Yemen Foreign Minister Calls Iranian Spy Ring 'Worrisome'
By: Nasser al-Haqbani Translated from Al-Hayat (Pan Arab).
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi called what is happening in Yemen following the arrest of an Iranian spy network "worrisome." He added: "We have informed the Iranians of our concerns regarding these developments. While there has been no evidence indicating the Iranian authorities were directly involved, unfortunately it does seem that there are Shiite groups in Tehran that played a role in this network." He noted that Iranian media outlets were spreading false reports about what was happening in Yemen, in an attempt to sow discord between Yemen and Iran.
About This Article
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi says there is no evidence linking Tehran to an Iranian spy network uncovered in Yemen, reports Nasser al-Haqbani, but the minister says other Iranian Shiite groups, supporting the Houthi rebels, are responsible.Publisher: Al-Hayat (Pan Arab)
Qirbi to Al-Hayat: We Told the Iranians about our Worries Concerning Their Spy Network
Author: Nasser al-Haqbani
First Published: September 13, 2012
Posted on: September 17 2012
Translated by: Tyler Huffman
In a conversation with Al-Hayat, on the sidelines of the Donors Conference for Yemen in Riyadh, Qirbi said that attempts have been made to "secure the release of the Saudi vice consul, Abdullah al-Khalidi, who was kidnapped [in March] in Aden by al-Qaeda. Although efforts have moved slowly, security forces are working to free Khalidi."
He also said that Iran has given both financial and media support to Houthi groups in northern Yemen, which has helped these groups take control there. This was made possible by the government’s preoccupation with the current political crisis.
Al-Hayat: How will the support that Yemen receives during the donors' conference in Riyadh help to achieve economic growth, create employment opportunities and fight poverty?
Qirbi: The holding of the donors conference in Riyadh is the culmination of efforts made by the conference's co-chairs: Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Yemen. However, the Saudi Foreign Ministry, led by Prince Saud al-Faisal, played the largest role in ensuring the success of the conference. The countries that were present examined documents provided by the Yemeni government — represented by the Ministry of Planning of International Cooperation — which outlined the challenges Yemen faces during this complex transitional period. These documents also listed the government's priorities for solving the economic, political and security crises afflicting Yemen.
We have focused on ways in which this support can help us to achieve development, economic growth, increased work opportunities and to fight poverty. The meeting resulted in donor countries pledging $6.4 billion in aid, with Saudi Arabia contributing half of this amount.
Yemen has emerged from the first phase of its transition, which involves securing commitments from different states for various forms of support. It is now on the path to implementing the Gulf Initiative and in February 2014 will move on to another stage deemed the 'Second Republic of Yemen.' We must put in place real programs, in a variety of development frameworks, that reflect on the lives of Yemeni citizens. This includes issues relating to infrastructure such as schools, roads and electricity, in addition to various reforms aimed at building a modern state. Furthermore, we must jump-start the economy to provide more jobs.
Al-Hayat: Are there any groups with specific political agendas that are working to block change in Yemen?
Qirbi: During the past year, Yemen has gone through a difficult crisis and witnessed a youth revolution that called for change and reform to build a modern state. At the same time, there were a number of other groups calling for change based on their own agendas, far removed from the aspirations of the youth who wanted to achieve social justice and comprehensive reform. These groups include al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia, in addition to some internal Yemeni factions. These internal forces fear change, which could stir opposition to government control.
Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has said that the wheel of development and reform has begun spinning and will not go back. The only people capable of hindering this reform are political forces, terrorist groups and politicians abroad who have their own agendas and want to see the separation [of north and south Yemen].
Al-Hayat: Security forces were successful in expelling members of al-Qaeda from the provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, however, is the organization still operating in some areas?
Qirbi: The battle against extremism and terrorism in Yemen has not yet ended, and even some neighboring countries have not been spared from terrorism. This is particularly true given the presence of sleeper cells that emerge whenever crises occur in any country. Moreover, external forces work to mobilize these groups, providing them with material support to carry out acts of sabotage.
The challenge lies in fostering cooperation between Saudi Arabian and Yemeni security forces to confront these groups. We believe that Yemen's security is not isolated from that of the kingdom, and we are certain that the Saudis agree with us.
Al-Hayat: What were the objectives of the Iranian spy network that was arrested in Yemen?
Qirbi: The investigation is still ongoing, and any member of this network who is arrested will be referred to the public prosecutor for trial. What happened is worrisome to all countries in the region, and we must combine our efforts in order to ensure the sovereignty and stability of states. If we don't examine this situation from a realistic perspective, we risk dragging our people and our region into unwarranted crises.
Al-Hayat: Is this network affiliated with the Iranian government?
Qirbi: We have said that there is no evidence indicating that the Iranian authorities were directly involved. However, as you know, Tehran has links to a number of Shiite groups and is affiliated with some other non-government parties. Unfortunately these elements did play a role in these events. It is also unfortunate that Iranian media outlets have been broadcasting false messages regarding what is happening in Yemen and other countries in the region. The Iranian government cannot deny its responsibility in this regard.
Al-Hayat: Have you spoken to the Iranians?
Qirbi: In the past two years I've traveled to Tehran a number of times, yet I haven't communicated with the Iranians recently except through the Iranian ambassador in Sanaa. We informed him that we are worried about these events, and emphasized that the media incitement being carried out by Iranian institutions is detrimental to relations between the two countries. This incitement must stop, as these actions do no serve the interests of Yemen or Iran.
Al-Hayat: When will you open a dialogue with al-Qaeda in Yemen?
Qirbi: Dialogue with al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen is dependent on a number of conditions. They must stop all terrorist activities, announce that they are returning to the 'right path' and live their lives as citizens who have both rights and duties. After they have agreed to these conditions, we will open a dialogue with Yemeni members of al-Qaeda. If al-Qaeda no longer had Yemeni supporters, they would leave the country.
Al-Hayat: Are there any new details regarding the release of the Saudi vice consul, Abdullah al-Khalidi, who was kidnapped in Aden?
Qirbi: Recent attempts have been made to secure the release of the Saudi vice consul, Abdullah al-Khalidi, who was kidnapped by al-Qaeda. Although efforts have moved slowly, security forces are working to free Khalidi. The Yemeni government does not speak with terrorist groups, but there are people who have volunteered to serve as mediators in talks between the government and these terrorist groups.
Al-Hayat: Have the Houthis in northern Yemen become a state within a state?
Qirbi: The Houthi group led by Abdul Malak Badr ad-Din in northern Yemen does not represent a state within a state, although they have taken control of various areas in the wake of the difficult situation that the Yemeni government has been facing the past year. This was possible as a result of the government's preoccupation with the political crisis. In some districts of the Saada province, the Houthis provided services to citizens and helped with administrative tasks in these regions. Unfortunately, certain state institutions withdrew from these areas during the crisis. The government has announced that it is responsible for these areas, and things must get back to normal.
Al-Hayat: Who are supporting [the Houthi groups]?
Qirbi: They are certainly receiving support from the media, and there have (been] sources of funding. However, these sources are not directly linked to the Iranian government, but rather are linked to Shiite groups in Tehran and abroad.
|Back to news list|