APRIL 28 2011 ~ Year of the Dupe: Yemen ~ Yemen Updates: 28 April 2015
APRIL 28, 2011
Hueys Over Yemen
by NICK TURSE
In recent weeks, Yemeni protesters calling for an immediate end to the 32-year reign of U.S.-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh have been met with increasing violence at the hands of state security forces. A recent pledge by Saleh to step down, one of many that haven’t met demonstrators’ demands, has yet to halt the protests or violence by the troops backing his regime. During a demonstration earlier this month in the city of Taiz, protesters marching down a central street were confronted by security forces and Saleh supporters, while government helicopters flew overhead. “The thugs and the security forces fired on us with live gunfire,” Mahmud al-Shaobi, one of the protesters told the New York Times. “Many people were shot.”
In the days since, more demonstrators have been attacked by government forces — with the death toll now estimated to exceed 130. Witnesses have also been reporting the increased use of military helicopters in the crackdown. Some of those aircraft may be recent additions to Saleh’s arsenal, provided courtesy of the Obama administration as part of an $83-million military aviation aid package.
Since the beginning of 2011, under a program run by the U.S. Department of Defense, the United States has overseen the delivery of several new Bell UH-1Hs, or “Huey II” helicopters, current models of the iconic Huey that served as America’s primary gunship and troop transport during the Vietnam War. Although these helicopters are only the latest additions to a sizeable arsenal that the Pentagon has provided to Yemen in recent years, they call attention to how U.S. weapons and assistance support regimes actively suppressing democratic uprisings across the Middle East.
Last December, 26-year-old Tunisian fruit-seller Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of a local municipal office, touching off popular protests that continue to sweep across the Middle East and North Africa. By the end of January 2011, the country’s U.S.-backed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had fled and demonstrations, which would eventually also topple corrupt autocrat and long-time U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, had broken out in Egypt. In Yemen, as is the case elsewhere in the region, anger at government corruption, rampant poverty (40% of all Yemenis live on less than $2 a day), high unemployment (also running at 40%), and decades of harsh rule by an authoritarian strongman brought tens of thousands into the streets.
In January, as freedom struggles were spreading across the region, President Barack Obama publicly avowed support for “certain core values that we believe in as Americans[,] that we believe are universal: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, people being able to use social networking or any other mechanisms to communicate with each other and express their concerns.” Just days earlier, however, his government had transferred military equipment to the security forces of Yemen’s so-called president for life.
Under the terms of a $27 million contract between the Pentagon and Bell Helicopter, Yemen received four Huey IIs. Prior to this, 12 Yemeni Air Force pilots and 20 maintenance personnel were trained to fly and service the aircraft at Bell’s flight instruction facility in Alliance, Texas. “The swift execution of the Yemen Huey II program demonstrates that the military departments — in this case the U.S. Army — can quickly deliver defense articles and services to U.S. partners with the cooperation of U.S. industry,” said Brandon Denecke of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the branch of the Pentagon that coordinates sales and transfers of military equipment to allies.
The recent helicopter deal is just the latest example of Pentagon support for the forces of the Yemeni dictator through its so-called “1206 program,” a Congressionally-authorized arrangement that “allows the executive branch to rapidly provide foreign partners with military equipment and training…” Named for section 1206 of the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, the program allows the Pentagon to enhance the capabilities of foreign military forces for “counterterrorism and stability operations.”
Since 2006, more than $1.3 billion worth of equipment has been allocated under the 1206 program and Yemen has been the largest recipient worldwide, benefitting from about one-fifth of the funding or approximately $253 million through 2010. This assistance, according to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, has provided Yemeni security forces with light airplanes, helicopters, small arms, ammunition, light tactical vehicles, trucks, radios, surveillance cameras, computers, body armor, patrol boats, and helicopter parts, among other materiel.
Since 2000, the Pentagon has also transferred weapons and equipment directly from U.S. stockpiles to Yemen’s security forces. These items include armored personnel carriers, M-60 machine guns, 2.5-ton military trucks, radios, and motorboats, according to an analysis of Defense Department documents by TomDispatch. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency did not respond to repeated requests for further information.
