April 20, 2012

UN Stages New Show In Yemen

The latest "showdown" in Sana'a is scheduled to occur when UN envoy Jamal Benomar sits down with Ahmed Saleh. Their conditions of engagement aren't as lopsided as they may appear; although Ahmed has spearheaded his father's bloody crackdown on Yemen's revolution as commander of the Republican Guards, Benomar carries the unanimous weight of the UN Security Council and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). According to the Yemeni Post, Benomar plans to "inform him that the countries overseeing the GCC deal are discontented about the involvement of the Republican Guard in supporting rebellion of some military commanders against Hadi's decrees."

Since Ahmed's father and resident tyrant, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is using his son's office as his new command post, maybe Benomar can alert both of them when he stops by.

The envoy's trip to Sana'a simultaneously forms the latest muscle flex of GCC and UNSC powers, and exposes their ongoing imperialistic agenda in "post-Saleh" Yemen. Two weeks ago the country's new president, former vice president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, met Saleh's resistance when he attempted to reassign a handful of regime loyalists. Mohammed al-Ahmar, the strongman's half-brother and Air Force chief, received the majority of international attention when his troops briefly shut down Sana'a International Airport under the orders of Saleh. Media advisor Ahmed al-Sufi then described Hadi's orders as "unjust" and "hasty" before asking a loaded question: "does President Hadi wants us to hand over the power to Islah which represents the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen?"

"Yemen will not see stability without an effective role for the leadership and the bases of the General People's Congress party," Saleh said in his own statement, referring to the party that he still leads.

The "Ten Ambassadors" - the UNSC and GCC - released two statements during this political turbulence, each warning "all sides" to obey Hadi's decrees and thus eschewing Saleh's name. For the moment he has complied by sending Ahmed's unit to the airport and into the southern governorates, where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has raided multiple army bases over a period of weeks. Only Saleh isn't close to letting go of his remaining strings, and foreign powers expect another potential confrontation when Hadi formally replaces Mohammed with the newly-appointed Rashid Al-Janad. While Hadi previously announced his intention to restructure the military before a "national dialogue committee" is formed in the coming weeks, the "Friends of Yemen" need more progress on the security front to highlight during their May 23rd conference.

Enter Jamal Binomar, who arrived in Sana'a on Wednesday to keep Saleh's tree in relative order. The message to him and his son: accept Hadi's terms or face possible sanctions and revocation of UN-approved immunity. Hadi and company are admittedly caught in a strategic dilemma, unable to remove Saleh's extensive network at once without destabilizing the country. Their behavior, though, suggests that Saleh and his intimate family will be allowed to stay in Yemen so long as they don't cause an excessive amount of trouble. The Obama administration already patched up Saleh in New York City and sent him back to lead his party, which retains half of Yemen's cabinet, and U.S. oFficials remain on semi-friendly terms with him. If Hadi "decides" to keep Ahmed and his cousin Yahya, the intrusive head of Saleh's Central Security Organization, in power, the UNSC will have no problem with this arrangement as U.S. assets target AQAP. Washington may prefer that Ahmed eventually leave his post after May's political calendar, but he's obviously playing along for as long as he can.

"We have great hope on the wisdom and capability of Marshal Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is backed by the Gulf and international community, to take the country to the future and build the new Yemen, " he told a televised audience of senior RG officials on Tuesday. "Once the new president was elected, we declared our allegiance to the new political leadership and will honor our commitments and responsibility."

Local rumors allege that U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein has signed off on Ahmed's presidential run in 2014.

Meanwhile popular demonstrations continue to demand a trial to exorcize Saleh's 33-year regime. Many have accepted Hadi's temporarily rule as a necessary placeholder to remove Saleh's decayed network, but they also expect more of him. They expect him to challenge Saleh personally, prosecute his relatives instead of reassigning them to the Defense Ministry and initiate a clean break with the old regime. Problematically, Hadi's nomination to the presidency represented a compromise between Saleh, the GCC and UNSC, not the various segments of Yemen's populace.

Instead of supporting Yemen's revolutionaries and the overall populace, the UNSC's current efforts continue to nurture a backbone of counterrevolution.

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