Here is an extensive archive on a war that remains either unreported or misreported in Pakistani and Western media. Ironically, it is a war in which four different players, namely Saudi Arabia, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Al Qaeda and the USA, seem to be united against the Houthi ‘rebels’ of Yemen.
Here are two snapshots from Yemen:
Protestors are walking confidently down a street in the southern Yemeni port of Aden when there is a rattle of gunfire as the security services shoot into the crowd and people run panic-stricken seeking cover. A man in a check shirt is left lying face down in the dust in the empty street, a stream of blood flowing from a bullet wound in his head.
In northern Yemen government tanks and artillery pound the mountains as they try to dislodge Shia rebels holding positions among the mountain crags. Plumes of white smoke rise from exploding shells. Tribesmen not in uniform fighting on the government side sit behind their heavy machine guns and spray the hillsides with fire. A few miles away on a dusty piece of flat ground thousands of refugees driven from their homes by the war cower in small over-crowded tents.
However, media (and, in turn, ordinary public) in the West as well as in the East (except Press TV) seems to pay little attention to violent incidents like these in Yemen last year, though both of those described above were recorded on film. In Pakistan, in particular, media have all but blacked out news of this growing war. Source
The Saudi military has used tanks, warplanes, phosphorus bombs, etc. vs the Houthi Shias, but the Houthi resistance fighters apparently succeeded in seizing some Saudi territory. The Saudis have called in Jordanian special forces to assist them.
There is also evidence of the US military operation in support of the Saudi Arabian dictators. In December 2009, the Houthi fighters in Northwest Yemen accused the United States of killing at least 120 people and wounding 44 in airstrikes. Here is a youtube clip showing the aftermath of the attack. The Houthis’ website claims US fighter jets hit populated areas such as markets and refugee camps.
Saudi Arabia’s Attack on Yemen
By RANNIE AMIRI
“We are upset and saddened by the recent bombings by the Saudi army to harm the much loved Yemeni people. Saudi Arabia’s intervention does nothing but feed the useless bloodshed on its border with Yemen.”
– Mahdi Akef, Chairman of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, 9 November 2009.
“How can the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques of Islam [King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia] bring himself to permit the killing of innocent Muslims in the forbidden months?”
– Ali Larijani, Speaker of Iran’s Parliament, 15 November 2009 (Islam forbids waging war during four months in the lunar calendar, one of which is Dhu al-Qidah, coinciding with November of this year).
If there was any question about which country was interfering in Yemen’s civil war, Saudi Arabia provided the answer when its F-15 and Tornado fighter jets struck Zaidi (or Zaydi) rebel positions two weeks ago in the mountainous border region between the two countries, and beyond.
The Zaidi fighters, known as Houthis, have been engaged in an on-and-off struggle with Yemen’s government since 2004; a conflict which most recently flared again this August (for additional background, see “Saada Under Siege”).
The Saudi assault was allegedly in retaliation for the killing of a border guard by the rebels in early November. The Houthis however, charge Saudi Arabia with allowing Yemen’s army to launch attacks from Saudi territory and participating in cross-border raids themselves.
Iran or Saudi Arabia?
Indeed, the most traded accusation between the Houthis and the government of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been which third-party country is providing material support to the other. A longstanding – and as yet unsubstantiated – allegation made by both Yemen and Saudi Arabia is that Iran is bankrolling the Houthi insurgency, providing money, arms and training.
In reality, most of the weapons that have found their way into the northern governorate of Saada and into rebel hands have likely come from disaffected Yemeni soldiers (many of whom are Zaidi) ambivalent about fighting their countrymen, or from those who have simply abandoned their positions and fled.
In late October, Yemen purportedly seized an Iranian ship carrying arms to the Houthis and arrested five of its crewmen. Although vowing to make details of the subsequent investigation public, little has been heard of it since. The Iranian government denied any of its vessels were captured off Yemen’s waters, describing the entire incident as a “media fabrication.”
In a Nov. 11 Christian Science Monitor article entitled “Does Iran play role in Yemen conflict?” Joost Hilterman, deputy Middle East program director for the International Crisis Group in Washington D.C., said, “There is probably next to no Iranian involvement. I have seen no evidence for it [and] it’s really a bit too far afield.” He went on to say, “The Iranians are just brilliant. [They play] no role whatsoever, but they get all the credit … ”
But who most assuredly does get credit for their meddling is Saudi Arabia.
Worried that the Houthis – in their quest to end political and socioeconomic discrimination of the Zaidi community as a result of an encroaching Wahabi and Al-Qaeda presence – may transform themselves into a Hezbollah-like group, the Saudis have resorted to using sophisticated weaponry against them and the impoverished people of north Yemen. These include jets, attack helicopters, surface-to-air missiles, and possibly ones more sinister.
There are now claims by the Houthis that the Saudi military has been firing white phosphorus shells into civilian areas. As reported by the AFP, an unnamed Saudi government advisor said they were merely flares (much like the Israelis said in the Gaza war).
In response, Amnesty International issued the following statement:
“Allegations that the Saudi Arabian air force dropped phosphorus bombs have been carried by news reports. It is unclear whether anyone was killed in the bombing and, if so, whether they included civilians, but some 300 families are reported to have fled the area afterwards.
“Phosphorus bombs are highly incendiary weapons and pose grave risks to civilians. They should never be used in the vicinity of civilians.
“The day after the bombing raid, Amnesty International wrote to Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister, Crown Prince Sultan bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud, asking whether phosphorus bombs were used and, if so, in what manner and what precautions were taken to ensure that civilians were not put at risk. As yet, the organization has received no response.”
The human toll
The Saudi attack on northern Yemen is the epitome of military adventurism and opportunism. It allows them to use – for the first time – advanced weapons purchased from the United States against an ill-equipped band of rebels in the midst of a destitute, malnourished, and displaced population. The humanitarian consequences of this reckless offensive are already evident.
UNICEF indicates that 240 villages on the Saudi Arabian side of the border have been evacuated and the civilian residents forced to settle in refugee camps. On the Yemeni side, the number of internally displaced persons has increased in a matter of weeks by 25,000, and now totals 175,000 since the conflict began. It is impossible to know the number of people killed due to a government-enforced media blackout.
Despite this, there are all the hallmarks of an impending disaster. Signad Kaag, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said, “During the past three months, children affected by the conflict in the north have seen all their basic rights violated. Lack of safe water, nutrition and hygiene is exerting a heavy toll on their health and well-being and threatening their very survival – a situation that will only get worse with the coming of winter.”
Saudi Arabia shows no sign of letting up. They have voiced their intent to create a “buffer zone” 10 km deep into Yemeni territory and have imposed a naval blockade on its north coast.
Shortly after the Saudi airstrikes, U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly stated:
“It’s our view that there can be no long-term military solution to the conflict between the Yemeni government and the rebels.”
Yet, the U.S. signed a cooperation agreement on military intelligence and training with Saleh’s government last week, thus making them party to the conflict. This ironically puts them on the same side as elements of Al-Qaeda, employed by Saleh to fight the Houthis.
