Weekly News Update 25 October 2013

Highlights:
Yemen Changes Everything…and Nothing
Journal of Democracy — October 2013
But, it is far too early to start cheering Yemen for choosing a more inclusive and accountable future. There is as yet no durable settlement regarding political and economic power-sharing. Even if one is reached, implementation will be fraught with difficulties, especially in the south, where demands for separation are unlikely soon to abate. At best, a long and tumultuous process of negotiation and change has begun. The future is likely to hold bouts of localized violence, along with growing economic and humanitarian challenges.

Yemen’s final stretch
Foreign Policy — 24 October 2013
How will the dialogue conclude and what will happen next? The number of opinions matches the number of people asked. It is a fluid and dynamic process that few can predict. At the same time, the political fight is between the old regime — divided among party, tribal, and ideological lines — and new powers that were legitimized through the National Dialogue, such as the Houthi movement from the northern Saada region and the Hirak movement. In a country where none of the old or new political powers trust each other, a zero-sum attitude prevails as does a strong incentive to obtain and hold as much power as possible.

“Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda”: The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen
 Human Rights Watch — October 2013
Some of those targeted by US forces as terrorist suspects may not in fact have been valid military targets. Where the laws of war apply, combatants may lawfully be attacked. Persons who accompany or support an organized armed group, but whose activities are not directly related to military operations, such as engaging in recruiting or propaganda, are not lawful military targets. Where the United States acts as a party to the armed conflict between the Yemeni government and AQAP, US military actions fall within the laws of war. Should the fighting between the US and AQAP not meet the threshold for an armed conflict, any attacks carried out independently of the Yemen-AQAP conflict, including some or all of the attacks detailed here, would fall under international human rights law. Human rights law only permits the use of lethal force where there is an imminent threat to human life.

Al Qaeda group is operating on ransom money from the West
Los Angeles Times — 18 October 2013
Over the last two years, AQAP, as Western officials refer to the group, has extorted $20 million in ransom money, according to an estimate by Alistair Burt, who until this month was the top British diplomatic official for the Middle East. If those payments continue, “AQAP’s attack capability in Yemen and against its friends and neighbors will only strengthen,” he said at a recent diplomatic meeting in New York. Kidnapping has become the group’s single largest source of funds, U.S. and European officials say. Much of the money comes with the complicity of Western governments that have rebuffed British and American exhortations not to pay ransoms, the officials allege. The governments of Finland and Austria said they did not provide ransom money to terrorists. But two Western officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid publicly criticizing allied governments, said that those denials are for public consumption and that the size of the ransoms shows government involvement.

Saudi Aid:
Blessing in disguise: End of Saudi aid to Yemen
Al-Jazeera — 24 October 2013
In a speech delivered in Washington DC this week, Prince Turki bin Faisal,  Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to the United States, confirmed that Saudi aid to its southern neighbour, Yemen, was “on hold, until the country settles down”. Saudi aid to Yemen goes back decades, and is the bedrock of Saudi’s foreign policy in that country. The Saudis have stepped in when the Yemeni government has been in desperate need, most recently paying the salaries of civil servants, and supplying Yemen with fuel as shortages threatened the poorest nation in the Middle East. Yet, despite the apparent benefits of Saudi aid, the upshot is that the Saudi presence in Yemen has been debilitating for the latter. In the long term, any weakening of Saudi presence in Yemen, as a suspension of aid will almost certainly bring, is beneficial to Yemen, and will give breathing space for it to become independent of its “big brother” next door.

Security:
Yemen Plagued by Assassinations
Al-Monitor — 18 October 2013
Whatever the case, it has become evident that assassination attempts in Yemen increase during the pivotal stages of the country’s political transition process. In other words, they no longer are terrorist operations, but have become political acts that benefit the factions negatively affected by the ongoing political transformation process. Some of them are also functional in nature and used by the criminals to mislead justice. On June 1, Brig. Gen. Yehia al-Omeisy, head of the air force police, was assassinated in the city of Seiyun by gunmen on a motorcycle. Afterward, Criminal Investigative Unit Director Col. Abdul Rahman Bashkil was also killed as he investigated Omeisy’s murder. The same pattern was followed in Sanaa with Gen. al-Ashol, the security officer leading the investigation into the terrorist blast that killed and wounded hundreds of central security officers as they trained for a military parade commemorating Unification Day in May 2012.

Yemen foils al-Qaeda prison break
Al-Jazeera — 23 October 2013
Yemen has taken control over hundreds of al-Qaeda inmates who tried to escape after they staged a mutiny in Sanaa prison, an official said. The mutiny broke out on Tuesday afternoon when “almost 300 al-Qaeda prisoners, armed with knives and iron bars, attacked prison guards, injuring some of them,” the official said on Wednesday, adding that an interrogation officer was among those wounded.

