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Arrival of US marines stirs up Yemen politics

The quiet arrival of around 50 US soldiers has proved a useful weapon for President Hadi's critics.
Last modified: 16 Sep 2012 06:28
Army soldiers stand guard outside the house of Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi [Reuters]

As the streets of Sanaa are calm today and free of protesters, the point-scoring and wrangling by various elements in country have started.

The quiet arrival of around 50 US members of the Marine Corps in Yemen on Thursday, following the attacks on US diplomatic posts in North Africa, has proved a useful weapon for the new President Hadi's critics.

The Yemeni parliament issued a statement on Saturday strongly opposing this "foreign presence".

This is set against a backdrop of Hadi's extremely close relationship with the US and his willingness to tolerate a huge jump in drone attacks on suspected al-Qaeda targets in Yemen.

The opposition by the parliament is likely to be symbolic only.

There has always been a small number of military personnel in the US embassy, and the new platoon is not likely to ever leave the embassy compound. But with a local population extremely wary of a US presence because of drone strikes, it is still a criticism which could whip up malcontent from Yemenis.

Kidnappings on the rise

In the meantime, Yemen's al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have weighed in, saying they fully support and encourage violence against US diplomats.

This, however, is nothing new. Kidnappings and attempts to kidnap diplomats in Yemen have increased dramatically.

In May there was an attempt to kidnap the Bulgarian ambassador, while an Italian security advisor working for his embassy was snatched in July and later released.

Last month, a senior Saudi diplomat was released after months of negotiations.

It's not clear who is behind the kidnappings, whether tribes are ransoming people or al-Qaeda are paying people to snatch Western embassy staff.

Regardless, though, this week's events in Sanaa will not have made life any easier for the diplomatic community.