Posts Tagged ‘Ibrahim’

Guerrilla War Continues: 31 Killed in Iraq Attacks; Allawi, Maliki Meet

May 10th, 2010 Comments off

A series of coordinated attacks on checkpoints and a Shiite mosque on Monday in Iraq demonstrated that the guerrilla opposition to the US-imposed new order in that country continues to be active and organized. Some 300-400 civilians and members of security forces are still being killed in political violence every month, not counting the insurgents themselves. The death rate from such violence appears little changed this year from last. The attacks continue to make economic progress difficult; they often disrupt the work (and even destroy the edifices) of government agencies, and they discourage foreign investment. Attacks on Shiite mosques are intended to provoke reprisals against Sunni Arabs, sharpening the contradictions and polarization and making Sunnis easier to recruit and mobilize for the resistance.

Meanwhile, one of the only ways mainstream Sunni Arabs, about 17 percent of the population, can hope to avoid another purely Shiite-Kurdish government would be to acquiesce in the formation of a government of national unity. That step would require the secular Iraqiya List, for which most Sunni Arabs voted, but which includes secular Shiites like its leader Iyad Allawi, to join the government. Thus, Al-Sharq al-Awsat (the Middle East) reports in Arabic that incumbent PM Nuri al-Maliki and Iraqiya leader Iyad al-Allawi have met to discuss a place at the table for the Iraqiya.

This move would have benefits for several parties. Al-Maliki campaigned against ex-Baathist secularists, but his current allies, the Shiite religious parties of Ammar al-Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr, seem insistent on replacing him with someone else, perhaps Ibrahim Jaafari. The Iraqiya might prefer al-Maliki, who has backed off purely sectarian language and speaks like an Iraqi nationalist, even though he remains head of the fundamentalist Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa), to a more sectarian candidate favored by the Sadrists. So, if al-Maliki can draw the Iraqiya in, it might be a way of outmaneuvering Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army al-Maliki attacked militarily in 2008. Ammar al-Hakim of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which is close to Tehran, has in any case made it clear that he will not join a government from which Allawi’s list is excluded.

So the scenario I predicted soon after the March 7 election, of a core Shiite alliance but a government of national unity that includes Iraqiya and the Kurds, seems in train. It replicates the government of summer, 2006, when US ambassador Ryan Crocker worked hard at cementing it. This time, much of the work seems to be being done by the Iraqis themselves, sometimes reluctantly, as the need for political reconciliation bears in on them and they realize it is key to their future as a state.

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Amanpour’s Egypt Show

May 1st, 2010 Comments off

I missed it on CNN, but Egyptian bloggers have been commenting on Christiane Amanpour’s show on Egypt in which she interviewed Mohamed ElBaradei, ruling party figure Ahmad Ezz (a close allt of Gamal Mubareak), and Saad Eddin Ibrahim. It’s on YouTube in several parts, the first of which is here:

If nothing major intrudes, I’m off for the weekend.

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Some major ElBaradei stories

April 1st, 2010 Comments off

I don’t have time to go into details here, but I wanted to flag some important stories on Mohamed ElBaradei and Egypt’s future that appeared yesterday.

First, Jack Shenker has an interview and profile in the Guardian. Jack writes:

The Guardian’s interview with Mohamed ElBaradei was published in three news and feature stories across a double-page spread today; if you haven’t already seen the articles then they’re available here:

More interestingly for those engaged in Egyptian and Middle Eastern political analysis, a full transcript of the interview is now up online. It includes lots of material that didn’t make it into the news stories, and is available here.

How good of him to make the full transcript available — it’s worth reading. I like this bit:

What I want to do at this stage is call for a constitutional revolution. I’m trying to break every political rule of the game, and I think it’s much more effective not to focus on individuals. And wrongly or rightly, I think everyone is doing what they think is good for the country. That’s my message now: I do not want to reopen the past, we have too much on our hands for the future. So I’m discussing policies, not individuals; I can criticise policies, but I’m not questioning the intentions or actions of individuals. And I think at this stage, that’s the right way to do it. I said from day one that I want to coalesce the Egyptian people around one great idea, which is their salvation – a move from authoritarianism to democracy.

