Dr. Iryani reported in a conversation with the France24channel, in response to a question about Yemen as a supposed major base for al-Qaeda, “the media exaggerates the extent of al-Qaeda’s role in Yemen”.
The political advisor of the Yemeni president, Dr. Abdul Kareem Al-Iryani confirmed that Yemen could overcome al-Qaeda alone, refusing American demands “many times” to participate in ground operations to pursue and attack al-Qaeda.
Their request was “rejected completely,” and he noted that the American-Yemeni relationship is good and normal.
“There is no doubt, that al-Qaeda exists in Yemen and it is irritating the situation – that we all know. But I think its dimensions and scope are not anything like what we are imagining,” he said.
“The problem is that those in the al-Qaeda group do not live alone on some base; they live with their children, wives, sheep, camels. There is no way to attack al-Qaeda without harming civilians,” he added.
Dr. al-Iryani rejected the portrayal of the situation in Yemen as comparable to what is happening in Pakistan or Afghanistan, saying, “it is far from reality.”
In his response to a question on whether the calm in the South means the current political tension had been overcome, he commented, “the movement is huge, but it has been exaggerated; still, we can’t deny that there are political and economic demands, and the legitimate ones are being handled as much as possible.”
Dr. al-Iryani spoke also about the economic situation, the Houthi rebellion, and the political dialogue with the opposition. A transcript of the interview follows:
Welcome everybody to this new France24 Interview. Our guest today is the political advisor of the President of the Republic, and the former Prime Minister of Yemen, Abdul Kareem al-Iryani. Welcome Mr. al-Iryani:
Q. Let us start with the political situation in Yemen, Mr Iryani. How is it?
The political situation is like any other situation: always unstable and recently there is a dialogue with the opposition parties about the upcoming elections, and there is no doubt it is a fluid political situation.
Q. Ok. The events in North have calmed down, does that mean the current political tension has been overcome?
It has not been completely overcome, because there are issues we need to deal with before it can be completely overcome. Still, I believe the situation was exaggerated. It is still an issue, but we cannot deny the legitimate demands we are trying to resolve as much as possible and at the end it is…
Q. Political demands?
You can say political and financial.
Q. Economic you mean?
Let me tell you, the economic situation in Yemen, in the South and in the North is very, very difficult. There are those suffering from the economic situation in North who believe that Unity is the cause while people in South blame the government; the whole situation has been politicized. It’s normal that the public opinion and spontaneous feelings must be addressed somehow.
Q. Is the Houthi threat still on-going?
Recently, there has been the Qatari mediation and things are going well, and I think if the Qatari meditation reached its goal, the Houthi threat would finish completely and reconstruction could begin.
Q. What is the goal of this meditation, Mr al-Iryani?
First, to stop the war; second, to find a resolution for disagreements, especially in a final, conclusive way. There are issues such as the releasing of Houthi detainees, as well as those kidnapped by the Houthis, and returning heavy weapons seized by the Houthis, which should be only under government control. I believe if we get though this stage, we could start with reconstruction, which would solve the underlying problems, since the Houthis are from the poorest governorate in Yemen.
Q. With regard to reconstruction, Mr. al-Iryani, there are some saying the causes of the conflict are ideological, rather than developmental – is that true? الاستماع
That has a big effect, but it is not the main reason. Frankly, what has happened and is still happening is something, let us say, to do with the tendency of the Zaidi Sect toward the Salafi extremists’ group, who do not agree with Zaidi Sect. There are financial problems, yes, we cannot deny that; and there are some trying to get rid of the Zaidi Sect, which has existed in Yemen since the third and fourth century A.H. You can’t destroy it, but it’s still a trend in the Arab World, singling out and attacking sects.
Q. We will come back to this point later, but is it right that Yemen is on its way to becoming a safe haven for the al-Qaeda organization?
This is a big issue. There is no doubt that al-Qaeda exists in Yemen; it is irritating things and we all know that, but I believe its dimensions and its control of territory is not like what we are imagining.
Q. Is there no comparison between Yemen and Afghanistan?
This is far from reality. The events which happened and are still happening in Yemen don’t differ from the Times Square incident in New York: a group of people rigged an explosive car and they were about to explode it and kill dozens of people. What about the recent events in Stockholm? It’s the same story with Abdul al-Mutalib; he did not need a big army to attack the aircraft. The same with those who packed the parcel bombs; they did not need a big army of technicians to make their attack, the only thing they needed was to arrange a delivery.
Q: Ok, some of the Wikileaks documents revealed president Ali Abdullah Saleh supported or at least, let us say, ignored the American aerial strikes which targeted al-Qaeda in Yemen; is this right?
First, the Wikileaks information is not a secret at all. There is an open cooperation that is not always announced.
Q. But why did Yemen not announce it?
I am careful to be honest with you; rather than saying it was announced, I’ll say that it was an open secret to everybody. There is cooperation between the US and Yemen; Yemen manages all the ground information and aircraft with no American pilot collects pictures and information on the ground, then the two parts agreed. The problem is the al-Qaeda group does not live by themselves on a base; they live with their children, wives, sheep, and camels. Al-Qaeda cannot be exploded without causing harm and injuries to civilians, but now we are preparing to compensate the civilian families.
Q. Is America fighting al-Qaeda in Yemen? There are some who compare Yemen to Pakistan. Does that mean that America is engaged in fighting in Yemen also?
I am sure Yemen will overcome al-Qaeda and then the world will be convinced that Yemen is fighting the organization. The Pakistani case is totally different. The conflict there has its roots primarily in the clashes between the Pashtun and the governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan. You know the Pashtun do not accept the fact that the British split them between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Q. You mean Yemen is completely different Mr. al-Iryani. You have asked for help in fighting al-Qaeda. What kind of help is that?
Recently, assistance with machinery and equipment with air reconnaissance training, and its main role has been the training of Yemeni forces.
Q. There was no direct US intervention?
No, it was not direct. They asked many times to participate in the ground operations, but they were completely rejected.
Q. What is the relationship like between Washington in the US?
I considered it a good and normal relationship. It was not harmed by Wikileaks, which affected America not Yemen.
Q. In a recent conference, you petitioned for help from international sources, did you not?
Yes, at the London conference.
Q. Yes, it is really enough and what use is this? Did they offer you what you asked for?
Not all of what we asked for, no. I think we asked for ten billion dollars, and we just got 6 million. But, this was some help on the donors’ part; they have developed some projects in cooperation with Yemeni government. There are many projects have been initiated and some are being executed.
Q. Let us come back to the parcel cases which have been sent from Yemen, is there anything new coming from your investigations?
The last thing I heard, some collaborators, but not the perpetrators have been arrested, which will of course help us identify the perpetrators. The media has said there is a Saudi engineering graduate, by the name of al-Asiri, from the Aseer region, in the South of the kingdom, who had the main role in both cases.
Q. Was it identified where they came from?
Al-Qaeda, but they are Saudis, and it was a Saudi who stood before Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and blew himself up in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi side of al-Qaeda is very active in Yemen.
Thank you, thank you, Mr. Abdul Kareem al-Iryani. I remind everybody, you are the political adviser for the president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the former prime minister. Thank you for watching us. See you in another episode of the France24 Interview. Goodbye.