David Blackburn

Attention shifts to Yemen

Since last week’s attack on Yemen’s President Saleh and his subsequent flight, Sana’a has been on the cusp of anarchy. Perhaps as many 400 people were killed in riots last week and the killing continues. Western diplomatic services fear for the safety of their citizens in Yemen.

The MoD has been preparing contingencies. Forces and materiel deployed in the Libya are moving east. Two fleet auxiliary ships, equipped with helicopters and landing craft, and 80 Royal Marines have been stationed off the Yemeni coast. Should the 800 or so British nationals in Yemen need to be evacuated, the marines will secure a bridgehead. A further detachment, currently on exercises in Albania, is poised to join the task force.

The MoD stresses that these are nothing more than plans for a very unlikely event. In the meantime, American diplomats are in Riyadh and Sana’a trying to forge a compromise between the remnants of Saleh’s government and the rebels. They hope to secure Saleh immunity from prosecution in exchange for his resignation – US diplomats have been briefing news organisations that Saleh was very severely wounded in last week’s attack and is extremely unlikely to make a swift return to Yemen. The US hopes that an interim government will be established under the leadership of Vice-President Abd al-Rahman Mansur al-Hadi, who is realistic about reform. However, as Kim Sengupta notes in the Independent, al-Hadi is seen weak by many influential tribal chieftains, which may undermine the American efforts at reaching an favourable solution. 

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