September 3, 2011
Yemenis March Against U.S.-Saudi Blockade
Looking to snowball Friday’s momentum, Yemeni protesters are putting the final touches on Sunday’s mass demonstrations. Both the National Council, a political-tribal alliance formed by the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), and the street-oriented Organizational Committee have advertised Sunday’s protests as the revolution’s final stage.
These protests will target the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh but also US-Saudi interference, which jams Yemen’s revolution through the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Declared dead months ago by protesters, JMP and GCC officials alike, the GCC’s “30/60” initiative has been kept on life-support by every political actor inside and outside Yemen, obstructing the revolution from overthrowing Saleh’s regime. This proposal is gradually eroding though, and the NC recently escalated its political actions by demanding the prosecution of Saleh and his son, Ahmed. As commander of Saleh’s U.S-trained Republican Guard, Ahmed has directed a barbaric assault on peaceful protesters and armed tribesmen opposed to the regime.
In a Saturday night speech from Change Square, NC chairman Mohammed Basendwah declared that the GCC”s intiative is no longer valid unless Saleh resigns immediately, and unless the immunity for his family and regime is rescinded.
Basendwah added that the revolution must remain non-violent: “We have a plan drawn for the escalation of the peaceful order not to slide into bloodshed and chaos to Yemen and the war that he wants the system, and the escalation will see a change in the course of the revolution... We are keen to bring down the regime by peaceful means and not by force, and whatever the regime tried to use his weapons and his forces against us, we will bear it for a peaceful revolution that began half a year ago and not escalation.”
JMP spokesman Mohamed Qahtan spoke with a blunter instrument, saying “the people are able to end the existence of the regime in a matter of days, if they decide to settle the issue in a military way.” Advising Saleh’s family to “make a quick exit” if they did not want to “face the people,” Qahtan went so far as to warn “the boys” that they, “will face the flood of the revolution which will sweep them and end their usurpation.”
Naturally qualifying “escalation” has no effect on Saleh’s regime, and the demand for justice appears to have rattled Ahmed beyond his normal response. Citing sources “close” to the presidential palace, the Yemen Post reports that Ahmed suspended ongoing negotiations over the GCC’s initiative. Separate sources confirm that U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein and several EU ambassadors asked the Vice-President, Abdel Rabo Mansour Hadi, to pressure Ahmed into accepting the GCC’s initiative. Hadi reportedly argued that Ahmed is not “with the option of war” and supports the GCC’s dialogue as approved by his father, “but the Republican Guard commander expressed his rejection of the initiative in the form of outright.”
This “dialogue” is being used as a tactic to stall the revolution while Saleh recovers in Saudi Arabia, but Ahmed may be thinking that he’s entering Libya territory. After cutting the public broadcast of Tripoli’s celebration, Yemeni protesters continue to fly Libya’s new flag and absorb the revolution’s inspiration.
In response to the NC’s escalation and national demonstrations calling for his prosecution, Ahmed has launched a pincer attack in Yemen’s streets and in the media. As observed yesterday, the regime is eager to scapegoat defected General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar during the revolution’s final phase. Mohsen has styled himself as the “defender of the revolution” in a transparent attempt to negate his unpopularity. Throughout the period of his defection, military officials and representatives within Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) have accused Mohsen of mobilizing his 1st Armored Division and proxy fighters for “civil war.” Recent activity includes a small “youth army,” recruited off the street and given several days of weapons training.
GPC officials have increased their warnings in recent weeks and days, adding that Sheikh Abdel-Mageed al Zindani is aiding his mobilization through al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Zindani is personally linked to Osama bin Laden - and counseled Saleh until defecting in late February.
Using Mohsen’s mobilization (and the al-Ahmars) as cover, Ahmed has mobilized his own forces in Sana’a to block a popular uprising at the palace. Dozens of personnel carriers and armored vehicles from the RG and Central Security Forces (another U.S.-trained force led by Saleh’s nephew, Yayha) have quarantined the presidential office. Units have also been deployed to Sana’a International Airport, where government officials suspect Mohsen of preparing an assault on a RG base. Incoming tanks and military vehicles from other areas have been reported over the last three days, and military checkpoints ring the city.
These U.S.-trained forces are supposed to be fighting AQAP in the south.
All of these developments are enabled by persistent support for the GCC, which delays the revolution and encourages both the GPC and JMP to circumvent Yemen’s revolutionaries. While NATO is hunting down Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Washington is sanctioning al-Assad’s brothers, U.S. officials such as Feierstein and John Brennan are trying to extract Pentagon assets - Saleh, Ahmed, Yayha - through immunity.
So long as Washington, Riyadh and the EU support the GCC’s initiative, Saleh will continue to believe that he can return to Yemen and maintain power.