All told, over the past five years, the U.S. has provided more than $300 million in aid to Yemen’s security forces, with the dollars escalating precipitously under the Obama administration. In 2008, under President George W. Bush, Yemen received $17.2 million in baseline military assistance (which does not include counterterrorism or humanitarian funding). In 2010, that number had risen to $72.3 million while, overall, Yemen received $155.3 million in U.S. aid that year, including a “$34.5 million special operations force counterterrorism enhancement package.” These funds have provided Yemen’s security forces with helicopters, Humvees, weapons, ammunition, radio systems, and night-vision goggles.
Additionally, U.S. special operations troops (along with British and Saudi military personnel) have been supporting, advising, and conducting training missions with some of Yemen’s elite forces — including the Republican Guard, Special Operations Forces, and the National Security Bureau — which are commanded and staffed by Saleh’s sons and other close relatives.
As his part of the bargain, Saleh allowed the U.S. to launch missile strikes against suspected al-Qaeda camps in Yemen while instructing his government to take credit for the attacks (for fear that if their American origins were made clear, there might be an anti-American backlash in Yemen and the larger Arab world), according to classified State Department documents released last year by the whistleblower group Wikileaks. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh told then-CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus following strikes in December 2009.
The Yemeni government also came up with a cover story for, and even excused, the deaths of civilians in those strikes. Rashad al-Alimi, a deputy prime minister, claimed that the Yemeni citizens killed in an attack were “acting in collusion with the terrorists and benefiting financially” when, in reality, they were likely Bedouin families involved in little more than peddling food.
Not So Tough Talk
As Yemen’s security forces have escalated their violence against demonstrators this spring, the Obama administration has offered mixed signals regarding Saleh, but has yet to issue an outright condemnation of the dictator, no less sever ties with a leader seen as crucial to the fight against al-Qaeda. “We have had a good working relationship with President Saleh. He’s been an important ally in the counterterrorism arena,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on March 23rd. “But clearly, there’s a lot of unhappiness inside Yemen. And I think we will basically just continue to watch the situation. We haven’t done any post-Saleh planning, if you will.”
On April 5th, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney came out more forcefully. “The United States strongly condemns the use of violence by Yemeni government forces against demonstrators in Sanaa, Taiz, and Hodeida in the past several days,” he said. “The Yemeni people have a right to demonstrate peacefully, and we remind President Ali Abdullah Saleh of his responsibility to ensure the safety and security of Yemenis who are exercising their universal right to engage in political expression. “
That same day, however, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was more equivocal, justifying enduring U.S. support for Yemen’s strongman as a “prudent course of action,” while including the protestors as the equals of the security forces in his condemnation of the use of force: “The protests, the demonstrations need to be nonviolent. Obviously, the government needs to respond to them in a nonviolent manner. So we are — we condemn the violence all around.”
Morrell also sought to distance the Pentagon’s aid for the country’s security forces from the violence being meted out in Yemen’s streets. He told reporters, “To suggest that the aid to Yemen has somehow been used against protesters I think is a leap of faith for which there is no evidence to support.” Recent reports, however, suggest that Yemen’s elite U.S.-trained counterterrorism troops have now been deployed in the capital, Sanaa, to deal with the massive ongoing protests.
Late last year, the Pentagon floated a new proposal to pump up to $1.2 billion more into Yemen’s security forces over the next five years. However, with protesters in the streets week after week in vast numbers and significant elements of the military defecting from the regime, the Obama administration failed to write Saleh a check and began quietly urging him, through back-channel communications, to hand over power — assumedly to a successor likely to favor U.S. interests.
Finally, on April 23rd, after Saleh seemingly agreed to an arrangement brokered by Arab mediators that would grant immunity from prosecution to his family and him, and eventually shift power to his deputy for an interim period, the Obama administration threw its support behind the plan. A spokesman characterized it as “responsive to the aspirations of the Yemeni people.” Not only have many opposition protesters rejected the deal, while Saleh’s troops continue to attack them, but the dictator has slowly backed away from it as well.
And yet, despite weeks of violence that have left hundreds dead or wounded, President Obama has yet to publicly and unequivocally call for Saleh to step down as he did, albeit belatedly, with former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and, more recently, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Sending a Message
Earlier this month, Tawakul Karman, a Yemeni human rights activist and antigovernment protest leader, told the New York Times of her anger at Obama for his failure to issue such a call. ”We feel that we have been betrayed,” she said. Hamza Alkamaly, another prominent youth leader, echoed the same sentiments: ”We students lost our trust in the United States.”
