Yemen’s Saleh said to be ready to drop Houthis

Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh

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The New York Times said Yemen had withdrawn permission for the United States to conduct special op­erations because of civilian casual­ties in a late-January raid.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”.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.