March 15, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 4574

Saudi Daily Calls to Hold Gulf-wide Dialogue with Al-Qaeda

March 15, 2012
Yemen, Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 4574

Against the backdrop of recent clashes in southern Yemen between Al-Qaeda and the Yemeni military, in which the latter lost numerous casualties and captives, the editor of the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, Yousuf Al-Kuwailit, wrote an editorial calling for steps to address the situation in Yemen, including engaging Al-Qaeda in dialogue. He said that the difficult reality in the country and the recent transfer of power to a new president and government did not bode well for the country's future, and expressed concern that other countries, like the U.S., might take advantage of the current circumstances to interfere in Yemen's affairs, exacerbating the situation there. Kuwailit even hinted that Iran may be helping Al-Qaeda to take over Yemen.

Following are excerpts of the article:

"The vacuum that was created in the process of the power transfer in Yemen... [including] the reformation of the [country's] government, military, and administration, allowed Al-Qaeda to expand and take over [various] cities and towns. The present government is not responsible for this situation, as Al-Qaeda was born under the previous regime. There were those who claimed [that regime] turned Al-Qaeda into a scarecrow with which to frighten the U.S. and other Arab countries, aiming to take advantage of the [resulting] opportunities. Others expressly accused the previous government of nurturing and protecting Al-Qaeda.

"The previous president, 'Ali 'Abdallah Saleh, [recently] leveled harsh criticism at the current government, attempting to sow doubt regarding its ability. The intent behind [his] statements, even if they were expressed as the free thoughts of one who considers himself a citizen, is questionable, considering that [Saleh's] supporters are still in [power] and retain influence... This attempt to disrupt [the new government] and to increase the pressures on it, without cause, does not serve the national interest.

"The rising influence of Al-Qaeda in Yemen has plunged the country and its surroundings into dangerous security problems. The U.S. is also involved in this issue. We must understand what [Al-Qaeda's] sources of funding are, and who is motivating it [to carry out] dangerous operations. Do the Houthis [who are reportedly tied to Iran] have a pact with [Al-Qaeda]? There are clear signs that several countries want Yemen to be the first country [ruled by] Al-Qaeda. The current conditions can help to develop [Al-Qaeda's] presence on the ground, especially in the south, which makes no secret of its desire to secede [from the central government] and [to reestablish] its own country [i.e., South Yemen].

"Perhaps a dialogue with Al-Qaeda is the path to a resolution and to preventing [further] bloodshed. Without [such dialogue], the U.S. will become a direct party [acting in Yemen], which will complicate and escalate the situation – especially since Yemen is in the difficult stage of a war on poverty, [a fact] that plays to the advantage of anyone [wishing] to toy with its security by means of material enticements. Most dangerous of all is that [Yemen] has long been a market for the smuggling, trading, and caching of arms, and its mountain and sea borders facilitate the entry of arms from all points of origin.

"The military may unite its ranks if it overcomes the division [in support for] the previous and current governments. Its approach is still unclear, as most of the commanders responsible for missions are close to the previous government, and their noninterventionism vis-à-vis Al-Qaeda has baffled [Yemeni President] 'Abd Rabbo Hadi, despite the fact that he came to power with the people's consent and satisfaction, and the fact that he is considered part of the previous regime.

"The government and Al-Qaeda have clashed because Al-Qaeda began growing stronger, contrary to its image as [a band of] small groups seeking an escapade at every chance. The fact that dozens of soldiers, [other] military personnel, and police were killed in a place under their own rule, and their weapons looted, is a very serious matter indeed, and no one can predict the reaction of the government, which is still in a stage of adapting to and dealing with the existing circumstances. What is needed is a Gulf-wide move, before the dangers reach their maximal proportions."[1]


[1] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), March 14, 2012.

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