As a recent speech on U.S. policy in Yemen by John Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor, “still echoed in the halls of the Council of Foreign Relations, the rebel Houthi movement [see below] was busy planning an anti-American demonstration galvanizing hundreds of supporters across the country,” writes Danya Greenfield, deputy director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council:
Although the Houthis are by no means representative of the Yemeni public, they are tapping into a widespread sentiment in order to garner sympathy and support. ….Their tactics are not new, but what is notable is the wide disconnect between what Brennan asserts in Washington and what is felt in the hills and valleys throughout Yemen, not only among the Houthis, but among opposition party activists, youth activists, and the otherwise disgruntled masses. The gap is profound, despite concerted U.S. attempts to support Yemen’s democratic transition and provide emergency food assistance.
“To its credit, the Obama Administration has exerted great effort to increase the amount of non-military assistance for development and humanitarian aid — reaching more than $175 million of a total $337 million package for FY2012,” Greenfield concedes.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah also used a June visit to Yemen to announce a $52 million package in humanitarian assistance, “a significant increase given the tight budget climate in Washington,” she notes, while expressing concern that “Yemenis have watched U.S. attention to Yemen rise and fall over the years, the ebb and flow of assistance rising to a peak, then nearly zeroing out.”
But the process is approaching a “particularly sensitive” and “perhaps the most dangerous” phase of its roadmap, Greenfield writes in Foreign Policy:
In the spring, Hadi removed the former president’s nephew, Tariq Saleh, and several other commanders connected to the family from their military positions. …. This fight goes to the heart of privilege, power, and politics; it is a major undertaking that will require the fortitude to withstand significant internal pressure. The United States should continue to provide robust support to President Hadi in his efforts to restructure the security forces, both rhetorically and materially, as appropriate. The success of Yemen’s transition rests on his ability to wrest control from Saleh and his family.
While supporting Hadi’s efforts, Washington “must ensure that the thrust of its support is oriented toward building strong military and civilian institutions to guarantee Yemen’s security, not individual figures in the security establishment,” she insists:
It would be far too easy to replace Ali Abdullah Saleh, Ahmed Ali, Tariq, Yahya, and the rest of the Saleh cohort with another set of thugs to fight AQAP, but that is not what hundreds of Yemeni youth died for in Change Square. Financial assistance to the military should be channeled through central institutions and not individual commanders, oriented to building their capacity, ultimately with an eye toward assuming operations that the United States is currently conducting.
Looking ahead to the coming month, the United States should use the opportunity of the upcoming donors meeting in Riyadh on September 4 and 5 and the Friends of Yemen meeting at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on September 27 to rally international financial and diplomatic support for Yemen’s precarious transition.
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PRI’s The World — 13 August 2012
The president of Yemen has begun restructuring the Yemeni army. Princeton scholar Gregory Johnsen tells Marco Werman that this power play has to be handled with care. Last Monday president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi transferred the command of several Republican Guards’ units to his newly created Presidential Protection Force. That force will also include a brigade from the army’s First Armored Division led by General Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, who last year supported opposition protests against the Salih regime. Other units from the Republican Guards, commanded by former President Ali Abdullah Salih’s son Ahmad, will move to other regional commands. “I think this is a significant story and one that has been developing for some time,” says Johnsen. “This is Hadi’s latest step in his attempt to simultaneously erode the ground from beneath the feet of Ahmad Ali Salih and Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, while the whole time not bringing Yemen’s military crashing down around his ears.” But Johnsen is wary of the new Presidential Protection Force. “One of the things that was quite disturbing about president Salih’s rule is that he did exactly this sort of thing,” Johnsen tells The World.
Washington Post — 14 August 2012
Clashes erupted in Yemen’s capital on Tuesday between the new government’s forces and soldiers loyal to the former regime, highlighting the divisions and volatility in the country six months after a populist uprising ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Hours after current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi left the country to attend a conference in Saudi Arabia, elite Republican Guard soldiers under the command of Saleh’s son surrounded the Defense Ministry. Government troops quickly moved to protect the building, located in the capital’s center.
CNN — 14 August 2012
Just hours after the new Yemeni president left for a conference in Saudi Arabia, members of the Yemeni military loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh attacked the country’s defense ministry on Tuesday. Hundreds of Republican Guards tied to Saleh and his son, laid siege the building near the center of Sanaa on Tuesday, a Defense Ministry official said told CNN. Four people were killed and nine injured, said the official, who did not wish to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. The former president and his family still wield a considerable amount of influence inside the military and other sectors in Yemen.
