Yemen is currently experiencing a greater power vacuum than any other time in its modern history. After the uprising/revolution/crisis of 2011, no one, including transitional president Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has been able to stamp his sole authority on the country. Unlike the past, when it was very clear who the ‘leader’ was, there is currently a situation where many different groups and personalities are vying for support.
Yemen suffered greatly in 2011, and has continued to do so in the years since, but, one of the main current positives is that Yemen is experiencing a period where restraints against free speech have been greatly reduced, and people are largely free to support who they want. Instability means that this definitely has its downsides – sometimes immature political groupings, and the occasional tendency to resort to the gun, means that we can conclude that many groups have still not accepted the foundations of a democratic, plural state.
The past week or so has seen Yemen’s three ‘presidents’ – the actual president Hadi, former president, and now za’eem (leader) Ali Abdullah Saleh, and former leader of South Yemen, and current Herak leader, Ali Salim al-Beidh – make in-depth public pronouncements, either through interviews or speeches, on various subjects, often commenting on the same topics.
– Hadi, in his speech at the Police Academy, comes across as 1) very defensive over drones 2) frustrated with Saleh’s meddling & general recent insinuations that Hadi is handing over Yemeni sovereignty 3) more patriarchal, he seems to be getting used to this whole Arab President gig.
– Saleh spoke in an interview to two very friendly outlets (to say the least), Yemen Today, a television channel owned by his son, and al-Methaq, the GPC newspaper. He comes across with his usual self-confidence (read: arrogance), but I get the sense that there’s more than just bluster here – with recent events in Egypt, he seems quite happy. And he’s adamant that he wants elections to be on time – interesting.
– al-Beidh spoke to the pan-Arab, ‘resistance’-leaning, al-Mayadeen channel. He sticks to his general themes of no compromise over separation, and that those damn northerners are backward. Interestingly, al-Beidh is the most coy out of our three presidents, refusing to be drawn on relations with outside Middle Eastern powers in detail. He also smirked a lot.
So, let’s look at what they said in a bit more detail:
Events of 2011:
2011 in Yemen started with a mass, non-partisan protest movement, and ended with an agreement (the GCC initiative) put together by regional autocratic powers, apparently designed to bring about a democratic transition in that fairly big, quite populous country they’ve always been vaguely worried about next door. M-hmm. Well, how did we get there?
First things first, al-Beidh doesn’t care.
“The GCC intiative did not have anything concerning our Southern issue, therefore it does not concern us – it is designed to solve the issues of those fighting for power in Sana’a.”
Short and sweet.
Next, to Saleh. In an amazing demonstration of how a man who oversaw a regime that killed hundreds, possibly thousands of people, can twist fact in an attempt to present himself in a saintly, peace-loving light, he says that he only signed the GCC initiative because he couldn’t bare to see another drop of Yemeni blood spilt. Ya haram.
“Ali Abdullah Saleh left the presidency voluntarily, he passed power, wealth, and the army over voluntarily … As we were careful to not shed Yemeni blood, we formulated the GCC initiative, it went via politicians from the GPC to the Gulf, and we said ‘take this up so that we can come out of this tension and this spilling of blood’, because no one was able to bring down Ali Abdullah Saleh, not the biggest of them nor the smallest … the whole army was with us, there was only one example … the First Armoured Brigades, that embraced militias from Iman University and the Islah Party, and they said that this was a military force … If we wanted to end it militarily it would have been over in minutes, but who is this good for? We fight over the seat of power?”
Ali Abdullah Saleh? Fight over power? Course not (excluding murders of political rivals/border clashes with the South/1994 Civil War/Sa’dah Wars/rigging of countless elections/killing of protesters, general destruction in 2011). You thought he cared about power, and is possibly still suffering from a 33 year dictatorial rule induced hangover? Silly you.
Anyway, Hadi, shockingly, saw things slightly differently.
