High risk US embassy in Yemen gets Marine reinforcements as protests continue
by Jane Novak
An elite Marine rapid response team arrived in Yemen’s capital to protect the US embassy there which remains vulnerable and in disrepair following a mob attack this week.
Protests against a video clip deeply insulting to Muslims turned violent Wednesday when several hundred protesters in Sana’a breached the US embassy’s exterior parameter, burned 61 cars, looted computers and destroyed other property including the gate surrounding the compound.
View slideshow: Mob attacks US Embassy, Sanaa
The 14 minute video clip was uploaded to Youtube by a man in California two months ago. Its existence became public knowledge in Yemen following the murder of US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and prompted the attack on the embassy, wide spread US flag burning and chants of “Death to America” as protests continued this week across Yemen.
News of the Marine’s deployment “enraged” Yemenis already in a heightened state of emotionalism, the Yemen Observer reported. About 50 Marines are reported to have been deployed.
Many Yemenis are unaware that the US Constitution specifically prohibits governmental infringement on religious speech and are hoping the US will arrest the film maker as could occur in a dictatorship. A substantial majority however consider the mob violence more insulting to Islam than the video.
President Abdu Mansour Hadi said in a statement that he “extends his sincere apologies to President Obama and to the people of the United States of America” for the attack.
US Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein, a highly controversial figure, said in a statement today that the deployment would be short lived and limited to the embassy grounds. Ambassador Feierstein said, “The only task of these individuals to provide assistance in our diplomatic facilities and protect American diplomats from violence, and is a temporary assignment…”
High Risk Embassy
The United States Embassy in Yemen is at especially high risk for a terrorist attack.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) previously attacked the US Embassy in Sana’a in September 2008 in a complex attack that killed four innocent bystanders including one Yemeni-American, as well as 10 Yemeni security personnel. AQAP is the most dangerous and active offshoot of al Qaeda.
The fanatical AQAP group was later responsible for the attempted murder of Saudi Prince Naif with the high explosive pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) in August 2009, and the attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit in December 2009, also with PETN. In October 2010, AQAP shipped toner cartridges rigged with PETN on a cargo plane headed for the US.
In Yemen, AQAP derailed the 2011 Youth Revolution and seized territory—facilitated by military commanders loyal to the former dictator, Ali Saleh. The city of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province, was looted, and destroyed. It became a ghost town as residents fled the al Qaeda occupation for the relative safety of Aden. Al Qaeda was driven underground in June of this year, reappearing in cells in the capital as well as other governorates. The group left behind hundreds of land mines in Zinjibar.
The al Qaeda group in Yemen is engaged in a long running assassination campaign targeting a wide variety of Yemenis, most frequently members of the security forces and intelligence and high profile members of the Yemeni Transitional Government.
On Saturday, AQAP praised the 9/11 murder of US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, as al Qaeda retribution for the June death of terrorist leader Abu Yahya al Libi in a US drone strike in Pakistan. “The killing of Sheikh Abu Yahya only increased the enthusiasm and determination of the sons of (Libyan independence hero) Omar al-Mokhtar to take revenge upon those who attack our Prophet,” Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said as quoted by the US-based monitoring group, SITE.
President Abdu Mansour Hadi said the attack on the US embassy in Sana’a was an attempt to derail his visit to Washington DC later this month. He also pointed to divisions within the security forces; loyalists and relatives of the former dictator remain in their government posts. A Youtube video shows Yemeni security officers waved protesters past a checkpoint leading to the US embassy Wednesday.
The interim president, Mr. Hadi is facing substantial challenges seven months into his term. The US sponsored transition plan for Yemen grants the former oligarchy including Ali Saleh immunity from prosecution for its decades of war crimes prior to and during Yemen’s year-long uprising demanding regime change.
Rewriting international law
The protests across Yemen may point to a deeper frustration as many of the Youth Revolutionaries believe their path to democracy was highjacked by political leaders, AQAP and the international community.
Mr. Hadi was Mr. Saleh’s Vice President and was elected in a single candidate election on February 24, 2012 as part of the transition plan endorsed by the US, Saudi Arabia and the UN Security Council and brokered by UN envoy Jamal Omar. The immunity clause represents a significant departure from established international law on crimes against humanity.
The US has rejected the revolutionaries’ continuous appeals to freeze Saleh’s US assets, and Ambassador Feierstein supports Ali Saleh’s continued political activities as head of the ruling party. Youth protesters have called for Saleh’s exile or arrest since the transition plan was announced. Protests against Mr. Feierstein’s role in the Yemeni transition garnered hundreds of thousands since the revolution began. Other protests against the US use of drones to target al Qaeda have erupted after civilian loses. An errant air strike earlier this month killed 14 civilians in a minibus, including three women and three children, the Yemeni government said.
