Middle East, New in Lobbying, Regional conflicts

Yemen separatists open New York office to lobby UN

A separatist movement in war-torn Yemen is opening a New York office to help press its case for self-rule at the United Nations.

The Southern Transitional Council (STC) disclosed in a new lobbying filing that it had hired a branch manager for the new office on March 1. The council has been lobbying the Donald Trump administration and Congress via a representative office in Washington since 2018.

“We are in the process of opening a branch office of the Transitional Southern Council (STC) in New York City with a sole mandate to follow up with our work as related to United Nations,” the group said in its filing for the six months through May 2020. The office manager, Alkhader Nasr Sulaiman, has to date not registered as a foreign agent.

The New York expansion comes as the council, which is based in Aden, announced on April 25 its intention to establish its own administration in regions under its control. The STC wants to return to the two Yemeni states that existed prior to unification in 1990. The declaration has prompted fierce push-back from the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, which had signed a power-sharing deal with the STC in October, as well as a warning from the UN’s special envoy for Yemen.

“The latest turn of events is disappointing, especially as the city of Aden and other areas in the south have yet to recover from flooding and are facing the risk of COVID-19,” Martin Griffiths said in an April statement. “Now, more than ever, all political actors must cooperate in good faith, refrain from taking escalatory actions, and put the interests of Yemenis first.”

The conflict between the Saudi-backed government and the STC, which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, has hampered their joint fight against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Tensions have only been growing worse, with separatists seizing 64 billion rials (about $250 million) over the weekend from a convoy destined for the central bank in Aden.

“The action is part of several measures to end sources of corruption and to prevent the use of public money in supporting terrorism,” the STC said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

In its new filing, the council’s US branch also discloses receiving $146,000 from its main office to cover “office rent and other expenses of running the office in Washington DC and the newly opened office in New York City.” That’s up from $127,000 in the previous semester. Interestingly, the new filing notes that the money came from the STC office in the UAE rather than in Aden, as previous ones had.

“We added our STC office [in the UAE] as a source of funding in our most recent [filing] due to the fact that the current war in Yemen and specifically the difficulty in transferring funds from our main office in Aden we had to get the fund from our office in UAE,” Abdulsalam Mused, the director of STC’s US office, told Foreign Lobby Report in an email. “The STC main office is still in Aden since its foundation three years ago.”

In addition to its Washington office, the STC has retained New York-based Independent Diplomat since late 2018 to help handle outreach to the US Mission to the UN and the rest of the international community.

The STC’s political activities reported over the past six months consist of sending emails to the State Department, Congress and the United Nations regarding the political crisis as well as the humanitarian situation in southern Yemen with regard to the coronavirus outbreak and deadly spring floods that have affected more than 150,000 people in the Middle East’s poorest country. The Trump administration said in March that it was suspending millions of dollars worth of aid because of concerns it was being misappropriated by the Houthi rebels, even as the State Department in May announced $225 million in emergency food aid to support the World Food Program in Yemen.

Update: This post was updated at 3:12 p.m. on June 15, 2020 with comment from STC US office director Abdulsalam Mused.