Although the Gulf monarchies and other Arab dictatorships have voiced support for Yemen and the “territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia,” the tone adopted by both Shia and Sunni Muslim groups in the Middle East, such as Iran’s Society of the Seminary Teachers of Qum and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, has been one lamenting the hostilities and stressing the need for reconciliation (this is in stark contrast to the overtly hostile, anti-Iranian, anti-Shia vitriol of the Saudi religious establishment, which called on their government to strike the “deviant” Houthis “with an iron fist”).
Saudi Arabia’s irresponsible muscle-flexing only exacerbates regional and sectarian tensions, and puts a solution to the conflict further out of reach. It is clear the only solution to be had is a diplomatic one. The time for the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the U.N. Security Council to intercede before the conflict and its attendant humanitarian costs spiral out of hand is long overdue.
And if the Saudis are worried the Houthis have, or will, become another Hezbollah, they would be wise to remember what Hezbollah did to the Israeli army when they foolishly decided to attack, and leave Yemen alone.
Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator. He may be reached at: rbamiri AT yahoo DOT com.
Yemen is a perfect venue for more confrontation, on al-Qaeda’s terms. This is bin Laden’s father’s homeland, and he has a wide following here. Al-Qaeda enjoys little support among the large Shiite (Zaidi or Zaydi) minority concentrated in the north, but elsewhere it is able to capitalize on popular outrage at the oppression of the Palestinians, the sanctions imposed on Iraq and the invasion and occupation of that country, and U.S. support for vicious Arab regimes. It is able to exploit the fact that the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh is fighting not only an insurgency in the north led by the Zaydi Houthi tribe but a secessionist movement in the south.
The latter movement is rooted among former officials and military officers of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen), which merged with the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) to form the present Republic of Yemen in 1990. Saleh was president of North Yemen from 1978 and has been the unchallenged leader of the united country for 20 years. His opponents in the Southern Movement (including secularist Baathists and Nasserites, who have little in common with al-Qaeda) view him as a corrupt, nepotistic dictator using U.S. aid and the exaggerated al-Qaeda threat to his own advantage.
In 1994 southerners mounted a short-lived rebellion against the union. Their dissatisfaction arose in part from the inequitable distribution of revenue from oil, which is produced exclusively in the southern part of the country that nonetheless remains lags behind the north. Saleh, himself a (secular) Shiite from the north, cunningly deployed Islamist forces from the north to help suppress the rebellion. Jihadist leader Tariq al-Fadhli, a veteran of the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan in the eighties, was among these. He is of southern origin; his family fled to the north after its property was nationalized by the leftist regime in the 1970s. According to “terrorism analyst” Rafid Fadhil Ali, “The terminology he uses in his statements and speeches is more patriotic than Islamist.” He acknowledges meeting bin Laden in Afghanistan many years ago but insists, “I have strong relations with all of the jihadists in the north and the south and everywhere, but not with al-Qaeda.”
Now the south is in revolt again, using mostly peaceful tactics of resistance. But al-Fadhli has switched sides, joining what is called the Southern Movement and advocating militant tactics. Saleh has seized upon this to smear the Southern Movement in general as an al-Qaeda offshoot, and to strengthen his grip over the country with U.S. support. At present he receives far more military aid from Russia and China than the U.S., and he apparently realizes the political risks of too close an association with a widely hated imperialist power. On the other hand his government is weak and risks losing control over the oil-rich south without outside support.
While al-Fadhli denies al-Qaeda ties, and the Southern Movement seems clearly dominated by secularists and nationalists rather than bin Laden-type Islamists, AQAP has opportunistically embraced the southern secessionist cause. As analyst Ali puts it, this allows Saleh to claim that “the Southern Movement and al Qaeda are one and the same, a convenient way to insure backing from Washington.” Meanwhile as Princeton University professor Bernard Haykel puts it, “Any association [of the U.S.] with the (Yemeni) regime will only confirm al Qaida’s narrative, which is that America is only interested in maintaining corrupt and despotic rulers and is not interested in the fate of Arabs and Muslims.”
The U.S. may have no boots on the ground in Yemen, other than those of some trainers. Rather, there are attacks on targets conducted by drones, apparently approved by the Saleh regime. These have occurred since 2002 and are occurring with increasing frequency. The December 17 attack on a site north of the capital of Sana’a (in insurgent Houthi territory) killed 34 al-Qaeda militants and foiled a terror plot, according to the Yemeni government. But a local official reported 49 civilians killed, among them 23 children and 17 women, while opposition politicians say 120 were killed. This was followed by a strike in the south on a meeting planning a protest on the December 24 attack. The abortive Delta/Northwest bombing was depicted by AQAP as revenge for these attacks.
As al-Jazeera has editorialized: “A dozen years ago, a demoralized group with nowhere to go but the hills of Afghanistan, al-Qaeda began targeting America instead of the region’s authoritarian regimes hoping to destabilize the region, bloody America’s nose and gain popularity. Its strategy was simple: Draw the US into direct confrontation against and within the Muslim world. Like sheep to the slaughter house, America walked right into its trap.”
Who wants to walk further down into the trap? Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), head of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, keen advocate of the Afghan and Iraq Wars, campaigner for the Iran attack, stands at the head of the line. “Iraq was yesterday’s war,” he told Fox News. “Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act pre-emptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war. That’s the danger we face.” Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) appearing on the same program agreed, and Sen Arlen Specter (D-PA) has said an attack on Yemen is “something we should consider.”
U.S. intelligence estimates there are only about 200 al-Qaeda members in Yemen. Al-Qirbi stated on December 29, “There are maybe hundreds of them—200, 300.” Award-winning Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn estimates 200-300. According to one estimate only about 90 of these are fully armed. The Yemeni government doesn’t really see them as a threat to itself. “The view from Sana’a doesn’t match the view from Washington,” points out Gregory Johnson, a Princeton graduate student specializing in Yemen. “The Yemeni government is much more concerned with fighting the Houthis in Saada and with the secessionists in the south. Al-Qaeda ranks a distant third. The government doesn’t see it as a Yemeni problem. [It sees it as] a foreign problem.”
Terrorist Haven or Chess Piece? Something About Yemen
By CONN HALLINAN
“The instability in Yemen is a threat to regional stability and even global stability”
— U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“Yemen is a regional and global threat”
—British Prime Minister Gordon Brown
“Yemen could be the ground of America’s next overseas war if Washington does not take preemptive action to root out al-Qaeda there”
—U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn)
Yemen—a country slightly smaller than France with a population of 22 million—perches on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It is the poorest country in the region, with one of the most explosive birthrates in the world. Unemployment hovers above 40 percent and projections are that its oil—which makes up 70 percent of its GDP—will run out in 2017, as will water for the capital, Sana, in 2015.
It is a bit of a patchwork nation. It was formerly two countries—North Yemen and the Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen (south), which merged in 1990 and fought a nasty civil war in 1994.
The current government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh is corrupt, despotic, and presently fighting a two-front war against northern Shiites, called “Houthis,” and separatist-minded southerners. Based in the north, Saleh’s government has limited influence outside of the capital. Whoever runs the place, according to The Independent’s Middle East reporter Patrick Cockburn, has to contend with “tribal confederations, tribes, clans, and powerful families. Almost everybody has a gun, usually at least an AK-47 assault rifle, but tribesmen often own heavier armament.”