“We all went to sign the GCC initiative … We went because the sides that were involved in the clash, those that proclaimed revolutionary legitimacy and those that proclaimed constitutional legitimacy, no side was able to defeat the other … So there’s no need now for everyone to try and exaggerate, after things have calmed down, everyone writes, everyone delivers speeches … that if this and if that. There’s no this and that. If you were able you would have defeated the other side. Why lie? There’s no need to exaggerate.”
Ouch. But a completely fair point.
Saleh also denied any role in the Friday of Dignity massacre, the first major killing of the revolution, which saw at least 45 dead on March 18 2011. He instead blamed the Muslim Brotherhood (the Islah Party), who were part of the protests.
“The motto of the Muslim Brotherhood, not just in Yemen, but all over the world, is blood. Therefore, what they called the Friday of Dignity, we have evidence that they did it, they wanted to put it on the regime. They killed them from behind, this is known, they have been filmed, like what has happened in Egypt … This is the Muslim Brotherhood scenario and their motto is blood. They can’t get to power except by using blood.”
Many would dispute that ‘this is known’ – especially the people there, and the countless reports and testimonies that exist surrounding the massacre.
The Yemeni government’s conflict with al-Qaeda was a central theme in Hadi’s speech, but only touched upon briefly by Saleh and al-Beidh.
Hadi gave a detailed account of the apparent plot which caused several foreign embassies to shut their gates, and the international media to speculate that the apocalypse was about to arrive in Yemen.
“The last events in the last ten days of Ramadan, when the embassies closed, an al-Qaeda group took two cars … and filled them with several tonnes of TNT each, and al-Wahayshi spoke with al-Zawahiri, and he said to him we’re going to do something that will change the course of history … The Americans discussed this when I was in Washington, and I told them, this person isn’t cultured, this will definitely be in Yemen. He’s going to change the course of history? Really?”
Essentially, Hadi’s comments here tie into the whole ‘we had it covered’ line the government has been delivering recently. The Yemeni government was quite frustrated that the embassies had closed, as it made them look like they might not have everything covered at all.
“One of those cars he wanted to send to Dhiba port in Hadhramaut, to explode there, obviously if it exploded in the port there are fuel depots … it would need two years work at least to return it [to operational use] … It would affect the day to day economy … the other car was headed to Sana’a, thankfully we uncovered the plot before it happened. We followed the car that went to Dhiba port and when it was near to the port we hit it … and it exploded, a massive explosion, because it has seven tonnes of explosives in it. The one headed to Sana’a – we caught the cell that was responsible for getting the car into Sana’a. The car is hidden, it could be anywhere, we’re tracking it down with drones, because drones have within them equipment that can discover and take a picture of TNT wherever it is … the embassies were scared, they closed them … now some of them are back. We’ve informed them that this is a psychological war, you’ve given al-Qaeda more than they deserve by closing these embassies. Therefore we allowed the drones to track this car … I will not permit a repetition of what happened in Sabaeen Square.”
Sabaeen Square was the site of the deadliest terrorist attack in Yemeni history, when over 120 soldiers died in an attack on a rehearsal of the Unity Day parade in 2012.
Hadi referred to the effect that terrorism, and the presence of al-Qaeda in Yemen, has on the country.
“Many events have taken place, they have had an effect on the national economy … on investment … on work … on the Yemeni people. You go to any country, in any airport, when you say you’re Yemeni, they say go there, to the side. You’re Yemeni. Why do they say this? Because the leadership of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are located in Yemen. Ok, that’s true, they’re located in Yemen. Let’s not lie to ourselves. We must co-operate, all of us, the people, the army, the security forces, to stop this destruction. They’ve destroyed Yemen. They’ve sullied our name across the world … If they want dialogue, they must put down their guns.”
Hadi’s comments about how Yemenis are treated around the world will resonate with many, especially aspirational members of the middle class, who experience great difficult getting visas to countries abroad. He’s trying to convince Yemenis that their life will get that little bit better if al-Qaeda is defeated – although I don’t think this will do much to shift the general mood here that people’s other problems are far greater.
