Posts tagged ‘Yemen’

08/26/2011

North Africa/Mideast: More Rulers To Go

Now that Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, have thrown out their dictators, who is next? The answer is: any leader who has been in office for more than 10 years should be packing his bags, and the most senior among them should be getting on the bus first.

YEMEN: Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 31 years, should get on board. He solidified control in 1978 by executing 30 military officers, who he believed conspired against him. He was “elected” in 1983, and every five years afterward, with such large margins, they were suspect. After the 1999 election, he extended his term from five to seven years. In 2005, he promised not run again in 2006, but did anyway, and claimed 77% of the vote. During the Arab Spring, he said he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2013, offered to resign, but then did not. After suffering wounds in a bomb blast in June 2011, he returned. Get on the bus Saleh!

SYRIA: Even though Bashar Assad has ruled Syria for only 11 years, his father controlled the country for 29 years, from 1971 through 2000, and the Assad family has had a grip over the Syrian people for 40 years. Although Bashar was “elected” in 2000 and 2007, no opposition was allowed, and his rule lacks legitimacy. The bus driver has a reserved seat with Bashar’s name on it.

SUDAN: Omar al-Bashir seized control of Sudan in a military coup in 1989. After disbanding his revolutionary council, he made himself president in 1993. He received only 75% of the vote in 1996, even though he was the only candidate on the ballot. In 2000, he won 86%, another suspicious tally. Bashir has been known to imprison political opponents. After 22 years without change, it’s time for Omar to take his bags to the bus station.

CHAD: While in Chad’s military in 1990, Idriss Deby toppled the government and made himself president in 1991. He claimed 69% of the vote in 1996, and 63% in 2001, but the electoral process was criticized by international observers. Worse yet, Deby removed a constitutional two-term limit in 2005, which allowed him to be re-elected in 2006. He took 64% of the vote in a boycotted contest. After 21 years, Deby should get on board.

While other long-term leaders in other parts of the world must also go, there is a momentum in North Africa and the Mideast that  should continue. Let’s do what we can to remove these dictators.

05/23/2011

Obama’s Historic Mideast Speech

President Obama delivered a historic speech on May 19, 2011, in which he first addressed the two wars President Bush started, by saying 100,000 troops have already returned from Iraq, and U.S. soldiers and will soon be coming home from Afghanistan.

Obama next referred to the peaceful changes in Tunisia and Egypt, during the Arab Spring, and the ongoing revolts in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. He reaffirmed U.S. support for self-determination, the freedoms of speech and religion, peaceful assembly, equality for men and women, and voting rights. He said journalists must be respected, and an open Internet access must be allowed, since legitimate democracy needs an informed citizenry.

Obama condemned Libya’s Col. Qaddafi for launching a war against his own people; advised Syria’s Assad to stop shooting at demonstrators; and asked President Saleh of Yemen to follow through on his commitment to transfer power.

While Obama reasserted a U.S. commitment to Bahraini security, he boldly admonished the royal family for using brute force, making mass arrests of Shiites, and for destroying their Mosques. He told them to release political prisoners and engage in dialogue.

Finally, Obama showed great courage, as he suggested that Israel stop building illegal settlements, and end their longstanding occupation of Palestine, by withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders.

In his historic speech, Obama lamented: “The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate…The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome… The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace…Endless delay won’t make the problem go away.”

Obama told Israel and the world, the Palestinians have suffered “the humiliation of occupation,” and have not lived “in a nation of their own…The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.” Obama noted “Israeli settlement activity continues,” as he bravely suggested the coordination of a “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces…”

Obama simultaneously warned the Palestinians they will never realize independence by denying the right of Israel to exist, as he said: “Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.”

Obama correctly concluded a lasting peace will involve two states, Israel, as a Jewish state, and Palestine, as the homeland for the Palestinians. This is almost exactly what the UN has been saying for 44 years: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

During the past 44 years of violence, Israel has illegally occupied Palestine, and it’s about time a strong American President directly suggested giving peace a chance by retreating to the 1967 borders. It is not only the right solution, it’s the only one that has a chance.