To make things even more complex, Yemen’s northern neighbor, Saudi Arabia, has sent troops and warplanes to back up Saleh. According to Reuters, “The conflict in Yemen’s northern mountains has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands.” Aid groups put the number of refugees at 150,000. The Saleh government and the Saudis claim the Shiia uprising is being directed by Iran— there is no evidence to back up the charge—thus escalating a local civil war to a regional face off between Riyadh and Teheran.
And this is a place that Hillary, Gordon and Joe think we need to intervene?
In a sense, of course, the U.S. is already in Yemen, and was so even before the attempted bombing Christmas Day of a Northwest Airlines flight by a young Nigerian. For most Americans, Yemen first appeared on their radar screens when the USS Cole was attacked in the port of Aden by al-Qaeda in 2000, killing 17 sailors. It reappeared this past November when a U.S. Army officer linked to a Muslim cleric in Yemen killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Colorado. The Christmas Day attacker said he was trained by al-Qaeda, and the group took credit for the failed operation.
But U.S. involvement in Yemen goes back almost 40 years. In 1979, the Carter Administration blew a minor border incident between north and south Yemen into a full-blown East- West crisis, accusing the Soviets of aggression. The White House dispatched an aircraft carrier and several warships to the Arabian Sea, and sent tanks, armored personal carriers and warplanes to the North Yemen government.
The tension between the two Yemens was hardly accidental. According to UPI, the CIA funneled $4 million a year to Jordan’s King Hussein to help brew up a civil war between the conservative North and the wealthier and socialist south.
The merger between the two countries never quite took. Southern Yemenis complain that the north plunders its oil and wealth and discriminates against southerners. Demonstrations and general strikes by the Southern Movement demanding independence have increased over the past year. The Saleh government has generally responded with clubs, tear gas and guns.
When Yemen refused to back the 1991 Gulf War to expel Iraq from Kuwait, the U.S. cancelled $70 million in foreign aid to Sana and supported a decision by Saudi Arabia to expel 850,000 Yemeni workers. Both moves had a catastrophic impact on the Yemeni economy that played a major role in initiating the current instability gripping the country.
In 2002 the Bush administration used armed drones to assassinate several Yemenis it accused of being al-Qaeda members. The New York Times reported that the Obama administration launched a cruise missile attack Dec. 17 at suspected al-Qaeda members that, according to Agence France Presse, killed 49 civilians, including 23 children and 17 women. The attack has sparked widespread anger throughout Yemen that al-Qaeda organizers have heavily exploited.
So is the current uproar over Yemen a case of a U.S. administration overreacting and stumbling into yet another quagmire in the Middle East? Or is this talk about a “global danger” just a smokescreen to allow the Americans to prop up the increasingly isolated and unpopular regime in Saudi Arabia?
Maybe both, but at least one respected analyst suggests that the game in play is considerably larger than the Arabian Peninsula and may have more to do with the control of the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea than with hunting down al-Qaeda in the Yemeni wilderness.
The Asia Times’ M.K. Bhadrakumar, a career Indian diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Pakistan, and Turkey, argues that the current U.S. concern with Yemen is actually about the strategic port of Aden. “Control of Aden and the Malacca Straits will put the U.S. in an unassailable position in the ‘great game’ of the Indian Ocean,” he writes.
Aden controls the strait of Bab el-Mandab, the entrance to the Red Sea though which passes 3.5 million barrels of oil a day. The Malacca Straits, between the southern Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is one of the key passages that link the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
Bhadrakumar says the Indian Ocean and the Malacca Straits are “literally the jugular veins of the Chinese economy.” Indeed, a quarter of the world’s sea-borne trade passes through the area, including 80 percent of China’s oil and gas.
In 2005 the Bush Administration pressed India to counter the rise of China by joining an alliance with South Korea, Japan, and Australia. As a quid pro quo for coming aboard, Washington agreed to sell uranium to India, in spite of New Delhi’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement. Only countries that sign the Treaty can purchase uranium in the international market. The Bush administration also agreed to sell India the latest in military technology. The Obama administration has continued the same policies.
China and India have indeed beefed up their naval forces in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Beijing is also developing a “string of pearls”— ports that will run from East Africa to Southeast Asia. India has just established a formal naval presence in Oman at the entrance to the strategic Persian Gulf.
According to Bhadrakumar, the growing U.S. rapprochement with Myanmar and Sri Lanka is aimed at checkmating China’s influence in both nations, and cutting off efforts by Beijing to reduce its reliance on ocean-borne energy transportation by constructing land-based pipelines. China just opened such a pipeline to Central Asia.
“The U.S., on the contrary, is determined that China remain vulnerable to the choke points between Indonesia and Malaysia,” writes the former Indian diplomat.
Checkmating China would also explain some of the pressure that the Obama administration is exerting on Pakistan.
“The U.S. is unhappy with China’s efforts to reach the warm waters of the Persian Gulf through the Central Asian region and Pakistan. Slowly but steadily, Washington is tightening the noose around the neck of the Pakistani elites—civilian and military—and forcing them to make a strategic choice between the U.S. and China,” writes Bhadrakumar.
This would help explain the increasing tension between China and India over a Himalayan border region that has sparked a military buildup in Chinese-occupied Tibet and India’s Arunachai Pradesh state. Former Indian Air Marshall Fali Homi told the Hindustan Times that China was now a bigger threat than Pakistan, and former Indian National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra predicts an India-China war within five years.
“Energy security” has been at the heart of U.S. foreign policy for decades. The 1980’s “Carter Doctrine” made it explicit that the U.S. would use military if its energy supplies were ever threatened. Whether the administration was Republican or Democratic made little difference when it came to controlling gas and oil supplies, and the greatest concentration of U.S. military forces is in the Middle East, where 60 percent of the world’s energy supplies lie.
Except for using Special Forces and supplying weapons, it is unlikely that the U.S. will intervene in a major way in Yemen. But through military aid it can exert a good deal of influence over the Sana government, including extracting basing rights.
The White House has elevated the 200 or so “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” members in Yemen into what the President calls a “serious problem,” and there are dark hints that the country is on its way to becoming a “failed state,” the green light for a more robust intervention.
However, as Jon Alterman, Middle East Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues, “The problems in Yemen are not fundamentally problems that military operations can solve.”
But then the “problems” of Yemen may be simply a prelude for a much wider and potentially dangerous strategy focused on China.
“The U.S. cannot give up on its global dominance without putting up a real fight,” says Bhadrakumar. “And the reality of all such momentous struggles is that they cannot be fought piecemeal. You cannot fight China without occupying Yemen.”
Conn Hallinan can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
What does the US really face in Yemen?
By Ein Katzenfreund
Currently, the mass media are scaremongering using the label “Al Qaeda” to persuade the population of the western world to join a US war in Yemen. But the US is not at war in Yemen against Al Qaeda. It is against the Shia Houthis whose strict anti-Americanism has already been a thorn in the US’s and its lackeys in the Arabian peninsula’s flesh.
