A Coup in Yemen?

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A Coup in Yemen? Jeremy Scahill & Iona Craig on Rebel Offensive to Seize Power, Saudi Role & AQAP

AARON MATÉ: We begin in Yemen, where the capital Sana'a is seeing its worst violence in months. Intense clashes between government forces and Shia Houthi rebels have sowed chaos and raised fears of a coup.

The latest round of fighting broke out this weekend when the Houthis kidnapped the chief of staff to President Abdu Hadi. The Houthis are protesting the text of a new draft constitution that would divide Yemen into six federal regions.

Talks for the charter began under a peace deal reached in September after Houthis mobilized large protests and captured most of Sana'a by force. They were supposed to withdraw in the months since, but have only expanded their hold.

Now the country faces political collapse.

On Monday, new gun battles erupted as Houthi fighters surrounded the prime minister's residence and the presidential palace.

The attack came despite a second ceasefire between the two sides. The capital appears calm for now, but tensions are high.

AMY GOODMAN: The Houthis' rise has further upended Yemen's fragile political order. As the government fights the Houthis, it also wages a U.S.-backed offensive against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP.

Despite the long-running U.S. drone war, the al-Qaeda insurgency has only grown deadlier each year.

The Houthis themselves have also fought al-Qaeda at the same time as they now take on the Yemeni government.

The Houthis appear to have major backing from longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the ousted leader who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2011.

The latest unrest also comes days after al-Qaeda in Yemen took responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

For more, we're joined by two guests. Iona Craig is with us, a journalist who was based in Sana'a for four years as the Yemen correspondent for The Times of London. She was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2014.

The government has cracked down on local and foreign journalists, and at one point last year Iona Craig was the country's last accredited foreign reporter. She's joining us now, though, from London.

And we're joined by Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of the TheIntercept.org.

Just days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Jeremy broke the story that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had taken credit. He cited a confidential al-Qaeda source in Yemen. Days later, AQAP put out an official statement confirming it took responsibility...

... AARON MATÉ: When you say the Houthis are engaging in political posturing, do you mean then that they're not trying to carry out a coup, despite all this fighting in the capital?

IONA CRAIG: I think it's really hard to determine whether that's the case or not. In September, they had the opportunity to do that.

They could have kicked President Hadi out at that point, but they didn't, which makes me think that they probably won't do that now.

It depends how far they're pushed. If they don't get their way with the constitution, then they may indeed do that.

But I think the Houthis have so far stopped short of actually taking physical power.

Again, they could have put their own people up as ministers when the new government was formed at the end of last year, but they chose not to do so, because it means that then they are not held responsible for when the government collapses and things go wrong, where they're taking this silent control by trying to manipulate the government, take control inside ministries, without actually having their own men in power.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, how does what's going on in Yemen right now, a place you also have spent time in and reported from, relate to what happened in France and AQAP, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, taking responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, you know, one of the things that's interesting, just to add to what—you know, to Iona's analysis, which I think is really spot-on, is that the Houthis have been a really interesting political football of sorts in the U.S. policy in Yemen.

They have also been bombed repeatedly by the Saudis, you know, Saudi Arabia waging a not-so-secret war, bombing the Houthis.

In the WikiLeaks cables, you see that when Ali Abdullah Saleh was in charge, officially in power in Yemen, he would consistently say to the United States, "We have to do something about the Houthis, because they're being backed by Iran." And actually, to the credit of U.S. diplomats, they said, "Well, you know, we don't exactly think that that's true."

And what was happening is that Ali Abdullah Saleh was a master manipulator of the United States, and he was looking for any way he could to justify getting more military assistance, more money to bolster his own forces that were supposedly fighting al-Qaeda, to actually use them to shore up his own power base.

So, when the well was sort of dry, started to dry up with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula at points, he would then sort of appeal to the United States and say, "Hey, we have these Iranian agents in the form of the Houthis inside of Yemen."

And so, what we're seeing right now is that Ali Abdullah Saleh, who actually himself is a Zaydi Shiite and has roots in that region, has now flipped sides and, as Iona said, is sort of the not-so-hidden hand behind some of the power grab efforts of the Houthis....