After watching two allied autocrats fall in Tunisia and Egypt, the United States has focused on its periodic enemy, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, in Libya and has done little of substance to advocate for, let alone facilitate, demands for democracy and social change by protesters in allied states that are more integral to its military plans in the region, including Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Instead, Washington has continued to support repressive governments to which it has provided training, weapons, and other military equipment that has already been used or could be used to suppress grassroots democratic movements.
In the case of Bahrain, the U.S. has provided millions of rounds of live ammunition, helicopters, and tanks. For Saudi Arabia, it was a weapons deal worth tens of billions of dollars that will have Saudi pilots training in the U.S. In Iraq, the U.S. is aiding the very units of the security forces implicated in crackdowns on the free press. And these are only a few examples of recent U.S. efforts in the Middle East.
A survey of Yemeni adults conducted in January and February by the U.S.-based polling firm Glevum Associates found exceptional hostility to the United States. Ninety-nine percent of those surveyed viewed the U.S. government’s relations with the Islamic world unfavorably, 82% considered U.S. military influence in the world “somewhat bad” or “bad,” 66% believed that the U.S. hardly ever or never took into account the interests of countries like Yemen, and just 4% “somewhat” or “strongly approved” of President Saleh’s cooperation with the United States.
The numbers could hardly get more dismal, but anger and resentment can deepen and become even more entrenched. When protesters look to the skies over Sanaa in the days and weeks ahead, they may notice new American-made, U.S. taxpayer-financed helicopters hovering above them. Unless the Hueys are seen ferrying the dictator away in a scene reminiscent of Saigon in 1975, Yemenis — more than two-thirds under the age of 24 — are likely to remember for a very long time which side the United States took in their freedom struggle.
NICK TURSE is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com, where this article originally appeared. His latest book, The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books), which brings together leading analysts from across the political spectrum, has just gone into its second printing. Turse is currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. His website is NickTurse.com.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Amid constant shelling by the Saudi-led coalition, Yemen is struggling to import even essentials such as food and water, with a UN-imposed arms blockade on the country interrupting any aid deliveries. Around 10 vessels containing food supplies for Yemen are still waiting to enter the country’s ports, as Saudis refuse to allow any international vessels to dock in the areas.
28 April 2015 22:49
Where is Arab bravery, heroism when Palestine suffers? A beautiful three-minute video clip exposing Saudi Arabia and other Arab leaders’ duplicity on the issue of Palestine!! All Palestinians and supporters of the Palestine cause must watch!! http://www.islamicinvitationturkey.com/video/hazm.mp4
28 April 2015 21:30
The Yemeni people react to Saudi destruction in their country with hatred towards the invader, as according to a report by Yemen’s Freedom House Foundation, airstrikes have killed 3,512 Yemeni people, including 492 children and 209 women, and injured 6,189 people, including 978 children and 713 women, since the beginning of the aggression until April 25.
28 April 2015 21:29
Amid constant shelling by the Saudi-led coalition, Yemen is struggling to import even essentials such as food and water, with a UN-imposed arms blockade on the country interrupting any aid deliveries. Around 10 vessels containing food supplies for Yemen are still waiting to enter the country’s ports, as Saudis refuse to allow any international vessels to dock in the areas….
28 April 2015 21:26
Sunni cleric in Kurdistan condemned Saudi invasion on Yemen and stressed immediate measures should be taken against these attacks. Sunni cleric in Kurdistan, Mamousta Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini in an exclusive interview with Taqrib News Agency (TNA) condemned Saudi invasion on Yemen, stressing immediate measures should be taken against these attacks. “Unity and rapprochement among religious denominations an sects was the secret…
28 April 2015 21:22
The globally renowned Commander of Iran’s IRGC Quds Force, Major General Qassem Soleimani, said Saudi Arabia has made a grave mistake by attacking Yemen because it will earn nothing from the aggression. The IRGC Quds Force Commander made the remarks addressing a meeting of lawmakers in Tehran on Tuesday, one of the MPs present in the meeting told FNA. “During the parliament…
28 April 2015 21:17
A Yemeni security official declared on Tuesday that the country’s army and popular forces are moving towards the border with Saudi Arabia in order to “suppress the Saudi aggression”. Abdul Sattar Monem al-Bashiri, a Yemeni security official, told FNA that the popular committees and the Yemeni army are moving towards the Saudi border region of Najran in order to suppress the…
28 April 2015 21:03
The number of people displaced by violence across Yemen has exceeded 300,000, a United Nations agency has said, as an ongoing aggression by Saudi Arabia keeps inflicting heavy losses on the impoverished country. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday that the number of displaced people in Yemen has nearly increased two-fold compared to figures announced around…
28 April 2015 21:01
Jets of Zionist Saudi America and puppet coalition, the enemies of Islam, targeted Hijja’s Hared countryside, martyred 2 women and wounded 4 civilians.
