'US, Saudis fear democratic Yemen'
Tue Apr 19, 2011 12:18PM
Interview with Wayne Madsen, an investigative journalist
Tension runs high in different parts of Yemen, with anti-government protesters calling for the ouster of the decades-long rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The following is the transcript of Press TV's interview with Wayne Madsen, an investigative journalist, regarding the issue:
Press TV: Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh says he has no immediate plans to step down, but how much can he resist do you think?
Wayne Madsen: It depends on how much pressure has been put on him by the [Persian] Gulf countries that are now trying to act as an intermediary between President Saleh and the opposition. But I think we have to be careful about one thing here and that is the [Persian] Gulf States may be acting as proxies for the United States, which has very little influence on the opposition.
The situation in Yemen is somewhat similar to Libya, where the opposition is very disjointed and it is hard difficult to figure out if anyone is in the leadership position. We have so many factors that play in Yemen. We have the former Democratic Republic of Yemen which wants its independence restored - that is the former South Yemen. That is probably the most organized opposition against Saleh in the country. We also have the Houthi rebels up in the far north along the Saudi border and we have also the tribal-based resistance, secular resistance and religious resistance across Yemen and that is what makes this a totally volatile situation and a one that the United States thinks may have control over in future events, but really it does not.
Press TV: As an investigative journalist, what do you particularly find interesting to really delve into?
Wayne Madsen: What I can track in is the attempts by the former impendent South Yemen that wants to regain its independence which it lost in a very bad unification agreement in 1990. South Yemen entered a kind of civil war to reassert its independence. But the US basically helped President Saleh put down the South Yemeni independence movement. So, the South Yemenis have no regard for the United States and in many respects they were much more advanced and committed to democratic principles than Saleh. We have the hypocrisy of the United States in its being opposed to South Yemen, which had a highly secular base. It was a socialist country and the US has historically aided Saleh and the regime in Sana'a against the independence forces mostly concentrated around Aden. I think that is probably the most amazing factor in the US policy.
The other factor is that the US is really opposed to any kind of autonomy for the Houthis, because they are Shias and of course the US sees that as a sort of influence by Iran against the US. It's (the US) foreign policy is actually coming out of another century where it divided people into good guys and bad guys but it is not that simple.
Press TV: With many defections by police personnel and military officials, Saleh has been left more and more isolated. How much can such moves persuade Saleh to step down?
Wayne Madsen: It depends on how much he can be assured of support by his inner circle. He may decide to have a final siege by his forces in Sana'a like [Libyan ruler] Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his sons in Tripoli. I think the situation in Yemen is somewhat different, because the situation is changing from day to day and I think with the high-level defections of senior army officers and police and other security officials, Saleh may find himself with no other choice but to try to leave the country at some point in time.
Press TV: How significant is the difference between the situation in Yemen compared to other Arab countries experiencing revolutions?
Wayne Madsen: I think it is somewhat different, because there are many different factors that play in Yemen as opposed to Egypt, where there was a popular uprising against [former President Hosni] Mubarak's regime and in Tunisia, where there was a similar popular uprising against [former President Zein El-Abedin] Ben Ali's regime. I think the situation in Yemen is somewhat similar to Libya, but we have many more factions playing in Yemen than in Libya. We have the tribal nature of the country. There are also many remote areas in Yemen. We also have the far eastern region and which is a very poor region between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
I think the Saudis have no interest in seeing a potentially hostile government come into power in Yemen and of course a hostile government for the Saudis would be a democratic one, because the Saudis do not like the idea of having a sort of democratic country across their southern border.
Press TV: What kind of a movement are we witnessing in the Arab world? Is it just a civil rights movement or a popular movement or a movement of a different kind?
Wayne Madsen: I think several movements are coming together in Yemen. What triggers these uprisings in many other countries in the region is the high unemployment, the skyrocketing prices of food and fuel and just the idea that the regime is corrupt and people want a change. But what we have had in Yemen over several years is a nascent re-independence movement of South Yemen; we have the Zaidis in the north; the predominantly Shia Houthis and also we have throughout the Yemeni nation these very strong tribal affiliations located in very remote areas but of course there is no love lost between them in the Saleh regime.
So, we have basically a series of old rebellions now coupled with the uprisings in other countries that have spread to Yemen. So, this is the closest thing we have ever seen in Yemen to a popular uprising which is across the board at every sector of the population.
Press TV: What are the chances of a civil war breaking out in Yemen? We do know that the country consists of tribes and that all of them are mainly armed.
Wayne Madsen: Well I think that is a real possibility, but we have to see how unified the opposition of Saleh actually is. I would think that a post-Saleh government would have not much choice but to allow South Yemen to regain its independence. Of course in 1994 there was an attempt to get it back which was unsuccessful. I think if we see a peaceful split of Yemen into its original two-constituent parts, I think that the chances of a major civil war will be greatly reduced.
Press TV: You spoke about a post-Saleh government. Just how would you picture a post-Saleh Yemen?
Wayne Madsen: Well, I think it is going to be quite a coalition. First we have the religious community that has come out against Saleh; we have people who are secular especially in South Yemen around Aden; we have people who want true democracy. So, to try to get all these various forces together in a unified opposition-led government would be quite a test, but I am afraid the United States really has no interest in seeing that happen, because it tried to influence the outcome of the events in some of the other Arab countries, for example, Libya and Syria and I think this is doomed to defeat.
Press TV: How do you see the media coverage of the latest events going on in the Arab world and particularly in Yemen?
Wayne Madsen: Well, unfortunately here in Washington, much of our media that is reporting on these popular uprisings, for example CNN and the other major news networks, they are very much influenced by the Middle East foreign policy apparatus in Washington and that is very heavily influenced by the Israeli lobby ... We already see an attempt to put the propaganda out there on every issue from Arab uprising to Palestine issue and unfortunately the American people are not getting a really good picture of what is taking place in the Middle East right now.
Press TV: How would you compare Washington's role and strategy in Yemen, compared with other Arab countries?
Wayne Madsen: I would say that the US has a separate policy for each situation ... Their policy on Yemen I think is scratching their head. They do not know how it is going to turn out. They are hoping that they can influence the outcome and that there is a soft landing, similar to what they were hoping for in Egypt and Libya. But, Libya has shown not to have been a soft landing situation.
Both the administrations of [former US President George] Bush and Obama brought up this so-called al-Qaeda threat in Yemen as a pretext at least for the introduction of the US special forces in Yemen. I think that would be a disaster. I am sure that the planners at Pentagon are continuously looking at this possible scenario.