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Two developments in Yemen

The United States killed two Americans in Yemen, both of whom had joined Al Qaeda, according to the New York Times.  One was Anwar al-Awlaki, a major Al Qaeda figurehead/leader/cleric in Yemen that the US has been aiming to kill for some time now.  This strike comes despite the upheaval in Yemen, and the absence of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In early September, the Obama administration’s top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, said recent cooperation with Yemen was better than it has ever been despite the prolonged absence of Mr. Saleh, who returned recently after four months in Saudi Arabia recovering from wounds he suffered in a bomb attack on his presidential palace.

The article goes on to indicates that America’s interests in Yemen are almost entirely motivated by a desire to track down and kill Al Qaeda, and that so long as Saleh is a partner in that mission, the US will avoid putting any heavy pressure on Saleh to leave office.  The article also suggests that since al-Awlaki is an English speaker who aims his messages toward Muslims in the West, he had little influence on the course of protests and political developments in Yemen.

Meanwhile, the entrenched President Saleh has put out some new demands for leaving office, according to Al Jazeera.

In an exclusive interview on Thursday, the embattled leader told Time magazine and The Washington Post that a power transfer deal crafted by his Gulf neighbours calls for “all the elements” causing tension in Yemen to be removed and warned of a civil war if that did not occur.

Saleh was referring to dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who has joined ranks with a populist uprising that began early this year, and the powerful al-Ahmar tribe, not related to the general.

“If we transfer power and they are there, this will mean that we have given in to a coup,” Saleh said in his first interview since returning home on Friday from a stay in Saudi Arabia to recover from injuries sustained during a June attack on his palace.

“If we transfer power, and they are in their positions, and they are still decision makers, this will be very dangerous. This will lead to civil war.”

In the interview, Saleh insisted he remained committed to the GCC initiative, denying claims he was seeking delays to hold on to power and putting the blame on the opposition’s inflexibility.

“This is a misunderstanding. We are willing within the next hours and next days to sign it, if the JMP [Joint Meetings Party] comes closer” to reaching an agreement, Saleh said about the Joint Meetings Party opposition coalition.

This all has sparked another round of protests and violence in Sanaa and Taiz.  Perhaps US involvement could break the deadlock.  Perhaps greater GCC pressure is what’s called for.  At the moment I’d say both sides seem firmly committed to staying their course, so some unforeseen development is needed before any breakthrough occurs.


3 Responses

  1. I don’t know if you’ve seen this website, but it’s a cool conglomeration of a bunch of primary newspapers in the ME area translated to English.

  2. Just a bit of shameless self-advertising, here’s a piece on this very subject that I wrote earlier today on my blog: http://menahouse.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/anwar-al-awlaki-and-the-irrelevance-of-al-qaeda-in-the-arab-world/

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