New Yemeni President: Blame Iran
By: Jamal Jubran
Published Friday, July 27, 2012
Yemen’s new president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, uncharacteristically threatened Iran after accusing the Islamic republic of spying in Yemen, leading many to question the timing of his charges and their intended aim.
Sanaa - Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has lost his sense of calm. The old and illustrious soldier is no longer his old silent self. His voice tends to be raised to decibels higher than those reached by his deposed predecessor Ali Abdallah Saleh.
Last week Hadi addressed the students of the Military Academy in Sanaa. It seemed his presence was meant as a message to a particular side, no more.
Although he had confessed to United Nations Secretary General's Special Envoy Jamal Bin Omar that he cannot leave his home for fear of assassination, Hadi was happy to visit the Military Academy in the northern part of Sanaa.
As usual, his convoy was protected by the forces of the First Armored Brigade, commanded by Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. The latter is a supporter of the Saudis and a foe of Shia influence in Yemen, namely the Houthi mobilization which controls the northern region of Saada.
Hadi announced to the students the discovery of a spy ring operation that had been working in Yemen for the past seven years.
He declared that he will be taking severe measures against Iranian intervention in Yemen’s affairs. Then he tempered his tone slightly: “Our brothers in Iran, keep your hands off Yemen. Yemen will not be a toy in your hands,” he said.
In no uncertain terms, he spoke to the leaders of Iran, raising his voice and warning that whoever interferes in Yemen’s affairs will pay a dear price.
He maintained that Yemeni authorities possess telling documents. They also have suspects under arrest and were able to uncover an operations room, which they “will announce to the whole world.”
Even the former president Ali Abdallah Saleh never spoke in such tones against the Houthis, and, ultimately, Iran.
Even the new US Ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, who never misses an occasion to speak out about Iranian intervention, has never taken such tones. He merely asked Iran to stop interfering in Yemen’s affairs. Then he went silent and continued to interfere personally in Yemen’s internal affairs, as if he was its declared ruler.
As for the Iranian spy ring, it was claimed that it had been operating in Yemen for around seven years and led by a former commander in the Revolutionary Guards, under the supervision of the Iranian Ambassador.
“Iran’s Ambassador to Sanaa headed a Shia conversion operation in the Horn of Africa and saw to the establishment of military training camps in Somalia and Eritrea during his work at the Foreign Ministry,” claimed a Yemeni security source.
In a press statement, the source said that security forces, collaborating with some allied countries’ intelligence agencies, uncovered “military groups, which either pledge ideological allegiance to Iran or are receiving Iranian material and military support, in order to execute their schemes, even if they do not adhere ideologically.”
Furthering the escalation, Hadi issued “strict instructions” to raise the level of protest against Iran. They called for refusing to receive any official Iranian envoys to Sanaa, expelling a number of Iranian diplomats “whose movements are suspect and are considered unwelcome in Yemen, recalling the Yemeni Ambassador to Tehran, and expelling the Iranian Ambassador to Sanaa.”
Iran’s response came in two stages. It started with Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast denying Yemen’s accusations about a spy ring led by a former Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander.
“The Yemeni government should be responding to popular demands instead of accusing Iran,” Mehmanparast replied. He also warned of foreign intervention in Yemen’s affairs, alluding to the US and the Saudis, adding that “any intervention in the internal affairs of a regional country is considered the wrong approach from the point of view of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Following the government’s announcement that it will withdraw Yemen’s ambassador to Tehran, the Iranians replied saying that “there is no Yemeni Ambassador in Tehran to be pulled.” The Yemeni Foreign Ministry seemed to have forgotten that he was already pulled a year ago and appointed as Yemen’s representative in the United Nations.
Political researcher Ali al-Adimi believed this to be a knockout blow to Yemen’s offensive. He explained to Al-Akhbar that the obvious confusion in the escalation and failure to remember that they do not have an ambassador in Tehran is an indication that the whole operation was done hastily and without preparation.
Adimi did not rule out official Saudi meddling that led Hadi’s provocation: “It is a Saudi attack on Iran, but with Yemeni hands.”
In conclusion, he wondered about “the relationship between the president’s speech to Iran and the return of the Saudi Ambassador to Sanaa and the reopening of the embassy in Riyadh.” It could also be related to “the Kingdom’s approval of an oil loan to Yemen worth $600 million immediately following president Hadi’s talk.”
In a press statement, Yemeni MP Sultan al-Samii, who is often accused of being connected to Iran, held that the National Reconciliation Government had started to feel that it was a complete failure due to people’s objection to its performance.
He said the government resorted to creating a distraction to keep people away from real issues following growing public discussion of its failure and inability to identify those responsible for terrorist attacks. It thus announced the discovery of an non-existent Iranian spy cell.
Following this development, the Yemeni government acted quickly to defend itself and get out of the quagmire it put itself in. An official source at the Foreign Ministry quickly issued a statement, carried by the Yemeni site almasdaronline.net, denying that Iranian diplomats in Sanaa had been issued a 72-hour deadline to leave the country.
The source also denied news about withdrawing the Yemeni ambassador to Iran. “There has been no Yemeni Ambassador to Tehran for a year. There is a charge d’affaires,” the source explained.
A media source close to the General People’s Congress (GPC), the ruling party during Saleh’s years, was surprised at this escalation towards Iran. It comes at a time of an extremely restless internal political environment and an economic situation that promises a real disaster.
The source, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Al-Akhbar that everyone knows the magnitude of Iran’s intervention in internal Yemeni affairs, ever since the successive wars in Saada and their financial support to the Houthis.
“If it wasn’t for this generous support, the Houthis would not have been able to confront the regime during these cruel wars,” he said.
The source also indicated that Iranian support has recently extended to some groups in the Southern Mobilization who are being trained outside the country. But he wondered why political leaders are attacking Iran while ignoring the obvious and well-known foreign intervention in Yemen’s affairs by the US and the Saudis.
A year ago, a young Iranian man went to the National Security headquarters in Sanaa to renew his residency. He had been working in the city for the past eight years as a translator and political advisor to the Dutch embassy in Yemen.
But Hamid Thabit Sorostani was detained by National Security and accused of providing the Netherlands with reports that damaged Yemen’s reputation. He was also accused of collaborating with the Houthis who were at war with the Yemeni regime at the time.
But two days after Yemeni authorities announced the discovery of the spy ring, Sorostani told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that Yemeni security had asked him to collaborate with them and report on Dutch embassy staff, but he had refused.
“If you will not collaborate with us, then you will be considered a persona non grata,” he was told, and threatened with being expelled to Tehran. But they eventually decided to expel him to the Netherlands.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.