05/06/2011

Bin Laden Intel: Thank Bill Clinton

During Bill Clinton’s Presidency, bin Laden was suspected, in the first World Trade Center bombing (2-26-93), a car bombing against U.S. forces in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (11-13-95), a truck bombing at the USAF Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia (6-25-96), the U.S. Embassy bombings, in Kenya and Tanzania (8-7-98), and the USS Cole attack in Yemen (10-12-00).

Under President Clinton, the CIA established a special operation in 1996 called the “Bin Laden Unit,” which started collecting intelligence on his whereabouts. After the embassy bombings, Clinton’s Atty. Gen. used the Intel to indict bin Laden, on Nov. 4, 1998, and the FBI was able to put him on their “Most Wanted” list.

George W. Bush was sworn-in on Jan. 20, 2001. If it had not been for the five years of groundwork done by Bill Clinton and his people, Bush would have had no idea bin Laden was a Sept. 11, 2001 suspect, and no clue he might be hiding in Afghanistan. It was Bill Clinton’s Intel that made possible Bush’s prompt invasion of Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, just one month after 911.

While President Obama and his team deserve 90% of the praise for the recent operation that eliminated bin Laden, if credit is to be shared with earlier presidents, then Bill Clinton must be included. Clinton started bombing suspected bin Laden sites on Aug. 20, 1998. Although Republicans accused him at the time of diverting attention away from his personal issues, it was Clinton in Aug, 1999, who first ordered the CIA to take out bin Laden.

While Clinton did not find him under his watch, neither did Bush, despite having eight years to do so. When U.S. intelligence pinpointed bin Laden’s precise location on Dec. 16, 2001, during the Afghan Battle at Tora Bora, Bush inexplicably denied a Delta Force permission to drop in over a mountain range to capture or kill him, and bin Laden was able to escape into Pakistan.

Bush later said at a March 13, 2002 Press Conference: “I just don’t spend that much time on him…I don’t know where he is…I truly am not that concerned about him.” By 2005, Bush had re-directed Delta Force away from the bin Laden objective to other unrelated missions in Iraq. The NY Times reported Bush closed the CIA unit that had been looking for bin Laden, in late 2005 (7-4-06). This was the same time bin Laden had opened his Pakistani hideaway.

The partisan desire of the right-wingers to praise Bush for a mission Obama carried out is illogical. If they want to give some credit to their former president, for whatever they think he might have done during his eight years in office, then it only logical to also give Bill Clinton credit for the work he did, during the last five years of his presidency. They can’t have it both ways.

05/03/2011

Bin Laden’s 20-Year War

Bin Laden’s 20-year War started when the first President Bush made the mistake, in the Gulf War (1990-91), of stationing American troops in Saudi Arabia. Since Saudi Arabia is to Muslims, as the Vatican in Rome is to Catholics, bin Laden was outraged that the infidel was permitted on his sacred Holy Land.

Bin Laden’s Army took the offensive, and fought their first battle against the U.S. at the World Trade Center, where they had only minimal success, as a bomb went off at the base of the buildings, but they withstood the blast, and only six Americans died (1993).

Bin Laden’s Army next won two battles on Saudi Arabian soil. A car bomb exploded at the U.S. military base in Riyadh, where five Americans died, and 60 were wounded (1995). The next hit was a more forceful blast at the USAF Khobar Towers complex, near Dhahran, where 19 Americans died, and 372 were injured (1996).

While U.S. forces held their ground at the Saudi bases, Bin Laden’s Army opened an East African Front, and scored two more victories, as bombs went off at the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (1998). 224 were killed and 4,000 were injured in Kenya, and 11 died and 85 were wounded in Tanzania (1998).

As bin Laden became enemy number one, his Army strategically retreated into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. President Bill Clinton counter-attacked against bin Laden’s suspected sites, with air strikes, but Osama avoided harm, as the Taliban refused to cooperate, despite sanctions against Afghanistan (1999).

Bin Laden’s Army next hit U.S. forces on the Arabian Peninsula Home Front, in Yemen, where they attacked the USS Cole, as it was docked at the Aden port, killing 17 American sailors (2000).

