By Salah Awad*
By Salah Awad*
Morocco World News
New York, October 11, 2011
Yemen has entered a very complex stage, compounded by internal, regional and international factors. As thing stands, it seems that no side is poised to resolve the situation to its advantage.
According to the United Nations envoy, Mr. Jamal Bin Omar, the return of President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, amounted to the death of the Gulf initiative. He went on to say that Yemen is engulfed in big problems and that his diplomatic mission had failed. The special envoy has visited Yemen several times at the behest of the UN Secretary General of the United Nations with the tacit approval of the Security Council, and his last visit lasted for two weeks.
Mr. Ben Omar believes that the parties to the armed conflict (forces loyal to Saleh, and the forces of General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar) are incapable of resolving the conflict.
In the meantime, the youth are continuing their peaceful demonstrations, while opposition parties, represented by the Likaa Mushtarak (joint coalition) seems to be overtaken by events and are awaiting for the outcome of the battle between Al-Ahmar and Ali Abdullah Saleh.
It is widely believed among international observers that the regional role of Saudi Arabia has contributed to prolonging the conflict. It is clear that Saudi Arabia did not side with the youth revolution, for it is not in its interest to witness a radical change in the composition of the ruling regime in Yemen. Sources close to the ruling family confirm that the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, supports the survival of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and at the same time, he expressed his support for the General Al Ahmar, should the latter succeed in overthrowing his adversary.
What Saudi Arabia fears the most is the expansion of the Al-Qaeda and jihadists’ clout in the region. The latter took advantage of the current crisis, and began to exert control over some cities, especially in the southern part of Yemen. This helps to explain the return of President Saleh of Yemen with the assistance of the Saudi authorities. In fact, the latter still bets on the ability of Saleh to face supporters of al Qaeda and other jihadists.
The fact that the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council has put an end to his good offices shows the extent to which the Saudis still do not envision Yemen ruled by any leader other than Abdullah Saleh.
The other factor that has contributed to strengthening the position of President Saleh, and him holding on to power is the U.S. position, which is driven by what its strategic interests dictate.
The United States’ strategy is close to the strategy of Saudi Arabia, as it still counts on President Saleh in the war on terror.
America is, in fact, well aware that many of the attacks against it originate from Yemen. Also, some parts of Yemen have become a safe haven for fugitives from Saudi territory. In the same vein, the United States is well aware that the military units of Yemen, of which it has made great efforts to fund and train to combat terrorism, are practically under the control of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The commander of these units is General Yahya, President Saleh’s nephew.
Given the important strategic position of Yemen, overlooking the Red Sea, it is in need of the government to combat Somali piracy. Piracy from Somalia has been threatening international trade, including oil tankers and cargo passing through the Red Sea.
The strategic and immediate interests of the U.S. administration cause it to take a flexible attitude concerning the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Americans did not put pressure on the Yemeni president to step aside as they have been doing with Syria. Instead they have been a partner in the GCC initiative.
President Saleh is now trying to exploit U.S. weaknesses, hoping that the Americans end up siding with him to resolve to the conflict in his favor. Moreover, President Saleh is now manipulating the situation, using the Al-Qaeda card to receive clear, overt support from his allies: Saudi Arabia and Washington. Although U.S. officials insist that they do not intend to be drawn into President Saleh’s games, they show great flexibility with his regime through the continued operations of U.S. forces in combating both Al-Qaida and piracy off the coast of Somalis.
In light of these factors, it seems that the Yemeni crisis is poised to last longer than expected or even degenerate into a civil war. The worst case scenario is the rise of Al-Qaeda and jihadists who are believed to be wining more territory. This is what scares both the countries of the region and the Obama administration.
As the situation stands now, it seems that no internal, regional or even international party is able to resolve the situation in Yemen and put an end to the crisis.
* Salah Awad is a UN-based journalist and writer. He is a contributor to Morocco World News.