Saleh back to the fore
As intense Yemeni-US attacks on Al-Qaeda continue, former president Saleh appears to be regaining popular support, writes Nasser Arrabyee
Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh is still plying politics, with millions of supporters around him.
On Monday morning, 3 September, he was driving in the middle of capital, Sanaa, with hundreds of bodyguards and loyal politicians on their way to the country's biggest conference hosting location.
Thousands of men and women and children were carrying his picture and chanting, cheering and trying to get closer to his car when the procession arrived outside the Stadium of 22 May in the northern part of Sanaa.
More than 10,000 members of Saleh's party, the People's General Congress (PGC), and guest politicians and diplomats were waiting inside to start a well-prepared ceremony to celebrate the 30th anniversary of PGC that was founded by Saleh in 1982.
In a lengthy speech being aired live on three TV channels and FM radio owned by members of the PGC, Saleh urged his supporters to stand and cooperate with his successor, newly elected President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, in coming national dialogue in November.
Although President Hadi is the secretary-general and deputy chairman of the PGC, with Saleh still the head, he did not attend the ceremony Monday in an effort to show neutrality.
Saleh strongly criticised the national unity government that is chaired by his opponents (a coalition of Islamists, socialists, and Nasserites) who were behind the 2011 uprising against him.
Although Saleh's party has 17 ministers in the 34-member cabinet, he described the government as "failed and incapable".
Saleh added that the government keeps displacing its failure upon him. "Even if a storm happens in the United States, they will say Saleh did it," he said as his supporters applauded and cheered.
"What did you do to those who bombed the oil and gas, and those who blocked the roads and those who sabotaged the electricity towers? Did you put them on trial?" Saleh, who now plays the role of the figurehead of opposition, asked the government.
The Saudi capital Riyadh is hosting this week (starting Tuesday, 4 September) a conference for donors to Yemen, who include Gulf countries, Europeans, the Americans, and other countries. Yemen needs more than $10 billion to fix the economic problems it is facing during the transitional period.
Saleh thanked particularly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait for their support for Yemen. Ironically, he thanked Qatar for "pumping" dollars to his opponents during the protests of last year.
The UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Bin Omar, is meanwhile scheduled to arrive in Sanaa Thursday, 6 September, to continue helping the conflicting parties implement the Saudi-sponsored and US-backed deal that is supposed to entirely end the country's political crisis by conducting presidential elections in February 2014.
The success of the national dialogue in November will be the most important step of all steps taken so far since the deal was signed by Saleh and his opponents in Riyadh in November 2011.
WAR ON AL-QAEDA: The war on Al-Qaeda conducted by the Yemeni army and US drones is continuing. Al-Qaeda is still exploiting the current chaos and the mistakes of the Yemeni and American governments to recruit more and more angry youth.
On Sunday, a US drone attack missed an Al-Qaeda leader and mistakenly killed more than 12 people in Radaa, one of the strongholds in the southeast of the country.
The drone, seemingly, was targeting the car of Abdel-Raof Al-Dhahab, but its missile hit a car carrying 12 people including three from one family -- a father, mother and daughter -- according to local residents. The two cars were driving in Al-Hema area in Al-Masaneh, the main stronghold of Al-Qaeda in Radaa.
Khaled Musalam Batis, another Al-Qaeda leader, was killed by a US drone attack last Friday in the area of Hawrah in Al-Kutn district of the eastern province of Hudhrmout, according to official statements.
Khaled was killed with eight other operatives while driving their cars. He was the brother of Salah Musalam Batis, a leading member of the Islamist party, Islah (the Yemeni Brotherhood), in Hudhrmout. The Batis family identified their son from among the dead bodies found under the wreckage of the car that was hit by a missile.
A group of clerics said the US drone attacks would turn Yemen to another Waziristan after an anti-Al-Qaeda cleric was mistakenly killed in a drone attack, sparking outrage among the people.
The group to which he belonged, calling themselves the Union of Southern Clerics, said in a statement sent to media that "the drone attacks are violating [Yemeni] sovereignty and [are a] flagrant aggression."
A total of eight Al-Qaeda operatives were killed when an airstrike hit two cars in the area of Al-Khashaa, 40 kilometres west of Al-Kutn in the eastern province of Hudhrmout, according to the government-run media.
Local residents believe that all the air attacks are implemented by US drones, not by Yemeni fighter jets, their evidence being the accuracy of the attacks.
The clerics, in their statement, said one of them was killed in a recent attack when a US drone killed four Al-Qaeda operatives who were in a meeting with the cleric.
The cleric, Salem Ahmed Ali Jaber, was a teacher and mosque speaker in Al-Kutn. Jaber is Salafi and studied in the main Salafi centre of Saada. He was outspoken against Al-Qaeda. In recent sermons he said Al-Qaeda is against Islam.
According to local sources, Al-Qaeda sent last week four operatives to the cleric to redress him and while the five were in the meeting a US drone came and killed them all in the area of Al-Khshamer in Al-Kutn.
The Yemeni army in cooperation with US drones intensified attacks on Al-Qaeda operatives who try to regroup in new places after they were driven out from Zinjubar and Jaar and Azzan in June.
Sources said that Yemeni troops are being redeployed in areas close to the mountains of Marakish of Abyan in clear preparation for an attack on the newly established stronghold of Al-Mahfad where Al Qaeda train their fighters.
Earlier in the week, Al-Qaeda threatened to bomb oil and gas installations in the south if the army attacked them in Al-Mahfad, an area between Shabwa and Abyan.