Gunmen kill security officer in south Yemen
Reuters — 19 October 2013
Two masked gunmen killed a security officer and his bodyguard in southern Yemen late on Friday in what a security official said was a suspected al Qaeda attack. Colonel Mohammed Abdullah al-Habashy, security adviser in the southeastern Hadramout province, was at a restaurant with his bodyguard in the city of Sayoun when gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire, the security official and witnesses said.

Al Qaeda: September attack targeted joint Yemeni-U.S. drone base
Reuters — 14 October 2013
The Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda said on Monday its attack on a Yemeni army base last month targeted an operations room used by the United States to direct drone strikes against militants, and it threatened more such assaults. Dozens of militants stormed and captured the headquarters of the Yemeni army’s Second Division in the eastern coastal city of al-Mukalla on September 30 and took some military personnel hostage. Military officials said four Yemeni soldiers were killed and nine wounded in a counter-strike to retake the base.

Yemeni businessmen increasing target of kidnappings
Yemen Times — 17 October 2013
There have been 18 documented attacks on businessmen in the past two years. The attacks have ranged from kidnappings to murder, according to the Deputy Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Mohammed Salah. Businessmen are vulnerable to kidnapping because the security vacuum provides would-be kidnappers with the opportunity and the economic crises provides a motive, he said.

In Yemen, Drones Aren’t a Policy
Cairo Review of Global Affairs — 23 October 2013
If we assess U.S. policy in Yemen from a security standpoint first, we would have to conclude that it has certainly not brought more security to the American diplomats in Yemen. Sanaa is now classified as an unaccompanied post, meaning it is too dangerous for diplomats to bring families with them. Further, diplomats who, until recently, tended to live on the economy, in villas and apartment buildings in the  middle of downtown Sanaa, were first moved to a well guarded hotel near the Embassy compound in 2011, and consequently into crowded quarters on the compound itself. American diplomats wishing to go outside embassy walls to meet with Yemenis, now have to have heavy security escorts and are discouraged from all but essential meetings impossible to conduct on the compound itself. In terms of security of the homeland, one can only conjecture. True, there hasn’t been an attempt on the U.S. mainland since the failed Christmas “underwear” bombing of 2009, but the number of AQAP operatives has risen over recent years, from several hundred in 2008 to several thousand estimated today. Surveillance interceptions continue to catch “chatter” among AQAP operatives, alerting Washington to continued plotting and acts of terrorism being planned against U.S. interests (as testified to publicly by top intelligence officials). Nowadays, traveling outside of Sanaa is a virtual impossibility for all foreign diplomats. In all respects, the security situation in Yemen today is a far cry from the 2004 to 2007.

Five Yemeni soldiers killed in suicide attack on military base
Reuters — 18 October 2013
A suicide bomber killed at least five Yemeni soldiers on Friday in a suspected Islamist militant attack on a military base in the south of the country, a Yemeni military official said. Militants linked to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are increasingly targeting Yemeni army facilities in the U.S.-allied state, which shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, and flanks major shipping lanes.

Three Houthis killed on the way to celebrate Ghadir Day
Yemen Times — 24 October 2013
Three Houthi affiliates were killed on Wednesday and three others injured in an ambush by unknown gunmen while they were heading to Ibb governorate to take part in Ghadir Day festival, an official said. According to Ali Al-Zalm, the deputy governor of Ibb, the festival was organized by Houthi supporters in the Al-Aras village of Yareem district.

Military designs new uniform to thwart terror
Yemen Times — 24 October 2013
In response to the ease that armed militants have had in purchasing and obtaining military uniforms the military has announced it is redesigning its uniforms. The new uniforms will be issued to all military forces regardless of their unit, the Interior Ministry announced recently.  One problem that has not been addressed according to Mohammed Al-Khalid, a security affairs researcher, is that “Al-Qaeda [in the Arabian Peninsula] militants can get the military uniform from soldiers who conspire with them.”

Rada’a to receive security reinforcement
Yemen Times — 22 October 2013
After a year of calling for security reinforcement in Ra’ada district, Al-Beidha governor Al-Dhahiri Al-Shadadi said security forces will be deployed to the district in the coming days.  Security reinforcement is necessary to prevent the fall of the district to Al-Qaeda, said Rada’a security manager, Brigadier Hamoud Al-Amari.

NDC working groups resume meetings, Houthis and Southern Movement continue boycott
Yemen Times — 22 October 2013
Houthis and the Southern Movement continued their boycott of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) Monday, as working groups who have not turned in their final reports resumed meetings. The final plenary session is scheduled to resume on Saturday. Yasser Al-Roaini, the Deputy General Secretary of the NDC, said Houthis and the Southern Movement are demanding more time to finish their respective working group’s final reports. They will be given the week to complete their reports, Al-Roaini said.

National Dialogue:
Southern Movement wants subcommittee meetings held outside of Sana’a
Yemen Times — 24 October 2013
National Dialogue Conference (NDC) Southern Movement members are demanding the 8+8 subcommittee meetings be held outside of Sana’a because of uncertain security in the capital city. The 8+8 subcommittee, formed in September from the Southern Issue Working Group, was created to offer recommendations for the future structure of the state  and to give the Southern Movement a concession to secure their continued participation at the conference.

UN Envoy on Yemen Deserves Spotlight
Al-Monitor — 23 October 2013
The Yemeni street is running out of patience because of the embarrassing catastrophic situations, as it cannot deal with its issues with the same “long breath” approach Benomar and Yemen’s traditional elites do. The country’s public opinion has begun to show signs of discontent with the sluggishness of the political transition now underway as well as with the opaque language of the UN delegate. He has neither identified the reasons for the delay and bungling in the process nor pointed the finger at the parties responsible for them. His periodic reports to the UN Security Council offer the merest hints at disclosing the identity of these parties, opting instead to continue to remain silent in the face of their ongoing obstruction of the political transition.

The fight at hand: Yemen’s unity
Gulf News — 22 October 2013
Yemen must confront the terrible status quo that Hadi inherited from his predecessor, challenge the underlying reasons for inequality and poverty, avoid the trap of division as an easy answer to persisting problems, seek an end to American drone attacks and unite against political tribalism and Al Qaida. At the end of the day, a political agreement is a mere piece of paper if it lacks an egalitarian long-term vision and real partnership that unites all Yemenis, not just their political elites.

South wants independence, this time from the North
Yemen Times — 15 October 2013
As Southerners gather to commemorate the revolution on October 14 in the former capital of South Yemen, Aden, the revolutionary demands for the right to self-determination made 50 years ago sound remarkably similar to the demands being made today for a separate state and for the right of Southerners to rule themselves. That fight for self-determination ended in success when Southerners ended a 128-year-old occupation by Britain on November 30, 1967.

Women’s rights advocates: Secure women’s rights through the constitution
Yemen Times — 15 October 2013
The Yemeni Scholars Body recently issued a statement condemning efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. As Yemenis enter a new transitional period following the end of the country’s comprehensive National Dialogue Conference (NDC), women’s rights activists say the time is now to push for guaranteed protections and equality of women. The way to do that, they say, is through the constitution, slated to be drafted following the end of the NDC.

Tribes Still Rule in Yemen
Al-Monitor — 10 October 2013
The tribal sheikhs — and not the tribe members themselves — have been directing Yemeni politics more than any other social or political force. Although these sheikhs are involved in and lead many influential political parties, they also engage in political work outside the framework of these parties. They think that they have the right to do what other citizens don’t. They sometimes work outside the context of, and sometimes in opposition to, the political parties that they joined only to use as tools to perpetuate their tribal power, and not as civil political groups whose members are equal.

Yemen’s progress frustrates EU
UPI — 21 October 2013
The European Union said Monday it welcomed Yemeni efforts on political reforms but was mindful of a wide range of national security challenges. The EU’s foreign affairs committee said it was pleased with efforts made by Yemeni President Abdo Rabbo Mansour on political reforms. He took power in 2012 after longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in the wake of the Middle East and North African upheavals known as the Arab Spring.

In Yemen, Facebook, Qat And the Veil
Al-Monitor — 24 October 2013
Given that Yemeni society is a closed, patriarchal society — aside from a few exceptions — nicknames and fake accounts on Facebook are widespread. Some boys and girls create nicknames for the sake of fun, to avoid any social constraints. Others create fake accounts to trick their friends into thinking that they are chatting with beautiful girls, who often end up being their male friends sitting next to them. The pranksters then reveal their true identity. They trick their friends for the sake of fun, and for the sake of revealing their friends’ personalities — hiding under the guise of socially committed men.

Syria:
Syria’s Divisive Impact on Yemen
Huffington Post — 18 October 2013
It appears that regardless of how the Syrian crisis unfolds, the weak Yemeni state has the potential to become a major loser as a result of Syria’s morass. If Assad’s forces eventually strike a decisive blow against the rebels and the al-Qaeda affiliates are dislodged from northern Syria, they will certainly seek a new power vacuum in the Middle East to use as a base. In the event that the jihadists around Aleppo defeat the Syrian military and establish a de facto Islamic Emirate south of the Turkish border, AQAP will certainly have potential to benefit from a new safe haven from where they can train and plot further attacks against the government in Sana’a.

