Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood manoeuvres to block Riyadh agreement

Renewed military confrontations between STC forces and government forces backed by Brotherhood militia.
Thursday 16/07/2020
A file picture shows Islah Party militiamen on patrol in the village of Hamedan, outside the Yemeni capital Sana’a. (REUTERS)
A file picture shows Islah Party militiamen on patrol in the village of Hamedan, outside the Yemeni capital Sana’a. (REUTERS)

ADEN —Political sources in Yemen confirmed that the ongoing consultations on the implementation of the Riyadh agreement signed between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) have reached a dead end in light of the Islamist Islah party’s constant manoeuvres aimed at bolstering the anti-agreement front.

The sources highlighted the dominance of the Qatar current in the government over the course of the debate on the Riyadh agreement and its intransigence in refusing to implement it in accordance with the approach proposed by the Arab coalition. This approach has been subjected to intense political and media attacks by prominent leaders in the “legitimacy” camp, who openly declared their rejection of the agreement sponsored by the Saudi government in November of last year.

The sources pointed out that there had been a shift in the vision of the international community and of the Arab alliance regarding the failure to implement the Riyadh agreement in its current form, nearly nine months after its signing and following important political and military changes. With all these new realities, it has become necessary to introduce new proposals or a modified version of the agreement.

As the deadlock between the STC and the government continues, local sources in the governorate of Abyan (east of Aden) confirmed to The Arab Weekly renewed military confrontations between STC forces and government forces backed by the Muslim Brotherhood militia. Militia reinforcements came from the provinces of Shabwa and Marib and from the training and recruitment camps set up in Shabwa by former Transport Minister Saleh al-Jabwani with Qatari funds.

According to the sources, the Yemeni interior minister residing in the Omani capital, Muscat, was continuing to buy allegiances and provide support to the Brotherhood fronts in Abyan with funds he obtained following his secret visit to Doha.

The recent flurry of political, media and military activities by the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen and the Qatar current in the Yemeni government came after it was leaked that progress was being made in the Saudi government-sponsored consultations in Riyadh between leading figures from the STC and the government, with the broad participation of members of the presidency of the House of Representatives, the advisory body of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and other heads of parties and political organisations.

The leaks said that the rival parties reached preliminary understandings on mandating the current Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik to form the next government consisting of 24 ministers based on the outcomes of the Riyadh agreement, as well as agreeing to appoint a governor and security director for the temporary capital of Aden. They also started discussions on choosing two new vice-presidents, one from the north and the other from the south.

Yemeni observers, however, underlined several factors hindering the success of the Riyadh agreement. They include the escalation of the Qatari and Turkish role in the Yemeni file and the negative role played by the Islah party and the Qatar current in the Yemeni government, in addition to meddling by leaders in the government camp who, feeling threatened they could be sidelined in the process of implementing the Riyadh agreement, have chosen to obstruct it, accusing the sponsoring coalition of exercising guardianship over the government.

In this context, leading figures from the Islah Party (the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Yemen) have recently spread rumours that the international community and regional powers intend to end the era of Hadi and transfer his powers to a consensual vice-president.

“Some international and regional powers are thinking of removing President Hadi from the scene and replacing him with any other consensual formula,” wrote Ali al-Jaradi, head of the Islah Party’s media department, on Twitter. “The move is not directed against the person of President Hadi, but what is required is to end his legitimacy as president which had been granted by international decision, so that a new map can be drawn for Yemen on the basis of new geographical and sectarians divisions and away from the legitimacy of the Federal Republic of Yemen,” he explained.

Informed Yemeni political sources said this discourse is aimed at strengthening the anti-Riyadh agreement camp in the Yemeni government by trying to suggest to Hadi that he is the target of this agreement, while in reality it is the Qatar current and the Muslim Brotherhood that believe the implementation of the agreement will inevitably lead to an end to their presence in the southern governorates, especially in Shabwa, at a time when the Houthis are tightening their noose on Marib governorate, the Brotherhood’s most important stronghold in the north.

In previous reports, The Arab Weekly revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood had begun transferring its military capabilities to Shabwa governorate within the framework of an unspoken agreement sponsored by Qatar, Turkey and Iran to hand over northern Yemen to the Houthi militias and transfer the conflict to southern Yemen, which, according to the agreement, will be handed over to the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to sources in the STC, popular anger is brewing in the southern provinces due five months of unpaid salaries in the military and civil sectors. They also said that the council has withdrawn a new package of measures that were supposed to be announced this week, in response to the policy of collective punishment followed by the government towards the liberated provinces in southern Yemen.

The sources told The Arab Weekly that the meeting held between the Central Bank of Yemen and the head of the Southern Self-Administration, Ahmed bin Brik, failed to reach a settlement as a result of the conditions set by the bank to resume the payment of salaries. One of these conditions requires the STC to hand over the containers of money printed in Russia in its custody.

The failure to reach an agreement with the Central Bank was also announced on Twitter by Nizar Haitham, spokesman for the STC. “The self-administration, headed by Major General Ahmed bin Brik, is making great efforts to ensure that members of the army and security forces receive their full rightful wages, and will not accept any attempts to circumvent the demands of our heroes always on duty on the fronts of honour and heroism,” he tweeted.

In a sign that the STC has decided to resort to escalation, bin Brik, who is also president of the STC’s National Assembly, invited residents of Hadramout to stage street protests next Saturday and demand that the Yemeni government “provide public services and the salaries of our southern armed, security, elite, resistance forces, and all civil and service sectors.”

The Yemeni government, however, considered on Tuesday during an extraordinary meeting that “the return of revenue flows and of the cash boxes to the bank is an essential solution to this unfortunate crisis,” according to reports by the official Yemeni press agency.

“This escalation can only be understood in the context of an approach that targets efforts to return to implementing the Riyadh agreement on the one hand, and attempts to bring in the central bank institution into a conflict that only serves the interests of the coup forces and which impacts negatively the currency and economy,” the government said.

It also called for “the abolition of the so-called self-administration and of all its decisions, stop interfering in the work of state institutions and proceed with the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.”