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(FOR THE YEMEN POST)
Article Date: January 05, 2009
Yemen has a strategic location; however, there has been constant increase of weakness points and waste of strength factors. The strategic location is connected with the interests of regional and international powers. What happens nowadays is a clear manifestation of the feverish conflict between these countries over the Yemeni field.
The authority has turned to be diplomatically active and through different manifestations:
- President Saleh made two telephone calls with Libyan President Col. Mu'amar Al-Qadhafi and Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz.
- Sending Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security Affairs Rashad Al-Alimi to Saudi Arabia.
- Sending Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi to Oman
- Sending Col. Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, Commander of the Republican Guards, to the United Arab Emirates.
At the present time, there are four main players in the Yemeni field: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya and Qatar and these contesting parties have different goals to achieve.
Data and Surrounding Circumstances
1- Al-Qadhafi was called after the official announcement that the Yemeni Ambassador to Libya has sought the Political Refugee status.
2- Sending Al-Alimi to Saudi Arabia came after the opponent Mohammed Ali Ahmed, who resides in London, had announced that President Saleh named certain strategic places to be attacked by missiles in 1990.
3- There is a Libyan-Saudi race over the Yemeni field, which is considered the southern backyard of Saudi Arabia (this is not a demeaning expression, because each country will have the other country as its backyard). When Al-Qadhafi is incapable to harm the kingdom directly, he thinks that Yemen could provide him with the right conditions to exercise pressure and cause concern for the Saudi regime.
4- Yemeni affairs draw special interest from the Kingdom; however, its behavior towards what happens in Yemen, and at the level of the bilateral relations, does not demonstrate a strategic vision. The kingdom seeks only to expand geographically and it provides financial aids to buy the loyalty of some sheikhs and officials.
Making Deputy Prime Minister hints that:
1- There is an attempt to contain the negative effects for the talk of Mohammed Ali Ahmed regarding missiles story.
2- The matter could be an attempt by the President to mediate between Libya and Saudi Arabia, perhaps after the authority has noticed the negative effects resulting from the struggle and rivalry over the Yemeni field. It could be thought as a try to move abroad under the slogan of initiatives which make the authority feel that it is doing something at the level of foreign affairs especially when it is accompanied by media fuss.
Oman is considered a regional center for Britain as the latter maintains good relations with the former. Yemeni-Omani relations are somewhat frozen and there is no progress in the Yemeni-Omani bilateral relations. There has been no clear purpose for the visit paid by the British Foreign Minister to Oman. The talks might have addressed the problems of piracy and smuggling.
The visit paid by Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh to Emirates comes within the attempt to keep the monopoly of power and to continue the hereditary rule. Ahmed's relations are confined to neighboring countries with family-ruling systems. He was also sent to Jordan, Syria – the first country to have a republican kingdom – and Egypt which orbits in the same track. There is nothing distinct about the Yemeni-Emirate bilateral relation save the prerogatives granted to Dubai to administer Aden Terminal Port.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a true state and it is almost the only state in the Middle East – in addition to Israel and Turkey – which can be called states in the true sense. The Arab world has no countries to which the qualifications of a true state applies, including Egypt which was qualified to be so in the past. Iran has different reasons to seek existence in Yemen. Some of these reasons are basically political and relate to the Iranian state. Others are linked with the strategic location of Yemen.
Iran has a project and has long-term strategic plans to be achieved, among which are the ambitions to dominate the whole area and rival superpowers over this dominance.
There is also a historical dimension resting on reviving the Persian Empire – which was the arch foe of the western Rome. Moreover, there is a historical link between Yemen and Iran as the former was part of the Persian Empire until the coming of Islam when the last Persian ruler Bathan embraced Islam.
Iran has so far succeeded to do away with the historical differences between the Imamate and Zaidi doctrines and it has sought to unite the Shiite efforts under one project, especially after Iran held a conference in Tehran to unite all the Shiite sects including Sectarian (Manatiqia), Ismailia and Nusiriah.
Further, Iran has made relations with groups and individuals in Yemen. It has also granted scholarships for Yemeni students and contacted educated people to work within the Iranian Shiite Project.