Some Yemenis actually blame Saleh for al-Qaeda in Yemen, and say that he used them to gain American backing, and now to cause instability. Saleh, needless to say, rejects this outright, and said he has nothing to do with any of the current instability that is plaguing Yemen:
“Who’s blowing up the pipelines, announce it, and try them … We hear it from time to time, Afash Saleh is behind it … Behind the blowing up of the pipelines? I was the one who built this and extracted the oil. I can’t destroy something I achieved. I work to build not to destroy.”
Notice Saleh’s use of ‘Afash’ in that last quotation. Afash is his family’s surname, but wasn’t public knowledge until 2011, as it revealed his lowly background. Protesters used it in 2011 to disparage him (you can still see it daubed around the streets of Sana’a), but he’s now seemingly trying to reclaim it (his twitter handle is @afashyemen) – go empowerment!
Al-Qaeda is predominantly located in the former South Yemen, mainly because it is much bigger than the former North, and is much more sparsely populated, thereby allowing more freedom for militants to set up camps and run off when necessary. In his interview with al-Mayadeen, al-Beidh was asked about the al-Qaeda threat:
“Al-Qaeda came from what happened in Afghanistan, and those returning from there … they were recruited by the regime, some of them hold army ID numbers, al-Qaeda was sheltered by many known people in Yemen … known leaders who make things easy for al-Qaeda. But in the South, even if some individuals are located in southern land, southern culture does not shelter these kinds of acts or this kind of mentality, and we are against al-Qaeda and its philosophy, and we are against terrorism, and we will do all we can to fight terrorism in the South and in the Arabian Peninsula.”
Al-Beidh’s comments serve two purposes: 1) to implicitly accuse Saleh (and possibly Ali Mohsen?) of being involved with al-Qaeda, and that this is a northern thing 2) to reassure the West that any future South Yemen would fight al-Qaeda.
Drones and Yemeni Sovereignty/US interference:
As I said before, this was a central theme of Hadi‘s speech. Over to you, Abd-Rabbo…
“There is cooperation between us and the US, and the countries fighting terrorism after 9/11 … counterterrorism bodies were created around the world … The former president Ali Abdullah Saleh went to Washington, straight after 9/11 … after the US spoke about who stands with us against al-Qaeda, and doesn’t is with al-Qaeda. And they put Yemen as number three after Afghanistan and Pakistan … we were transformed into an enemy. Ali Abdullah Saleh went there and agreed in the name of Yemen that we were partners in the fight against al-Qaeda. He came here, and we agreed … in the Supreme National Defence Council. No one can now deny this. There’s no need to lie to ourselves. When you are an official and you make a decision, say that I have taken a decision … don’t say no, these drones have come, I didn’t do things like that … drones have been here since 2004, within the borders of Yemen, or is that not Yemeni sovereignty? Abyan isn’t within Yemen’s sovereignty? Or Shabwa? Or Marib? Why now is it a matter of sovereignty? Yemen is one country, all of Yemen is part of our sovereignty.”
Hadi acknowledged that there have been mistakes – but that these don’t have anything to do with drones:
“Yes there have been mistakes from … not from drones … the mistake that occurred in al-Ma’jalla, there was a training camp that was being built by al-Qaeda … and there was a village next to the camp. A cruise missile then hit the village, this was from the navy, and not from a drone. Drones have a level of technical control that is not normal, its missiles don’t hit anything apart from the specified target, and with precision. But the navy, or the air force – the human mind always makes mistakes. The electronic mind never makes mistakes. We will need to use the drones until we get our own drones and are trained in their use, and until we can use them to confront al-Qaeda.”
Hadi’s trust in drones is pretty bizarre, I must say. The idea that drones ‘don’t make mistakes’ won’t go down very well with those who’ve lost loved ones as ‘collateral damage’.
