Obama's letter to Yemen

A letter from President Obama confirming US support "for the unity and security of Yemen" was delivered to President Salih on Saturday, according to the official news agency, Saba.

The letter allegedly promised "an initiative to support Yemen to face all its development obstacles and enhance efforts of reforms through International Monetary Fund, World Bank and donors as well as states of the Gulf cooperation council". 

Considering the recent statement from the US embassy expressing "deep concern" at the continuing conflict between the Yemeni millitary and the Houthi rebels – and calling for a ceasefire – I can't believe that Obama's message was one of wholehearted support. Nor can I believe that Obama would offer such wide-ranging economic and development help without some strings attached ... such as the Yemeni government drastically mending its ways.

A possible clue to the failure of last week's ceasefire lies buried in 
a report from IRIN, the UN humanitarian news agency. Mohammed Abdussalam, the Houthi rebels' spokesman, is quoted as saying that "their fighters in Harf Sufyan district in Amran province had not heard about the truce decision". Given the communication difficulties and the fact that mobile phones are cut off, this seems very likely.

It true, it suggests another ceasefire attempt would be worthwhile – this time paying more attention to the mechanics of implementation.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 7 September 2009.