The New Yorker also has a “Letter from Cairo” by Joshua Hammer that gives an overview of ElBaradei’s challenge to Mubarak, and the prospect of a Gamal presidency. It’s subscription only, but you can get an abstract here. I read the full piece, it has a good quote from Saad Eddin Ibrahim describing Gamal as a “solid C student” when he taught him at AUC, but does not offer much new.

More later, now I have to catch a train.

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WINEP straddling: Hezbollah is lost, unless an Israeli aggression saves it…

March 8th, 2010 Comments off
Is Schenker asking Israel to refrain from attacking Lebanon & Hezbollah? As always, well documented (ELAPH, Der Spiegel & Al Siyasa)… WINEP, here

“……. after the Shiite terrorist organization fought Israel to a standstill in 2006, Hezbollah’s stature in the Arab world skyrocketed. Not only was Nasrallah the most compelling Arabic orator, Hezbollah became the most positive personification of Shiites in the largely Sunni Muslim region.

That was 2006. Today, while Hezbollah remains a formidable “resistance” force, in the past two years, a number of setbacks have tarnished the organization’s carefully cultivated image in Lebanon and the broader Arab world. Hezbollah’s military prowess may not be in doubt, but now for the first time, Lebanese and other Middle Easterners are starting to question the organization’s once unscrupulous morality. ….. First came a damaging report in the May edition of Der Spiegel, implicating the militia in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. …….The rallies challenged Iran’s clerical leadership and its controversial doctrine of velayat-e faqih (Islamic government), threatening the seat of power of Hezbollah’s spiritual leader and financial patron Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei……..Salah Ezzedin, went bankrupt in a Ponzi scheme, a la Bernard Madoff…….. The Ezzedin affair implicated Hezbollah in the same kind of corruption it routinely accused the pro-West Sunni Government in Beirut of perpetrating………. According to the Arabic news service Elaph, he also instructed Hezbollah clerics to issue a “fatwa-like” directive forbidding the mention of the militia in connection to the scandal, ……..

One article in the pro-Hezbollah Lebanese daily Al-Akbar, written by the paper’s editor Ibrahim al Amin shortly after the scandal broke, provides a good picture of the sentiment of Hezbollah’s base. Al Amin accused the organization of going soft after decades of hardship and of starting to live the good life corrupted by “greed.” This cultured lifestyle, he wrote, was “in opposition to the principle of sacrifice” that once was the hallmark of the resistance. Ending with a flourish, al Amin cited the famed Israeli Ministry of Defense advisor on Lebanon, Uri Lubrani, who long ago said that Israel would only defeat Hezbollah “when it became infected with the virus of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Lebanon, in other words, when it alters its appearance and becomes bourgeoisie.”,……

Not surprisingly, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa reported on February 28 that some time ago Nasrallah had contacted Supreme Leader Khamenei, requesting $300 million in funding to stave off a “crisis of confidence” among his constituents. Khamenei approved the appeal, and according to Al-Siyasa, the funds were transferred to Nasrallah by Ahmedinajad when they met in Damascus last week……

During the dinner in Damascus for Ahmedinajad and Nasrallah last week, Assad pledged his regime’s continued backing for Hezbollah. “To support the resistance is a moral, patriotic and legal duty,” he said. Four years after the last war with Israel and a following a string of Hezbollah miscues, although the Shiite militia dominates Lebanese politics, Assad’s sentiments today appear to be shared by a minority of Middle Easterners. While the organization is making great efforts to reverse the tide, absent another war with Israel, the decline of Arab support for Hezbollah is a regional trend that’s likely to continue.

