Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Cairo Process: Yemen and the Baath are not playing the game

The lead story in Al-Quds al-Arabi this morning (Wednesday January 9) is that Yemen has refused (according to Yemeni sources) a GreenZone request to "turn over" to the Iraqi government members of the Iraqi Baath party living in Yemen, and likewise refused a request to make persons in Yemen connected with the former Baath party "stop their activities". Instead, Yemen is described as having demanded the speedy turnover to Yemen of Yemenis held in Iraqi prisons on terror and other charges. (The newspaper also quotes a Yemeni website to the effect that president Ali Abdullah al-Salah told an Iraqi Interior Minister person earlier this week that in fact Yemen does not host any of the leaders on the lists of the Iraqi security authorities, but rather only members of a clan that participated in the administration of the prior regime, so in effect he has no one to turn over). Al-Quds al-Arabi cites remarks by an Iraqi parliamentarian to the Iraqi government newspaper Al-Sabah, confirming there has been such an Iraqi delegation to Yemen, aimed a an exchange of wanted persons and an improvement in diplomatic relations.

To understand why this is a big story, please recall earlier reports about the Cairo-conference process, in particular the detailed account by Haroun Mohammed late last month (here, and in the immediately following post). He said US State Department people were convinced the process would make no sense without participation by the Baath and other resistance groups, adding that US strategy was to lean on Arab states in the region to lean on their Iraqi expatriate residents to come forward and play the game, using "pressure" if necessary. The news from Yemen this morning indicates, in effect, that this strategy did not turn out well as far as Yemen is concerned, ending up in a request for an exchange of "wanted persons", which itself was rejected.

A statement by the Iraqi Baath party published on (dated January 7, 2008) sheds additional light on this. The statement, in the name of their pseudonomous spokesman Abu Mohammed, says there have been questions raised recently about the attitude of the Baath and other resistance groups with respect to US preparations, being carried out through their "diplomatic channels" for a "Cairo Conference" now expected to take place in March. The Baath party will have nothing to do with this, the spokesman says, repeating many of the points made by Haroun Mohammed in the article linked to above--particularly to stress that the Americans are in a bind, because they need a more-representative GreenZone regime to give their planned bilateral US-Iraq security agreement any credibility or legitimacy at all. What is new in this Baath party statement is just the point that the "Cairo Conference" preparations are in fact still going on (although the target date now seems to be March, for what that is worth), and the Baath, for its part (at least the Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, or loyalist wing) will not be attending and rejects the whole process as another occupation attempt to split the resistance. This could be what triggered the GreenZone decision to get tough and try and have Yemen round some of them up and turn them over.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a few domestic angles to this story as far as Yemen is concerned. First, most of the Yemeni press focused on the Iraqi delegation talking about turning over Yemenis held in jails in Iraq.

Second, President Salih is wary of turning over people living in Yemen, as he has taken some hits lately for not doing enough to protect Yemenis most notably Shaykh al-Mu'ayyad, and he likes to portray himself as a strong Arab leader, and he was quite close to Saddam's regime. Links which date back to the 1940s when Yemeni police cadets were sent to Iraq.

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