Houthism is a manifestation of this Iranian project and it has flourished under the absence of a powerful Yemeni state and the existence of the authority that helps hopefuls and ambitious individuals to ascend. Anyone who thinks that Iran has a neutral stance of the conflict between the Army and Houthis is mistaken. Once it is neutral, it will not be qualified to build a project, so it is obvious that Iran deals with Houthis and provides them with military training and financial support.
Houthism also provides Iran the chance to pressurize the Wihabi Saudi Arabia and the presence of Iran in Yemen has helped it to have a real dominance in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan. However, one of the most important factors that helped Iran implement its project is the big vacuum in the Arab world in general and Yemen in particular.
Though it is a small country, Qatar has played major roles, which, sometimes, surpasses the roles of bigger countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Qatar has many cultural and scientific projects like Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel – one of the biggest media projects in the region. The country also plays with caution and prudence and follows a unique policy that goes past mine fields. It has so far achieved several achievements including reconciliation between Sudan and Eritrea, the Government of Sudan and the Movement of Eastern Sudan. It also worked for resolving the Somali and Darfur crises and has good relations with Hamas.
In the Yemeni context, Qatar entered the conflict line and mediated for ending the war. It seduced both warring parties by showing readiness to bear all expenses of war and reconstruction and compensation operation. This role by Qatar is prompted by the fact the Emir has family roots in Wailah Tribe in Sa'ada, as claimed by some historians. The Qatari government is serious about assisting Yemen; however, it has never found a responsible ambitious government and this prompts them to look for hazy projects including a tourist project that costs $600 million despite the fact that priorities could go to other projects including monuments discovery.
Qatar's relations with Iran
The Qatari government tries to neutralize the role of Iran and it works towards removing the enmity. It has distinct relations with the Iranians and this invited the Qatari Emir to call Iranian President to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council's Doha Summit. It has good relations with Hezbollah and contributed to resolving the Lebanese crisis. In sum, Qatar is among the key and active players in the Yemeni field and it plays roles that, sometimes, meet the Iranian ends or roles which are private to Qatar.
International conflict and cooperation
There are common interests between Europe and America as well as differences in vision and priorities that do not oppose these common interests; however, they affect the Third World countries.
At the present time, there is a feverish race between three superpowers; respectively, America, Britain and France. There are also secondary players like Germany and Spain. The United States has sought to play an active role in Yemen since the early 1990s, particularly when Yemen's importance doubled with the Unity on May 22, 1990.
America had an active presence during the Yemeni crisis 1993-1994 and its Ambassador Arthur Huz attended several activities and meetings to resolve the crisis. It also participated in the military committees during the crisis and it had details about the divided Yemeni Army.
Since 1998, America has kept an intensive intelligence presence and the American military existence became more intensive following the attack that targeted the USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden in September 2001. Americans see Yemen to be an important country, mainly because of its strategic location that allows them to protect their interest in the Arab Gulf, as stated by Ambassador David Newton (95-96). "Energy is key controller of our foreign policy," said General Anthony Zinni in 1998.
The British policy follows a carefully-planned strategy. Britain, when the south Yemen was under occupation, had worked for earning the occupied areas special marks that is different from other parts of the country. It set up different entities under the name "South Arab Union".
Through the program "Between the Enquirer and Replier" telecasted by the Arabic section of BBC, there had always been one answer to all questions, though different answers were provided, which states that there could not be a unity between south and north because of geographic features and religious backgrounds and ruling systems.
On July 8, 1994, a British newspaper came up with analyses stating that the south will never be governed by the Sana'a regime and noted that there is no common factor and that unity is artificial and imposed by force.
Britain has kept its wishes in Aden and other southern provinces through sending different commercial and scientific delegations. It has connections with those who were enrolled in the Southern Arab Union Army and it pays them pensions. It also seeks to make them work in what is known as Piracy Combating.
British reports about the situation in Yemen always warn against the possible collapse of the state and this is associated with an intensive military presence in Aden specifically and regional water in general.
Britain also accommodates dozens of Yemeni elements belonging to Southern and Eastern provinces under the political refugees and residence status. Erecting a statue for Queen Elizabeth, meant to signify the intimate and special relations, seeks to remind people of the British existence. All these pointers clearly indicate that Britain aspires to return to Aden.Some commercial British delegations advised the Yemeni government in 1996 to give special status, laws and system for Aden to get away from government and chaos. Undoubtedly, Britain feels that the Yemeni government does not deserve Aden.