Al-Qaeda in Yemen has not been held responsible for the death of even one American for the past five years, yet the US continues to play the al-Qaeda card and provide the country’s regime with military aid.
In an interview with Press TV, Ali al-Ahmed, director of Intitute (Persian) Gulf Affairs (IGA) in Washington, shares his views on US military aid to Yemen, the exaggerated al-Qaeda connection, and optimal outcomes. The following is a transcript of the interview.
Press TV: What is your reaction toward the Pentagon state secretary saying there is no decision yet in stopping military aid to Yemen and of the US assertion that US weapons are not being used against demonstrators?
They have been used; it is not honest to say that they have not. We know that (there are) special units the US and CIA have been training; perhaps they have not directly taken part in the shooting and killing of demonstrators personally. However, they have displaced other forces, meaning that they freed other forces to do that. There is a direct link between US aid to Yemen and the killings of hundreds of demonstrators.
Press TV: Yemen is a very divided society as you and other analysts have mentioned previously; however, a lot of Yemenis have united for this revolution. Was the US essentially pressed in a corner – not having a choice, but to continue to provide military aid to Yemen?
No I don’t believe that. Saleh is sustaining al-Qaeda to use it as a bargaining chip with Saudi Arabia and the US. Once Saleh is outside of the palace, al-Qaeda’s threats will diminish greatly and the US knows this very well; however, they have not called on Abdullah Saleh to resign until recently, for which they want a transfer of power.
Focusing on supporting the people is going to be the best way for the US to diminish the threat of al-Qaeda – supporting these demonstrators. And instead of sending weapons they should send humanitarian aid. They should allow the people to govern their own country in reflection of what the people want, which is not dictatorship. That is the best tool to fight terrorism.
Press TV: What about US negotiations with the opposition?- There is a story that Riyadh may be getting involved in hosting negotiations of some sort. Do you see potential for success through these negotiations? Or is it simply too late for Saleh?
I think it is too late for Saleh to be part of any future plans for Yemen. I am worried and wary of any Saudi role in Yemen because so far, history has proven that Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen has been a negative one. They have supported violence and bombed the country as everybody knows. So they are not a neutral player here. I think other countries, like Egypt, Syria – or Qatar even – would be a better choice.
It is a question that I’ve always asked – the US has been able to bring in coalitions to wage wars and they have not worked to building any coalition to mediate peace between Arab countries with Arab and Muslim majority populations. And that is disturbing.
The US could get a lot accomplished in terms of winning hearts and minds by becoming the peacemaker in Yemen and the other countries in the region. Instead of sending weapons, they could be sending in a delegation with authority, who would mediate between the enemies in the role of a broker just like they did when they mediated the treaty between Egypt and Israel, which was led by Jimmy Carter. Why not mediate between the enemies so that we can have a government that is responsible for the wishes of its people (and) not to the whim of a dictator and his family?
Press TV: Why are the US and a coalition involved now in Libya, but not in Yemen? All this talk about the al-Qaeda bogeyman in Yemen; certainly the al-Qaeda factor is considered highly important to the US, isn’t it?
Well, there is a threat of al-Qaeda in Yemen, but I think it has been exaggerated tremendously and so far, al-Qaeda in Yemen has not been able to kill a single American in the past five years so we are not really talking about something that is of catastrophic importance.
In Yemen we don’t need to have war. What you need is to apply political pressure on Yemeni parties to come and speak to each other to collaborate in building a government that is modern and responsible to its citizens. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do that and it would definitely be cheaper than dropping bombs on people like what happened last year in Yemen or what is happening now in Libya.
So there is a cheaper alternative with a much more positive outcome for the US. Rather than flying military jets, the US could be flying in peace envoys to bring the parties together and Yemenis would be shy and embarrassed by the fact that there is an American trying to get them to talk to each other to make peace for them. This is a far better position for the US.
Press TV: You speak of peace envoys being a better choice for the US in Yemen…
It revolves around a Saudi connection. John Brennan in the White House is the American architect of US foreign policy in Yemen and was the former CIA chief in Saudi Arabia so he is influenced by the desires of the Saudi monarchy. He is why we see the Yemen situation getting worse; an American official designing US policy heavily tied to Saudi wishes. His policy is solely been to support Abdullah Saleh and that’s all – he should be removed.
The solution is to talk to every party and they are not weak. In fact, Saleh is one of the weaker players. US policy right now is a failure.