July 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 June 2012
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MIDDLE EAST

Yemen

Expected Council Action
In July, the Council is expecting a briefing in consultations on the situation in Yemen by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar.

No Council action is expected at this point.

Key Recent Developments

On 29 May, Benomar briefed the Council followed by closed consultations. Benomar presented an alarming picture highlighting interference from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and relatives, to reforms undertaken by President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, as a key obstacle that could “derail Yemen’s fragile transition process.” Benomar also noted that the security and humanitarian situation remain sources of major concern.

On 12 June, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2051, expressing its “readiness to consider further measures, including under Article 41” should actions to undermine the government of National Unity and the political transition continue. (Under Article 41 of the UN Charter the Security Council “may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures.”) The resolution also “stresses that all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses must be held accountable.”

Furthermore, the resolution focused on the second phase of the transition process and called for:

  • an all-inclusive National Dialogue Conference;
  • the restructuring of the security and armed forces;
  • transitional justice and national reconciliation; and
  • constitutional and electoral reform.

On 18 June, the Secretary-General notified the Security Council of his intention to establish a small office, consisting of five staff members, of the Special Adviser on Yemen for an initial period of 12 months. The letter also noted that the Special Adviser will head the office at the level of Assistant Secretary-General.

There were a number of other key domestic and international political developments. On 23 May, the Friends of Yemen met at ministerial level in Riyadh and agreed to take concrete steps to assist the country through its political, economic and security reform process before the next ministerial meeting on the margins of the General Assembly in late September. (Saudi Arabia, the UK and Yemen jointly chair the Friends of Yemen, which includes key Gulf countries, the G8 and intergovernmental organisations.)

During informal comments to the media following the adoption of resolution 2051, Tawakul Karman, the Yemeni 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said that the new resolution “sends a clear message to those people who deny or who are trying to damage the transitional period in Yemen that they will face the international community.”

On 31 May, the National Dialogue Communication Committee, in charge of talks with various factions in Yemen, stated through the official Saba news agency that “the Houthis have agreed to take part in a serious dialogue…to resolve the country’s problems and achieve the objectives of the popular revolution.” (The Houthis, Shia Muslims living in the remote northwest, have historically been discriminated against by the central government. In 2004, the Houthis launched a rebellion against the government and tensions have remained high despite a ceasefire in 2012. The Houthis had previously refused to take part in the national dialogue, a crucial element of the transition process.)

The overall security situation continues to be worrisome. On 21 May, some 96 soldiers died and many more were injured by a uniformed suicide bomber in the midst of a military parade rehearsal in Sana’a, the day before Yemen was to commemorate its National Unity Day. Council members immediately condemned the attack in a SC/10656).

On 6 May Fahd al-Quso, the leader of Al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), was killed in a U.S. drone strike in the southern Shabwa province. (Al-Quso was under a U.S. indictment for his role in the 2000 bombing of the American navy destroyer USS Cole in the harbour of Aden, in which 17 American sailors were killed and 39 injured.)

Ongoing clashes that started in early May between pro-government forces and an Al-Qaida-affiliated group called Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) in the southern Abyan province, had reportedly led to more than 600 deaths and several wounded by mid-June.

On 18 June, Maj. Gen. Salim Ali Qatn, head of the southern command, was killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of his vehicle in Aden.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is to determine what further role it can play in assisting Yemen to foster a peaceful political transition that abides by the timetables of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative and the accompanying Implementation Mechanism.

A related issue for the Council is dealing with the continuously precarious security, human rights and humanitarian situation in Yemen, which could undermine the new government’s position and the prospects for the political transition process.

Options

The Council’s options include:

  • keeping abreast of the developments in Yemen and receiving regular briefings from Benomar and the Department of Political Affairs;
  • visiting Yemen to send a strong signal about its support for the peaceful and successful transition (a less likely option); and
  • requesting briefings regarding the human rights situation and humanitarian crisis from the relevant UN actors as well as international and regional organisations.

Council Dynamics
The apparent unity of the Council on Yemen, particularly within the context of its current discussions on Syria, is notable. It would appear that most Council members are concerned about the deteriorating security, human rights and humanitarian picture in Yemen. They consider that the recent increase in terrorist activity further underlines the urgency of political, military and security reforms. In addition, some members emphasise the need to distinguish between Al-Qaida-related violence and the more traditional inter-tribal clashes.

Some P5 members were wary of the reference to Article 41 in resolution 2051 and its implicit threat of sanctions against Saleh and his relatives. However, they set their concerns aside and adopted the resolution unanimously as most Council members seem to agree that they pose a serious threat and have the capacity to potentially derail the current phase of transition. As a result, Council members were able to send a strong signal to any spoilers.

The UK has the lead in the Council on Yemen.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/2051 (12 June 2012) focused on the second phase of the transition and expressed the Council’s readiness to consider further measures, including under Article 41 of the Charter.
  • S/RES/2014 (21 October 2011) endorsed the GCC initiative for a peaceful transition of power.

Security Council Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2012/8 (29 March 2012) noted Council members’ concern over the deterioration in the situation since the transfer of power to President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi on 25 February.

Security Council Press Statements

  • SC/10656 (21 May 2012) condemned the suicide attack that killed 96 soldiers in Sana’a on 21 May.
  • SC/10571 (7 March 2012) condemned the terrorist attacks that occurred in Abyan province.
  • SC/10553 (22 February 2012) noted the significance of presidential elections and encouraged further transitional steps to be taken promptly.
  • SC/10460 (28 November 2011) welcomed the signing of the GCC initiative.
  • SC/10296 (24 June 2011) expressed grave concern at the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation.

Latest Meeting Records

  • S/PV.6776 (29 May 2012)
  • S/PV.6744 (29 March 2012)

Letters

  • S/2012/470 (21 June 2012) was from the President of the Council noting the receipt of Secretary-General’s letter.
  • S/2012/469 (18 June 2012) was from the Secretary-General to the President of the Council noting his intention to establish a small office of the Special Adviser for an initial period of 12 months.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen

Jamal Benomar (Morocco)