Since August 11th 2009 the Shia Houthis have resisted being “eradicated” by the presidents “Operation Scorched Earth” and are defending the area around Sadah against Yemeni government troops, Saudi artillery and aircraft, Moroccan and Jordanian special forces and the US It has been admitted in the Western press that the US has used “Special Operations Forces“ and “specialists from the CIA” for over a year, and more recently, cruise missiles. General David Patraeus has declared that the US Navy in front of the coast of Yemen is there to prevent arms smuggling to the Houthis. According to information provided by Houthis the United States also operates a top secret airfield in northern Yemen, from where, almost daily, deadly bomb attacks are launched against the population in the area controlled by the Houthis.
According to the Yemeni government the Houthis only have about 3,000 fighters, but they managed to repulse an offensive of 30,000 Yemeni soldiers from their territory. This is the reason the US is currently planning to extend the secret war in Yemen against the Houthis so severely that it couldn’t any longer be hidden from the public.
What the war of annihilation against the Houthis is all about is as far as possible concealed. In the region of Qatif in eastern Saudi Arabia the world has witnessed violent protests in recent months by the local Shia majority against the oppression, economic disadvantage and discrimination by the US supported dictators from the Saudi capital Riyadh. The Wahhabi Saudi dictators and its backers in the US have shown naked panic of an armed revolt in Qatif by the Shia majority. The Houthis have responded to attacks from Saudi Arabia by repeatedly capturing border posts inside Saudi Arabia, gaining completely free access to heavy weapons and know-how for serious Shia resistance in Qatif.
If it comes to an anti-American revolution in Saudi Arabia, that would be a massive economic problem for the U.S. mafia state and it’s empire of global dominance. While the warfare state was busy assaulting Afghanistan and Iraq, they thought they dominated the Arabian Peninsula safely, but they have now got a resistance movement there.
The US war to eradicate the Houthis is fought to secure the Saudi dictatorship. The Western population is lied to about who the enemy is in Yemen, what is at stake in the war and what kind of crimes the United States are responsible for there. The population is to be sold the war to eradicate Houthis by the mass media as an operation against Al Qaeda. Therefore Al Qaeda in Yemen is made by the mass media larger and larger.
The first mass media revelation of US involvement was that the U.S. had carried out two bombing raids with cruise missiles against “Al-Qaida in Yemen”. That was the beginning of a PR campaign, that presented Al Qaeda as the enemy of the US in Yemen. The population was signaled by the US government with the information it gave, that Al Qaeda in Yemen is a great danger. In fact, the US has massacred with their rockets many more innocent people, but who’s interested in such small details when you have mass media. This was followed by another incident for the propaganda needs of the U.S. government. A young man tried supposedly to blow up a US civilian aircraft by lighting his underwear. Given the systematic way, that US security organizations have failed to notice all information before the bomb attempt, it seems reasonable to conjecture that the attack of the underwear bomber was planned by the CIA and was intended as a false-flag operation to make Al Qaeda in Yemen look more dangerous.
Let’s go to the core facts. What is actually the strength of Al Qaeda in Yemen? The German security services mouthpiece “Die Zeit” explained to its readers last week that in Yemen 100 to 200 Al Qaeda fighters might be found. For the transatlantic propaganda leaflet for would-be intellectuals, “Der Spiegel”, this number was too small, and so it said two days later, that in Yemen there are “up to 300″ Al-Qaeda people hiding. For the state run German news programm Tagesschau, which is very well known for it’s stories from 1001 nights about Yemen, this number also was too little, and so they told their audience about the strength of Al Qaeda in Yemen “according to Western Intelligence, 1500 and numbers growing”. There one should agree completely. A tenfold increase of fighters of such an obscure organization as Al Qaeda in a week would be a remarkable growth. But nothing of this is true. It is pure war propaganda from the German media. In an interview with the Austrian paper “Die Presse” Mustafa Alani from the Gulf Research Center from Dubai confesses that all this western propaganda is pure nonsense. He says just 50 Al Qaeda people are on the watch list of Yemenite security services. So, in conclusion, Al Qaeda in Yemen is barely more than a fiction.
Western media is trying to build up fear with photos of Al Qaeda trainees, who are armed with old rifles. While doing this the mass media are quiet about the fact that in Yemen all males are, by tradition, armed. If people knew that, they would understand that pictures of armed Al Qaeda trainees in Yemen are just a circus, photographed by people as a souvenir to take home. If you have a look in comparison to just a few videos from Houthis, you will quickly understand that the Al Qaeda in Yemen stories are ridiculous nonsense.
It is also striking that there have recently been a lot of reports of hijacked ships in the Gulf of Aden. The pirate attacks fit very well into the concept of the U.S. propaganda, because David Patraeus may get more warships then to try to enforce the naval blockade against the Houthis. Gordon Brown and Barack Obama have just announced that at the end of the month, on the brink of a long-planned conference on Afghanistan, they will hold a key international meeting on security in Yemen. By then the public will probably be so filled with fear that they swallow the propaganda for the US-led war in Yemen. The failure of any anti-war movement challenge to the propaganda campaign bodes ill in this regard.
But even if Barack Obama manages to fool the public with the Al-Qaeda nonsense about the war against Houthis, that does not mean that the U.S. and their puppets are winning the war. Al Jazeera has just broadcast a message from a commander from the anti-American resistance group Al-Shabaab in Somalia, that appeared, contrary to the Rita Katz Al Qaeda theatre, very real. Sheikh Mukhtar Robow is calling on Somali fighters in Yemen to enter in the fight “against the enemies of Allah”. In the light of such horrific images of the atrocities of the United States everyone can imagine how much anger the US-colonialists will face. In Yemen the U.S. should be prepared to face legions of experienced resistance fighters and an almost entirely armed population. The US has just declared another dirty global war to conquer the world, but this time they are going to lose it.
The author manages a German language news blog at – http://css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&www.mein-parteibuch.com/
English language source – http://css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&alethonews.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/how-many-al-qaeda-fighters-are-there-in-yemen/
A file photo shows a woman carrying a baby outside a tent at a refugee camp near the border with Yemen. Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes near the Yemeni border after the Yemeni military offensive began.
Yemeni HR groups condemn Sa’ada bombings
Tue, 29 Dec 2009
Yemeni human rights groups have condemned orchestrated air raids by Yemeni, Saudi and the US forces against civilians in the northern province of Sa’ada.
The groups said the attacks, which have killed scores of civilians including women and children, amounted to “war crimes.”
The Yemeni National NGO Coalition for Child Rights Care and the Yemeni Center for Human Rights also called on the Yemeni and Saudi governments to stop the attacks.
The groups also urged Sana’a and Riyadh to take measures in order to open an investigation into the war crimes against civilians.
The Yemeni military has launched a major offensive, dubbed ‘Operation Scorched Earth’, against Houthi Shias in the northern sector of the country.
The government accuses the fighters led by Abdul Malik al-Houthi of seeking to restore the imamate system, which was overthrown in a 1962 coup.
The Houthis, however, argue that they are defending their rights against government marginalization, a policy which they believe has been adopted under pressure from Saudi-backed Wahhabi extremists.
The Saudi Arabian government has added to the problem by launching its own offensive against northern Yemen.
The US military is also said to raid Yemen’s northern rugged regions of Amran, Hajjah and Sa’ada which have already been the target of joint Saudi-Yemen offensives.
According to UN estimates, during the past five years, up to 175,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Sa’ada to take refuge in overcrowded camps set up by the international body.
Saudi jets pound Yemen, kill 14 civilians
Thu, 04 Feb 2010 13:29:02 GMT
Saudi F-15 warplanes
At least fourteen civilians have been killed and dozens more have suffered injuries as Saudi fighter jets pounded the alleged strongholds of Houthi fighters in northern parts of Yemen despite a truce offer put forth by the Shia fighters.
According to a statement released by the fighters on Thursday, Saudi warplanes carried out 13 aerial attacks on al-Sha’af district in the northern Yemeni governorate of al-Jawf.
The fighter jets dropped several bombs on homes in the conflict area, killing14 people, among them 10 women and children, lost lives.
The statement added that Saudi forces also fired 620 rockets — 360 during the day and 260 others during the evening — against the beleaguered areas of Shada, al-Malaheet, al-Hurra and Qafarah.
Meanwhile, Houthi fighters says they have managed to kill an unspecified number of Yemeni soldiers and wounding several others, while repulsing an overnight government incursion into Hasana district.
Furthermore, the Shia fighters said that they resisted a government operation into Jabal Dhar Hamar and set some army vehicles ablaze.
The Houthi fighters have repeatedly said that they would not open fire on the Saudi and Yemeni armies, if they were not attacked.
“As long as no one attacks us, we would not target any party,” AFP quoted a Tuesday statement posted online by the office of Shia leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi.
On Saturday, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi offered to accept the government’s five-point truce terms in a bid “to avoid…the annihilation of civilians.”
The fighters withdrew from at least 46 positions along the Saudi-Yemen border as a goodwill gesture to end months of clashes in the beleaguered northern Yemen.
Riyadh announced victory last week after the fighters’ truce offer and their consequent departure from the border towns, claiming the fighters had been forced out of their positions.
The Yemeni government launched an all-out war against Houthi fighters in August and was soon joined by the Saudi army.
The joint military action has taken a heavy toll on civilians in northern Yemen, drawing repeated warnings from human rights organizations about a humanitarian crisis there.
Saudi jets raid Yemen despite ceasefire
Mon, 01 Feb 2010 17:43:24 GMT
Houthi fighters in Yemen said on Monday that Saudi warplanes have continued raids on northern villages after they accepted a ceasefire last week.
According to the Shia fighters, Saudi warplanes carried out several attacks on border areas including the Al-Malaheet district. Saudi forces poured rockets and artillery shells on the areas on Monday, Houthis said.
Riyadh claimed victory last week after the fighters’ leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi offered a truce to avoid more civilian casualties in northern Yemen.
The fighters withdrew from at least 46 positions along the Saudi-Yemeni border as a gesture of goodwill to end the three months of clashes in the region.
The kingdom, however, claimed that the fighters had been forced out of the positions.
Riyadh joined Yemen’s offensive against the Houthis after accusing them of killing a Saudi border guard and occupying two border villages on November 3. Saudi jets began bombing Yemen’s northern villages the following day.
More buzz on Ali Mohsen from al Wahdawi below the fold. This investigative report from “Saadaonline” is not too surprising:
Ali Mohsen coordinating with al Qaeda in Sa’ada
Salafi leaders integrated directly into the military
Tribal militias and other groups armed by the military
Zaidi mosques handed over to Salafis
Kidnappers were unable to relocate the hostages initally because of Houthi control of many areas and were forced to leave the bodies inside the military controlled Al Jbarah valley
Yemeni government behind the recent declaration of jihad if western troops enter Yemen
Hidden roles between Sanaa regime and al-Qaeda
Special News Saada
we talk about Saada previously and the hijacking of doctors in
Saada province on the role of a hidden secret and to coordinate with the secret coordination with pro Government:
Especially in the area of Wadi (Valley) Al-Abu Jebara
we talked previously about the history of this valley and where Al Qaedeh fighters training.
Funds, which pumps by Saudi princes and their relationship with Osama bin Laden through private sources, News Saada inside the corridors of military bases and political situation in Saada
During the latest sadah War mostly at Abu Ali font , we got field information that confirm that :ABADAH and TAYS group and other groups from WADY- Valley- Al JBAREH had met with local officials of Sadah and received ammunition and weapons to confront Al Hoothy from behind, and that what really happened .
Those days we got secret and confidential information when news focused on Qaeda in Yemen. The information said that there is currently coordination between military commanders/ eaders loyal to Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar through his office in Saddah, the aim of this coordination is bolstering and unify their actions against Al Hoothy.
Al Tays group are well known with their good position inside military institutes and commercial mostly Honey trade market. Sources said they are-AL Tays- moving freely between Sadah and Saudia via AL Baqea access .more over most of Salafee leaders were integrated in military directly against Al Hoothy.
Sources confirmed that Al Hoothy Mosques were hand over to salafee. Our sources are ready to provide us with Salafee name in sadah who fight Al Hoothy .
While talks began to rise, one of our classified sources asked:”How does negotiation managed? Who are they? How? And further questions.
Sources added that government working seriously to expose Al Hoothy as terror group to get more American finance and support, and to create hardship to Al Hoothy who took asylum abroad. Government is working seriously to promote that’s aim.
Sources said the story off kidnapping was to emerge the latest six wars. The kidnapper was failing to relocate hostages in Sadah because of good control by Al Hoothy in sadah. The kidnapper has no choice only to locate the killed hostages in military area where AL JBARAH valley.
The government is well known about this story but can’t expose Al Qaeda net because western will discover how deep Al Qaeda in government and military institutes.
Saudi made its best efforts to protect Al JBAREH , and there were high rank tribes and officials in sadah coordinate AL JABARAH security and protection. Government want to mislead western that Al Qaeda is in north not in south.
Government was behind religious leader’s Council decision to protest any western involvement or interference to fight Al Qaeda in Yemen.
All government military strikes to AlQaedeh is to show how much serious it was to fight Al Qaedeh, but the reality it wants keep them and get more support and finance from America and west.
Dire Humanitarian Conditions Ignored by West in Rush to Tackle al Qaeda
Islam Online GENEVA – The United Nations is accusing the international community and donors of turning a blind eye to the escalating humanitarian crisis in Yemen, while focusing on security threats.
“The humanitarian situation is just getting worse without any doubt,” John Holmes, UN emergency relief coordinator, told Reuters in an interview.
“Needs are great and in danger of not being met because the international community, the donors, have not responded as we would have hoped.”
The UN appealed late last year for $177 million in humanitarian aid to help some 250,000 people displaced by the ongoing fighting between government troops and Shiite rebels. However, it is only 0.4 percent funded.
“If we don’t get some money, the aid pipeline will run out,” Holmes warned.
The World Food Program (WFP) has warned that its food pipeline is about to break.
The WFP is feeding Yemenis in camps for displaced persons, as well as children in schools and many of the 150,000 Somali refugees in Yemen.
The Yemeni government has been fighting Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, in the northern province of Saada since 2004.
Sanaa accuses the rebels of seeking to reinstate a form of clerical rule that ended with a republican coup in 1962.
The rebels deny the claim, saying they are defending their villages against what they call government aggression.
Saudi Arabia was drawn into the conflict last month when a Saudi border guard was killed and two villages were briefly seized by the rebels.
Security Vs Food
The UN coordinator said that donors were focusing more on security threats than the humanitarian needs in Yemen.
“Yemen has been on the media profile because of the bomber, worries about counter-terrorism and al-Qaeda, and the fragility of Yemen more broadly,” Holmes said.
“But very little attention is being paid to the humanitarian situation.”
To understand the true motive behind the relentless bombardment, one only need return to the primary demand of the rebels: an end to the ever-increasing socioeconomic marginalization and religious discrimination of the Zaidi community in Yemen.
This war was not just to aid the fledging Saleh regime in combating an enemy far less threatening to its existence than al-Qaeda, but to send a clear message to Saudi Arabia’s own citizens who suffer the same systemic and institutionalized discrimination as do the Zaidis. Namely, Shia Muslims, Ismaili Muslims, Sufi Muslims and any who dare challenge the authority of the House of al-Saud or the doctrines of the officially-sanctioned Wahabi school of thought.
Saleh Importing Algerian Terrorists to Fight in Saada War
Not only are they fighting on behalf of the regime against the Houthis but they gained entry through facilitiation by officials. Many are at Dammaj. Apparently this group was in Yemen for some time. Aden Gulf Network
Informed sources revealed that a number of Algerians took part in some battles based on Yemeni territory between the conflicting parties to the conflict there.
أضافت ذات المصادر، أن عددهم يزيد على عشرين عنصرا أغلبهم من ذوي الاتجاه السلفي، تنقلوا إلى اليمن بطرق رسمية عبر المطارات وبجوازات سفر سليمة، منهم من تنقل إلى المملكة العربية السعودية وأقاموا هناك بطريقة غير شرعية أين انقضت الفترة المحددة لتأشيراتهم، وبعدها تحوّلوا إلى الأراضي اليمنية، والبعض الآخر منهم سافر إلى سوريا وليبيا ليتنقلوا بعدها إلى اليمن. Same sources added that they are over twenty components, mainly with the Salafi trend, moved to Yemen through airports and official passports of sound, many of whom moved to Saudi Arabia and settled there illegally Where the specified period has elapsed for their visas, and then turned to the land of Yemen , and some of them traveled to Syria and Libya to move around then to Yemen.
وتضيف مصادر ”الخبر” أن الجزائريين المشاركين في المعارك الدائرة بين القوات النظامية الحكومية وأتباع الشيعي المتمرد ”عبد الملك الحوثي” من جهة، وعناصر تنظيم القاعدة في الجزيرة العربية من جهة أخرى، ينحدرون من مناطق مختلفة من الوطن أهمها: وادي سوف وقسنطينة وسطيف والجزائر العاصمة، حيث سافر أغلبهم إلى اليمن أين قصدوا مدارس ومعاهد دينية يسيطر عليها قادة وأعيان القبائل اليمنية الكبرى. And add sources”News”that the Algerians involved in the battles between regular troops and followers of the Shiite government”rebel”Abdul-Malik on the one hand, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on the other hand, come from different regions of the country including: the valley will , Constantine, Setif, Algiers, where he traveled to Yemen, where most of them headed to schools and institutions controlled by religious leaders and tribal dignitaries Yemen Lakes.
وفي نفس السياق، تشير معلومات مستقاة من جزائريين قصدوا اليمن، إلى أن أهم المعاهد الشرعية المعروفة بقصد الجزائريين لها هو معهد الدماج أو دار علوم الحديث، حيث يستفيد الشباب الجزائري من منحة إضافة إلى النظام الداخلي الذي يتمتع به المنتسبون إلى المعهد ذاته. In the same context, the information from the Algerian headed to Yemen, that the most important legal institutions with a view to the Algerians have known is the Institute Damaj house or modern science, where the Algerian youth benefit from a grant in addition to the rules of procedure, his belonging to the same Institute.
وبخصوص أعمار وهويات الشباب الجزائري، أوضحت مصادرنا أن أعمارهم تتراوح بين 22 سنة و38 سنة أغلبهم عزاب، كما أن عددا منهم شاركوا في عمليات مسلحة على شكل دوريات لحراسة المنطقة والدفاع عن المعاهد الدينية التي ينتسبون إليها، بالمباشرة في مواجهات مسلحة مع ميليشيات ومجموعات أخرى ينتسب بعضها لأتباع المتمرد الحوثي، وآخرون ينتمون للقوات الأمنية اليمنية. With regard to the ages and identities of Algerian youth, our sources indicated that between the ages of 22 and 38 years old, mostly single, and a number of them participated in armed operations in the form of patrols of the area and the defense of religious institutions to which they belong, to proceed with the clashes with militias and other groups affiliated with each of the followers of the rebel Huthi, and others belonging to the Yemeni security forces. وفي هذا الصدد، كشفت ذات المصادر أن أحد الجزائريين ينحدر من الشرق الجزائري، أصيب على مستوى الساقين أثناء مواجهات مسلحة خلال نوبة حراسته للدفاع عن المعهد الديني دار الحديث بالدماج، وفقَد ساقه إثر عملية مسلحة هناك. In this regard, the same sources revealed that one of the Algerians descended from the East of Algeria, who was wounded at the level of the legs during the armed clashes during a bout of guard for the Defense of the Religious Institute Baldmaj ran, he lost his leg after armed operation there.
موازاة مع هذا، تم تداول اسم آخر لجزائري يدعى أبو عبد الرحمان مروان عبد الباقي، حيث قتل في جنوب عدن بمنطقة المعلا، وقد ظهر هذا الأخير في إصدار مرئي رفقة عدد آخر من الذين سقطوا في عمليات عسكرية بالمنطقة. Parallel with this, a trade name of another Algerian named Abu Marwan Abd al-Rahman Abd al-Baqi, who was killed in the south of Aden region Mualla, has emerged in this last version of Visual accompanied by a number of others who were killed in military operations in the region.
Abu al Fida, Bin Laden’s Match Maker, Yemeni Govt Advisor
Abu al Fida is the individual who negotiated on behalf of al Qaeda with President Saleh and Gamal al Qamish starting in 2006 once the dialog program died. He always praised the relationship and gained some important concessions from the regime. More on al Feida here, with links back to older posts.
Times Online: When Osama Bin Laden decided to marry for the fifth time, he turned to his most trusted advisers to find him a bride.
He wanted a Yemeni girl, he told them. The marriage would cement his relationship with Yemen, his billionaire father’s homeland. Sheikh Rashad Mohammed Saeed Ismael, a Yemeni aide, took up the challenge.
“She had to be religious, obedient, generous, well brought-up, quiet, calm and young enough not to feel jealous of the sheikh’s [Bin Laden’s] other wives,” he giggled.
“Multiple wives tend to vie for attention out of jealousy and end up in catfights, and Bin Laden did not want his new wife to get engrossed in such issues.”
The aide, also called Abu al-Fida, knew just the girl in his home town of Ibb, a leafy city in the southwest of his country. He believed Amal al-Sadah, a civil servant’s daughter, aged 18, would make the perfect wife for the Al-Qaeda leader, who was 43.
