Saleh loyalists accuse Houthi allies of ineptitude and corruption

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Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis take part in a demonstration in support of Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, as his political party, the General People's Congress, marks 35 years since its founding, at Sabaeen Square in the capital Sanaa on August 24, 2017. (AFP / Mohammed Huwais)
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Supporters of Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh rally to mark the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the General People's Congress party in Sanaa on Thursday. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)
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Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh gives a speech addressing his supporters during a rally as his General People's Congress party marks 35 years since its founding at Sabaeen Square in the capital Sanaa on August 24, 2017. (AFP / Mohammed Huwais)
Updated 24 August 2017
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Saleh loyalists accuse Houthi allies of ineptitude and corruption

SANAA: Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis descended on Sanaa Thursday in a major show of force for ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose alliance with the country’s Shiite Houthi rebels has been shaken by mutual distrust.
Tensions have been rising between Saleh and his one-time foe, rebel chief Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, who in 2014 joined ranks in a shock alliance that drove the government out of the capital and into the southern province of Aden.
The rally marking 35 years since the founding of Saleh’s Arab nationalist General People’s Congress (GPC) sends out a signal that the strongman remains a force to be reckoned with.
“We came today to the square to show our faith in the General People’s Congress and in Ali Abdullah Saleh,” Saeed Al-Obeidi said at the rally.
“Today the GPC proved that it is a national party and that the Houthis are incapable of leading the nation the way a real political party can.”
Chanting “With our souls, with our blood, we serve you, Yemen,” crowds poured into the four-square-kilometer (1.5-square-mile) square and poured into the streets of the capital, waving the blue flag of the GPC and carrying pictures of the 75-year-old Saleh.
Saleh ruled Yemen with an iron fist for more than three decades before stepping down in 2012 after a bloody year-long uprising.
But the strongman retained the loyalty of some of the best-equipped units in the military and later joined forces with the Houthis, after they overran the capital in 2014.
The ensuing civil war between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthi-Saleh alliance has killed thousands and brought the Arabian Peninsula country to the brink of famine.
Saleh’s supporters had traveled to Sanaa from across the impoverished country, camping out in Sabaeen Square overnight ahead of the rally.
An AFP reporter in Sanaa said the Houthis had set up checkpoints at the main entrances to the city.
But they did nothing to stop the demonstrators from reaching the square, where the rebels had also deployed but did not interfere with the rally.
Saleh — who survived the 2011 Arab Spring protests that saw a string of his peers ousted from Egypt to Libya — appeared in person at the rally and gave a brief speech behind bulletproof glass, surrounded by heavily armed guards.
“We are political pioneers with a solid anchor, and we have been facing conspiracies against us since 2011,” he told the cheering crowd, referring to the start of protests in Sanaa that eventually led to his resignation.

Mismanaged by Houthis
Saleh said he was ready to deploy “tens of thousands of fighters to the frontlines,” on condition the rebel-led government train and pay them.
Analysts have said the rally serves in part as public protest against the Iran-backed Houthis, who with Saleh have run the capital since 2014.
The rebels have rapidly risen in a parallel government in Sanaa, and now hold clout in the city’s economy, defense and educational ministries.
Former troops and civil servants in the parallel rebel-run government have not been paid for months.
Saleh’s second-in-command in the GPC, Aref Al-Zouka, on Thursday accused the Houthis of financial mismanagement and corruption, saying the party refused to be “allies for show.”
A war of words between Saleh and Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, whose rebel group have historically clashed with Saleh’s troops, has escalated in the past week.
The two have publicly accused each other of treason, with Saleh hinting his allies were merely “a militia” and the rebels warning the former president he would “bear the consequences” of the insult.
The Houthis reportedly suspect Saleh has been negotiating with a Saudi-led Arab military coalition that supports the Yemeni government.
Saleh was a strong ally of Saudi Arabia from the late 1970s, when he fought the Houthis for control of Yemen, until 2014.
The Saleh camp has meanwhile accused the Houthis of aiming to consolidate their power in Sanaa.
The war between the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, and the rebel camp has killed more than 8,300 Yemenis since 2015 and pushed the country to the brink of famine.
More than 30 people, including civilians, were killed on Wednesday in air raids on Sanaa, where the coalition has been bombing the Houthis since joining the war in 2015.
A cholera outbreak has independently claimed an estimated 2,000 lives since April in Yemen.


Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (AFP)
Updated 30 min 15 sec ago
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Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

  • “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations”

BAGHDAD: Moqtada Al-Sadr, the powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric, on Monday threatened to withdraw his support for the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi if the prime minister fails to finalize the formation of his Cabinet within 10 days.
Al-Sadr is one of the most influential clerics in the country, with millions of followers, a large armed faction and a parliamentary bloc. He is the official sponsor of the Reform Alliance, the second-largest parliamentary coalition, which is overseeing the formation of the government following the national parliamentary elections in May last year. The removal of his support for Abdul Mahdi’s government might take the form of an announcement that he no longer has confidence in the Parliament, or the organization of mass demonstrations.
Abdul Mahdi, who became prime minister in October, formed his government with the support of Reform and the pro-Iranian Construction coalition. The latter is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of Badr Organization, one of the most powerful Shiite armed factions. However, disputes between the two alliances over some of the candidates erupted at the last minute, as a result of which four ministries remain vacant: Interior, defense, education and justice.

Monday’s statement, which was signed by Al-Sadr and described as his “last call,” was addressed to his Saeiroon parliamentary bloc, the leaders of all political blocs, and Abdul Mahdi. It was issued in response to criticism on social on Monday because of the vote by members of the parliamentary blocs, including Al-Sadr’s MPs, the day before to grant all the privileges enjoyed by the former MPs to the deputies who ruled out by the Federal Supreme Court due to the error of counting their votes.
“All the political blocs must authorize the prime minister to complete his ministerial Cabinet within 10 days…and he (Abdul Mahdi) must choose (the ministers) according to the standards of integrity, efficiency and specialization, or I will not support him,” Al-Sadr’s statement read.

His position is the latest in a series of events that have put pressure on Abdul Mahdi in recent weeks. These include efforts by some political blocs, including Saeiroon, to dismiss a number of ministers under the pretext of failure to improve services and inability to combat the financial and administrative corruption that is rampant in their departments.
While most political leaders believe that reaching a political agreement on candidates to fill the vacant ministries within 10 days “will be very difficult” and predict “this may be the end of the government of Abdul Mahdi,” some believe that Al-Sadr’s goal is to pile more pressure on Abdul Mahdi as a way to obtain certain concessions.

“Saeiroon is still negotiating with the prime minister and the other political partners to obtain some key government posts that its rivals are looking to get, and Abdul Mahdi refused to give them to the Saeiroon candidates, so this could be a part of this,” said a prominent Shiite negotiator who asked not to be named. “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations."