Yemen’s Saleh said to be ready to drop Houthis
SANAA - The alliance between the Iran-allied Houthi rebels and the General People’s Congress led by former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh appears to be on its last legs, sources in the party said.
Saleh would now be more willing to disengage from the rebels if he were given guarantees that his and his party’s political participation in the country when the conflict pitting the Houthis and forces loyal to the internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi ends, they said.
Ali el-Shabani, Saleh’s press secretary, confirmed that the General People’s Congress was studying withdrawing from its “National Salvation Government” with the Houthis over what he described as the militia reneging on the initial agreement.
Shabani alleged that the Houthis had signed a secret agreement with the United States and Saudi Arabia approving the “appointment of politician Sheikh Mohamed Abu Lahoum as executive vice-president and the transfer of the powers of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to him”.
The purported agreement would grant the Houthis half the cabinet positions in the government that is expected to be formed under former vice-minister for Foreign Affairs Abdullah al-Saidi, Shabani said.
Abu Lahoum is a Western-educated tribal leader and senior member of parliament. He headed the political bloc that oversaw the peaceful transition from Saleh’s government to Hadi in 2012.
The possible political developments coincide with tougher language coming out of Washington concerning the Houthis and their chief benefactor, Iran.
After Tehran conducted a ballistic missile test and the Houthis carried out a suicide operation on a Saudi frigate at the end of January, the White House issued a stern warning to the Islamic Republic and its proxies, mainly offshoots of Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels.
White House national security adviser Michael Flynn said the US government “condemns such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk”, adding that “Iran continues to threaten US friends and allies in the region”.
In a related development, the Foreign minister for Yemen’s internationally recognised government disputed reports that the United States was no longer permitted to carry out anti-terror operations in the country.
The New York Times said Yemen had withdrawn permission for the United States to conduct special operations because of civilian casualties in a late-January raid.
The raid targeted the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Qassim al-Rimi, and was also intended to be an intelligence-gathering mission. However, a firefight resulted in the deaths of Yemeni civilians, including several women and children, and Rimi remains at large.
“Killing outside the law and killing civilians is condemned and supports terrorism,” Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalik al-Mekhlafi posted on Twitter immediately following the raid.
Mekhlafi told the Associated Press that “Yemen continues to cooperate with the United States and continues to abide by all the agreements” and that his government was “involved in talks with the US administration on the latest raid”.