August 4, 2011

Obama Deploys Pentagon Official to Sana'a

Yesterday Gerald Feierstein called on Yemeni Vice President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi to begin an “immediate transfer” of power. The U.S. ambassador to Yemen has issued such a “demand” since April, when Washington and Riyadh invoked the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to orchestrate a false power transfer, and he repeated this “demand” to Hadi on Sunday. Apparently expecting Hadi to ignore him, Feierstein greeted Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirb on Wednesday to “discuss aspects of joint cooperation.”

The ambassador received a quick reply from Abdullah Ghanim, a senior official inside Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC): "President Ali Abdullah Saleh is still Yemen’s legitimate President until presidential elections are held. A authorization to Vice President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi does not mean the transfer of power."

As Saleh’s personal security forces and a government-induced humanitarian crisis refuse to abate, Feierstein has made himself widely unpopular to the revolutionaries for vigorously backing the GCC’s “30/60” initiative. Constant meetings with ruling officials have reinforced the impression that Feierstein is legitimizing the regime. However most of the blame can be attributed to a disastrous U.S. policy, which threw him to the wolves and employed White House counter-terror chief John Brennan as a leading diplomat. Under on Saleh’s terms (negotiated by U.S. and Saudi interlocutors), the GCC would grant familial immunity for a catalog of human rights abuses, hand 50% of a transitional council to the GPC, and give him another month to officially resign (even though Saleh shows no indication of doing so).

This document, “may be regarded as the best legal and political package, which any dictator has ever gotten, enjoying an unprecedented full immunity from legal pursuit for all the crimes inflicted against the Yemeni people,” remarked Yemen’s Coordinating Council for the Youth Revolution of Change (CCYRC).

The Obama administration remains aloof of these developments, denying false government reports that the U.S. Embassy supports Saleh’s return. Ting Wu, the economic officer in Sana’a, then repeated U.S. support for an “immediate transfer of power” through the GCC initiative - even though Saleh is gifted another 30 days. Yet Saleh’s regime continues to veto these terms, now preferring to talk about the GCC in loose rhetoric. Feierstein issued his latest comments after al-Qirbi returned from a European tour, where foreign ministers ordered him to begin the GCC’s transfer. Western media misinterpreted EU statements as support for the revolutionaries, when al-Qirbi took them as tacit support for the government.

Now the GCC provides only a base whose mechanism requires further “dialogue,” all codewords for more stalling. Nevertheless, Feierstein is sticking to his “demand” that Saleh transfer power “immediately,” when al-Qirbi declared that Saleh will only transfer power “constitutionally,” warning that 60 days is too soon to hold an election.

Therefore the regime wants to stage one as soon as possible.

The juxtaposition between Feierstein and Michael Vickers’s position ends on the surface. Following Feierstein’s meetings and the announcement of two revolutionary councils, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense held court with Major General Ahmed Ali al-Ashwal, Yemen’s Chief of General Staff. Limited information is available because Vicker’s trip, like Feierstein’s meetings, are rarely covered by the U.S. media; instead U.S. meetings are spun on Saba state media, adding to the revolutionaries’ distrust. Much can be inferred from the Pentagon’s apathy though.

Given the Obama administration’s utter disregard for Yemen’s people and their struggle for self-determination, al-Ashwal and Vickers’s meeting was likely as cordial as Saba described: “During the meeting, al-Ashwal and Vickers discussed aspects of mutual relations and military cooperation between the two friendly countries’ armies and ways of boosting them, particularly their cooperation in the fight against terrorism and the areas of training and rehabilitation.”

The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a added, “The United States and Yemen have a strong, mutual interest in countering this threat, and expect to continue our close cooperation.”

In reality Feierstein and Vickers’s positions mesh when considering the superficial nature of the ambassador’s remarks. The GCC initiative is designed to keep Saleh’s regime in power and his family of commanders safe from prosecution, where U.S. support would be highlighted. Once Saleh signs the agreement and “transfers” power to Hadi, Washington will further increase its counter-terrorism support - as if this support had suddenly halted. No such policy exists, as U.S. operations escalated since May regardless of Saleh’s intent to sign the GCC.

At one point U.S. officials claimed that this support had halted, but this was nothing more than propaganda to cover ongoing military operations. The same can be said of the GCC’s initiative.

All of these disturbances come as local reports indicate a horrific act of cannibalism in the Arhab district. Amid an ongoing battle between the U.S.-trained Republican Guard and anti-government fighters, local witnesses claim that Yemeni war planes bombed the Guard’s own position, killing “more than 200 Republican guards and at least three dozen-fighters.” A security official in Arhab said these troops refused to attack the tribesmen and were negotiating a ceasefire at the Sama’e military base, roughly 25 miles northeast of Sana’a.

This information is subject to change, but it fits the brutality that U.S. troops and equipment have sponsored in Yemen. The real face of U.S. policy is the face of Saleh’s regime.

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