qaida within Yemen itself.”
     
    Leslie Campbell of the National Democratic Institute agrees.
     
    “Yemenis have mixed opinions about the strikes against the terrorists,” Campbell said. “Most (Yemenis) say,'We don’t want the extremists here.' They complain about the drone strikes, but that they are not always accurate. An increase in these types of assassinations could cause a big backlash.”
     
    The National Dialogue mandate
     
    Experts agree that Hadi needs to strengthen the central government and get Yemen’s rival tribes to agree some form of governing consensus. But there is disagreement about how successful Hadi has been in this effort.
     
    Open conflict among Yemen's political factions and rival tribes may be on the wane, but Johnsen says the country still is a fragmented society.
     
    “What I saw when I was just in Yemen is that Yemen has essentially become a country of factions,” Johnsen said. “Hadi just doesn’t have the power to bring them all back into the Sana’a orbit.”
     
    Even if all Hadi's plans are successful, Yemen’s future remains uncertain as it faces 2014 national elections mandated by the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative.
     
    Even out of office, former president Saleh remains a major force in the country. There are rumors that Saleh's son, Ahmed, could be a candidate to run for office.

    Campbell and Johnsen worry about that and blame the GCC for the clause in the initiative that offered Saleh  – and by extension, family members – immunity from prosecution for their possible roles in the deaths of a large number of the Arab Spring demonstrators in 2011.

    You May Like

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    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.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora