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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Watch demonstrations live from Yemen

I want to tell you a bit about what's been going on in Yemen today, because things have really heated up there, but first here's a live video feed from the capital, Sanaa.

Let's go to the videotape.

Live streaming video by UstreamYou had to wonder how long this would take, but on Tuesday, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh blamed the United States and Israel for the rebellions occurring in the Arab world.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh's allegations, unprecedented in their harshness, signaled a growing rift with the United States that could hurt a joint campaign against the al-Qaida terror network in Yemen.

Saleh's comments Tuesday, including charges that the U.S. Embassy in the capital of Sanaa is giving instructions to the protesters, appeared to be part of an attempt to silence the calls for his resignation. Saleh has come under mounting pressure to step down since anti-government protests erupted a month ago.

In another sign of defiance, Saleh fired five of Yemen's 22 provincial governors Tuesday, a government official said. Three of the governors were dismissed for criticizing Saleh's crackdown on protesters, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the reasons for the decison.

Opposition parties joined for the first time Tuesday, and organizers said they brought hundreds of thousands into the streets in cities across Yemen for the largest turnout yet.

In Sanaa, tens of thousands rallied near the university, chanting "the people want the downfall of the regime."


Yemen is a key battleground against al-Qaida, and Saleh has been a weak, but important partner for Washington. His government, which receives millions of dollars in U.S. military aid, has allowed American drone strikes on al-Qaida targets.

However, in a speech to about 500 students and academics at Sanaa University, Saleh appeared to be turning on his ally, claiming the U.S., along with Israel, is behind the protest movement.

"I am going to reveal a secret," he said. "There is an operations room in Tel Aviv with the aim of destabilizing the Arab world. The operations room is in Tel Aviv and run by the White House," he said.

He said opposition figures meet regularly with the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa to coordinate efforts.

"Regrettably those (opposition figures) are sitting day and night with the American ambassador where they hand him reports and he gives them instructions," Saleh alleged.

"The Americans also talk with the government officials about this (the protests), but they tell them `allow these people to demonstrate in the streets'," Saleh said. "We say that this is a Zionist agenda."

The wave of political unrest sweeping across the Arab world is a "conspiracy that serves Israel and the Zionists," he added.

Saleh accused President Barack Obama of meddling in the affairs of Arab countries. "Why is he interfering? Is he the president of the United States or the president of the Arab world?" Saleh said.
On Tuesday, a cleric associated with al-Qaeda called for an Islamic state in Yemen.
The call by Sheik Abdul Majid al-Zindani seemed a marked contrast to the upheaval that brought down the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and threatens the rulers of Libya, Bahrain, Oman, and Yemen where uprisings have been seen as secular and inspired by democratic goals.

Mr. Zindani’s appearance coincided with an unusual display of anti-American sentiment by Mr. Saleh, who accused Washington and Israel of fomenting unrest to destabilize the Arab world — an accusation that seemed more remarkable because the United States has been Mr. Saleh’s most powerful Western backer during his three decades in power.

“From Tunis to the Sultanate of Oman,” Mr. Saleh said, the wave of protest is “managed by Tel Aviv and under the supervision of Washington,” he said.

Soon after he spoke, antigovernment protesters took to the streets, backed for the first time by opposition parties who on Monday rejected a proposal from Mr. Saleh to form a unity government.


As around 3,000 antigovernment demonstrators gathered, Mr. Zindani called for Mr. Saleh to step down and described the fervor for reform as an opportunity to set up an Islamic state in Yemen. “An Islamic state is coming,” he said, drawing cries of “God is great” from some in the crowd.

He said Mr. Saleh “came to power by force, and stayed in power by force, and the only way to get rid of him is through the force of the people.” He was guarded by about 10 soldiers while aides held two umbrellas over his head to shade him from the sun.

Since 2004, Mr. Zindani, has been on the United States Treasury list of “specially designated global terrorists” suspected of fund-raising for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. He has been described as a revered spiritual leader and a onetime theological adviser to Osama bin Laden.

In the past, he has publicly opposed terrorism, if not jihad, or holy war, and his word carries considerable political and moral weight in Yemen. For many years, he maintained ties with President Saleh even though he was a founder of the Islamic opposition Al Islah Party.

Some in the crowd said they supported his appearance because of his position against the president. “Yes, he is a big influence,” said Saleh Al Garani, 25, an unemployed anti-government protester. “But what’s important is that he says ‘get out.’ We all agree because he says Saleh has to go.”

Others said Mr. Zindani’s appearance at the demonstration did not denote a broader Islamic influence on the Yemeni protests. The cleric has been a supporter of Mr. Saleh for five years, said Abdul-Ghani Al Iryani, a political analyst. “Now he has jumped ship because he’s seen that Saleh is slowly losing his power base and therefore he wanted to be with the winning side. That’s all there is to it,” Mr. Iryani said.

But to judge from the numbers on Tuesday, the pro-government camp seemed to have gathered some strength, mustering one of its biggest crowds in weeks of turmoil.
Read the whole thing.

In these days, when there is no functioning superpower, each nation and its leaders do what they see fit.

What could go wrong?

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