Another failure! Why? [Archives:2008/1201/Opinion]

October 23 2008

Ahmad Al-Haj
As usual, the ruler misses another opportunity while Yemen lost one of the most important strategic security and military projects, which, if exploited well, would have been the base of a strong infrastructure for Yemen's marine troops and coast guards. Such a precious opportunity is represented by a European-American project aimed at establishing forces to fight piracy in the Aden Gulf with Yemen's coast guards getting the biggest share in the project.

Had it been exploited well, this project would have helped Yemeni troops to improve their security and militaristic skills, which they have been lacking for a long time period because of either the destructive wars that took place in Yemen or mismanagement and the lack of the criteria of competence and experience when selecting military and security commanders to occupy sensitive posts in their institutions.

Until the past month, the Europeans, the U.S., Japan and Malaysia have been talking with the Yemeni government about the role Yemen's coast guards could play in fighting piracy activities in the Aden Gulf in cooperation with international troops serving in the region.

During a meeting with senior Yemeni government officials on last Sept. 10, ambassadors of EU states and the U.S. raised the issue of piracy in the Aden Gulf. They were inspiring for an integrated project in order for donor states to accept any funding proposals submitted by Yemen to contain any threats arising from piracy activities spreading in the Aden Gulf and Somali coasts.

The proposal submitted by the Yemeni side, represented by Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi, along with ministers of interior, defense and transportation, and other senior military and security officials, was disappointing.

The proposal focused on the establishment of four security centers, topped by a main center to be based in Sana'a while its affiliate branches are based in Aden, Hodeida and Mukalla. It stated that a specific budget should be allocated for establishing a joint operation control room, plus the establishment of troops from Yemen's coast guards and marine forces for any immediate intervention in piracy activities in cooperation with international troops in the region. According to the proposals, the entire region should be divided into smaller geographic areas where responsibilities must be determined in light of the capacity and facilities of each side.

Yemen's proposal limited to financial claims

Through its preliminary reading of the Yemeni proposal that was presented at a non-transparent meeting and lacked clear visions to address the real problem on the ground, the European-American side remarked that this proposal is limited to financial claims at the expense of studying feasibility of the project.

A western diplomat, who attended the event said, “I think that the proposal of coast guards lacks a real content, and we are not ready to repeat the same mistake.”

A decisive response came from Brussels a few days ago after six European states including France, the current holder of EU presidency, decided to form special forces from their armies to combat piracy acts in the Aden Gulf and Somali coasts. Observers in Sana'a labeled this as a European-American ignorance of the Yemeni role in this regard while Sana'a considered this step as an international conspiracy against states of the region.

Local media outlets quoted senior politicians as saying that the visit, conducted by President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Jordan and Egypt, came amid growing concern and fears in Sana'a about an American-European plot, allegedly aimed at internationalizing the Red Sea and Aden Gulf after many European states declared their desire to establish forces to immediately intervene in combating piracy in the Red Sea and Aden Gulf.

The sources indicated that Saleh and Jordanian Monarch King Abdullah Bin Hussein held discussions in Amman in this regard, which confirms that the Yemeni government doesn't try to avoid mistakes and it continues to commit further mistakes by fabricating illogical pretexts and justifications.

At this point, it is true to say that Sana'a warned against piracy threats at an early time, and therefore submitted an official note thereon to UN Secretary General late in 2004 to help in combating the phenomenon. In 2005, states of the region hold a meeting during which they suggested some possible solutions to the phenomenon and concluded the meeting with two long-term and short-term visions.

The first vision focused on the significance of security and intelligence cooperation between states of the region, exchange of information and launching preemptive attacks against any suspicious boats that may belong to pirates.

The second vision depend on long term solution, which aims to rehabilitate Somalia and enhance its security and stability through backing the state and law and order countrywide.

An agreement to combat piracy

In 2006, states of the region held a meeting in the Omani capital Muscat where participants reached an agreement to combat the phenomenon. At the event, Yemen submitted a memorandum of understanding containing plans to resolve the phenomenon and suggested establishing a regional center in Sana'a. However, many states at the time did not show any interest in Yemen's proposal due to unclear reasons.

When dialogues with EU states and the U.S. were resumed recently, matters on the ground varied while Yemen should have dealt with the developments seriously in order to win trust of donors and get necessary funding for a great project with a total cost estimated at millions of dollars. I think it is time for donors to understand what is happening on the ground and put a stop to piracy activities in Yemen's territorial waters.

The calculations, prepared by the Yemeni government, were wrong and limited; however, this did not surprise politicians observing the same policy pursued by the government over the past years since the first suicide attack against the U.S. Cole Destroyer in October, 2000, and the subsequent terrorist operations that targeted the U.S. and other states.

The Yemeni government missed numerous opportunities and did not utilize the international support for fighting terrorism in favor of the public interest of the nation. It only proved to be using any international support for enhancing its own security and serving limited interests of western alliance states, most notably the U.S.

The most dangerous thing is that the government exploited the issue of fighting terrorism to extort the Americans in particular and the western community in general through holding the stick at the middle point in order to serve narrow internal political purposes. Consequently, this policy helped the government to mislead the international community and the Americans, particularly when it comes to dealing with Al-Qaeda Organization and any terrorist groups.