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Quick Facts: US and Yemen

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TEHRAN, April 7 (ICANA) - The Republic of Yemen is a country located in the Middle East. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east.
Thursday, April 07, 2011 2:32:28 PM
Quick Facts: US and Yemen

The Republic of Yemen was established on May 22, 1990, with the merger of North Yemen (the Yemen Arab Republic) and South Yemen (the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen). mongabay.com

Since unification, Yemen has been modernizing and opening up to the world, but it still maintains much of its tribal character and old ways. Tensions persist between the north and the south; some southerners say the northern part of the state is economically privileged. human-rights-online.org

Yemen is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Arab World, with a formal 65% unemployment rate, dwindling natural resources, a young population and increasing population growth. theafronews.ca

Yemen's economy is weak compared to most countries in the Middle-East, mainly because Yemen has very small oil reserves. Yemen's oil reserves are expected to be depleted by 2017, possibly bringing on economic collapse. dailyweekee.com


Yemeni Government


President Saleh has already been in office for 33 years, with several opposition members arguing that his long-promised reforms have not materialized. saudielection.com

The country's opposition and religious figures have envisioned a roadmap for the ruler's departure before the end of this year. saudielection.com

The head of state has, however, said he would stay in power until the end of his term in 2013. saudielection.com

Ali Abdullah Saleh clinging to power after a string of defections and mass protests, has agreed to an opposition plan to reform the Constitution and hold parliamentary elections by the end of the year. He has not yet agreed to leave his post early, which is the key demand of the opposition. saudielection.com


Yemen's opposition coalition


The main players in Yemen's opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Party, are the Islah party and secular Socialists. The umbrella group is also sympathetic to grievances of southerners and Houthis and its protests have been inspired by unrest in Tunisia and Egypt. Reuters


Houthi fighters


Yemen's government sealed a truce nearly a year ago with northern Shia fighters to end a six-year civil war that drew in neighboring Saudi Arabia in 2009. Reuters

The fighters, known as Houthis have long complained of discrimination in a country with a Sunni Muslim majority. The shaky truce has largely held despite sporadic clashes between Houthis and pro-government tribes. Reuters


Southern Separatists


Southern separatists have stepped up their rebellion, with protests and tit-for-tat attacks escalating last year. Reuters

Many in the south, home to much of the country's oil and gas reserves, complain northerners have usurped resources while denying them their political rights since north and south united as a single country in 1990. Reuters

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh fired his cabinet amid continuing protests against his rule. BBC

The announcement came after tens of thousands of people turned out at funerals for dozens of protesters shot dead on March 18. BBC


Yemeni economy


Yemen is a low income country that is highly dependent on declining oil resources for revenue. Petroleum accounts for roughly 25% of GDP and 70% of government revenue. theodora.com

Corruption, joblessness and poverty are familiar to the young population. Around 40 percent of Yemen's 23 million people live on $2 a day or less and a third of the population suffers from chronic hunger. Reuters

As the poorest Arab country, Yemen faces a substantial current accounts deficit, swelling unemployment, a severely limited water supply and dwindling oil production, which accounts for 70 percent of the government's revenues. ipsnews.net

Yemen is the world's 32nd biggest oil exporter and the 16th biggest seller of liquefied natural gas (LNG). cnbc.com

Yemen had proven oil reserves of around 2.7 billion barrels at the end of 2009, equal to just 0.2 percent of global reserves, according to the BP Statistical Review. cnbc.com

The country has proven gas reserves of 490bn cubic meters, or about 0.3pc of the global total, according to BP statistics. Telegraph

An estimated 3.2 million barrels of oil a day (bpd) passed through the narrow Bab al Mandab strait between Yemen and Djibouti in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. cnbc.com

Disruption to the narrow shipping lane could stop (Persian) Gulf oil and LNG tankers from passing through the Suez Canal to the Americas or Europe. cnbc.com

Protesters have renewed calls for southern Yemen, which produces most of the country's crude oil, to go back to its independent status before unity with the north in 1990. cnbc.com

Daily oil production fell to 298,000 bpd in 2009, or just 0.4 percent of the global total, continuing the steady decline in output from a peak of 457,000 bpd in 2002, according to BP. cnbc.com

Falling oil revenues has hindered the government's ability to provide basic public services, which has stoked anti-government sentiment. cnbc.com


Al-Qaeda in Yemen


According to the United States, the group, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was behind the attempted bombings of U.S. cargo planes last fall and a passenger jet on Christmas 2009. Star Telegram

The Obama administration responded by stepping up airstrikes in Yemen and urging Saleh to carry out raids based on U.S. intelligence. Aid to Yemen more than doubled. Star Telegram

"In the counterterrorism area, it will be a great loss," said Wayne White, a former senior State Department intelligence analyst. Star Telegram

President Saleh has frequently conflated both the Houthi fighters and the southern separatists with Al-Qaeda. In a meeting in September 2009 with White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan, Saleh specifically pressured the U.S. to provide armored vehicles, airplanes and ambulances for his campaign against the Houthis.


