Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yemen protesters reject Saleh's offer

The Dangerous US Game in Yemen

This article, which showed up in The Nation of all places, gives a great overview of US policy in Yemen over the previous decade.

Sites Blocked, Hacked as Uprising Gains Further Momentum

This story the Yemen Post ran earlier today is nothing new. Sites have been blocked and hacked for years in Yemen - almost always the Arabic language (native language) sites. One thing you will not see happen, however, is the muzzling of a government mouthpiece such as the Yemen Observer. These sites, and their too clever-by-half attempts at propaganda, are there for your reading pleasure.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

President Saleh willing to transfer powers to new government chaired by opposition.

This is the title of a story written earlier today by Nasser Arrabyee. Interesting to note is that the opposition in this article is not necessarily the JMP, but the Islah party. Hakim Almasmari was wrong about regime change in Yemen this March, but it may come in April.

And speaking of Hakim Almasmari, he has kept up the drumbeat for the honorable exit of Saleh for the last few months. For those of us in the West used to leaders going peacefully into retirement, it's important to note that most rulers in the Middle East either die or are killed while in office. What Saleh could do for Yemeni society by peacefully entering retirement while remaining in Yemen and acting as the elder statesman cannot be overestimated.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Yemeni Leader Offers to Exit Earlier

In the NYT today:
SANA, Yemen — As his tenuous grasp on power eroded further with more public figures defecting to the opposition, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has accepted a proposal by his adversaries to plan his departure from office by the end of the year, a government official said on Tuesday. Previously he had offered only to leave by 2013.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Violence in Yemen Escalates

With all eyes on Libya late last week, it was still surprising that Yemen's woes were all but ignored. I switched between CNN, MSNBC and Fox News and found little reportage on the current state of affairs there -- aside from a couple 30 second spots and running text beneath the stories of Libya and Japan. The story, of course, is that (government?) snipers killed 52 anti-government protesters on Friday, and Saleh declared a state of emergency in Yemen (just as Bahrain did earlier in the week) on Saturday.

Thank God for Al-Jazeera, which faces greater security risks than western media when reporting in Yemen, but nevertheless does a better job in educating English readers. Last week, they did an in-depth story on Tawakkol Karman and the protest movement in Yemen called "Yemen: A tale of two protests."

My favorite blogger on Yemen (and a foremost scholar), Gregory Johnsen, has an up-to-date list of defectors from the regime located here. This list is substantial - including the resignation of Yemen's ambassador to the UN, who resigned this weekend.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Yemen's opposition ‘thugs’ attack young man in Dhamar

An intersting story insofar as the Governor and general secretary of the local council of Dhamar both went to visit this man in the hospital. I don't wnat to minimize the fact that both his legs were broken, but the insight to be drawn from this article is that he was visited by two of the most prominent men in the province.

My guess it that important personages not only do not visit anti-regime protesters that are injured and killed, but that they could care less.

Yemeni Protesters & Opposition Reject Saleh's New Initiative

How interesting. This News Yemen story relates that the "Head of the JMP, Yasin Saeed Noaman, said the president's new initiative 'aims to rescue the regime, but not the country.'"

In related news, Mohammed al Qadhi reports that the committee of tribal chiefs and clerics led by Sadeq al Ahmar - and responsible for mediating negotiations between the government and the opposition - claimed Mr Saleh was responsible for the heavy-handed tactics of the security forces in dealing with the demonstrations in Yemen.

In light of the above, it only makes sense that the GPC would be "disappointed by the decision of the opposition coalition," right?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Qahtan Coming Around?

The website Al-Shorfa reports that Mohammed Qahtan recently claimed the JMP's stance regarding the regime to be that they continue "to support public calls for the end of the regime and will not give up on these demands."

While this isn't necessarily an admission that it is his personal point of view, and while he is an acting spokesperson, it is a step in the positive direction.

At the same time, Hakim Almasmari recently admonished opposition leaders in a Yemen Post editorial, saying that their past corruptions should not be forgotten in the event of the regime's downfall.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sheikh Hamid Al-Ahmar Interview with the Yemen Times:

Okay, the guy's corrupt as well, but not as corrupt as Saleh himself. And I do believe he is a bit of an idealist with a better sense of what is wrong in Yemen than the president.

The entire interview is worth reading, but I'll reproduce a funny exchange between the Yemen Times and Hamid when Hamid voiced his scepticism over Saleh stepping down by 2013:

Yemen Times: "In spite of the fact that the Americans believe that he will step down in 2013?"

Hamid al-Ahmar: "(Laughter) He lies to the Americans! They know that he is the biggest liar in the world."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Pie for President Saleh

Nasser Arrabyee & Hakim Almasmari

There are two Yemeni journalists writing in English that I read frequently and whom I suggest those interested in events in Yemen read as well: Nasser Arrabyee and Hakim Almasmari. Nasser is a freelance journalist while Hakim owns the Yemen Post.

In Nasser's most recent article, he speaks with opposition leaders who believe Saleh should step down before the end of the year. He also discusses a 7-point plan put forth by the opposition to solve the crisis, which was amended by Saleh to include an eighth point that "all parties are to end demonstrations and sit-ins to bring an end to streets [sic] congestion, prevent ...chaos, [as well as prevent the] destruction of public and private properties." Effectively denying the right to assemble.

Hakim Almasmari is a wonder to read when he writes editorials. Maybe he avoids the wrath of the regime because he only voices his opinions in English? In a February 28th editorial, he predicts the fall of the Saleh regime this March, going on to say "Everyone in Yemen is an enemy according to the regime. The southerners are separatists, the northerners are rebels, tribes are barbarians, and the political parties are foreign agents, which leaves no one loyal to the country except the ruling family that has stolen billions of dollars of wealth." Extraordinarily courageous writing!

Zindani Joins the Opposition?

In my opinion, the Islah party is the one to watch when it come to reform emanating from the "opposition." This is because of their dominance within the Joint Meeting Parties, as well as the fact that they are the most conservative political party within that grouping (thus, the most likely to acquiesce to the regime).

As Paul Dresch in "A History of Modern Yemen," and Ahmed Hezam Al-Yemeni in "The Dynamic of Democratisation – Political Parties in Yemen" both explain, at the party's foundation in 1990 it was made up of intellectual‐reformist Islamists (or the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood, personified by moderates such as Abdul Wahab al‐Anisi), a conservative tribal group (led by Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar), and a conservative‐radical salafi group (best personified by the infamous Sheikh Abd al‐Majid al‐Zindani).

With the recent defection of al-Zindani from the regime - albeit, his desire is to found an Islamic state - it looks like Saleh's authority is further eroding. Coupled with the almost complete defection of the al-Ahmar's, it will be interesting to see what reformist Islamists like al-Anisi and Mohammed Qahtan (a co-founder of Islah along with Zindani and Ahmar) decide to do in the near future.

Recently, Qahtan was quoted as saying "We support the people, but we wish they had waited a little bit to protest so much... the reform movement in Yemen requires wise deliberation. We need to be careful against taking an impulsive course of action, or there will be losses." I'm a bit sceptical of wise deliberation, as the deliberation in Yemen - be it a facade or not - has been going on for far too long.