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Al-Hayat: Main Iraqi Party Alliances in Sunday’s Election

March 6th, 2010 Comments off

The USG Open Source Center translates a guide to the main party coalitions in the March 7 elections in Iraq

Report Lists Main Iraqi Alliances Contesting Parliamentary Elections
Unattributed report: “List of [Iraqi] Political Alliances Before 2010 Elections”
Al-Hayah Online
Friday, March 5, 2010
Document Type: OSC Translated Text

Baghdad, Al-Hayah – . . .

The [Iraqi National Alliance] was announced on 24 August 2009 and includes 11 political entities, among them the most important Shiite parties which are the “…Islamic Supreme Council [of Iraq]” [ISCI}, “Badr Organization” [paramilitary of ISCI, organized to contest for vote], “Al-Sadr Trend”, “[Islamic Virtue] Al-Fadilah Party”, “Al-Da’wah Party-Iraq Organization”, “National Reform Trend” (Ibrahim al-Ja’fari), “Iraqi National Congress” (Ahmad Chalabi), Ibrahim Bahr-al-Ulum, and “Al-Wasat Trend” led by Muwaffaq al-Rubay’i in addition to Sunni forces, among them the “Muslim Ulema Group”, “Al-Anbar Salvation Council”, and liberal, secular and independent figures.

The [INA] is considered the main rival to the [State of Law] “SOL” which is led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The [ISCI] and “Al-Sadr Trend” are hoping to regain some of the Shiite votes they had lost to Al-Maliki in the governorates councils’ elections last year. There are also speculations that the [INA] might forge an alliance with Al-Maliki’s alliance after the elections in case none of them obtains enough seats that allow it to form a government on its own. The “State of Law Coalition”

The “SOL” whose establishment was announced by Al-Maliki in October 2009 includes 50 political entities and a number of political and tribal figures, the most prominent of which are “Al-Da’wah Party General Headquarters” led by Al-Maliki, the “Islamic Turkoman Union” led by Deputy Abbas al-Bayyati, the “Mustaqillun [Independents’] Bloc” led by Oil Minister Husayn al-Shahrastani, and other groups which include some leaders of Sunni tribes, Christians, and independents. “SOL” was the biggest winner in the governorates councils’ elections in January 2009 after raising the slogan of imposing security, providing services, and establishing a strong central government. Al- Maliki considers his victory in the legislative elections “a certainty” with more votes than his rivals but he announced that he would be compelled to conclude alliances with other forces if he did not win a majority (163 seats) to form a government.

The “Iraqi National Movement”: This list includes the “National Accord Movement” which was announced on 31 October 2009 under Iyad Allawi, the “Iraqi Front for National Dialogue” led by Salih al-Mutlak (the two movement’s merger), Deputy Adnan Pachachi who is the former leader of the “Independent Democrats Grouping”, and Salam al-Zawba’i, the deputy prime minister who had resigned. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister (title as published) Tariq al-Hashimi announced on 28 October 2009 that his “Tajdid” movement joined the “INM” which is seeking to contest the elections on the basis of a nationalist program.

The “INM” came under heavy pressures. The “Accountability and Justice Commission” banned some of its symbolic figures, most notably Salih al-Mutlak and Zafir al-Ani, from participating in the elections and the movement considered this an act of revenge and unconstitutional. Al-Mutlak announced his party would not contest the elections to protest his exclusion but later rescinded the decision and announced it would participate. The “Iraqi Unity Movement”

It was announced on 21 November 2009 and includes around 26 political entities and various secular and Islamic forces and technocrats. The most prominent of them is Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani, “Iraqi Al-Sahwah Council” leader Ahmad Abu-Rishah, the “Charter Grouping” led by Sunni Emoluments Council Chairman Shaykh Ahmad Abd-al-Ghafur al-Samarra’i, former Defense Minister Sa’dun al-Dulaymi, and “Iraqi Republican Grouping” led by Sa’d Asim al-Janabi.

