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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Yemen: Troops loyal to ousted general surround airport in the capital.



Troops loyal to General al-Ahmar threatened to fire on incoming and outgoing planes. The General was fired by the government in a purge of some Saleh loyalists. Saleh was the former president who gave up power in a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council.

General al-Ahmar has refused to step down. The airport is surrounded by troops loyal to the general. A chief of the Hamdan tribe who are loyal to Saleh is said to be leading the group.

In a message to his troops the general said the presidential decrees would not be implemented unless the defense minister and the chief of staff left their posts. One wonders who is firing who!

These moves come as there are daily protests demanding that Saleh relatives resign from their positions. General al-Ahmar is a half-brother of Saleh. Of course president Hadi himself was Saleh's vice-president before running unchallenged for president!

The editor of a Yemeni newspaper claimed that Hadi had no other choice but to make the dismissals. He said:“He became president under one condition: he would be able to start a national dialogue a week after he takes power,” “It's been a month and a half and the opposition factions have refused to enter any dialogue with President Hadi unless military reforms take place immediately.” Hadi dismissed another Saleh relative, a nephew, who was head of the presidential guard. No doubt he will feel safer now! However the nephew also refused to quit even though he was offered another position in the military.

The head of the GCC backed Hadi in his moves. The GCC brokered the deal that led to Saleh's resignation. However Saleh still retains a great deal of influence in the new government. The GCC and the U.S. may find themselves enmeshed in tribal rivalries they may not be able to control. Restructuring of the army was one condition of the GCC deal.

If Hadi moves too far he risks losing power entirely. Saleh's son Ahmed still heads the elite forces of the Republican Guard and a nephew is head of central security forces. While Hadi may be favored by the U.S. and GCC he risks plunging Yemen into a civil war if he moves against his own former comrades. In a February speech Hadi said he would make"radical reforms" in the army. He also vowed to fight Al-Qaeda. The U.S. has been happy to help Hadi with the latter task. For more see this article

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