Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat- US sources have revealed that Yemeni President Al Abdullah Saleh has finally decided not to return to Yemen as a result of the US pressure, in addition to fears of facing trial in the same manner as former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. US sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that US ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, had asked the US State Department not to highlight “US pressure” on Saleh, but rather about “US interests.” This is because Saleh, according to the US ambassador, is a “stubborn person, and we must not corner him.”
However Saleh’s opposition in Yemen called on the US ambassador “not to negotiate with Saleh in the media.” The Yemeni opposition also told Ambassador Gerald Feierstein that Saleh is ready “to ally with devil”, namely Al Qaeda and the Yemeni Houthi rebels, despite the long history of hostility between the Yemeni state and the afore-mentioned groups.
The US sources also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the US ambassador to Yemen also informed the US State Department that Saleh returning to Yemen would only anger his opponents, especially those who previously tried to kill him. Ambassador Feierstein also reportedly informed the US State Department that Saleh’s injuries – following an attempt on his life on 3 June in Sanaa – do not prevent him from returning to Yemen, as following treatment he is suffering from severe burns and breathing problems.
The latest news from Sanaa was that US Ambassador Gerald Feierstein, during a Ramadan iftar he hosted at his home for Yemeni media officials, had revealed that “undisclosed negotiations” are currently taking place with Saleh, as well as between Saleh and the Yemeni opposition. The US ambassador denied accusations, some from the Yemeni protesters, that Washington is more concerned with combating Al Qaeda than it is with securing the departure of Saleh.
Sources in Washington also indicated that the US position on Saleh has intensified recently due to the pressure being placed on the Yemeni forces with regards to their recent clashes with Al Qaeda. This was after the Yemeni forces targeted tribal fighters in the Abyan province who have played a major role in fighting against Al Qaeda and forcing Al Qaeda out of Zanjibar. With the arrest of a number of Al Qaeda figures, it was revealed that they were not Yemeni nationals.
Sources in Washington also revealed that US Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein had informed the Yemeni officials of the US concern at the Yemeni army’s actions, particularly their use of the Yemeni Air Force, in targeting the Abyan tribes.
The US source also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Saleh is in favor of remaining in Saudi Arabia, where former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has also sought refuge, particularly if any future Yemeni regime attempts to bring him to trial. The US source also revealed that Saleh sought medical treatment in Germany, but the Germans were only willing to treat him as an ordinary citizen, not a head of state.
The US sources did not specify a time table for Saleh to sign the Gulf Initiative, but said that as he has decided to stay in Saudi Arabia then this leaves him with no choice but to sign the Initiative, after amendments specifying the timing of elections and providing guarantees to Saleh and his family have been added.
As for the role of demonstrators in Yemen, the sources said that the renewal of the Egyptian demonstrations – which pressured the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to bring Mubarak to trial – encouraged the Yemeni youth to raise the ceiling of their demands, and this is one of the reasons why Saleh decided not to return to Yemen.
As for the future of the US war against Al Qaeda in Yemen, sources revealed that there is a division within the Barack Obama administration. A moderate wing is led by Obama’s counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan, whilst the other wing is headed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Brennan previously worked for the CIA before being appointed Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and Assistant to the President and he enjoys a close relationship with the Yemeni president, whilst Clinton previously announced that Saleh must step down from power, regardless of any other factors.