Previous leaks pointed to understandings between Al-Bulani, Abu-Rishah, and Samarra’i with “INM” leaders Iyad Allawi, Tariq al-Hashimi, and Salih al-Mutlak in addition to former parliament Speaker Mahmud al-Mashhadani to form a large political front. But the widening of the front and disagreements over its leadership apparently aborted the idea in its cradle. The Kurds

Four main Kurdish lists are competing in the elections. The two main Kurdish parties which control the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq dominate the “Kurdish Alliance.” These are the “Kurdistan Democratic Party” led by Kurdish Prime Minister Mas’ud Barzani and the “Patriotic Union of Kurdistan” led by President Jalal Talabani. The two parties underline the Kurdish nationality and have strong relations with the West.

The two parties’ grip on the Kurdistan Region weakened before the “Change Bloc” led by Nushiran Mustafa who had split from Talabani and which called for reforms. It scored good results in last year’s Kurdish parliamentary elections and will contest this one alone. There is a fourth list, which is the “Islamic Kurdish Union” in addition to the “Islamic Group.”

Less important forces are contesting the elections, such as the Communist Party and the “National Unity Alliance” which includes a group of entities, most notably the “National Dialogue Council” led by Khalaf al-Alayan, “Asla” led by Fadil al-Maliki, “Ansar al-Risalah” led by Mazin Makkiyah, and the liberal “Al-Ahrar” led by Deputy Iyad Jamal-al-Din. The Tribal Chiefs

Tribal chiefs play an important role in the elections and the main parties are seeking to curry their favor. Some leaders of Sunni tribes became prominent when the US forces started to back the “Awakening Councils” against “Al-Qa’ida” gunmen in 2006. Though the prominent tribal figures were eager to engage in political activity, they did not however establish a united front but joined existing blocs. The minorities

Iraq’s smaller minorities in Iraq include the Turkoman, Christians, Yazidis, Sabians, and Al-Shabak. They are allied to larger electoral lists in areas they do not dominate.

(Description of Source: London Al-Hayah Online in Arabic — Website of influential Saudi-owned London pan-Arab daily…)

End/ (Not Continued)

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Patriarchal Dynamite: The Hebron/Bethlehem Heritage Sites Issue

February 23rd, 2010 Comments off

Father Abraham, Avraham Avinu, Ibrahim Khalil Allah, the kids are fighting over the will again.

There is probably no place in the highly explosive Israeli-Palestinian theater, other than the Haram al-Sharif/Har ha-Bayit (Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount) in Jerusalem itself, more potentially explosive than the massive Herodian tomb-structure (left) rising over Hebron known to Israelis as the Tombs of the Patriarchs (or, Biblically, as the Cave of Machphelah, Me’arat Machpelah) and to Muslims as the Haram al-Khalil or al-Haram al-Ibrahimi. (Khalil, meaning “friend” as in the Friend of God, is a Muslim sobriquet for Abraham, and also the name for the city of Hebron.) It is surely one of the few places on earth (the only one I can think of just now, but I may be forgetting something) where a synagogue and a mosque exist and function within the same very ancient site. In 1994 it was the site where Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein took an automatic weapon and killed 29 Muslims at prayer in the mosque. It’s an enormous, amazing place, and perhaps even more than Jerusalem itself, a symbol of the fratricidal nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since Abraham is the founder of both peoples by their own testimony. But it, and another holy site in Bethlehem, Rachel’s tomb, though both beyond the Green Line, have now been named Israeli Heritage Sites, at this difficult moment in the peace process, and the results are predictable.

Since both Judaism and Islam claim Abraham as their founder, in today’s context conflict is inevitable. Since ancient tradition insists this is the site of the burial places of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah, buried in the Cave of Machphelah (and indeed, there are caves beneath the monuments), this is a holy place to all three Abrahamic religions, though relatively few Christian pilgrims visit it. (Some Muslims say Joseph is buried here too, though Jewish tradition venerates his tomb near Nablus.) In other words, patriarchically speaking, pretty much a straight flush. The big six.