A Coup in Yemen? Jeremy Scahill & Iona Craig on Rebel Offensive to Seize Power, Saudi Role & AQAP | Democracy Now!l

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Perhaps Obama will discuss Yemen with it's big neighbor Saudia Arabia when he pays respects to the dead King Abdullah?

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Western countries shut embassies in Yemen

The United States, France and Britain have closed their respective embassies in Sana'a, amid ongoing turmoil in Yemen.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed in a statement early on Wednesday that U.S. embassy staff had been temporarily evacuated from the country and the embassy's operations suspended.

'Recent unilateral actions disrupted the political transition process in Yemen, creating the risk that renewed violence would threaten Yemenis and the diplomatic community in Sana'a,” Psaki said.

French embassy officials said in a statement the mission would be closed until further notice from Friday, Feb. 13, and urged French nationals to leave the country as soon as possible...

... British Minister of the Middle East Tobias Ellwood also announced the UK government had decided to temporally suspend all operations of the British embassy and said the ambassador in Sana'a and staff had left Yemen on Wednesday morning.

Ellwood said that "the security situation in Yemen has continued to deteriorate over recent days. Regrettably we now judge that our embassy staff and premises are at increased risk".

The European Union envoy to Yemen, Bettina Muscheidt, intended to leave the crisis-rocked nation within 48 hours "for security reasons", a source with the EU mission in Yemen said.

The closures came as thousands of Yemenis took to the streets on Wednesday to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh...

... The shutdowns also came two weeks after a confirmed U.S. drone strike ordered by the CIA in Yemen killed three people, one of whom was reported to be a child aged between 12 and 15...

... The deaths meant that at least 424 people, including eight children, had been killed in drone attacks since the start of operations in 2002, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported.

The deaths of the youth were widely seen as a reminder that civilians continue to be killed in U.S.-targeted strikes in Yemen, the bureau reported.

Western countries shut embassies in Yemen

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The deaths of the youth were widely seen as a reminder that civilians continue to be killed in U.S.-targeted strikes in Yemen, the bureau reported.

Civilians continue to be killed in ANY military action. It is not good, but it is ALSO not news.

And before we get TOO faux-outraged that US airstrikes may have inadvertently killed some children, let's remember that our enemy straps explosives to women and children, and turns them into suicidal human bombs.

There's nothing "inadvertent" about that.

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There is no value in comparing our conduct to that of terrorists. We are supposed to occupy the higher moral ground in these matters. Of course, our recent decision to torture POWs has put us on a level much more closely resembling that of terrorists.

It says something about the USA if we prefer to show how good we are by comparing ourselves to the worst rather than by comparing ourselves to the best.

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I don't like President Obama ordering drone strikes that kill innocent civilian, including children, in Yemen or elsewhere.

I'm aware to not being privy to all the information he is. Maybe the deaths of innocent people and the probability of causing some to hate the USA or other western countries (and some of them becoming terrorists) is worth it.

I have neither enough information nor experience to truly know whether our killing drones are preventing worse than what they do or not.

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There is no moral ground when it comes to savages.

There is no value in comparing our conduct to that of terrorists. We are supposed to occupy the higher moral ground in these matters. Of course, our recent decision to torture POWs has put us on a level much more closely resembling that of terrorists.

It says something about the USA if we prefer to show how good we are by comparing ourselves to the worst rather than by comparing ourselves to the best.

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There is no moral ground when it comes to savages.

Are you suggesting that we should abandon our societal morals and ethics when dealing with terrorists, anything goes?

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Are you suggesting that we should abandon our societal morals and ethics when dealing with terrorists, anything goes?

Are you suggesting we should play nice by the playground rules against a bunch of terrorists who go by no rules whatsoever? That is purely suicidal and will result in complete failure.​

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Are you suggesting that we should abandon our societal morals and ethics when dealing with terrorists, anything goes?

Are you suggesting we play nice by playground rules when the terrorists abide by no rules whatsoever? That is purely suicidal and will result in complete failure.....and probably beheadings and death by fire on US soil at some point.

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