Less well publicized than the protest at the embassy were protests last week against terrorism, assassinations and the former president’s continued disruption of the political transition. Protesters called for President Hadi to “sack the rest” of the former president’s relatives who remain in their posts.
The protest against terrorism and Saleh, which is Yemen is often the same thing, followed a spate of assassination attempts on members of the transitional government. A car bomb in Sanaa targeted Yemen’s defense minister last Tuesday killing 12, The minister was unharmed.
Across the great divide
Many Yemenis who heard about an offensive video erroneously thought it was a movie being shown in theaters, when it is a low budget 14 minute Youtube clip. A second URL on Youtube that purports to be the entire movie is the 14 minute clip looped four times.
The video was posted to Youtube two months ago and had garnered 4000 views. In the week since riots began across the Middle East, the videos received over 10 million views from across the globe.
In discussions, many Yemenis are unaware that the United States was founded by religious dissidents and minorities seeking to ensure, above all, religious freedom. Many believe Germany’s law criminalizing Holocaust denial is actually a US law.
While acknowledging the importance of a free speech in countering government corruption and in areas of art and science, others argue for an exemption in US law for insults against Islam and other “people of the book”, ignorant of the vast multiplicity of religions in America and of the US constitutional requirement of equal rights for citizens.
Some prominent religious leaders are using the offensive video and the Marines’ deployment to Sanaa to stoke fears of a US military occupation, including religious leaders who regularly engage in Taqfirism- ie, the practice of labeling other Muslims as apostates and those who call Shia Muslims “Rawafidh” or rejectionists of the true Islam.
Others like former Endowments Minster Hamoud al Hittar rejected the attack on the US embassy in Sana’s in religious terms saying, “Personnel of these missions are covenanters, whose bloods and money are forbidden and should not be attacked, and those who live in our country have nothing to do with this film.”
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Jane @ Examiner.com
In a direct rebuke to the terror group, residents of Taiz held a major protest against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on Thursday evening after prayers. Protesters held signs denouncing AQAP that said, “Your racism will do nothing but make us stronger.”
Taiz is the largest city in Yemen, often setting the tone for the six month revolution seeking to overthrow the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The goal of the revolution is the establishment of a civil (non-military) democracy with equal rights and opportunities for citizens.
Protesters also denounced al Qaeda’s media statements, including the “Inspire” magazine, which they say distorts western perceptions of Yemen.
Regime change has been opposed by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Both states seek minor cosmetic changes in Yemen’s leadership on the pretext of counter-terror concerns.
Hundreds of thousands on the streets also condemned AQAP’s takeover of Zinjibar in Abyan. In chants, they expressed solidarity with the 90,000 Yemeni citizens who fled from the violence and al Qaeda’s attempted imposition of a Taliban style culture in the city.
Ray News reported that the protesters rejected the state’s slander and use of the al Qaeda “bogeyman” to garner western support and affirmed that Taiz is known as a “city of science and always stands against terrorists and terrorism.”
Protesters also reiterated their demand for a civil state and a transitional council.
Most Yemenis believe that the state colludes with AQAP, a premised based on a decade of state facilitation and leniency with the group. Current events in Abyan also give rise to concerns that al Qaeda is working with the ruling family to ensure its longevity.
In May, security forces attacked the protest camp in Taiz City. Commanded by Yemen’s counter-terror chief, Ahmed Saleh, the president’s son, security forces shot protesters point blank and set fire to the tent city in the early morning hours. Several children and disabled persons were unable to escape the flames and burned to death. The death toll of the massacre was 57 and over 1000 were injured from burns and bullet wounds, Bloomberg reported.
–Jane @ Examiner.com
After Yemen’s Republican Guard killed and dismembered tribal prisoners Thursday, Arhab tribesmen issued a statement Friday demanding the immediate arrest and prosecution of General Ahmed Saleh as a war criminal.
Ahmed Saleh heads the Republican Guard containing US funded counter-terror units and is the son of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s president for 33 years. Ahmed Saleh is the primary liaison in Yemen for the United States’ counter-terror efforts and among the main recipients of US counter-terror funds for nearly a decade.
Republican Guard forces under Ahmed Saleh’s command have committed grievous war crimes in Yemen since the outbreak of popular protests in February, Yemeni opposition parties allege, including the recent corpse mutiliations. The parties called for an immediate ban on weapons sales to Yemen in a statement on Sunday.