On the other hand, it’s Leah who’s buried with Jacob in Hebron, and generally speaking Rachel is considered the matriarch of record for Jacob, who had two wives, since she’s the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, and thus of the main line of Jewish tradition (though Leah bore the patriarchs of the other ten tribes). Biblical tradition placed her tomb a couple of places, but one of the most visited and revered was on the northwestern edge of Bethlehem. Bethlehem, like Hebron, is of course in the West Bank, in territory Israel only occupied in 1967. And Bethlehem and its neighboring towns and the big refugee camp nearby make that area one of the more populous in the West Bank. Rachel’s Tomb (pictured) was originally on the Palestinian side of the Separation Wall, but lately an adjacent house has been annexed and walled off and the separation wall has been extended to include the tomb.

Beyond the fact that the Separation Wall itself raises a great many issues, I think it worth just looking at this GoogleEarth picture on the right (copyright by Google fully acknowledged please don’t come after me) and noting that the wall actually goes down either side of a road to enclose the tomb in a sort of enclave (below left center of the picture) that really makes its artificiality obvious. You used to go right by it driving into Bethlehem.

And since these patriarchs play a major role in Islam as well — Ibrahim (Abraham), Ishaq (Isaac), and Ya‘qub (Jacob) are common Muslim names still — the tombs of the patriarchs/Haram al-Khalil and the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem are two flashpoints which have troubled Jewish/Muslim and Israeli/Palestinian relations since 1967. (But of course all these names belong to all three monotheistic traditions. My mother and my daughter were both named Sarah.)

So why, nearly 43 years after the 1967 war, did Israel wait until this past Sunday to declare these two explosive holy places Israeli National Heritage Sites? Netanyahu said he did it at the persuasion of the religious party Shas. Not surprisingly, Palestinians are protesting and throwing stones in Hebron and elsewhere; the UN’s against it, and there’s talk of a new restoration plan for the sites. PA officials are protesting, Jordan is protesting — but this happens whenever there is a change in the status quo of religious sites. The question is why was this done now?

Given recent actions by the Netanyahu government it really is getting hard to assume that this is all just poor judgment or ideological purity (why not sooner?), and to assume that there is actually an intention to provoke. I’m trying to find an explanation in my own mind for why this was done now. It seems to have set off a Palestinian reaction — both officially and in the streets where stones are being thrown again — and almost makes me wonder, does Netanyahu want a third intifada? Netanyahu could have done this years ago if it was purely a commitment to ideology: everyone understands the sanctity of these two sites to both Muslims and Jews, and for that reason efforts to change the status quo have been few since the creation of the synagogue inside the mosque.

I fully recognize the veneration both Jews and Muslims have for these sites (especially Hebron), but doing this right now, more than 40 years after the six day war, has a feel of provocation rather than affirmation.

Abraham, that wandering Aramaean as the Bible itself calls him, would, I trust, prefer not to be fought over quite in this way. But this particular time I have to say the Israelis seem to be the provocateurs. And I’m not sure why at this time. They control the sites, and long have. Why change the status now?

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Anwar Ibrahim

February 2nd, 2010 Comments off

Thomas Fuller, NYT, Trial of Opposition Leader Could Reshape Malaysian Politics, 31 Jan 2010 "During more than three decades in politics, Anwar Ibrahim has spent a good share of his time behind bars — from his detention during his days as a rabble-rousing student leader in the 1970s to his imprisonment a decade ago on charges of abuse of power and sodomy."More information: Anwar Ibrahim BlogWan
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Bloggers arrested in Naga Hammadi

January 15th, 2010 Comments off

Just a quick note to relay the arrest of 18 bloggers arrested in the Upper Egyptian province of Nagga Hammadi, where sectarian clashes and the murder of six persons affiliated with the local bishop (who had been targeted for assassination).

Security had said they would be held until after the departure of a delegation by Sheikh al-Azhar in the afternoon, but still no news from them.

Press release below.

