Questions have already been raised by a number of papers in Yemen regarding the nuclear deal and the “coincidental” connection between Alghani and Bahran. I have suggested that the scenario offers the government a good chance to win some points on the anti-corruption front, while getting out in smooth fashion. This editorial by the Yemen Observer could represent another signal that the government is looking to cut and run from the deal. As a government affiliated newspaper -the publisher, Faris Sanabani, is a presidential adviser and press secretary – Its opinion matters a little bit more than most. There is more than a good possibility that the position of this Op-Ed is also that of the government.
That said, I known Faris (well enough to consider him a friend) and worked at the Observer for a time – and I know Faris’ philosophy when it comes to the paper’s content. The Observer is not a uniform mouthpiece for the government – its not al-Thawra or 26 of September. It definitely takes a pro-GPC/Saleh position in most cases, but the paper does have its own independent streak – often kept alive by a few of its more liberal writers and the Americans/Canadians it employs periodically to copy edit and “proofread” articles (Yemeni press law makes it difficult – if not impossible – for a foreigner to be a reporter for a Yemeni paper). The paper does on occasion criticize the government as well, if only softly, and its editorials are normally forward thinking and supportive of liberalization and progressive reform.
Therefor, while this Observer piece may be indicative of where the government is going on the issue, we cannot be certain it is anything more than Faris’ opinion and the course he is probably advising Saleh to take. I guess in the coming weeks we’ll see if Mr. Sanabani wins out.
(Note: this was probably “proofread” by one of the foreign staff. However, an opinion piece like this would not normally go out without Faris’ approval.)
(2nd Note: Notice that the article is calling out the Anti-Corruption Authority… Setting them up to be the heroes? Mumkin.)
Five nuclear plants? What’s the big deal?
Written By: Staff Editor
Article Date: Oct 6, 2007 – 3:41:13 AM
As it turns out, the American company that the Yemeni Ministry of Electricity and Energy is considering for a $15 billion project to build five nuclear plants in Yemen has no experience whatsoever in building nuclear facilities.
Is Yemen so desperate for nuclear power that the Ministry of Electricity and Energy will chose any corporation to build Yemen’s nuclear plants?
No. It’s not desperation that is leading the country towards a potential nuclear disaster, it is “coincidence.”It appears that the Texas-based company, called Powered Corporation, is headed by a Yemeni-American named Jalal Alghani who attended the same American university at the same time as the Yemeni Minister of Electricity and Energy, Mustafa Bahran, who is in charge of approving the deal.
Bahran’s classmate, Alghani, has a very shady background. He served as Vice Chairman and CFO of another US company called Adair International Oil & Gas Inc. from 1990 to 2002, but lost his position after a group of Adair stockholders and former management members made allegations that Alghani had committed fraud, had mismanaged the company, and had misrepresented the company’s ability to raise funds for business ventures. According the Powered Corporation’s own website, that angry Adair group also claimed that Alghani had misstated his academic credentials and that various governmental agencies were investigating him for criminal activities. Of course Alghani denied the allegations and he was never charged, but does Yemen really want to put something as expensive and potentially catastrophic as five nuclear power plants in the hands of someone who, for all we know, could be a con artist?
Wasn’t the whole point of establishing the Supreme Anti-Corruption Authority to protect the people of Yemen from corrupt officials who make major deals with complete charlatans for crooked reasons? So, what is the Authority going to do about this? And when? So far, it has been the press that has served the people by doing exactly what the press is intended to do-act as a watchdog and bark like hell.