Al-Beidh wasn’t asked about drones, but he did speak about the USA and its role in Yemen. And he had a few interesting things to say about the US ambassador, Gerald M. Feierstein:
“What should I say to the US ambassador? The US ambassador has transformed into a tribal sheikh … He has become an Islahi sheikh.”
He then went on to criticise the US’s role in the Middle East:
“We know that US foreign policy works for an … unstable Middle East, what goes on in many Arab countries is related to this – that there is no stable Arab country.”
After all of that, the interviewer asked just what I was thinking: don’t you need US support? So, al-Beidh smirked and remembered to be diplomatic:
“We feel that the US doesn’t understand our situation … I hope that with time they will understand.”
Sensitive topic, this. As expected, most of al-Beidh’s interview surrounded this issue. He rejected the apology that was issued by the Yemeni government, on behalf of past governments, for the 1994 Civil War that was fought between the central government and southern separatists (al-Beidh was Yemen’s Vice-President before the war, where he declared the South’s separation). The apology, as Hadi said, was a consequence of the National Dialogue Conference currently being held in Sana’a (more on that in a bit):
“When the National Dialogue was formulated, and in the mechanism of the GCC initiative … [it was obligated upon the] government to apologise for previous wars, the 1994 separatist war, and the war in Sa’dah … the National Dialogue requested that the apology should come from the government on behalf of the previous governments … that previous governments hold the primary responsibility for what happened – but are not the only [party responsible]”
“We reject everything that comes from this dialogue, because we know that this dialogue is directed in a certain way, and overseen by certain parties, that want to use it to reach what they want, which does not agree with what our people want and aspire to in the south … We reject this apology and we consider that they need to apologise for this apology.”
Pretty straightforward, but then the apology wasn’t exactly directed at al-Beidh, it was to the general southern public. Although, again, talk is cheap, and if the government is to have any hope of persuading southerners that unity is the way forward, they need to see concrete action. One likely move designed to placate the south is federalism. Talk is currently that there’ll be five provinces, and two capitals (Sana’a and Aden). Back to al-Beidh:
“We don’t accept anything unless it is accepted by our people … [the people] reject everything apart from liberation and independence, and to decide our future as we see fit … We hope that our brothers in Sana’a, if there is someone with sense amongst them, listen to what is happening in the South, we’re looking for a peaceful solution.”
In his interview, Saleh was also asked about the apology. He wasn’t too ecstatic about it:
“We gave you the reigns of power … they said apologise to the north and to the south. Ok, I personally apologised to the whole Yemeni people, men and women, for things that happened during my period in power. You’re apologising? Who are you? Basindwa’s government? … Who are you apologising to? ‘We’re apologising for the southern issue’ … the southern issue since independence has been a problem. Qahtan al-Sha’abi, Salim Rubay’a Ali, Abdelfattah Ismail, Ali Nasser, and finally 13th January .”
Saleh mentioned several former leaders of South Yemen, who were either executed, or forced into house arrest/exile. He also referred to the events of 13th January 1986, when the bodyguards of one of the aforementioned, Ali Nasser, turned up to the Yemeni Socialist Party’s Politburo meeting, and started shooting at Nasser’s rivals. This led to a civil war that lasted a month, and left thousands dead.
Two of the main arguments used against separatism are 1) that the current president, Hadi, is a southerner, as is the Prime Minister, Basindwa 2) that, with Arab nationalism still being fairly strong in the Arab world, how can the one state that is actually the result of unity split? Saleh refers to the first point:
“And now these people criticising … unification – it was put to a referendum, a national referendum … the Herak etc, these are all remnants of the past. They want to bring back the Southern state, you now rule North and South. How can you return the Southern state when you now rule in Sana’a, ruling the North and the South, and you’re a Southerner? What’s the problem? You’re a Yemeni.”
Beidh was asked by the interviewer how he was able to reconcile his own apparent Arab nationalist background with his support for separation. Beidh’s response was to essentially say that it was North’s fault.