ECESR: Young Activists Arrested

Friday January 15, 2010

A group of young activists, some independent and some belonging to political groups, were arrested the moment they arrived at Naga Hammadi today. They were driven to Naga Hammadi police center where they were kept for two hours before separating women from men in prison cars that took them to the city of Qena.

Group names so far identified:

1. Israa’ Abdel Fattah, Egyptian Democratic Institute
2. Wael Abbas, Misr Digital blog
3. Bassem Sameer, Al-Ghad party & Egyptian Democratic Institute
4. Bassem Fathy, Egyptian Democratic Institutes
5. Ahmed Badawy, April 6 Group
6. Sherif Abdel Aziz, Justice for All blog
7. Marian Nagui, Reuters
8. Mostafa Al Naggar, Amwag blog
9. Rou’aa Ibrahim, AUC student
10. Shahinaz Abdel Salam, Wa7damasrya blog
11. Nasser Abdel Hameed, Democratic Front Party
12. Mohamed Khaled, Demagh Mak blog
13. Amira Al Tahawy
14. Sameer Akel, Democratic Front Party
15. Ahmed Abou Zekry
16. Ismail Al-Iskandarany
17. Mona Fouad
18. Ahmed Fathy Al Badry, Al-Karama Party, Qena charter (was receiving the group at train station)
19. Nadia Zena’ie (French nationality)

The group had headed to Naga Hammadi to extend condolences to the families of the victims of the Christmas eve massacre and to document testimonials.

The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) filed a complaint at the General Prosecutor demanding the release of all arrested. In the same time we call upon Rights organizations and Freedom committees to join forces in one unified defense front, and to have lawyers ready to travel to Qena to attend investigations and interrogations in case the group was not released.

For information and coordination:
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)
1 Souk Al Tawfiqia Street, Al-Is’aaf, 4th floor
Tel: 02-2578-3076

Mr. Khaled Ali, Lawyer
Mobile: 012-151-9598


ECESR – January 15, 2010

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Jordanian Mukhabarat’ close ties with US intelligence shocks & angers many …

January 12th, 2010 Comments off

In the London Times/ here

“… It exposed Jordan’s close ties with US intelligence; a realisation that shocked and angered many Muslims in the country, normally seen as an oasis of peace in the turbulent area. At yesterday’s funeral, the family of the dead al-Qaeda member had nothing but scorn for their Government’s alliance with America.
“The United States is fighting Muslims everywhere,” the dead man’s father, Mahdi Zaydan, said. “They’ll fight to defend themselves and drive the Americans out, like the Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan.” ….
His other brother, Ibrahim, fought for the Taleban and was arrested in Kabul by the Americans in 2001, and held at Guantánamo Bay for more than five years. He was released two years ago and was present at the funeral yesterday in a former Palestinian refugee camp that has grown into a permanent neighbourhood of Irbid.
Al-Qaeda and the Taleban are accepted here as fighters who want to drive the enemy out,” Muhammad said…..
In his opinion, the Jordanian Government was “absolutely on the wrong side” by helping the Americans. The sentiment is shared by many devout Jordanian Muslims, especially those of Palestinian origin, such as Humam al-Balawi, the CIA suicide bomber, according to Rohile Gharaiheh, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. “The ones who joined the jihad did so because of the Palestinian issue, but it can also affect Jordanians because they don’t know where their Government sends their sons,” he said, referring to al-Balawi’s recruitment by the Jordanian intelligence service. “The Government is making these terrorists; the Government is trying to please the Americans.”