Yemen's people say al-Qaeda is a myth


However, most Yemenis consider the group a myth, or a ploy by their president to squeeze the West for aid money and punish his domestic opponents. beforeitsnews.com

"What is al-Qaeda? The truth is there is no al-Qaeda," said Lutfi Muhammad, a weary-looking unemployed 50-year-old walking through this city's tumultuous Tahrir Square. Instead, he said, the violence is "because of the regime and the lack of stability and the internal struggles." beforeitsnews.com

The Yemeni authorities have long paid tribal leaders to fight domestic enemies, or even other tribes that were causing trouble for the government. That policy has helped foster a culture of blackmail: some tribal figures promote violence,…through mere criminals, and then offer to quell it in exchange for cash. beforeitsnews.com

"Al-Qaeda (sic) literally 'the database,' was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahedeen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians," admits former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, whose Foreign Office portfolio included control of the British Intelligence Agency MI-6 and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), in a column published by the UK Guardian newspaper. Guardian

In other words, the so-called al-Qaeda, which has been promoted by the Media Cartel as the cause of all bombings and terrorism since the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, is simply a database of CIA trained "terrorists" (or "freedom fighters," depending on your perspective) which has become a convenient Global Boogeyman for the 21st Century. 100777.com


Fall of Yemeni president a great loss for US


Saleh's grip on this volatile Arabian Peninsula nation is unraveling after weeks of bloodshed and street protests that have led to the defection of five top army commanders and dozens of government officials. LA Times

Saleh, in his latest effort to calm the rage against him, indicated Tuesday (March 22) that he would step down before his term ends in 2013. He rejected a similar proposal two weeks ago and it is unclear whether protesters and opposition members would accept the offer now, especially after government forces killed at least 50 demonstrators on Friday. LA Times

Furthermore, the challenge for the U.S. will be to persuade Yemen's next leader to continue an unpopular campaign against al-Qaeda. Sheik Hamid al-Ahmar, a leading member of the opposition mentioned as a possible successor has dismissed al-Qaeda in Yemen as a creation of Saleh's government. Star Telegram

Yemen strategically borders the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and Saudi Arabia. If Saleh is overthrown, civil wars could erupt in both the north and south, the Saudis would be rattled and possibly intervene militarily, and the U.S. would be dealt a major setback in containing al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an entrenched terrorist affiliate. LA Times


Yemen protests


More than 300 people have reportedly been killed and several hundred others injured in nationwide protests against the rule of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh over the past two months. trust.org

On January 27, inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, Yemenis rallied to demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. sbs.com.au

On February 2, Saleh promised reforms saying he will not seek a new mandate when his term ends in 2013. sbs.com.au

On February 3, tens of thousands took part in a "day of rage". Saleh loyalists held a counter-demonstration. sbs.com.au

On February 21, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), an opposition coalition, and Houthi followers in the north declared their support for the young protesters demanding Saleh’s ouster. yementimes.com

On February 23, ten MPs resigned from ruling General People’s Congress in protest at the government’s crackdown on protesters. yementimes.com

On February 25: Hundreds of thousands of protesters streamed onto the streets of Sana'a, Taiz, Ibb, Amran, Sa'dah, Aden, Dhalea, Mukalla, Lahj, Shabwa, Abyan, Dhamar, Marib, al-Jauf and Hodeida on the "Friday of Immovability". At least 7 were killed and dozens of others were injured in Aden. yementimes.com

On February 26, leaders of two of Yemen's most important tribes abandoned the president. sbs.com.au

On March 15, fourteen of the 18 local council members in Aden Governorate resigned from their posts and the ruling General People Congress party (GPC) in protest against "excessive use of violence" against protesters in Aden. trust.org

On March 20, Saleh sacked his government as tens of thousands of mourners massed in Sanaa to bury many of the 52 people gunned down by his loyalists. sbs.com.au

On March 21, senior military commanders including Gen Ali Mohsen Saleh, commander of the Northwestern Military Zone; Gen Mohammed Ali Mohsen, commander of the Eastern Military Zone; Brig Hamid al-Qushaibi, commander of the Amran-based 310 Division, declared their support for the "Youth Revolution". Yemen’s ambassadors in 18 countries resigned. trust.org

On March 24, Saleh proposed an early presidential election before the end of 2011, promising that neither he, nor his son Ahmad, will run for president. trust.org

On March 25, Saleh said he would hand over power, but only to "safe hands". sbs.com.au

On April 2, the opposition urged Saleh to transfer his powers to his deputy. sbs.com.au

On April 4, Yemeni security forces shot dead at least 17 protesters as (Persian) Gulf States offered to mediate and Washington appeared to be pulling the plug on Saleh. sbs.com.au