“Unfortunately we found that the situation in Sana’a differed greatly … they look to us as a branch of them, and they plotted against us using all means, until they fought the war against us … We consider ourselves occupied … any nationalist ideals must come in normal circumstances … We demand now for the return of our land, an end to the occupation, the return of our resources, to establish our state, and then we can look anew into any future position between Sana’a and Aden … We participated in a unification that failed. Maybe others can return to it. We leave it to future generations. But we discovered that there is no mentality [in the north] concerning unification. [the mentality in Sana’a] is backward … the social forces are not those of unification, unification comes from a democratic, patriotic mindset … unfortunately the military powers in Sana’a are not like that.”
Personally, this seems quite bizarre. The idea that if a split ever occurred, with the built up animosity, and the problems that would surely arise, there would be hope for any unity in the future is fanciful. It also begs the question – what’s the point of the current push for separation? Wouldn’t working for reform be better? But then I suppose it is easier to point the finger at the other and absolve yourself of any blame.
Governmental Politics: Unity Government/National Dialogue/Political Future (Elections):
Earlier, I mentioned that Saleh seemed to be pushing for elections to be held on time, and that he seemed quite confident. This is as a result of the increasing rumours that there will be an attempt to extend Hadi’s transitional period:
“We want the initiative to be implemented as it is … we don’t want it to be played with by some people who want power … so that they can stay in their current positions. The initiative is precise, it specifies a timeframe, and then the Yemeni people will have presidential and parliamentary elections to choose a new leadership and a new parliament … the unity government … must adhere to it.”
Saleh also refers to the unity government, and his own opinion that this is not a successful mode of governance:
“We agreed to the unity government, we participate in it, but there are pressures on the unity government. It hasn’t been able to work. Why? They don’t consider themselves permanent ministers, only transitional. So everyone is trying to build themselves up … solve a problem, you can’t solve the economic problem? Solve the security problem.”
“The majority party should rule, that’s the way. Now they’re saying after these elections there should be a unity government, that no party should solely be in power … We are content that should the Islah Party win then they should solely be in power, if the Ba’ath … but to return to this cocktail, cocktail governments, it won’t succeed.”
And of course, Saleh wants you to know he is humble, but still refers to himself in the third person:
“They said that were Saleh to leave power, the GPC would end. The opposite was proven. The GPC left power, and it did, but some ministers were left, they are content because they want to stay … it’s nice for him to hear himself being called a minister … what would he prefer, to be like Ali Abdullah Saleh and be called the former President? They don’t favour this … I called myself the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh because I was the ruler and now its not a problem for me to say I am the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh on its own, no need to add ‘President’.”
Ironically, he said that line as the writing on the screen described him as al-za’eem – the leader.
Hadi was full of praise for the transitional period, saying that every effort must be taken to avoid civil war, for the obvious reasons, and also because it was ‘rude’ of Yemenis because the outside world were trying so hard to avoid it …
“The GCC Initiative has enabled us to resolve our issues by peaceful means and with a political solution. We gathered 565 delegates, who are now talking in the Movenpick Hotel, and we have international support, from the UN, from the EU, from the GCC, this support is so that Yemen does not head towards a civil war. As we have this international support, it is rude for us not to work together and get ourselves out of this, and not head towards a civil war. Why should we head towards a civil war? Is it not enough what is going on in Iraq, what is going on in Syria, what is going on in Egypt, what is going on in Tunisia, what is going on in Libya? This should be enough and it should be a lesson for us.”
The National Dialogue has been heavily criticised from some sectors as a mere talking shop that won’t bring about any real change. However, Hadi does have a point in that, looking at Syria, and even Egypt, politically it could be a lot worse.