“She was right in every way,” Fida said, describing his matchmaking in 2000 for the first time in an interview that provided remarkable insights into the Al-Qaeda leader’s personal life. He says the bride he chose is still at Bin Laden’s side today….
“About a week after my arrival in Yemen we got news that Amal had delivered a baby girl whom they called Safiyah,” Fida said. “My sister, who was there at the time, attended the birth.”
It was the culmination of a long association between Fida, 36, and Bin Laden, now 52, which began in the 1990s.
The Yemeni sheikh saw nothing unusual in his decision to fight in Afghanistan while still in his mid-teens: it was his “Islamic obligation”, he said, and many young Yemenis were following a similar path.
He first met Bin Laden during one of the Al-Qaeda leader’s visits to the fighters’ camps, and they became close after Fida exchanged frontline action for logistical work, supporting the growing number of Arabs drawn to Afghanistan by the prospect of jihad.
Fida was appointed to head Bin Laden’s office in Kabul, then lived, travelled and ate with him for a year from 2000 to 2001.
After 9/11, he was arrested in Yemen and detained for two years. His brother Sadeq, 25, was seized in Pakistan and sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. A brother-in-law and a cousin remain there to this day.
Fida blames a recent resurgence of the group called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on the Yemeni government’s failure to help former fighters returning from Afghanistan.
“Some of these men got frustrated and disillusioned and decided to head back to the mountains and regroup,” he said.
He confirmed that the group had organised the failed attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who had studied in London, to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day with explosives sewn into his underpants after training in Yemen.
Fida now acts as an adviser to the Yemeni government, pressing it to provide money and jobs for rehabilitated radicals, and has offered to mediate between officials and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Houthis Claim Proof of Yemen Govt Financing and Facilitating Al Qaeda
January 21, 2010
Well, I’d like to see their proof. There’s a lot of talk but not many documents, details or witnesses.
Press TV: Yemen’s Houthi fighters accuse the Sana’a government of fueling violence in the country in a bid to attract financial backing from the United States.
The Shia resistance fighters charged the central government with forging an al-Qaeda cell in Yemen, adding that the abduction of foreigners in the country is another part of the scheme planned by Sana’a.
The Houthis insisted that they have evidence showing that the Yemeni government supplies arms to and finances militants throughout the country.
Arab Monitor: Meanwhile sources claim that Saudi fighter planes launched two separate missile attacks against a camp for displaced persons located about 15 km north west of Saada and four attacks in the Jabal Qatabir region. Al-Houthi sources also claim they managed to repel Yemeni government forces from regaining control in the area north of Saada. Sanaa had hoped that a Saudi Arabian military intervention against the al-Houthi movement on and beyond the borders with Yemen would help back up the government in its stand-off with the separatist ambitions in the south, in an effort to ultimately liberate military capacities for the US-dictated crack-down on al-Qaeda clusters presumed to be hiding out in Yemeni territory.
Wow a really good article on the Sa’ada War, Saleh’s relatives commanding security forces and Ali Mohsen al Ahmar’s conduct of the Sa’ada War. It lays the facts out for the obvious conclusion about why the war just won’t end.
Globe and Mail: There have been tens of thousands of casualties and about 100,000 people in Yemen’s northwest triangle are now under siege – trapped by a combined force of the Yemeni regular army on one side, the Republican Guard on another, and Saudi military forces along the border between the two countries.
“They’re trying to starve them out,” said Abdel-Ghani Iryani, a development consultant and political analyst, who says he still can’t figure out what the war against the Huthi is all about.
“It’s a mystery to me,” he said. “It’s taken on a life of its own.”
On the surface, the campaign in northern province of Saada appears to be a religious war. The Huthi are members of the Zaydi branch of Shiism, who ruled for centuries over northern Yemen. They resent the steady advance of Wahhabi (Sunni) Salafism that threatens their unique religious ways. They also resent being marginalized by the central government and denied the kind of economic opportunities enjoyed in other parts of Yemen.
For its part, Mr. Saleh’s government has been financially encouraged by neighbouring Saudi Arabia to allow and even encourage the spread of Salafism, an approach to Islam akin to Wahhabism, which is dominant in Saudi Arabia.
The man dispatched six years ago to deal with the Huthi, Major-General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, is himself Wahhabi, and the Huthi in Saada are trapped between his forces and those of Saudi Arabia to the north.
But the conflict also is a war between Mr. Saleh and Gen. Mohsen for power in Yemen.
The International Crisis Group noted in a report last year that, in its early days, the “war strengthened [Gen. Mohsen] and the role of Wahhabis inside the state.”
The ICG also notes, as do several Yemeni observers, that the war became very lucrative for Gen. Mohsen as his budget grew and smuggling across the Saudi border and over the Red Sea soared.
It is said that Mr. Saleh, who hails from the same village as Gen. Mohsen, wanted to cut his old friend down to size.
At one point in the conflict, in 2008, the Huthi reportedly came into possession of powerful missiles that dealt Gen. Mohsen’s tanks a serious setback.
The rockets came from the arsenal of Yemen’s Republican Guard, led by Mr. Saleh’s son General Ahmed Ali Saleh. That is what Hamid al-Ahmar told al-Jazeera television. Mr. al-Ahmar is a son of the late Sheik Abdullah al-Ahmar, who was Speaker of the parliament and the most senior tribal figure in Yemen.
Two members of the Republican Guard were tried in military court and sentenced to death for providing the rockets. They were instead sent home, according to observers here.
The current round of fighting, the sixth in the war, was started by Mr. Saleh, observers say, in order to showcase his son, the man Mr. Saleh wants to succeed him as President. So the President dispatched his son’s Republican Guard to the North to do battle and confidently predicted the war would be over “in a few days.” That was in September.
Once again, the Huthi were better armed than expected and held off Gen. Saleh’s forces. The besieged Shiites are believed to be using weapons that once had been part of Gen. Mohsen’s arsenal.
As the ICG had earlier noted, the lucrative sale of weapons by Gen. Mohsen meant that “many weapons ultimately found their way to the rebels they were intended to combat.”
“This is one of this war’s true paradoxes,” a member of parliament said.
Saudi Arabia dramatically entered the fray at this point, apparently distressed at the lack of progress in steamrolling the Huthi. They bombed several Huthi encampments on Nov. 5.
This is where this nettlesome war complicates the campaign against al-Qaeda.
With Saudi Arabia adding resources to the campaign, “it became lucrative for Saleh to continue the war,” Mr. Iryani, the analyst, said.
But who can the President rely on, then, to carry out the campaign against al-Qaeda?
Yemen’s Interior Security forces are preparing for the campaign against al-Qaeda, but Mr. Saleh doesn’t want to rely on them alone. That’s chiefly because the security forces are commanded by the President’s nephew, whose father, Yemenis say, wants him to become the next president.
“The President can’t have him getting all the glory,” said a member of Yemen’s influential Shura Council.
Ideally, Mr. Saleh would like to use his nephew’s security forces along with the Republican Guard and the Special Forces, also commanded by his son. “That way Ahmed will get credit,” an observer said.
However, “he doesn’t want to pull the Republican Guard out of the northern war unless there’s a victory,” said the Shura Council member, “because that would reflect badly on Ahmed.”