US military aid to Yemen


In September 2010, the U.S. military's Central Command proposed pumping as much as $1.2 billion over five years into building up Yemen's security forces, a major investment in a shaky government, in a sign of Washington's fears of al Qaeda's growing foothold on the Arabian Peninsula. WSJ

U.S. officials said Central Command originally floated the idea of a bigger, $1.6 billion package for Yemen, but scaled it back after objections from the State Department and some in the Pentagon. WSJ

Aid to Yemen under the U.S. government's main counterterrorism program has grown from less than $5 million in fiscal 2006 to more than $155 million in fiscal 2010, the Pentagon said. WSJ

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch said on March 19 that the United States should "immediately" suspend military aid to Yemen until President Ali Abdullah Saleh stops attacking anti-government protesters and prosecutes those responsible. AFP

Washington has provided "more than $300 million in military and security aid to Yemen in the past five years," the New York-based group said. AFP


US-Yemen Relations


President Saleh's government has cooperated with the U.S. in its "war on terror" and has settled border disputes with its neighbors, Saudi Arabia and Oman. BBC

Over the past several fiscal years, Congress has appropriated an average of $20 million to $25 million annually for Yemen in total U.S. foreign aid. In FY2010, Yemen received $58.4 million in aid. The Defense Department also is providing Yemen's security forces with $150 million worth of training and equipment for FY2010. For FY2011, the Obama Administration requested $106 million in U.S. economic and military assistance to Yemen. fas.org

The county is desperate for assistance in sustainable economic development. The vast majority of U.S. aid, however, has been military. The limited economic assistance made available has been of dubious effectiveness and has largely gone through corrupt government channels. Antiwar.com

The Obama administration has not so far made a public statement urging Saleh to stand aside. lechley.com

According to the official Yemeni government line, the regime is facing as many as three "terrorist" threats: from rebels in the north, from secessionists in the south, and from the biggest bogeyman of them all—al Qaeda. Antiwar.com

Faced by two separatist movements which threaten his power, President Saleh has become increasingly dependent on his American patrons, who have deemed his nation the latest front in the "war on terrorism." Al-Qaeda's Yemeni franchise is blamed for recent attacks on Western targets, including the fabled "Underpants Bomber" and the Fex-Ex bomb attempts. Antiwar.com

The United States has long supported Yemen's president, even in the face of recent widespread protests. The Obama administration has maintained its support of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in private and refrained from directly criticizing him in public, even as his supporters fired on peaceful demonstrators, because he was considered a critical ally in fighting the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda. NY Times

This position has fueled criticism of the United States in some quarters for hypocrisy for rushing to oust a repressive autocrat in Libya but not in strategic allies like Yemen and Bahrain. NY Times

Washington has long had a wary relationship of mutual dependence with Mr. Saleh. The United States has provided weapons, and the Yemeni leader has allowed the United States military and the C.I.A. to launch drone attacks on Yemeni militants. NY Times

That position began to shift in the past week. While American officials have not publicly pressed Mr. Saleh to go, they have told allies that they now view his hold on office as untenable, and they believe he should leave. NY Times

One diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks from December 2009 recounts how Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh promised U.S. Gen. David H. Petraeus that he would continue to falsely claim that U.S. missile strikes against suspected AQAP targets were Yemeni operations. Those strikes included the Dec. 17 cruise missile attack in the southern province of Abyan that killed at least 42 people, the majority of them women and children. The Abyan strike reportedly used cluster munitions, weapons that are banned by more than 100 countries because they are unable to distinguish between military and civilian people and objects. Antiwar.com

U.S. officials have refused to publicly confirm media reports that the U.S. military carried out the air strike. Antiwar.com

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) vented his frustration over the United States involvement in Yemen. His statement before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing entitled "Yemen on the Brink: Implications for U.S. Policy" on February 3, 2010, expressed his exasperation:

"Mr. Chairman, I am extremely concerned over current U.S. policy toward Yemen, which I believe will backfire and leave the United States less safe and much poorer. Increasing U.S. involvement in Yemen may be sold as a fight against terrorism, but in fact it is more about expanding U.S. government control and influence over this strategically-placed nation at the gateway to Asia. When I look at the U.S. assistance plan for Yemen I see that it is primarily focused on nation-building. That is the failed idea that if the United States sends enough money to a foreign government, with which that government purchases U.S.-manufactured weapons and hires U.S.-based consultants and non-governmental organizations, that country will achieve a strong economy and political stability and in gratitude will become eternally friendly to the U.S. and U.S. interests. I have yet to see a single successful example of this strategy." thenewamerican.com

It is not clear whether the United States is discussing a safe passage for Mr. Saleh and his family to another country, but that appears to be the direction of the talks in Sana'a, the capital. NY Times

For Washington, the key to his departure would be arranging a transfer of power that would enable the counterterrorism operation in Yemen to continue. NY Times

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