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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08SANAA366
2008-03-03 09:57:00
SECRET
Embassy Sanaa
Cable title:  

WHO HAS THE EAR OF THE PRESIDENT? PART 3:

Tags:   PGOV  PINR  YM 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXYZ2612
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHYN #0366/01 0630957
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 030957Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9081
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUCNSOM/SOMALI COLLECTIVE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0241
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0221
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 0240
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 0120
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 0169
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
						S E C R E T SANAA 000366 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR NEA/ARP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/02/2018
TAGS: PGOV PINR YM
SUBJECT: WHO HAS THE EAR OF THE PRESIDENT? PART 3:
FOREIGN POLICY

REF: A. 07 SANAA 2196

B. SANAA 46

C. SANAA 240

Classified By: Ambassador Stephen A. Seche for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

SUMMARY
-------

S E C R E T SANAA 000366

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR NEA/ARP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/02/2018
TAGS: PGOV PINR YM
SUBJECT: WHO HAS THE EAR OF THE PRESIDENT? PART 3:
FOREIGN POLICY

REF: A. 07 SANAA 2196

B. SANAA 46

C. SANAA 240

Classified By: Ambassador Stephen A. Seche for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

SUMMARY
--------------


1. (C) President Ali Abdullah Saleh holds all decision-making
authority within Yemen. Nonetheless, he relies on an
established network of advisors who have obtained his trust
and respect. This is the third in a series of cables that
intends to develop a fuller understanding of who influences
Saleh's decision-making and governance. Previous cables have
given a broad overview of President Saleh's advisors and
examined influential players on reform issues (refs A and B).
This cable examines who specifically affects his decisions
concerning foreign policy. Future cables will examine who
influences the President's thinking on issues ranging from
counterterrorism to tribal affairs.


2. (C) According to several Yemeni government officials and
academics, Yemen's foreign policy towards the United States
has been inconsistent since 2006 because President Saleh has
not had a regular advisor on this issue since Doctor
AbdulKarim al-Eryani's influence began to wane. Northwest
Regional Commander Ali Muhsin and Yemen's Ambassador to the
United States AbdulWahab al-Hajjri are vying to fill this
gap. Former Prime Minister and Secretary General of the
ruling GPC Abdul Qader Bajamal may also have a growing
impact. Regarding Yemeni foreign policy towards Saudi Arabia
and other gulf countries, there appears to be an unfilled
void left by Shaykh Abdullah al-Ahmar's December 2007 death,
and several individuals seem to be vying for Saleh's ear on
this topic. Yemeni public opinion, more than any advisor,
appears to inform Saleh's Palestinian policy. Leaders of the
Yemeni intelligence community and the newly formed Sana'a
Forum are the major players on the Horn of Africa. European
diplomats credit the Foreign Minister and al-Eryani with key
roles in EU policy. With the exception of EU policy, however,
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is seen to have virtually no
influence on foreign policy decision-making, especially on

more important topics such as U.S. and Gulf states policy.
End Summary

FOREIGN POLICY TOWARDS THE UNITED STATES
--------------


3. (C) According to several Yemeni government officials and
academics, Yemen's foreign policy towards the United States
has been inconsistent since 2006 because President Saleh has
not had a regular advisor on this issue since that time.
According to Shaykh Nabil al-Basha, a GPC Member of
Parliament on the Foreign Relations Committee, Senior
Presidential Advisor Doctor AbdulKarim al-Eryani had been
Saleh's most influential advisor and had been a strong
advocate for positive relations with the United States for at
least a decade. However, Basha and many other contacts
believe that al-Eryani's influence has waned considerably
since 2006. Moreover, al-Eryani has not been replaced and
therefore Saleh has been making more decisions on his own,
which has resulted in inconsistent decision-making.


4. (S) Basha opined that part of al-Eryani's reduced
influence has been of his own choosing, but equally as
important has been Northwest Regional Commander Ali Muhsin's
increasing influence in foreign policy matters regarding the
United States. Basha indicated Ali Muhsin's stature and
influence with Saleh on foreign policy matters has risen over
the past several years. Moreover, he is considered a
negative influence on Yemeni-U.S. relations since he is not a
strong supporter of the United States. He is reportedly an
Islamist sympathizer who has been known to collude with
extremist leaders. (Comment: In spite of Basha's remarks,
Post notes that, during this period, Saleh has made efforts
to draw closer to the United States. This implies that other
factors are offsetting Muhsin's influence. One factor is
probably Ambassador al-Hajjri (see para 5). Saleh's
perceived personal relationship with President Bush, however,
and his desire to benefit from increased foreign assistance
via programs such as those of the Millennium Challenge

Corporation are also offsetting factors. End Comment.)


5. (S) Basha believes that rising to take al-Eryani's place,
and trying to offset Muhsin's negative influence, is Yemen's
Ambassador to the U.S. AbdulWahab al-Hajjri. Basha noted
that al-Hajjri is married to Saleh's daughter and therefore
may have his trust, but, because of his physical distance
from Saleh, has not fully established himself as Saleh's
closest advisor on the Yemeni/U.S. bilateral relationship.
Al-Hajjri has a reputation as a "playboy" and is known to
have several girlfriends. Should these facts come to the
attention of the President, they could have a negative effect
on al-Hajjri's position in his eyes.


6. (C) The President has been seen on more than one occasion
to turn to his Secretary Faris Sanabani in meetings for
factual information concerning the United States. This is
more likely because of Sanabani's position as the President's
secretary than his influence on United States issues.

SIPDIS
Sanabani lived in the United States for several years in the
1980s and received a degree from Eastern Michigan University
in 1993. He was married for a time to an American woman and
has two AMCIT children from that marriage.


7. (C) Ahmad Mohammed al-Kibsi, Vice-President for Academic
Affairs and Professor of Political Science at Sana'a
University and an expert on Yemeni foreign policy, claimed
that the individuals with the most influence regarding Yemeni
foreign policy towards the U.S. all have some connection to
the United States. For example, Director of the National
Security Bureau (NSB) and Presidential Office Director Doctor
Ali al-Anisi, whom al-Kibsi identified as influential in
crafting foreign policy towards the U.S., sent all his sons
to college in the United States. Al-Kibsi also identified
President Saleh's son Ahmad Saleh (commander of the YSOF,
Yemen's Special Forces, and widely believed to be being
groomed to succeed his father) as another influential figure
who studied in the States.


8. (C) Several other advisors in the foreign policy realm
were identified by contacts, though the influence of these
individuals seems more tangential. Al-Kibsi claimed Shura
Council Chairman AbdulAziz AbdulGhanim and Shura Council
Member Mohammed al-Tayyib were influential regarding foreign
policy towards the United States. Mohammed Yahya al-Sabri, a
Member of Parliament from the Nasiri Wahdawi Party and
spokesman for the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP),
believes GPC Secretary General (and former Prime Minister)
Abdul Qader Bajamal has sway with President Saleh regarding
foreign policy decisions towards the United States. Sabri
believes Bajamal's influence has grown over the last several
years as al-Eryani's has waned.

FOREIGN POLICY TOWARDS GULF STATES
--------------


9. (C) There was also general agreement that Shaykh Abdullah
al-Ahmar carried the most influence regarding Yemeni foreign
policy towards Saudi Arabia and the other gulf states prior
to his passing in December 2007. His death seems to have
left a void which has largely been filled by Saleh himself.
Basha believes that Saleh will continue to fill this gap into
the foreseeable future, but al-Kibsi sees several contenders
for this new role, including Naji al-Shayaf, Shaykh for the
Bakil tribe, Bajamal, and several other unnamed prominent
businessmen. Al-Eryani traveled to Qatar early this year to
sign the deal that reinvigorated the Qatari-backed cease-fire
in the rebellious Yemeni province of Saada (ref C). None of
post's contacts, however, identified al-Eryani as a player in
the formulation of Yemen's Gulf policy.

FOREIGN POLICY CONCERNING THE PALESTINIANS
--------------


10. (C) On Palestinian issues, the two figures with the most
influence on the President may well be Saleh himself and the
Yemeni "street." In a February 20 conversation, Palestinian
DCM Fayez Abdul Jawad cited two reasons for Saleh's continued
efforts to act as a mediator with the Palestinians. He noted
first that Saleh, like many Arabs, feels a kinship to his
fellow Arabs and hopes for an end to what he sees as their
abuse at the hands of the Israeli government. Jawad added

that Saleh is also aware of strong pro-Palestinian feelings
among Yemeni citizens, and sees it in his interest to be
perceived as a champion of the Palestinian cause. (Note: It
is likely that Saleh also wishes to be seen as a strong
regional leader and believes Palestinian issues provide him
the ideal stage on which to do so. End Note.) Deputy Head
of the MFA's Arab Countries Department Hasan Ali Elaiwa
expressed a similar view. When asked what influenced Yemeni
policy on Palestinian issues, he responded, "how can the
government not respond to the feelings of the people?"

