Military Restructuring in Yemen: Exploring Transformation

Friday, April 12, 2013

President Hadi's decree no. 16 for 2013 on military restructuring has been dubbed "historical" and "unprecedented". It was welcomed by most media outlets. On Yemen's ground, the news received mixed reviews: those who protest Saleh's immunity are upset that these appointments "reward criminals", while those who are skeptical of the transitional period are relieved to see many of Saleh's men transferred outside of the country. It is a chance for stability. Like Yemenis say, Le Kol Hadethen Hadeeth, For each occasion its own conversation.  So, in today's post, Yemeniaty examines the focal points of the new appointments and whether it is really historical. 


Final Distributions of Military positions based on governorates

Final Distributions of Military positions based on governorates

The New Military

The previous chart reveals the new power distribution based on governorates/region. The regions colored in white didn't gain any influence. Conversations on military restructuring can prove confusing; however, one must remember these key points: 

1) Mohsen's First Armor Division and Saleh's Republican Guard are dissolved. 2) Regional Military Commanders are independent from local military units. 3) The Military reserve now follows the Ministry of Defense and no longer the President. 4) Military divisons are now based on tasks and each have designated weapons (Yes, it was a mess!). 5) The Military will be composed of seven commands based on geographical divisions. However these commands will be labeled numerically rather than regionally. (Note Hadi's Southern Mentality: after independence from British Colonialism, Southerners referred to governorates by numbers rather than by their traditional names).

The seven regional divisions are as follows: Regional Division 1 (Sayoun), Regional Division 2 (Al-Mukalla), Regional Division 3 (Marib), Regional Division 4 (Aden), Regional Division 5 (Al- Hodaydah), Regional Division 6 ('Amran), and finally Regional Division 7 (Dhamar). 

The New Power Struggle 
The main distribution of military power reveals three key players. First, it is important to note that Saleh's power is not entirely gone as he did rule the country for 33 years.Thus, one of the key players is (what is left of) his regime. Out of the new seven military commands, Saleh's allies still have two.
The two other key players are relatively new: in the North there is Ali Mohsen and Al-Islah and in the South there is Hadi. 

Military's Power Struggle

Military's Power Struggle

In the North, Ali Mohsen came out on top while Al-Ahmar's family, still belonging to Islah, did not really get what they want. Colonel Hashem Al-Ahmar was sent away as part of Saleh's men to Saudi Arabia to hold the position of Defense Attaché. Carefully, Islah is strengthening its relationship with Ali Mohsen. Under Mohsen's direct influence are Major General Al-Sawmali, First Regional Military Commander (Region Sayoun), Major General Al-Maqdashi, Sixth Regional Military Commander (Region 'Amran), and Brigadier General Shamiri, Commander of the 27th Mechanized Brigade. Islah's most influence is on Brigadier General Muthana, Seventh Regional Military Commander (Region Dhamar). The combined Northern powers control almost half of the seven military commands. 

As for the South, Hadi distributed a generous amount of positions for people who were once members of the former YSP. Recalling Al-Toghmah and Al-Zomrah YSP divisons, one might be pleasantly surprised to know that Hadi, a Zomrah himself, appointed 13 Al-Toghmah members. Some might, wrongfully, consider it a peace offering to the Southern Hirak. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Those specific Toghmah individuals abandoned their former allies and are now loyal to Hadi. Furthermore, all of the Toghmah individuals were secondary commanders to begin with. 

Not to mention that Hadi is using a familiar tactic. Saleh previously appointed people from his town/village in important positions and now Hadi is following suit. Take Major General Mhanaf, the new Chief of the Intelligence Bureau; he replaced the Southern Al-Yafi'i, mainly because Mhanaf is from the same part of Abbyan as Hadi. Not to mention that the New Minister of Defense, Brigadier General Hujairi, and the Assistant Secretary of Denfense for Human Resources, Major General Ben Fareed, are all Hadi's men. Assertively, Hadi positioned his authority as the new kid on the block. The new military is in the hands of Mohsen and Islah in the North and Hadi in the South. 

Farewell Saleh? 

Every time we begin to forget former President Saleh's name, a news article here or there reminds us of his presence. Whether is it news over his health, an opening of a "Saleh museum", or delivering a speech about freedom, he somehow reappears. Saleh would have been forgotten a lot quicker if it wasn't for his carefully formulated central authority. He spent years positioning those who are near and dear to him in powerful positions.  Just when Yemenis were giving up hope, President Hadi decided to play scramble with his men. Hadi, diplomatically, gave them ambassadorial and consular positions. 

In a twist of fate, this move, applied on Saleh's allies, was utilized by Saleh himself. For years, he sent individuals inconvenient to his authority into the foreign service program. For instance he sent  the three following men to Washington DC as Ambassadors: Yehya Al-Mutawakkil, Mohammed Al-Eryani and Mohsen Al-'Aini. Now, it is Hadi's time. 

Hadi began with Ahmed Ali Saleh, previously expected to inherit Yemen's presidency. Saleh the son will settle for the position of Ambassador in the United Arab Emirates. There, he can join other members of his family who settled in Abu Dhabi over the past two years. He is guaranteed to live in luxury and to relax for the rest of his diplomatic career.  As for the rest of Saleh's family and allies, they were appointed as Defense Attachés to the following countries: Qatar, Egypt, Germany, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia. 

The Rise of Ali Mohsen

Major General Ali Mohsen is from the same city as Saleh, Sanhan. Ali Mohsen served as Saleh's right hand man for decades as the president's Chief Military Advisor. Some called him "the second most powerful man in Yemen" and others who knew him more closely called him "the most powerful man in Yemen". In December of 2012, some thought that Mohsen's glory was coming to an end since his First Armoured Division was terminated. 

However, in April 2013, and according to Hadi's decree, Mohsen is once more a presidential Military Advisor. 

The rise of Ali Mohsen was expected, and in fact slower than anticipated. Ali Mohsen's defection in March of 2011 from Saleh was the catalyst that encouraged 

those who were loyal to the former president to oppose him publicly. Mohsen abandoned his life long friend after rumored disagreements on Ahmed Ali Saleh's (Saleh's oldest son) growing influence in Yemen. In this power struggle, Mohsen came out on top. Shortly after Mohsen declaration of "supporting and protecting the revolutionaries" Islah welcomed Mohsen as a freedom fighter, forgiving all his past sins. On the other hand, independent revolutionaries considered his role in the revolution as a clear indication that Yemen's revolution was hijacked and doomed. Realistically, it would be near impossible to dispose of Mohsen. His influence couldn't be shaken and now he is part of the new system. So today, we have the "March 21st Garden" in Mathbah (Sana'a) as a park for Yemenis in place of Mohsen's former First Armor Division.