“They say why should we forgive each other? Why should we have a general amnesty? Should we fight year on year? Some channels don’t even know how to ask questions … ‘You used to fight with so and so, how can you accept him next to you?’ … This is my brother, when you have two sons fighting each other, they are your sons, do you have any solution but to resolve the dispute between them? … Use your brains. Stop this talk on the satellite channels. We are Yemenis, we must live together, we must forgive. We must close the file of the past. Stop with this stuff on Facebook and the internet, inciting the Yemeni people against each other. 50 years we’ve been fighting against each other.”
He really is settling into the Arab president role so well! Speaking of Facebook, although it is slightly off the topic, Hadi also had issues with what Yemenis were writing online:
“When people from the Gulf states, and tourists, come to visit, they are surprised, and say that Yemen isn’t like what we read on Facebook, on the Internet, in the press – Yemen is ok, you can live in it better than you can live in other countries. But our problem is the press … they don’t know how to write anything but Yemen’s negatives. They don’t know about the positives … A person should write what’s important to his nation, and what affects his nation … not just go on the Internet and write anything. He should know that Internet sites go around the world – what company will come and invest when it sees the situation like that, what country will give you aid? They should have an ounce, not a tonne even, an ounce of patriotism.”
I think that companies usually do more than a quick Google search before they choose to invest somewhere – but, yes sir!
Meanwhile, surly al-Beidh:
“Southerners participating in the National Dialogue only represent themselves.”
To be fair, the most popular factions of the separatist Herak are not represented at the National Dialogue, and chose to boycott it. However, it is disingenuous to say that those at the National Dialogue don’t represent at least a segment of the Southerners, as much as al-Beidh and other hardline Herakis want to ignore this.
Passing on rule to the next generation:
There was unanimity here, with all three of our presidents agreeing that, khalas, time was up for the old guard.
“Enough. We’re a generation that has been around from the 60s till today. Enough. We should leave things to the new generation, 75% of the Yemeni people are under 45 … they’re youth, they must take responsibility.”
“Because I am content that I am not in power anymore. I don’t think about it [returning].”
“No. I’m not thinking about it [returning to the presidency]. That time has passed. I’m only standing by my people … It’s not time for our generation to think about taking up any executive roles in this country.”
And I wish I could believe all three of them.
About each other:
Now, here’s the juicy stuff.
Saleh on Hadi:
“Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi is a unity president. He is trying to balance things. Hadi doesn’t want them to say that he is favouring the GPC, and we don’t want him to favour anyone, we want him to be the president of all Yemenis, but don’t exclude the GPC. You are excluding the GPC so that the Muslim Brotherhood are satisfied with you. Whatever concessions you give them, President Hadi, they will not be satisfied with you … If Ali Abdullah Saleh wasn’t here they would have caused him 20 problems. Now they’re putting pressure on him; ‘why did he send a cable to Adly Mansour’ – this is wrong … There is no communication between us for us to have disagreements. Not one of the two of us has said that he has a disagreement with the other … He is the president of the country, and we accept that he is the legitimate president, at this present time, until the elections come … We hope that he doesn’t submit to blackmail. They are blackmailing him.”
It was initially thought by many that Hadi would be a puppet of Saleh, having been his Vice-President for so long. However, it has turned out that that has not been the case, with Hadi even occasionally referring to the events of 2011 as a revolution. Saleh’s comments here reflect this, he feels that Hadi is too close to the JMP who oppose Saleh.
Hadi‘s comments have been seized upon by many as a sign of his growing frustration with Saleh, and that relations between the two are heavily strained. It’s not hard to understand who he’s talking about:
“We are helping them [the next generation] in this dialogue, using our experience, and not so that we can figure out a way of ruling again, and how to pass on rule to our sons, and how to make businesses abroad … so that you can fix the system of rule so that you can say abroad that this is the best family to rule. Enough. There’s no need. There’s no need for payments – I’ve stopped most payments that were paid by the presidency to journalists who were employed to show the regime in a good light. I’ve stopped this.”
