Selective Silence in Sanaa
Source: The Majalla, By Nasser Arrabyee, 14/02/2013
Yemeni and Iranian relations witness unprecedented tensions and strains.
The last straw for such tension was on January 23rd, 2013 when American navy helped Yemeni coast guards to catch a mysterious ship laden with more than 40 tons of weapons and explosives including a number of land-to air missiles made in Iran, Misagh2.
Emboldened by American desires and feeling to point to Iran, Yemeni officials say now that the ship, Jihan1, came from Iran and was heading to Al Houthi Shiite rebels in Saada north of Yemen. Before investigations with the 8 Yemeni sailors are finished.
On February 9, 2013, I was invited as a journalist to attend a reception party made by Iranian embassy in Sanaa on the occasion of the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution of Iran. A lot of Yemenis and Arab and international diplomats attended the party.
But Yemenis and Iranians were all still under the effect of such tense and strained official relations. The ambassador Mohamoud Hassan Ali Zada, and the honor representative of the Yemeni government, minister of State, Hassan Sharaf Al Deen, did not deliver speeches before having dinner as usually. They just listened to national anthem of the two countries and left guests for dinner and private conversations.
Privately talking, one of the Iranian diplomats told me along with a group of journalists over dinner that the controversial ship Jihan1 came from Spain not from Iran.
The most important thing in Yemen now is who was going to take that huge of weapons and what for? And why all this clamor about this alleged Iranian shipment, while there was only very little if not at all about 3 shipment of Turkish weapons seized in Yemen over the second half of 2012. And no results of alleged investigations.
The political activist Ali Al Bukhaiti did not exclude that Jihan 1 came from Iran but he said not to Yemen but to Gaza in Palestine.
" My observation is that this huge quantity of weapons was heading to the Islamic movement of Jihad which is closer to Tehran now," said Al Bukhaiti who is in the list of Al Houthi representatives in the Yemen national dialogue scheduled to start next March 18, 2013.
He excluded that the shipment was for Al Houthi rebels in Saada. " Iran did not send weapons to Al Houthi in the sixth war of 2010 when Al Houthi was in war with Yemeni troops and Saudi Arabia, the enemy of Iran," He said.
"Iran is not this stupid to send this big quantity of weapons to provide evidence easily about itself. Iran could have sent money to Al Houthis who would buy any weapons they want from local markets or from African smugglers."
However, some observers look at the whole issue as an American game in the region. They cite the Russian and Chinese positions that refused to condemn Iran in a statement from UNSC after the spread of the alleged Iranian shipment. These observers blame also Yemeni officials for accusing Iran without evidence.
Yemen does not need to make enemies with the regional powers like Iran, but it needs to build its institutions and its army and security, observers say.
"Yemen is losing Iran to appease Saudi Arabia and US," said Hassan Zaid, secretary general of Al Haq party.
A lot of people and politicians and activists are surprised why all this clamor about the alleged Iranian cargo while at the same time at least 3 Turkish shipments of weapons being ignored. The Turkish seized weapons included silencers that were used in political assassinations. A total of 74 military and security officials were assassinated by motor-cycle riding gunmen with silencers during 2012 and beginning of this year.
The last one ( number 74) was, Khaled Sewari, counter-terrorism officer who was killed by gunman riding a motor cycle with silencer on Wednesday February 13, 2013, in the middle of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
" I am wondering why all this clamor about this shipment of weapons, and we all know that Yemen is full of weapons now from everywhere," said the activist Rashed Murshid.
" The government now is talking day and night to convince us that this shipment came from Iran, but it did not tell us anything about at least three cargos of weapons that came from Turkey," He added " Is that because the rulers in Yemen now are brotherhood, and the rulers in Turkey are brotherhood too?"