America’s new crusade in Yemen

yemanBy Catherine Shakdam

What a difference a year makes … Hailed the brain-child of the Islamic Awakening only a year ago, the Muslim Brotherhood is biting the dust across the Middle East, having but enjoyed a fleeting twilight of glory in 2012 with the rise to power of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

Almost as quickly as political Islam was hailed the new institutional Arabic model, its detractors, mainly Saudi Arabia – the epicentre of all things radical and perverse – worked to discredit its message and political stance as to rebrand it a pernicious force of evil.

Labelled a terrorist organization in Egypt earlier this week, the Muslim Brotherhood went in the span of a year from being a regional political powerhouse to nothing more than a disbanded group of wanted criminals. The mighty Brotherhood has now been forced back to the shadows it once emerged from, nothing more than a memory of what might have been, if only its leaders had not dare defy the House of Saud and its hegemonic plans for the region.

With Egypt out of the way and Qatar dutifully warned against any further political interference in the region, Washington and its allies, have turned their attention toward impoverished Yemen. Following decades of unprecedented financial, political and military support, Yemen’ Sunni radicals, which acted a buffer to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s power and thus allowed the (P)GCC countries to remain in control of Yemen’s fate, face political extinction now.

Keen to remind its vassals of its power and more importantly to assert that only its agenda is actually worth pursuing, Washington sent the mightiest of warning to Yemen’s powerful Sunni clans by branding Yemeni cleric and high ranking politician, Abdul Wahab Mohammed al-Humaiqani, a terrorist affiliated to al-Qaeda.

In an official press release published December 18th, the US Department issued the following statement, “The US Department of Treasury today imposed sanctions on two al-Qaeda supporters based in Qatar and Yemen. Abdul-Rahman bin Umayr al-Nuaymi and Abdul Wahab Mohammed al-Humaiqani were named as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 … Humayqani was designated for providing financial support to and acting on behalf of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).”

While the idea that one of Yemen’s notables could be linked to a group such as al-Qaeda, which professes a twisted and abject interpretation of Islam, based on fear and fanaticism, both traits it is important to note the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) has warned against at length, will unlikely shock Yemenis; such a public profession of guilt carries in itself severe repercussions, both legally and politically.

Just as knowing a truth is different from revealing, or even telling a truth, the idea that Washington could so publicly and so bluntly express a reality which many have known to be true for many long years, is bound to reverberate far and wide across Yemen’s political network, putting allegiances and power plays under a new light. If 2011 marked the end of President Saleh’s rule, 2013 could herald the disbandment of Yemen’s Sunni radicals.

Interestingly, former President Saleh’s warnings that among Yemen’s most mighty and powerful hid terror sympathizers, happens to carry a truth Washington wants now to capitalize on, as to secure that its grip on the Peninsula remains ever steady.

Too many times now have al-Islah, the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood been juxtaposed next to al-Qaeda and terror activities not to believe that a shift in policy and narrative has occurred at the White House towards Yemen’s Sunni radicals. Having served their purpose and outgrown their station, the men Washington helped bring to power some decades ago are being discarded to make way for the next generation of politicians.

True to its public-image-demonization modus operandi Washington alleges it has proof al-Humaiqani used his position and status in favour of al-Qaeda, by acting as its financial arm and recruiting agent. A well-known international partner, al-Humaiqani happens to be one of the founding members of Alkarama – Swiss-based independent human rights organization which has denounced Washington’s drone campaign in Yemen – and a former adviser to Qatar on charitable giving. An established politician, al-Humaiqani is also a high ranking member of the Rashad party -Yemen’s newly founded Salafi faction – a group which has often been described as the political extension of al-Islah – as well as an NDC representative.

Washington is unequivocal in its attack. Its statement read, “In his capacity as the head of a Yemen-based charity, Humayqani has used his status in the charitable community to fundraise and has provided some of that funding to AQAP and has facilitated financial transfers from AQAP supporters in Saudi Arabia to Yemen in support of AQAP operations. As of 2012, Humaiqani was an important figure within AQAP and reportedly had a relationship with important AQAP leaders. Humaiqani and others in March 2012 reportedly orchestrated an AQAP attack on a Yemeni Republican Guard base in al-Bayda Governorate, Yemen. The attack employed multiple vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and killed seven. He is suspected to have recruited individuals to AQAP who were involved in a plot to assassinate Yemeni officials.

Humaiqani has provided financial support and other services to AQAP and acted for or on behalf of the group. He has represented AQAP in meetings with Yemeni officials to negotiate the release of Yemeni soldiers held by AQAP and worked with AQAP operatives to coordinate the movement of AQAP fighters within Yemen. Humaiqani has directed a group of armed AQAP associates that intended to carry out attacks on Yemeni government facilities and institutions, including a Yemeni government building in al-Bayda Governorate. He has also recruited individuals in Sana, Yemen on behalf of AQAP in support of AQAP efforts in southern Yemen.

Along with the US and UN designated cleric Sheikh Abdel Mageed al-Zindani [member of al-Islah], he has issued religious guidance in support of AQAP operations. Humaiqani and AQAP leadership have planned to establish a new political party in Yemen, which AQAP planned to use as a cover for the recruitment and training of fighters and a means to attract broader support. AQAP leadership decided that Humaiqani would play a public role as a leader and spokesman for the new political party.”

Branded a terrorist before the whole world, al-Humaiqani will unlikely recover from such a blow, let alone his faction. Adamant that he is the victim of a sombre plot, the cleric has already told the press all charges brought against him are not only “false and unjust”, but a clear attempt to curb his charitable activities and silence his calls for an end to America’s drone campaign in Yemen. “These accusations come in the context of political conspiracies in Yemen. Some people fed the Americans with false information about me to curb my activities,” he told the press on Tuesday.

With Damocles’ sword dangling over his head, one can only wonder who next within al-Islah’s ranks will suffer Washington’s ire.
Catherine Shakdam is a commentator and political risk consultant. Her writings have appeared in Foreign Policy Association, the Guardian and Majalla among many others. Based in the UK, she worked in collaboration with Yemen Human Rights Minister on shaping new policies to protect women rights

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