Nationwide protests that began in February demand the immediate ouster of the entire Saleh regime, and a transitional council with the ultimate goal of fair elections and a civil state. Nearly 1000 protesters have been killed by security forces.
The Arhab tribesmen said the brutal killing and desecration of bodies was “a criminal act that have exceeded all the heavenly religions, international laws and tribal customs” and went beyond aggression to vengeance. Arhab tribesmen overtook al Samaa, one of the largest Republican Guard bases, triggering airstrikes on villages, wells, mosques and other civilian infrastructure. Arhab is on the outskirts of the capital, Sanaa.
Additional airstrikes took place in Taiz, killing two civilians when bombers attacked the residences of pro-revolution sheikhs. At least 45 were killed in Taiz in July as a result of clashes between the Republican Guard and pro-revolution tribesmen seeking to protect the thousands of protesters in the citiy center.
In response to the aggression in Arhab and threats against protesters, a new tribal confederation was declared Firday by Sheikh Sadiq al Ahmar comprising the Hasid and Bakil and other previously distinct groupings. The declaration by 750 tribes stated any aggression against the protesters will be considered an attack on the tribes and asked the international community to stand by the Yemeni people’s right of self determination.
President Saleh is recuperating in Saudi Arabia from injuries sustained in a June bombing. He reneged three times on an offer proffered by the international community of immunity for his substantial war crimes prior to and since the revolution in exchange for his resignation in 30 days. Saleh endorsed the deal again on Sunday.
The Saleh regime has a substantial history of internal war crimes. Events in Arhab echo the six year Saada War when the state’s habitual barbarism and collective punishment triggered a widening cycle of violence which ultimately created over 300,000 internal refugees. In his father’s absence, Ahmed Saleh has proven himself to be a capable mass murderer, unleashing a campaign of collective punishment in every province.
Continue reading on Examiner.com Yemen’s counter-terror chief accused of atrocities – National Yemen Headlines | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/yemen-headlines-in-national/yemen-s-counter-terror-chief-accused-of-atrocities#ixzz1UDIlMz7M
Protesters in Yemen announced a boycott today of US and Saudi products, a largely symbolic move in light of Yemen’s grave humanitarian crisis. Protesters allege that the Obama administration has thwarted their efforts for regime change.
Millions across Yemen have demanded the end to the 33 year reign of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his family in six months of protests. State forces slaughtered nearly 1000 protesters, often by firing directly into crowds of the unarmed protesters.
US intransigence is thought to be linked to efforts to salvage hundreds of millions of dollars spent to train and equip Yemeni counter terror forces under the direction of Saleh’s relatives, known as The Four Thugs. Protesters charge the US trained counter-terror forces have perpetrated many of the fatal attacks on civilians. US military officials that said there was no direct evidence. The US has reaped little return on its investment in Yemen as the security forces are riddled with al Qaeda supporters.
The protesters platform calls for a transitional council to replace President Saleh who is in Saudi Arabia recovering from injuries suffered in a bombing. Another top demand is the restructuring of the security forces which have a long history of torture, corruption and al Qaeda facilitation. The Obama administration vetoed the idea and instead has imposed a transition plan that leaves most of the Saleh regime in place.
The Yemeni public has very little support for al Qaeda and is demanding a modern civil state that affords equal rights to all sects in Yemen’s religiously pluralistic landscape.
Continue reading on Examiner.com US, Saudi meddling drives Yemen protesters to boycott – National Yemen Headlines | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/yemen-headlines-in-national/us-saudi-meddling-drives-yemen-protesters-to-boycott#ixzz1UDJIPXPf
“By thwarting regime change in Yemen, the United States risks empowering al-Qaeda and alienating a nation,” my article at PJM:
Yemen is a complex country that has been under considerable turbulence. Yet understanding Yemen tells us a great deal about the contemporary Middle East, Obama administration foreign policy, and the direction of the “Arab Spring.”
While Americans may think that their government’s recent policies and leadership have made the United States more popular in the region, the truth — as polls show — is generally the opposite. Obama administration policy is to support the existing dictatorship or at most to back a relatively cosmetic change in the regime. Thus, the Yemeni opposition weekly al Sahwa asked, “Why is America silent about the use of `counter-terror’ forces against the Yemeni people?”