FOREIGN POLICY CONCERNING THE HORN OF AFRICA
--------------


11. (C) The ROYG has made a conscious decision to handle its
bilateral relations with the Horn of Africa (HOA) through the
newly established Sana,a Forum. This body, made up of
representatives of Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and
Eritrea, has its secretariat in Sana,a and will be chaired
by Yemen for its first three years. According to Ethiopian
DCM Dr. Abdulkadir Risku, the ROYG has chosen Ambassador
Mohammed Abdullah Wazir (NFI) to be the organization,s first
Secretary General. (Note: Post is seeking further

SIPDIS
information on Wazir. Risku emphasized to POL/E Chief that
Wazir's appointment has not been officially announced and
asked for discretion in handling this name until it is. End
Note.) When pressed, Dr. Risku was unable to identify any
other key players on HOA issues, asserting that, to the best
of his knowledge, Saleh made decisions relating to the Horn
without consulting others.


12. (C) Post's DAO notes that Military Intelligence Director
Ali Ahman As-Siyyani travels frequently to HOA and asks about
HOA issues on a regular basis. This implies that he has a
specific interest in HOA and may play some role in HOA
policy. Meanwhile, the National Security Bureau (NSB) has
advised EMBOFFs that it, not the MFA, holds the Somalia
portfolio. This would give NSB head al-Anisi a strong role
in Horn issues, at least in the case of Somalia.

FOREIGN POLICY CONCERNING THE EUROPEAN UNION
--------------


13. (C) Perhaps because so many European countries are also
donor countries, the Ministry of Planning and International
Cooperation (MOPIC) plays a role in ROYG policy towards the
European Union. Dutch First Secretary Michiel van Campen
specifically mentioned Deputy Prime Minister and MOPIC
Minister Abdulkarim al-Arhabi as a key player in EU issues as
well as Nabil Shaiban, Director of MOPIC's Office of Europe
and the Americas. Van Campen, unlike many of Post's
interlocutors, also credited Foreign Minister AbuBakr
al-Qirbi as influential with the President on EU foreign
policy issues, a view supported by a well-informed British
diplomat. While stipulating the Qirbi was not empowered to
make policy, this diplomat said that Saleh would turn over to
the Foreign Minister those issues the President did not
understand.


14. (C) Deputy Head of the MFA's European Department
Abdulaziz Sallam cited al-Anisi as a key conduit between the
Foreign Ministry and the President and one whose repackaging
of inputs from the MFA has a strong effect on ROYG EU policy.
He also cited Parliament Foreign Relations Committee chair
Jubran Mujahid Abu Showarib as an EU policy player.

THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS?
--------------


15. (C) All contacts outside of the diplomatic corps and the
Foreign Ministry itself agreed that Yemen's Ministry of
Foreign Affairs has virtually no influence on Yemen's major
foreign policy issues. Mohammed Abulahoum, the Head of the
GPC's Foreign Relations Department and a member of the GPC's
General Committee, estimated that 90 percent of foreign
policy decisions are made outside the MFA. Abulahoum also
claimed that the 10 percent controlled by the MFA consisted
solely of minor issues which had nothing to do with foreign
policy towards the U.S. or Gulf States.


16. (C) Other contacts claimed the MFA's influence was even
lower than Abulahoum's estimate. Basha and al-Kibsi, for

example, claimed that the MFA had virtually no impact on
Yemen's foreign policy decisions and certainly had no
influence regarding the United States. Al-Kibsi emphasized
this point by noting that the Foreign Minister was formerly a
Professor at Sana'a University in the Faculty of Medicine and
specialized in chemistry, not foreign policy. Finally, Basha
added that the Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, of
which he is a member, is without influence.


17. (C) MFA officials understandably rose to the defense of
their Ministry and, in particular, their Minister. Sallam,
while conceding that the Minister's influence was limited,
asserted that it was greater than that of his predecessors.
To support this claim, Sallam said that Qirbi had manage to
fill 80 percent of Ambassadorial positions with career
diplomats, while under previous Foreign Ministers the total
was closer to 30 percent. Elaiwa scoffed at those who
downplayed the influence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
"They always say the Minister (of Foreign Affairs) has no
influence," he told POL/E Chief on February 24. "If that is
the case, then why is it that those who they say have
influence, like Bajamal and al-Eryani, are former Foreign
Ministers?"

COMMENT
--------------


18. (C) The general sentiment among Post's contacts is that
there are competing camps vying for Saleh's attention, and,
for this reason, policy towards the U.S. has been
inconsistent. While sometimes Ali Muhsin has the upper-hand,
other times al-Hajjri exerts his power as a more positive
influence. It was unclear why exactly Doctor al-Eryani's
influence has waned, but it is possible his age and desire to
withdraw somewhat from Yemeni political life has contributed
to the phenomenon. The claims regarding the MFA's lack of
influence on foreign policy decisions may be exaggerated. It
seems, however, hard to argue that the MFA is a power-player
given that its lack of influence remains such a common theme
with our interlocutors. In any event, it is not clear that
this institutional weakness extends in all cases to the
Foreign Minister, who appears to enjoy some personal
influence with Saleh. End Comment.
SECHE