Written By: Elena White
Article Date: Jun 16, 2012 - 8:06:21 PM
As Yemen remains enthralled in a political stalemate Yemen decades’ long “political make-up” slowly unravels, bringing up to the surface tales of manipulations and betrayals.
To better understand the Yemen of today one needs to go back in history to 1962, when a coup d’état against the last of the Imam brought about the first Republican system in the Arabian Peninsula and set in motion a series of event which are still today threatening Yemen’s unity. 1962 coup d’état In September 1962, the Imam of North Yemen was overthrown in a popular coup.
Imam al-Badr had been in power for only a week having succeeded his father who had presided over a feudal kingdom where 80 percent of ... the population lived as peasants and which was controlled through bribery, an arbitrary and coercive tax system and a policy of divide and rule.
The coup was led by Colonel Abdullah al-Sallal and a pro-Nasser, Arab nationalist group within the Yemeni military, which proclaimed the Yemen Arab Republic.
The Royalist forces supporting the Imam took to the hills and began an insurgency, supported by the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, while Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt deployed troops in North Yemen to shore up the new Republican government. Against the advice of several top officials in Yemen - Christopher Gandy amongst them - Britain soon resorted to covert actions to undermine the new Republican regime, in alliance with the Saudis and Jordan monarchy.
Gandy actually recommended recognition of the new Yemeni regime, saying that it was interested in friendly relations with Britain and that this was ‘the best way to prevent an increase’ in Egyptian influence. But he was overruled both by his political masters in London and by officials in neighboring Aden, Britain’s then colony.
While Britain, Saudi Arabia and Jordan for strategic and ideological reasons supported Yemen fallen monarch against the republican forces, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser aided by Russia lent his support to the newly former Republic of North Yemen, in line with his own desire to promote a pan-Arab democratic movement.
A reported 70,000 Egyptian soldiers were sent to prop up the republican army against the royalist forces.
As warring factions became entrenched in a lengthy conflict, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia increased their military and financial support; one seeking to promote the Republicans the other the monarchy.
By 1967, Abdel Nasser was seeking an “honorable way out of Yemen. It came in the form of the 1967 Six-Day War, Nasser’s saber rattling, coupled with a withdrawal of the United Nations forces from the Sinai led Israel to take a bold offensive defeating the combined armed forces of Syria, Egypt and Jordan.
After the Six-Day War, Arabs began to unify against Israel, and this gave Nasser a way out of Yemen at the Arab Summit in Khartoum. From 1968 to 1971, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, along with hundreds of mercenaries, began a disengagement from Yemen. Ascension to power of President Ali Abdullah Saleh In 1977, the President of North Yemen, Ahmed bin Hussein al-Ghashmi, appointed Ali Abdullah Saleh al-Ahmar - from Sanhan not to be mistaken with al-Ahmar Hasheed confederacy - as military governor of Taiz.
After al-Ghashmi was assassinated in June24, 1978 and Saleh was appointed to be a member of the four-man provisional presidency council and deputy to the general staff commander.
On July 17, 1978, Saleh was elected by the Parliament to be the President of the Yemen Arab Republic, chief of staff and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Having failed to restore Yemen’s monarchy, Saudi Arabia decided it would use the tribes as a counter power to the central government and maintain Yemen in a semi-democratic limbo where the President of the Republic would never be truly in charge of the affairs of the state.
Through its “special committees” the Kingdom spent the next 3 decades financing the Sheikhs of Yemen, creating a form of patronage which would tore the fabric of the Republic and prevent Yemen from moving forward in terms of its political institutions and on many levels its economy.
With President Saleh busy building a complex support network counteracting Saudi Arabia malignant influence over Yemen, appointing trusted loyalists and family members to key military posts, Saleh realized he needed to amass a momentous fortune capable of challenging the Saudi special committees.
Engaged in political covert war against Saudi Arabia, President Saleh truly danced on the head of snakes, bidding his enemies against each other and using financial incentives to maintain an acceptable level of loyalties to his regime. While politicians where busy asserting their power over Yemen, its people were left to fend for themselves, slowly sinking into abject poverty.
One has to remember that Saudi King Faisal was ideologically opposed to President Saleh, hoping he would at some point manufacture his demise and bring to power the powerful al-Ahmar family as their “blue blood” made them the legitimate contenders to Yemen’s throne. However, the ascension of King Abdullah pushed back such plans.
A moderate, King Abdullah saw President Saleh as a partner in the region rather than an enemy, seeking to tighten both countries economic and political ties. Under the scene, Prince Nayyaf, now Crown Prince continued however to run Yemen special committees.
Special Committees Although the Saudis’ financial support of Yemen’s tribal leaders and politicians was never a state secret, recent revelations made by al-Shareh - Yemeni-based newspaper -came to rock the boat as a list of names and amounts were made public, bringing the very real question of national loyalty to the forefront of the debate. According to al-Shareh Saudi Arabia “special committees” budget reached at one point $300 million per month.
The committee’s main purpose was to win over senior Yemeni statesmen and ensure their compliance with the Saudi royal family. Amongst other issues, the Kingdom sought to prevent another border-dispute from emerging and maintain politicians and power-players into promoting agreements which favored Saudi Arabia, even it often meant selling out Yemen’s own national interests.
Top of the list figures prominent Yemeni military men and tribal leaders such as renegade General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar with a combined $3.4 million per month allowance, al-Ahmar brothers also with $3.4 million per month per head.
Even southern politicians from al-Harak -Southern Secessionist Movement – benefited from the Kingdom’s generosity, putting serious question marks over their political and ideological integrity; especially since they accused President Saleh of selling out Yemen to the Saudis.
Yemen Uprising Several political analysts agree that if Egypt revolution was truly born from a widespread rejection of the repressive regime of President Husne Mubarak, Yemen’s uprising which started off as reform movement was manufactured.
A few years back, Sheikh Hameed al-Ahmar - Yemeni billionaire businessman and brother to powerful tribal leader Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar – told American diplomats he intended to use a popular uprising to oust then-President Saleh, and prevent Ahmed Saleh - Saleh’ son and Head of the Republican Guards – from ever reaching the presidential seat. And indeed, Ahmed Saleh, groomed by his father to be Yemen next President of the Republic intended to reform the country’ s power play by bringing down the tribes and asserting the ascent of a real republican system, which of course Saudi Arabia did not favor, hence its support of al-Ahmar.
Egypt revolution gave Yemen tribal factions and those allied to Saudi Arabia the perfect opportunity. Yemen uprising was born. Who will now rise to power in Yemen and whether democracy will prevail, remains to be seen.
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