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President Saleh is erratic & sensitive to criticism. But the US has no alternative but to continue engaging him …"

January 8th, 2010 Comments off

WINEP/ here

“Yemen’s reemergence in the headlines as a crucial player in the fight against al-Qaeda raises questions about Washington’s next steps. What sort of relationship will the Obama administration have with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the longtime leader of what could be the world’s next failed state? Saleh spoke with President Barack Obama by telephone on December 17, 2009, and later met in Sana with General David Petreaus, the head of U.S. Central Command, on January 2. But the lessons of Saleh’s relationship with the Bush administration suggest that close ties can be matched by sharp policy differences.
Apart from Muammar Qadhafi of Libya, Saleh is the Middle East’s longest-serving leader. Now a field marshal by rank, he first came to prominence in 1977 as a thirty-one-year-old major during political turmoil in what was then North Yemen (which united with South Yemen in 1990.) The country’s military leader at the time, Ibrahim al-Hamdi, was assassinated, as was his brother, by unidentified gunmen who riddled their bodies with bullets. An Arab newspaper described it at the time as a well-planned coup, naming Saleh as a conspirator along with his mentor, Lt. Col. Ahmed al-Ghashmi, the deputy commander-in-chief of the army who became North Yemen’s new leader. Al-Ghashmi himself survived an assassination attempt five days after taking power but was subsequently killed in June 1978 when the briefcase of a special envoy from South Yemen exploded in his office. A month later, Saleh was voted into office by the quasi-parliament as president and commander-in-chief; he survived yet another assassination attempt only months later.
Saleh showed himself to be skilled in political maneuvering by winning army support for his appointment. According to the 1986 Library of Congress handbook The Yemens: Country Studies, he had “no obvious qualification for the presidency and [was] neither highly educated nor widely experienced in government.” His greatest accomplishment, other than merely surviving, was arguably the union of former communist South Yemen with North Yemen. This development worried neighboring Saudi Arabia, whose indigenous population remains less than that of Yemen. Riyadh’s relations with Sana have been a key variable over the years. Prior to the merger, the kingdom’s default position was to support the north. In 1994, however, the Saudis backed South Yemeni dissidents in an attempt to secede. From Riyadh’s perspective, the fighting — in which Saleh used sympathetic jihadist fighters, Scud missiles, and more conventional forces to crush the rebels — was partly a consequence of Sana’s support for Saddam Hussein after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. At the time, Yemen had been a member of the UN Security Council and had cast the only vote against the resolution permitting the use of force against Iraq………
U.S.-Yemeni relations gradually recovered, but the 2000 al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole, at anchor in Aden harbor, was another blow. Tensions were exacerbated by poor Yemeni cooperation with FBI investigators and, later, by apparent government-sanctioned “escapes” of detained al-Qaeda suspects, including key plotter Jamal al-Badawi on two separate occasions (2003 and 2006). A further irritant was Sana’s 2002 purchase of Scud missiles from North Korea. A Spanish naval vessel operating with a U.S. Navy-led task force intercepted the shipment, and the incident was depicted as a blow against the activities of a rogue state. But the sale did not breach international law, and Saleh insisted, against U.S. wishes, that the missiles be delivered.
……… Saleh ultimately maintains his position through control of the army, where his relatives hold top commands. His eldest son, Ahmed, is head of the Republican Guard and the special forces. Although seen as a possible successor, he is not deemed ready to assume power at the moment, nor need he be: Saleh is only sixty-three. One potential worry is that Gen. Ali Mohsen — a key Saleh ally who has commanded the forces fighting the Houthi rebels — is thought to oppose Ahmed taking any increased political role. Nevertheless, Saleh was boosted by Saudi-orchestrated support for him at the December 2009 Gulf Cooperation Council summit.

President Saleh is erratic and, reportedly, sensitive to criticism. But the Obama administration has no alternative but to continue engaging him. Failure to do so would risk terrible consequences. Yemeni officials deny that their country is becoming a failed state but are quick to use the possibility as a means of attracting Washington’s attention. Admitting to the presence of thousands of al-Qaeda fighters was an additional gambit, now strengthened by apparent Yemeni links to the attempted December 25 bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit. General Petreaus’s January 2 meeting was the most recent of what are regular high-level U.S. visits. Whether Washington can influence Saleh sufficiently without offering him another visit to the White House remains to be seen. And even that gesture would not rule out the possibility of further crises in the relationship.”

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