28 April 2015 20:39
An Iranian cargo plane carrying medical aid and foodstuff for crisis-hit people in Yemen has been forced to return as enemy of Islam Saudi America pushes ahead with its deadly airstrikes against the Arab state, Press TV reports. Press TV has learned that the Iranian aircraft, which had earlier received permits from Omani and Yemeni aviation officials to cross into Yemen’s…
28 April 2015 20:29
According to Al Mayaden, Yemeni Hamdan Tribe trapped Zionist Saudi patrol car, killed many Saudi soldiers.
28 April 2015 20:26
Video Shows Hot Moments at Saudi and Yemen Border http://www.islamidavet.tv/2015/04/28042015/gece-catisma.mp4
28 April 2015 19:20
The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) says the Al Saud regime has resorted to the West’s already failed policies in the Middle East as Riyadh presses ahead with its military aggression against Yemen. The remarks by Ali Shamkhani came on Tuesday after al-Masirah TV showed Yemeni people holding leaflets dropped by the Saudi bombers on which it was…
28 April 2015 13:21
Senior member of Yemen’s Ansarullah Movement Mohammad Al-Bokhaiti rejected the conditions set by fugitive Yemeni President Mansour Hadi for the resumption of peace talks. Al-Bokhaiti’s remarks came in reaction to the recent statements of fugitive Yemeni foreign minister Riyadh Yassin who proposed new conditions for peace talks in Yemen. “No one from the camp of the fugitive and ousted Yemeni president (Mansour…
28 April 2015 13:19
Saudi-led coalition conducted fresh air strikes on Khormaksar district in the Yemeni city of Aden on Tuesday despite its declared truce. Reports said the Saudi fighter jets hit Aden’s Khormaksar district on Tuesday. No immediate reports of casualties are available yet. Earlier Tuesday, At least 5 people were killed in the Saudi airstrikes on residential areas near al-Maashiq presidential palace in Aden. Saudi…
28 April 2015 13:15
The Wahhabi Saudi regime, the main supporter of ISIL, targeted Yemen’s historical monuments in its air strikes on the impoverished nation as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Takfiri terrorist group has done in Syria and Iraq. Among the most prominent historical monuments that the Saudi-led air strikes targeted are: 1. The mosque and the shrine of the orator…
28 April 2015 13:02
The war in Yemen is not going to end because any of the participants are short of weaponry. Yemeni politics is notoriously complicated and exotic, with shifting alliances in which former enemies embrace and old friends make strenuous efforts to kill each other. But this exoticism does not mean that the war in Yemen, where the Saudis started bombing on 26…
28 April 2015 12:47
A Saudi soldier has been killed and another wounded in a gunfight along the kingdom’s southern border with Yemen, a security source in Riyadh says. The official who spoke on condition of anonymity on Tuesday, however, did not give further details about where or when the shootout took place. This is the eighth Saudi soldier killed along the border with Yemen…
28 April 2015 10:22
Press TV has interviewed Hafsa Kara-Mustapha, a journalist and political analyst, in London, and Hamza al-Kamali, a former member of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference and political activist, in Cairo, to discuss Saudi Arabia’s attempts to destroy chances of finding a peaceful solution in Yemen. Kara-Mustapha says the Saudis intend to continue the destruction of Yemen and stall any peaceful resolution of…
28 April 2015 9:54
Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen continues as warplanes pound residential areas in the impoverished Arab country. In the latest airstrikes, which occurred sometime between late Monday and early Tuesday, one civilian was killed and several others were injured in the Sawfan neighborhood of capital Sana’a. Saudi jets also carried out raids on civilian targets in the southwestern Lahij province and the…
28 April 2015 0:05