Saleh to Participate in Yemen Dialogue, Prompting Boycotts
A series of suspected drone strikes underscored a tense week in Yemen as various factions threatened to pull out of the upcoming National Dialogue and three kidnapped European tourists remained in captivity. The ruling General People’s Congress party (GPC) announced on Monday that former president Ali Abdullah Saleh will lead the GPC delegation in the National Dialogue, which is expected to commence in January following months of delays. Saleh agreed to step down as president late last year and formally transferred power to his Vice President, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, in February, but Saleh retained his leadership role in the GPC and will participate in the Dialogue in that capacity, according to Saleh’s assistant Ahmed al-Sufi. The broad coalition of opposition parties known as the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) immediately rejected Saleh’s participation and threatened to boycott the Dialogue if the former president attends.
The Houthis, a key group of Zaydi Shi’as who were allocated 85 seats in the National Dialogue, also reportedly announced their intention to pull out of the reconciliation conference due to insufficient security sector reform and the continued participation of Saleh-era officials in the current government. Writing in Al-Masdar, Sami Na’man noted that the Houthis continue to see injustice and conspiracies behind the government’s plans, including President Hadi’s recent decrees aimed at restructuring the military. The Houthis believe that the American government, and U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald M. Feierstein in particular, dictated Hadi’s decrees in order to increase American influence in Yemen, Na’man writes. In related news, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula today put large bounties on the lives of Feierstein or any U.S. soldiers in Yemen.
Although the military reform plan was generally heralded as a significant step in the right direction by other Yemeni and international commentators, significant questions about the details of the overhaul have yet to be answered. Most importantly, the fate of influential generals Ahmed Ali Saleh and Ali Muhsen al-Ahmar is unknown, although both are rumored to be slated to take control of new military districts in six months when the decrees are expected to take effect. Tens of thousands of Yemenis reportedly took to the streets in Taiz following Friday prayers to demand immediate implementation of the military decrees and further revolutionary reforms, while in Sana’a, the teacher and preacher Abdel Wahad al-Najar denounced sectarianism and advocated peaceful participation in the National Dialogue for all youth and regional groups.