Hunger:
Yemen’s empty stomach statistics categorized as ‘alarming’
Yemen Times — 24 October 2013
Yemen is one of 16 countries classified as having “alarming” levels of hunger, according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI), published by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Economy/Governance:
Why Yemen must conquer corruption to save the poor
CNN — 15 October 2013
With Yemen’s population growing at 2.3% a year, (again according to the World Bank), and oil — the source of 70% of government revenues — running out, Yemen’s economy needs a massive shake-up. The government needs to become less reliant on oil and to help build a diversified economy which provides a wide range of jobs for Yemenis, who in turn must be better educated (more than two thirds of all adults are illiterate) and healthier. Some of these issues were addressed during the dialogue conference: a working group at the talks tasked with producing recommendations on Yemenis’ basic rights called in July for the state to provide at least a basic level of education and healthcare along with guaranteed welfare payments to the country’s poor. But the question is how future governments are going to pay for any expansion in government services and welfare payments. In 2013, the country’s transitional government passed not just the biggest budget in Yemen’s history, but also its biggest deficit, of about $3.2bn. Most of the $12.9bn total spending package went to wages and overheads, with fuel subsidies in particular due to cost the government $3.5bn, or 8.5% of all economic output, in 2013 according to the IMF.

Help yourself first, IMF tells Yemen
UPI — 15 October 2013
Khaled Sakr, IMF adviser for the Middle East and Central Asia, said Yemen needs to take responsibility for its own transformation. “This country ought to help itself first because donor aid usually flows gradually and in some cases it passes in a complex process including conditions by some donors to release aid,” he was quoted Tuesday as saying by Yemen’s official Saba News Agency. The IMF said Yemen was one of the first Arab countries to get an injection of $94 million in rapid assistance following the Arab Spring.

Mixed views on membership for Yemen in WTO
Yemen Times — 22 October 2013
As Yemen prepares to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), opinion is divided about the costs vs. the benefits of membership. Yemen had to agree to certain terms, including limiting tariffs on agricultural imports to 24.9 percent. With the agreement of terms between Yemen and the Working Party tasked with negotiating conditions, the WTO concluded 13 years of negotiations. In addition to the 24.9 percent cap on agricultural tariffs, Yemen also capped tariffs on other products to 20.5 percent, and committed to opening its markets in 11 sectors. Over the years, Yemen has made legal reforms in line with WTO conditions. The Economic and Social Research Center in Sana’a released a study this year saying that 67 percent of businessmen working in the agricultural sector believe joining the WTO was a positive step. Sana’a University economics professor Dr. Mohammed Jubran told the Yemen Times that he is not optimistic about the results for Yemen joining the WTO, saying that Yemen has no exports that could compete abroad.

When the power goes out, the generators come on
Yemen Times — 22 October 2013
With Yemen’s frequent power cuts, those who can afford it often resort to generators to get to by without electrcity. The quality of generators range and so do the prices. But some Yemenis are learning—in a tragic way—that a low-cost generator can sometimes come at a high price. Engineer Majed Al-Aghbari fixes a wide-range of appliances and machines, including generators. He told the Yemen Times that customers are lured in by the low prices, but don’t often account for the cost of constant repairs and maintenance for cheap generators.

Despite illegality, fireworks market flourishes
Yemen Times — 15 October 2013
There are no designated areas for people to use fireworks so people use them on the streets, light them from roofs, and from their cars. Though the law clearly calls for punishment for those who sell or use fireworks, authorities often have the perpetrators promise not to do it again. Punishments are typically doled out to sellers and manufacturers only.

Yemenis having difficulties protecting creative work / Intellectual property rights battles increase
Yemen Times — 22 October 2013
Shams Al-Deen Al-Zain, head of Al-Zain Organization for Intellectual Property, an organization specialized in registering trademarks to  protect rights, said the lack of public awareness on intellectual property rights contributes to the country’s increasing cases. Non-implementation of legal penalties, even when a verdict of financial compensation is issued, also contributes to the trend, he said.

Domestic Violence:
Yemeni girl, 15, ‘burned to death by father’
CNN — 24 October 2013
A 15-year-old Yemeni girl was burned to death by her father for “communicating with her fiance,” according to Yemen’s Interior Ministry. The father, a 35-year-old man, was arrested Tuesday in a village in Taiz Province. The statement did not clarify when the girl was killed. The case, which activists are calling an honor crime, is once again highlighting the plight of young girls in Yemen, where child marriages and honor killings still happen. According to Human Rights Watch, more than half of all females in Yemen are married off before the age of 18.

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