Fall of Yemen's Saleh would unleash Al Qaeda, warns analyst

Gulf states are at risk from terror group if Yemen falls, says Ghanem Nuseibeh
Fall of Yemen's Saleh would unleash Al Qaeda, warns analyst
Yemenis take part in an anti-government demonstration against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, calling for an end to his 32-year rule in the capital Sanaa
By Shane McGinley
Tue 29 Mar 2011 01:20 PM

The possible
fall of Yemen’s government after months of bloody clashes between protesters
and security forces would see the threat of Al Qaeda spill out into the Gulf,
an analyst has warned.

“Their area of operation will not be restricted or limited
to Yemen and they would happily operate in the rest of the Gulf, whether it is
Saudi or other states,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh, head of GCC and Yemen at think
tank Political Capital Policy. “Yemen will no longer contain them.”

President
Ali Abdullah Saleh said Monday that Yemen will fall into civil war if calls by
protesters, lawmakers and military offices for him to end his 32-year rule are
successful.

“Yemen is a time bomb,” Saleh said in an interview with Al
Arabiya television. “Everyone will side with his tribe, and we will then end up
with a destructive civil war.”

The county has been a key ally in US-led attempts to contain
terrorist group Al Qaeda (AQAP), which has utilised the Arab state as a
training ground. The Yemen arm of the group was responsible for sending two
parcel bombs to US synagogues in October and the attempted bombing of a
Detroit-bound plane in December.

Dubai police last week foiled an attempt to smuggle 16,000
pistols from Turkey to Yemen, a sign that two months of anti-government
protests are set to escalate, Nuseibeh said.

“Although
the Dubai authorities managed to intercept one shipment, we cannot tell how
many shipments successfully reached Yemen and what they carried. This all
indicates an ever speedier deterioration of the security situation in Yemen,
and AQAP stands to gain the most, threatening the whole of the Arabian
Peninsula,” he said.

The
possible fall of Saleh would create fertile ground for Al Qaeda to expand its
operations, specifically if the government lost control of key areas.

“[Al
Qaeda] has this breathing space [that] the conflict is creating for them,” Nuseibeh
said.

Yemen’s
protesters, inspired by revolutions that toppled the presidents of Tunisia and
Egypt, have gained momentum since March 18 when police and snipers killed 46
protesters in the worst violence since the unrest began two months ago.

Saleh
said he is willing to step down “respectably” and a transfer of power should
come peacefully and not through mayhem.

“I
have been in power for 32 years and I want to transfer it to people peacefully,
not with chaos,” Saleh told Al- Arabiya. “Protesters are the minority and they
don’t consist of two percent of the people.”

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