President Obama signed an Executive Order on Wednesday threatening to exert economic sanctions against any person or group in either Yemen or the United States who the administration decides is “obstructing” implementation of the U.S.-backed political transition in Yemen.
After about a year of mass protests urging the U.S.-supported dictator of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign, Yemenis voted in February in a referendum on a U.S.-backed transition deal to formally depose Saleh and elect his deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, who was the only name on the ballot.
The deal granted Saleh total immunity for the crimes he committed while on Washington’s dole and despite the sham, single-candidate “election,” the U.S. praised it as democracy. The Obama administration, eager to restart its modus operandi of bribing and propping up a brutal Yemeni dictatorship in exchange for allowing U.S. missiles to pepper the country, almost immediately restarted military aid.
Yemenis have since realized that no substantive change has occurred and so people are still protesting against the government. But now Obama has decreed that anyone obstructing the transition to Hadi’s rule, anyone speaking out or putting money towards activism against the dictatorship Washington has upheld in the embattled Gulf state, will have their financial assets frozen by Obama’s Treasury Department.
This isn’t the first instance of the Obama administration targeting those the Yemeni state doesn’t like. “As the pace [of the drone war] quickens and the targets expand,” the Los Angeles Times reported in April, “the distinction may be blurring between operations targeting militants who want to attack Americans and those aimed at fighters seeking to overthrow the Yemeni government.”
That practice seems to aim to kill anti-government actors in Yemen, whereas this new Executive Order merely threatens sanctions for anti-government speech or activism, for both Yemenis and Americans.
The decree specifies that U.S. citizens are included in this threat of sanctions. The order says any interference in the U.S. plan to install Hadi as the new dictator in Yemen “threaten[s] the peace, security and stability” of the country. Peace, security and stability, in this case, means foreign-backed despotism and an unaccountable U.S. drone war.
The new measures clearly violate the First Amendment rights of Americans and of Yemenis. Anyone who uses their activism or their assets “in opposition to [the Government of Yemen]” will be targeted.