Cable: 09SANAA2279_a
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YEMENI TRIBAL LEADER: FOR SALEH, SAUDI INVOLVEMENT IN SA'ADA COMES NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON
Date:
2009 December 28, 10:44 (Monday)
Canonical ID:
09SANAA2279_a
Original Classification:
CONFIDENTIAL
Current Classification:
CONFIDENTIAL
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6297
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TEXT ONLINE
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TE - Telegram (cable)
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B. SANAA 2227 C. SANAA 1617 D. SANAA 1611 Classified By: CDA Angie Bryan for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 1. (C) SUMMARY: President Saleh believes the Saudi Government's military actions in Sa'ada will alleviate mounting domestic political pressure on him to demonstrate progress against the Houthi rebels, according to Mohammad Naji al-Shaif, a tribal leader with close personal ties to Saleh and his inner circle. Shaif told EconOff that Saleh views Saudi involvement in the war, and the concomitant increase in direct Saudi budget support to the ROYG, as an incentive to prolong the ROYG's campaign in Sa'ada. Shaif also claimed that members of the Saudi Special Office for Yemen Affairs, in contrast to the Saudi Government's official support for the ROYG, are privately very skeptical of Saleh's claims regarding Iranian assistance for the Houthi rebels. The long absence from Saudi Arabia of Crown Prince Sultan, a Saleh skeptic who normally heads the Special Office, has meant that the Yemen file has largely been in the hands of King Abdullah, a firm supporter of Saleh, according to Shaif. END SUMMARY. SALEH RELIEVED BY SAUDI INVOLVEMENT, BUT STILL OVERWHELMED --------------------------------------------- ------------- 2. (C) In the past month, President Saleh has told a number of his top advisors that continued direct Saudi involvement in the Houthi conflict will alleviate domestic political pressure on the ROYG to produce tangible gains against the Houthis, according to Mohammad Naji al-Shaif, a Bakil tribal confederation leader and Member of Parliament with close personal ties to Saleh. Saleh also views continued Saudi involvement as the key to keeping the tap of Saudi budget support open (Saudi monetary support for ROYG military operations will be reported septel). The greater financial incentives attached to direct Saudi participation in the conflict mean Saleh now has an incentive to prolong the conflict rather than seek a mediated solution. (Comment: Shaif's comments on Saleh's thinking support similar accounts from other Post contacts reported in REF B. Shaif speaks frequently with Saleh, presidential son Ahmed Ali, and their respective inner circles. The chummy relationship between Shaif and Ahmed Ali was plainly evident during a recent meeting between the two that EconOff also attended. End Comment.) 3. (C) Like other Saleh watchers (REF C), Shaif characterizes the multitude of threats facing Saleh as qualitatively different and more threatening to the regime's stability than those during any other time in Yemen's history. "Saleh is overwhelmed, exhausted by the war, and more and more intolerant of internal criticism. Saudi involvement comes at just the right time for him" Shaif said. Largely unprecedented criticism of Saleh's leadership within the rarified circle of Saleh's closest advisors has increased in recent months, even including longtime Saleh loyalists such as Office of the Presidency aides Abdo Burji and Abdullah al-Bashiri, according to Shaif. These names add to the growing chorus of Saleh loyalists that have shed their traditional aversion to disparaging the man they call "The Boss" (REF D). SAUDIS DIVIDED ON CONFIDENCE IN SALEH'S SA'ADA CLAIMS --------------------------------------------- -------- 4. (C) Members of the Saudi Government's Special Office for Yemen Affairs, a committee normally headed by Crown Prince Sultan, are privately skeptical of Saleh's claims of Iranian involvement and of his desire to regionalize the Sa'ada conflict, according to Shaif, who met with the committee during a mid-September 2009 visit to Riyadh. Shaif told EconOff on December 14 that committee members privately shared his view that Saleh was providing false or exaggerated information on Iranian assistance to the Houthis in order to enlist direct Saudi involvement and regionalize the conflict. Shaif said that one committee member told him that "we know Saleh is lying about Iran, but there's nothing we can do about it now." SANAA 00002279 002 OF 002 5. (C) The prolonged absence from Saudi Arabia of Special Office chairman Crown Prince Sultan (REF A), who Shaif claims is also highly skeptical of Saleh, left the Yemen file in the hands of King Abdullah, who has greater confidence in Saleh's motives and leadership abilities. Committee members have kept their doubts about Saleh's leadership abilities private since the departure of Crown Prince Sultan, creating a vacuum of Yemen policy advice in the Saudi Government that resulted in the decision to intervene directly in the Houthi conflict, according to Shaif. King Abdullah was much more receptive to Saleh's entreaties for direct Saudi involvement than Crown Prince Sultan ever would have been, according to Shaif. 6. (C) RIYADH COMMENT: We agree with Shaif's observation that Saudi support is enabling Saleh to weather increased domestic political pressure and continue his campaign against the Houthis. However, Shaif's assumption that King Abdullah's "greater confidence" in Saleh is driving this support may be flawed. We have seen no evidence that the King has any particular regard for Saleh beyond exasperation that borders on disgust. Senior Saudi officials make no secret of their distaste for Saleh, but see him as the "devil they know." Aware of his growing weakness, they view their support as essential to keeping Yemen's problems contained. Further, contacts say Second Deputy PM and Minister of Interior Prince Nayif, widely believed to advocate a tougher approach to the Yemen problem, has been heavily involved in the Yemen file in Sultan,s absence. Some suggest that the border actions -- while temporarily propping up Saleh -- may be indicative of Saudi plans to take a harder line towards Yemen in the longer term. END RIYADH COMMENT. 7. (U) Embassy Riyadh has cleared this cable. BRYAN










References to this document in other cables
References in this document to other cables
05SANJOSE2909
09RIYADH1617
08RIYADH1617
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