By Nasser Arrabyee/29/03/2011
The Yemeni crisis has reached a dangerous turning point. Al Qaeda has become the third party in it.
The opposition and President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government traded charges about murder of more than 150 people on Monday March 28th, 2011, in explosion of ammunition factory in Ja’ar, Abyan south of the country, an area which has become under a total control of Al Qaeda.
The majority of victims were civilians who went to loot the factory of October 7th, in Al Husn area after the disappearance of the army and security forces from their areas.
The Islamist- led opposition coalition which includes Islamists, Socialists, and Nasserites, accused, in a statement Tuesday, the embattled Saleh, of colluding with Al Qaeda to attract more attention and support from the west and to stay longer in power. The government accused the opposition and separatist of helping Al Qaeda.
Before the Monday massacre, the two sides failed to reach a deal to transfer the power and guarantee a safe and honored exit for President Saleh for avoiding possible bloody conflict between two huge rival army groups deployed in the capital Sana’a and other places.
The President Saleh said Sunday March 27th, 2011, he would not offer any more concessions after the opposition refused all his initiatives which met all their demands except “ the immediate ouster”.
His ruling party, in an exceptional meeting on the same day, Sunday, said explicitly, President Saleh would leave the power only at the end of his constitutional current term on September 20th, 2013.
These two statements from Saleh and his party, made the opposition say Saleh is violating a deal which was made between them and Saleh in cooperation with of the American and British ambassadors in Yemen on Wednesday March 23rd, 2011, in which Saleh agreed to leave the power in 60 days only.
The defected army general , Ali Muhsen, the most powerful general, vowed also publicly to topple Saleh and his regime after these two statements from Saleh and his party.
The “ retraction” of Saleh came after successful and peaceful rallies on Friday March 25th, in which Saleh confidently and defiantly said , “ This is the legitimacy of my regime” declaring that he would only hand over the power to “safe and clean” hands not to “conspirators.” , in obvious reference to the opposition leaders.
More than one million supporters assembled around Saleh in the Parade Square in the capital Sana’a on Friday which was called the “Friday of Tolerance.”, to face the “Friday of Departure” called for by the opposition. Hundreds of thousands attended the opposition rally. The opposition media estimated them at more than million and a half.
The state-run media estimated the number of Saleh supporters who attended the Friday rally in Sana’a at more than 2 millions. And many smaller rallies were held in the other cities on the same Friday to support Saleh.
It was special rally as the Saleh’s supporters were extremely angry after the spokesman of the opposition called their supporters to march forward to the Presidential Palace and even to Saleh’s “bed room”.
Such a call by the Islamist leader, Mohammed Qahtan, as viewed by observers here, was in the interest of President Saleh who used it very well to incite the tribesmen considered “Marching to bed rooms” as a “big shame” and socially and unacceptable by Yemenis and their norms and traditions.
Although the talks seemed to be stopped, and the two sides are betting only on the streets, sources from both sides and from western diplomats, confirmed Tuesday that talks are going on for finding out a safe and honored exit for President Saleh and a way to transfer the power from Saleh peacefully and smoothly.
“These conflicting statements are just kind of maneuvering from both sides, to reach reasonable and acceptable deal,” one of the sources said on Tuesday.
The fate of Saleh and his sons and nephews after handing over the power is the most difficult and controversial point. Saleh wants concrete guarantees he would not be sued by anybody after stepping down.
“No one would hand himself over to be hanged,” Saleh said in a meeting held Sunday by the permanent committee, the highest authority of his party.
Saleh asked the leaders of his party to stop making statements to media and writing proposals to him and go to their people in their areas all over Yemen and help security and army forces in maintaining the security and stability.
“You are the legitimate majority, and you should show it to the world, and should go to your people in your areas,” Saleh said.
The President Saleh is still receiving an international and regional support. The United States is very interested in finding out a peaceful and smooth transfer of the power.
The Defense Secretary Robert Gates said earlier this week, US would be facing additional challenges if the current regime collapses in Yemen where Al Qaeda is getting stronger and stronger.
The Secretary general of the Gulf operation Council Abdul Rehman Al Atyah, and Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference, Ikmal Al Deen Ogli, said in a joint statement in the Saudi capital on Monday, that they support security and stability of Yemen and respect the choice of Yemeni people for avoiding any bloody conflict.
The young people and opposition leaders who protest in the streets demanding the ouster of Saleh, are waiting for a clear-cut position towards President Saleh from US.
The opposition leader Mohammed Al Sabri accused Tuesday the US Defense Ministry of colluding with Saleh.
And the young people demanded, in a statement, the US administration, to declare its position about the ouster of Saleh.
Undoubtedly, Al Qaeda is making advantages of the worsening situation in Yemen.
The four provinces where Al Qaeda is believed to be hiding and strengthening, Abyan, Shabwa in the south, and Mareb and Al Jawf, in the north east, have become almost out of the control of the central government in Sana’a.
For instance, it’s only the tribesmen who run their affairs in Al Jawf after the governor and military and security commanders quit and returned to Sana’a earlier this month.
To add injury to insult, Sa’ada in the north became under full control of the Shiite rebels of Al Houthi after the governor also returned to Sana’a earlier this month.
The Sa’ada people and Al Houthi rebels agreed to let the opposition leader, Fares Mana’a to act as a governor. The businessman Man’a is the Yemen’s most famous weapons trader.
The governors of Mareb, Shabwa, and Abyan have not quitted yet.