Abdallah Saleh's taste for whiskey

I need to read Wikileaks more often:

Pointing to the ROYG's problems in combating rampant drug and arms smuggling, Saleh told General Petraeus that U.S. maritime security assistance was insufficient to cover Yemen's nearly 2,000 km of coastline. "Why not have Italy, Germany, Holland, Japan, Saudi, and the UAE each provide two patrol boats?" Saleh suggested. The General told Saleh that two fully-equipped 87-foot patrol boats destined for the Yemeni Coast Guard were under construction and would arrive in Yemen within a year. Saleh singled out smuggling from Djibouti as particularly troublesome, claiming that the ROYG had recently intercepted four containers of Djibouti-origin TNT. "Tell (Djiboutian President) Ismail Guelleh that I don't care if he smuggles whiskey into Yemen -- provided it's good whiskey but not drugs or weapons," Saleh joked. Saleh said that smugglers of all stripes are bribing both Saudi and Yemeni border officials.

Same cable contains a passage where Saleh is confused about what the US is bombing in his country exactly, and this gem:

Raising a topic that he would manage to insert into almost every item of discussion during the hour and half-long meeting, Saleh requested that the U.S. provide the ROYG with 12 armed helicopters. Possessing such helicopters would allow the ROYG to take the lead in future CT operations, "ease" the use of fighter jets and cruise missiles against terrorist targets, and allow Yemeni Special Operations Forces to capture terrorist suspects and identify victims following strikes, according to Saleh. The U.S. could convince Saudi Arabia and the UAE to supply six helicopters each if the American "bureaucracy" prevented quick approval, Saleh suggested. The General responded that he had already considered the ROYG's request for helicopters and was in discussions with Saudi Arabia on the matter. "We won't use the helicopters in Sa'ada, I promise. Only against al-Qaeda," Saleh told General Petraeus.

Sa'ada, of course, is a northern rebellious province where the government has nearly lost control.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.