Naming Names: Senior Yemenis in Saudi’s Pocket

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Yemeni army forces fire a missile towards al Qaeda-linked militants positions in the southern province of Abyan 4 June 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Yemen's Defence Ministry - Handout)

By: Jamal Jubran

Published Monday, June 11, 2012

A Yemeni newspaper has begun exposing the names of 2,700 key Yemenis in politics, the military, and the media, who it claims are part of a “special committee” in the pay of the Saudi royals.

Sanaa - Yemenis have learnt how to exude a peculiar sort of tolerance towards many of their politicians who persist in leading them into poverty and corruption.

For years it has been said that many Yemeni figures and politicians had received large sums of money from the coffers of their northern neighbor Saudi Arabia in the form of monthly checks through what has been dubbed the “special committee,” which was formed while the revolution against the imam in 1962 gained ground.

At first, the committee was entrusted with supporting the royalists in their attempts to bury the nascent revolution. It later attracted many republicans and its membership ultimately reached about 2,700 people.

It included senior leaders, politicians, tribal sheikhs, academics, military commanders, journalists, and intellectuals. At one time, its budget reached $300 million a month but had recently shrunk to $15 million.

The committee’s main purpose was to win over senior Yemeni statesmen and ensure their compliance with the Saudi royal family.

The Saudis wanted to stop any debate on the issue of the borders between the two countries, which were later resolved through agreements that favored the Saudis.

People knew about the committee. They knew about some of the big names in it, such as Sheikh Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar, who was one of Yemen’s most prominent tribal leaders and the speaker of parliament for more than two decades.

Al-Ahmar was one of the most senior sheikhs who did not hide their allegiance to the Saudis.

The issue of money being paid had always remained a rumor and could not be verified by official documents. This all changed at the beginning of last week.

The Yemeni Al-Shareh newspaper published a list of those allegedly receiving monthly salaries through the Saudi committee. It indicated the amount received next to the names of several prominent individuals, promising that it will publish the full list of 2,700 names shortly.

Topping the list was deposed president Ali Abdallah Saleh, with a monthly payment of $11 million. The former president has already issued a statement denying the allegation.

It also seems that Brigadier General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, commander of the First Armored Division, has been receiving $800,000 personally, in addition to $2.7 million from the Saudi defense ministry under the guise of “fighting the rawafed” (in reference to the Shia, and particularly the Houthis in Saada and northern regions).

The sons of Sheikh Abdallah al-Ahmar are said to be receiving monthly payments ranging between $800,000 and $2,664.

There were also many prominent personalities, many of whom had joined the Yemeni youth revolution and stood on the frontlines.

Also included were big names from leadership of the southern mobilization movement and former South Yemen leaders, such as former president Ali Nasser Mohammad and former Yemeni PM Haydar Abu Bakr al-Attas.

Political parties also appeared on the list, such as the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, with $80 million a month.

Naturally, the publication of the list for the first time caused a great deal of controversy. People who support its publication believe it is unquestionable proof of the Yemeni regime’s complicity with the Saudi royals.

Researcher Yahia al-Nusayri said that the publication of these names “calls for accountability since it can be considered high treason and it compromises the country’s national interests.”

In an interview with Al-Akhbar, Nusayri said that the involvement of prominent personalities who had supported the Yemeni youth revolution in the special committee list “calls for a reconsideration of the reasons they announced their support, while agreeing on the Saudi-GCC initiative.”

Others welcomed the announcement of the names of “Saudi’s men in Yemen,” but had reservations on the timing and selectiveness. It came on the first anniversary of the explosion in the presidential mosque that almost took Saleh’s life.

An informed source who asked to remain anonymous told Al-Akhbar that the timing “can only serve deposed president Saleh who is trying to extort Saudi authorities who have positively extended a hand to the new Yemeni national consensus government.”

“This will lead to the obstruction of the coordination on both sides,” he said, indicating that the newspaper that published the names is close to the deposed president and his media advisers.

This, according to the source, makes the timing and selection of names questionable, possibly intended to “create confusion in the ranks of the young revolutionaries.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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