It’s a good question. Since February, youth protests in Yemen morphed into a nationwide and intergenerational revolution to overthrow President Ali Abdullah Saleh and all his relatives, after 33 years in office. Protesters said they wanted a civilian interim council to oversee a new constitution and fair elections, with the ultimate goal of achieving a civil democratic state. In response, state security forces have murdered nearly 1,000 citizens around the country.
Thomas Krajeski, former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, summed up the policy as follows: “Ali Abdullah Saleh is our main conduit to everything we are trying to do in Yemen.” The U.S.’s primary goal in Yemen is to vanquish al-Qaeda. And the Obama administration believes that Saleh, or at least his apparatus, is best able to do that.
This is precisely the short-sighted approach that Obama has criticized when attributing it to predecessors’ policies in the Middle East. Under Saleh’s regime, torture is systemic, political kidnapping common, and artillery fire a frequent remedy to anti-regime sentiment. Economic opportunity, political power, and local authority are available only through access to Saleh and his family. Corruption and embezzlement of oil revenues and international aid mean a near absence of basic services. Water scarcity and hunger were already at critical levels, but as the economy ground nearly to a halt, things are even worse.
After snipers killed 58 demonstrators in March, much of the Saleh administration resigned, galvanizing the revolution. The unsavory General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, a powerful military commander and Saleh’s half brother, brought the First Armored Division to Sanaa to protect the protesters and offered to leave the country alongside Saleh. In May, after dozens sleeping in tents were burned to death by security forces, Sadiq al-Ahmar, paramount sheikh of Saleh’s powerful Hasid tribe, announced his support for the opposition, calling Saleh a butcher.
The opposition Joint Meeting of Parties (JMP) initially disavowed the national uprising in fear of regime reprisal and due to Western pressure, reinforcing the schism between the formal opposition and the revolutionary youth.
In June, an explosion rocked the presidential palace leaving President Saleh severely injured. Millions rejoiced when Saleh flew to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, assuming he would never return. However neither the Saudis nor the United States want too much change. Thus, the Obama administration endorsed Vice President Mansour Hadi as interim leader although Hadi refuses to assume the presidency as required by the Yemeni constitution.
The U.S. government opposes the protesters’ demand for a transitional council and instead supports a deeply flawed plan drafted by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The GCC plan calls for Saleh to pick his successor and resign in return for immunity from prosecution. It proposes a unity government of the hegemonic ruling party and ineffective opposition parties, the JMP. This approach followed by quick elections would re-entrench the Saleh regime. Saleh agreed and reneged three times, using weeks of negotiations to empty the banks, smuggle oil, and reposition troops. The protesters were incensed.
With nearly half the government and military and most of the public calling for regime change, in March, Saleh’s pretense of legitimacy was bolstered by U.S. statements and especially the State Department’s urging dialog among political parties to resolve the “political crisis.”
In his Middle East speech in May, President Obama devoted one line to Yemen, calling on “our friend” Saleh to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. During a July visit, U.S. officials warned the JMP against escalating protests or recognizing a transitional council. Obama administration officials merely meekly urge Saleh to accept the GCC deal, which in fact signals tolerance toward the regime.
The hundreds of millions of dollars in counter-terror funding allocated to Yemen since 2006 ran through Saleh’s son and nephews (known locally as the Four Thugs) who head the security services, counter-terror units, and other forces. The aid is stolen by them and at times they even help al-Qaeda. Since February, the Four Thugs are too busy attacking the Yemeni public to take on al- Qaeda. After warning of an al-Qaeda takeover, the state withdrew forces from Abyan and al-Qaeda quickly moved in to occupy Zinjibar City. Yemenis rather uniformly assert coordination of the events, as the Saleh regime historically has had cordial relations with al-Qaeda.
Thus, American policy is aimed at defending an unpopular, corrupt, and repressive system on the grounds that it helps combat al-Qaeda. The problem is that the regime is not effective in doing so.
The Saudis, too, support the regime, seeing it as a bulwark against Shia rebels. The irony is that while al-Qaeda has very little popular support in Yemen, the U.S and Saudi policies, by destroying any political alternative and backing a government that doesn’t really fight al-Qaeda, may end by strengthening that group’s appeal and the territory it controls.
The Coordinating Council of the Yemeni Youth Revolution for Change (CCYRC) issued an urgent appeal to the international community today to take action against an unfolding massacre of unarmed protesters in Taiz City. A video released earlier today shows masked roof top gunment opening fire on protesters below. Residents have confirmed the state is now using artillery to shell citizens who were protesting for the immediate departure of long time dictator, Field Marshal Ali Abdullah Saleh. The death toll was earlier reported at four killed, 90 injured from bullet wounds and hundreds felled by tear gas. However casualty figures are likely to rise with the introduction of artillery. Protests have been ongoing for over three months and hundreds have died at the hands of the state and its proxies.