Reuters — 14 August 2012
Clashes broke out in Sanaa on Tuesday between Yemeni troops and about 200 members of the elite Republican Guards who surrounded the Defence Ministry in a direct challenge to a presidential reorganization of the military, an army source said. Extra government troops had been sent to defend the ministry building and shooting began after the Republican Guard soldiers surrounded it, the source said.
Yemen Times — 9 August 2012
The relationship between the state and the citizen in Yemen is very complicated and yet key to stabilizing the country. With the notion of civil disobedience spreading around the country, this relationship has become increasingly strained.
Al-Ahram Weekly — 9-15 August 2012
Meanwhile, the deputy chairman of Saleh’s party, Abdel-Karim Al-Eriani, was elected Monday as chairman of the 25-member preparatory committee for the national dialogue that will be held in November. The woman lawyer Rakia Humaidan, from the Socialist Party was elected as first vice president, and secretary general of the Nasserite Party Sultan Al-Atwani was elected a second vice president. The human rights activist Amal Basha was elected spokesperson. Ahmed Awadh was elected a reporter. The 25 members of the preparatory committee represent all different groups that will be involved in the dialogue, which is due to reach agreement on a new constitution according to which presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in 2014.
Yemen Times — 13 August 2012
Mansour Al-Ashmali, coordinator of the project, said young people work together to achieve the conditions and requirements necessary for establishing a modern Yemeni civil state. Moreover, they intend to spread civil society culture, requirements of constructing a civil state and rule of law and civil rights. The group is also calling on all social and political parties to end fights and to involve themselves with civil society, which Al-Ashmali said is based on respect, peace, social security and tolerance. Al-Ashmali said the project targeted 300 young men and women in nine governorates who share the same viewpoint: forming a youth bloc to participate in constructing a democratic Yemen. This bloc will put pressure on those in leadership positions in order to achieve comprehensive change. It will also call on the youth to renounce sectarian, regional and tribal fanaticism and to address the problems of society and seek suitable solutions.
Yemen Times — 8 August 2012
Minister of Legal Affairs Mohammed Al-Mikhlafi said the cabinet tasked the Legal Affairs Ministry on Tuesday to choose a mechanism to set up a committee addressing human rights violations. He said he assigned the task of reshaping the decision and developing the final draft to the committee in order to okay the proposal. He said drafting the decision would finish during the coming two weeks.
Yemen Times — 15 August 2012
Yemeni political analysts said President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi’s visit to Saudi Arabia coincides with Yemen’s tough economic and security situations. Saudi Arabia is a main supporter of Yemen. Ahmed Al-Sabahi, a political analyst, said Hadi’s visit to Saudi Arabia is very reasonable; there was also a visit to Qatar. “That is to say, the Saudi-Qatari mercenary support is the biggest.”
UPI — 15 August 2012
Washington is working to support the administration of the Yemeni president as he works on political transition goals, a U.S. State Department official said. Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said “dead-enders from the ancient regime” were throwing up roadblocks to Hadi’s reform agenda.
AFP via Google News — 14 August 2012
The United States on Tuesday urged all sides in Yemen to show restraint and respect reforms by new President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi after troops attacked the defense ministry. “We have been urging restraint on all sides, an immediate end to the violence and respect for President Hadi and the reforms that he is putting in place and the democratic transition,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
Voice of America — 13 August 2012
The United States is committed to supporting the Yemeni people as they undertake their political transition. Through a comprehensive strategy that promotes political, economic, and security sector reforms, we will help the Yemeni people address their challenges and achieve their aspirations.
UNDP — 15 August 2012
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Yemen (GoY) signed today the Support to the Implementation of Transitional Justice in Yemen (2012 – 2014) Project, at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MoPIC). The UNDP Project will assist the Government of Yemen and other strategic key national stakeholders in developing the transitional justice process, from design through implementation, focusing on civil society’s role, victims’ organisations, and issues of communication and outreach. The total budget of this project is US$ 4.033 million, UNDP provided US$ 1 million and the Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights provided US$ 50.000 thousand. Many donors have shown strong interest to support this project.