And they used to be friends 😦
Al-Beidh is quite disappointed with Hadi for playing what he sees as the role of the token Southerner:
“Those sitting in power have been brought there to play this role. Sadly, they are personally responsible for their role, we believe that a day will come where they will regret what they have done … We don’t have any contact with them … with our personal respect to them, but we know that they don’t have a support base in Sana’a, or even in the South. They are known by our people. They are playing a role, for a certain period of time … we wish them all the best, but in Sana’a you can’t rule if you aren’t even able to give a command to your guard. The social forces in Sana’a don’t accept this, and don’t accept any civil way of thinking.”
He didn’t have much to say about his old foe Saleh though:
“I don’t have information on that … but they still have abilities, and we leave them to it … we don’t have a relationship with what they do in Sana’a … We are busy with the South, with Aden.”
External Arab issues:
Of course, the big news in the Arab world over the last couple of months has been Egypt, and the fantastic work they’re doing to undo January 25. As I said, Saleh is dancing with joy at current events in Cairo, and is using it to attack the Islah Party, which is heavily made up of Muslim Brotherhood members:
“We said that the kitchen of the Islamic movements in Egypt, from the time of Hassan el-Banna … the truth is that Yemenis were influenced … and they created the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen, or in brackets the Islah – they are the Muslim Brotherhood – they don’t want to call themselves Muslim Brotherhood, they want to say Islah. Islah means to reform things – political, economic, social, cultural … it would be good if they did that. But we haven’t seen anything.”
He also has a few wacky theories about Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood figures hiding in the Yemeni mountains:
“the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt … Mohammed Badie, he was here in Yemen. He was a vet. Now the Muslim Brotherhood are escaping to Yemen. I am sure that some of the leadership of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood will run away to Yemen … they may feel secure in Yemen’s mountains … Yemen is a now a source for the Muslim Brotherhood. If you notice the protests that happened on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood here in Sana’a – what have you got to do with Egypt? If you, the Muslim Brotherhood, are a Yemeni political party, what have you got to do with Turkey? What have you got to do with the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria?”
Being a former dictator, Saleh has never been a big fan of political protests that don’t involve people waving pictures of his face:
“No protest should go out without a license, according to the law. The route should be specified, the slogans should be specified … they don’t care about security, the state, nothing. They go out from the mosques and their houses, and the say it’s a march. This is against the law and against the constitution.”
He then appealed to the Yemeni people, arguing that the Muslim Brotherhood think themselves superior to the average man on the proverbial Yemeni street:
“The Yemeni people are great and they are Muslim, they don’t need teachers that raise their stick at them to teach them. Islam is for all humanity, not yours. But they have had a catastrophe they didn’t expect in Egypt, their catastrophe in Egypt is a catastrophe for them in the whole Arab world.”
Funnily enough, al-Beidh was on the same page as Saleh.
“We stood by the Egyptian people. We stood by the millions of the 30th June. We stood by the will of our great people in Egypt. We commend the Egyptian army in standing by its people.”
He was then asked about his position vis-a-vis Syria:
“We feel that Syria has a great conspiracy against her. We hope that Syria emerges victorious, united, because this conspiracy is a conspiracy against its unity.”
Whilst this was not irrefutable backing for Assad, it’s quite clear what he’s getting at. Coupled with his previous anti-American remarks, is this where al-Beidh is putting his eggs – joining the ‘resistance’ block and hoping that that will be enough to gain support for secession? Maybe this next response on relations with Iran will help:
“Iran has relations with everyone.”
Well, that was non-committal.
The three presidents’ comments provide a glimpse into current affairs in Yemen. They represent some of the most powerful movements and forces in Yemeni politics, with the exception of Islah. In light of Hadi’s barely hidden remarks about Saleh, what will Saleh’s reaction be? And will their differences come out more into the open? And what of al-Beidh? – Bear in mind that he is arguably not the most powerful leader of Herak, and that he’s based in Beirut. Is he all talk no action?