Thursday , May 29, 2011
Urgent Call to the international community
Stop the Human Massacre in Taiz City – Yemen
المجلس التنسيقي لشباب ثورة التغيير: (تنّوع)
The Coordinating Council of the Youth Revolution of Change
As we write this statement to you, the security forces and republican guards in Taiz city in Yemen are attacking peaceful protester at protest camp for the past three hours resulting in many killed and hundreds wounded, we do not have exact number, as people are being shot at the moment with live ammunitions.
This is an urgent call to all the international human rights organizations, Governments, UN Counsel, and leaders of the world who call for global peace.
Please act NOW, unarmed citizens are facing a merciless war simply for demanding PEACE and FREEDOM. They are being forced to evacuate the camp site, under live fire by machineguns and heavy artillery.
The aggressive regime has forbidden all media activities and personnel from visiting freedom and change squares around Yemen, and evacuating them. There is no media coverage in Yemen, the regime is acting with aggression against Yemeni citizen with barbaric force.
PLEASE ACT AND IMMEDIATELY TO HELP STOP THE ONGOING KILLING
Protesters in Yemen began a letter writing campaign today, directed toward US President Barak Obama. The protests that began in January seek the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Unlike in Egypt where protests were centered in the capital, in Yemen demonstrations broke out around the country and swelled to the millions with each passing week. On Friday, massive protests were held in 18 of 20 governorates around the country.
“Millions of Yemeni peaceful protesters are questioning the silence and the insubstantial announcements by some members of your administration and moreover, overt bias in favor of the Yemeni tyrant. The respected Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, announced publicly that protests in Yemen are an internal affair and the primary concern of the United States is instability and diversion of attention from dealing with AQAP… Yemeni women, men, children, and elders are all eager and confident that they will hear from you as the leader of the free world and that you will support their democratic goals now and in the future.”
In public statements, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates repeatedly stressed the good relationship between the US and Saleh. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “The people of Yemen have the same rights as people anywhere, and we support dialogue as a path to a peaceful solution.”
However, the protesters are demanding Saleh’s immediate resignation and the exclusion of his family members from positions of authority.
The US is lobbying to retain Saleh’s son and nephews who head the US trained counter-terror units. President Saleh is seeking immunity from future prosecution of his substantial financial crimes as well as crimes against humanity and other violations of international and Yemen law.
The US Ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, has been negotiating between the state and opposition parties. However the opposition party coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), is not the driving force behind the protests and did not join the protests until a month after they began.
Protester leaders, representing groups from around the nation, have issued and re-issued their demands and even resorted to Youtube to send a message to the US ambassador in Yemen.
The protesters’ letter highlights their “aspirations to maintain universal values, and to elect a free and democratic government that will guard and respect the achievements and victories attained by the blood of the young martyrs fallen and slaughtered in the squares of freedom.”
State forces, in uniform and in plain clothes, have killed over 100 protesters and wounded hundreds others. Last Friday 53 demonstrators were killed, mostly by shots to the head, when snipers positioned on rooftops opened fire. Over 150 villagers were killed in Abyan this week when an unsecured ammunition factory exploded, an incident many in Yemen have tied to regime attempts to create chaos.
The slaughter, the broad national protests and mass defections from the Yemeni bureaucracy and military are clear indications of the illegitimacy of the Saleh regime, protesters assert. The transition plan calls for civilian leadership by an interim transitional council.
On Wednesday, Ambassador Feierstein said that the economic challenges facing the country are important as the current political challenges.
Indeed decades of corruption, embezzlement and mismanagement under the Saleh regime, and the diversion of revenue of natural resources and foreign aid, have brought Yemen to the brink of economic disaster. Wikileaks revealed that the US is aware that Saleh and members of his family are also engaged in regionally destabilizing criminal enterprises including large scale weapons smuggling. Drug smuggling, currency counterfeiting and human trafficking of women and children are other lucrative enterprises for the Saleh regime.
In 2010, Human Rights Watch called for a UN investigation into whether the actions of the Yemeni military during the Saada War violated international law. The state’s tactics included sustained bombardment of civilians, and the blockade of food, medicine and international aid, which constitute collective punishment the rights group asserted. Over 300,000 were displaced. Residents of Saada joined the national protests calling for a democratic state and have been demonstrating weekly.