Emboldened by their successes, Bin Laden’s Army struck at the heart of his enemy’s capitol in Washington, and again in New York. Like the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor (1941), bin Laden scored a dastardly victory on Sept. 11, 2001, as the Pentagon burned, and the World Trade Center came down, killing 3,000. Bin Laden’s Army had won a major battle, but America was awakened, and bin Laden had now signed his own death warrant.

Even though fundamentalist bin Laden was born, raised and indoctrinated in Saudi Arabia, and 15 of bin Laden’s 19 attackers on 911 were also Saudi Arabian, President Bush II decided not to overthrow the backward Saudi Kingdom. He instead entered Afghanistan (2001). After initially wanting bin Laden dead or alive, Bush II announced he abandoned the hunt for bin Laden. He then lost his compass completely and started an unrelated war in Iraq (2003).

Meanwhile, Bush II gave bin Laden what he had always wanted. He withdrew all U.S. troops from the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia (2003). Upon doing this, the offensive phase of bin Laden’s War against the U.S. ended. There were no longer any attacks against U.S. Air bases, U.S. Navy ships, U.S. Embassies, or U.S. cities. Bin Laden himself simply slipped into seclusion.

After President Obama won the presidency (2008), U.S. troops levels in Afghanistan increased by 30,000 (2009). Bin Laden was located in neighboring Pakistan (2010). The 20-year war that had begun in 1991, when an Islamic fundamentalist was offended by Bush I and his decision to open U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia, ended on May 1, 2011, as Special Forces for a President named Barack Hussein Obama, finally took out Osama bin Laden.

03/28/2011

Yemen: Where Will Change Take You?

As the people of Yemen started protesting this year, their leader, Ali Saleh, said he would not seek re-election, hoping this would satisfy the crowd. When the protests continued, the police used tear gas. Saleh then promised a new constitution, but that was not enough, and the unrest intensified. Saleh’s men then opened fire on the crowds, causing injury and death. Saleh’s response was to discharge his cabinet, but the crowds wanted more; they wanted Saleh gone. Following the mutiny of some high-ranking generals, Saleh finally offered to resign, but not until next year. That offer, of course, was too little and too late.

Yemen is now in a state of emergency, as Saleh suspended basic constitutional rights. It appears that after 31 years, Saleh will be gone soon. Yemen is about to go through change. The question is what will it be? Who will replace the 31-year regime?

The situation in Yemen is not like Tunisia or Egypt. Yemen is at risk of going from bad to worse. It has history of civil war, a poor economy, a large population of 24 million and an almost equal  Sunni-Shiite mix. It is located in a very troubled part of the world. If the crisis is not resolved, Yemen could easily slide into conflict.

Yemen previously had internal strife. North Yemen experienced an 8-year Civil War (1962-70), which pitted royalists against rebels. South Yemen (Aden) battled British colonial rule (1963-67). Following independence, the South (Aden) and the North (Sana) struggled with each other at times, before creating one republic (1990). Four years later, a part of the country tried to secede, leading to another Yemen Civil War (1994).

Yemen is a place where there has been violence against the U.S. The port city of Aden is where the USS Cole was bombed and 17 Americans died in 2000. Sana is where the U.S. Embassy was attacked and another 18 perished in 2008.

The Yemen economy is one of the poorest in the world. It is not like Libya or one of the Persian Gulf states, where protesters can be placated with oil money. Here, poverty exists, which is the fuel that often ignites revolution. Neighboring Saudi Arabia actually built a wall to keep the flow of impoverished Yemenis out.

Yemen’s population is 50% Sunni Muslim and 50% Shiite. Unlike the North African states, where 99% were from the same Islamic school, Yemen is closer to the Iraqi model, where divisions between the two Islamic branches may be exploited.

Yemen is geographically located in a troubled neighborhood. Somalia, the poster child of a failed state, is located just across the Gulf of Aden. In this part of the world, pirates captured 49 ships in 2010 alone, and there is a certain degree of lawlessness here.

While no regime should continue beyond 31 years, particularly if the people are opposed to it, we can only hope, given what Yemen is up against, that what follows will be an improvement.