But there’s no way the President would send Gen. Mohsen’s forces against al-Qaeda.
For one thing, Mr. Saleh wouldn’t want his nemesis to get the glory; for another, Gen. Mohsen is a devoted Wahhabi and wouldn’t likely confront the al-Qaeda operatives even if asked. They espouse a militant version of the same brand of Islam as Gen. Mohsen. Indeed, at least one of the General’s commanders was a former al-Qaeda member.
The Yemeni government refuses to stop bombing, even for a week, to enable aid shipments to the war refugees. UN News Center
12 January 2010 – Thousands of people continue to flee as the latest round of fighting between Government and rebel forces in the Sa’ada province of northern Yemen enters its sixth month, said the United Nations refugee agency, which last month put the number of uprooted at 175,000 but now estimates that it could be higher.
“We now estimate that some 200,000 people have been displaced by the conflict in Yemen since 2004, including those displaced by the latest escalation which erupted in early August last year,” the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Andrej Mahecic, told reporters in Geneva.
The latest influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) – many arriving in the Hajjah and Amran governorates in the northwest – is straining already stretched shelter capacity and depleting aid resources in the area, UNHCR said.
Overcrowding in the camps is a major concern. The Al Mazrak 1 camp in Hajjah now hosts over 21,000 people – more than double its original capacity.
UNHCR is also concerned about the number of IDPs outside the camps.
“There are now huge makeshift sites along the roads close to the Al Mazrak camps. Shelling can be clearly heard in this area and it is a constant reminder of the ongoing conflict in the area,” Mr. Mahecic said.
In Amran province, many of the IDPs are staying with host families or in rentals. The lack of accommodation is creating tensions between the displaced and local populations.
UNHCR said it is planning to set up a transit centre in the area as an interim solution.
Meanwhile, a UNHCR assessment mission in December to the area of Baquim found a new wave of relatives and friends of IDPs arriving. Given that high prices of cooking gas have stopped shipments, the displaced are forced to collect wood and cut trees in the nearly mountains.
Yemeni Government Subverted by Al Qaeda, al Houthi
January 11, 2010
Member of Parliament and rebel spokesman Yahya al Houthi, translated by the Iranian Press TV, alleges al Qaeda infiltration into key Yemeni ministries (media and intelligence). But its not news. I’d like to add to the list the Political Security, National Security, aspects of the military as well as the certain passport and tourism offices as additional Yemeni government institutions subverted by al Qaeda.
A Yemeni Parliamentarian says al-Qaeda enjoys strong support from the government of President Ali Abdullah Salih and runs key ministries in his cabinet.
Exiled Yemeni lawmaker Yahya al-Houthi — who is the brother of the Shia leader, Abdul-Malek — accused the government of allowing hundreds of al-Qaeda militants into the country.
He said members of al-Qaeda are in charge of many key ministries in the Salih administration including ministries for media and intelligence.
Al-Houthi added that extremist groups such as Salafi and al-Qaeda have toughened their grip on the country.
Yemen has opened an all-out war against Houthi fighters in the mountainous north in August. Saudi Arabia also joined the offensive against the fighters in November.
The government accuses fighters of seeking to restore a religious state in the northern areas that was overthrown in 1962.
The Houthis, however, say they want more autonomy, a halt in alleged Saudi-backed efforts to impose Wahabism in the region as well as an end to “discriminatory policies” against their people.
Alert Net – Escalating fighting in northern Yemen is preventing vital supplies reaching thousands of people fleeing a war between government forces and rebels, aid groups say.
Cut off from help, many of the displaced are ill, surviving on little food and in rough shelters in cold winter weather. Aid groups and the authorities are building more camps as existing camps are overcrowded and people continue coming in.
“More people are coming out of the conflict area. The trend is of a growing number of refugees,” Dorothea Krimitsas, a spokeswoman at the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“Most people leave with nothing. They flee their homes and have nothing.”
“If intervention does not happen soon, people could lose their lives,” Khalid Al Mulad, the Yemen country director for British-based Islamic Relief, told AlertNet.
Shi’ite rebels have fought government forces on and off since 2004. They say they are marginalised and discriminated against. The fighting has also dragged in Saudi Arabia, which ordered its air force to bomb rebel positions around the border.
Yemen’s government limits access around the conflict zone because of the fighting, but Al Mulad said Islamic Relief had been allowed to venture into new areas in the last week.
They found over 1,000 people sheltering in one remote village.
“They were in very bad condition,” Al Mulad said. “They were sleeping in open yards and in huts. They desperately need blankets, shelter, medical supplies. They have been exposed to some very cold weather.”
But the bombardment and fighting make it dangerous to deliver the aid.
Also complicating aid delivery is the fact that most of the displaced are not living in camps but are scattered among host communities, said Karim Khalil, an analyst at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Geneva. Only about 17 percent of the displaced were staying in camps, he added.
“There is a large percentage outside the camps, and greater attention is needed to respond to their needs where such access is possible,” he said.
Overcrowding in camps is a serious problem, said Al Mulad from Islamic Relief, citing the example of one camp where 20,000 people live – three times higher than what it is meant to accommodate.
Answer: The Houthis, also known as Al Houthi, are a powerful local Yemeni clan in the northwest Yemeni province of Saada, which borders Saudi Arabia. The Houthis are fundamentalist Zaydis, a Yemeni offshoot of the Shiite Muslim faith. The Houthis claim to be direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima. Since 2004, they’ve waged a rebellion against the central government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh–himself a Zaydi, but not a religious one.
The Houthis consider Saleh’s regime illegitimate and “an ally of Americans and Jews,” in the words of Houthi leader Abdul Malik. The Houthis aim to establish a revivalist Imamate (the Shiite version of a caliphate) in Yemen through their Organization of Youthful Believers, which Abdul Malik’s predecessor, Hussein Badr ad din al Houthi, established. Hussein Badr was killed by Yemeni forces in 2004.
Saleh calls the Houthis “racist” and disputes the claim that the Houthi rebellion is a sectarian issue. “They try to exploit people, they say the state is fighting all Zaydis,” President Saleh told The New York Times in a 2008 interview. “The rebels also believe that power should be given to the Hashemite family, the so-called Ahal al Beit [the name given to those who claim lineal descent from the prophet Mohammed]. Some Hashemites are nationalists and patriots who believe in democracy and the multi-party system. The others believe in a racist vision, the restoration of the role of the Imam.”
Virtually all of Yemen’s 20 million citizens are Muslims. There are no solid statistics. Estimates are that Zaidis make up 45% of the population, and Sunni Shafa’ (Shafei) 55%. A few thousand Ismaili Muslims reside in the north, as do some 400 Jews. About 3,000 Christians are scattered around the country.
In the fall of 2009, the Saudi air force intervened on the side of the Yemeni government, bombing Houthi regions and urging local Yemenis to flee. Saudi Arabia’s involvement tends to add to Yemeni resentments, which, in Houthi regions, aid the Houthi clan in its war against the central government.
The Yemeni president says the rebellion is backed by Iran (a Shiite regime) in the same way that Iran backs Lebanon’s Hezbollah organization: to destabilize the central government, establish a theocratic state, and to wage a proxy war against American interests. There are serious questions over the Yemeni president’s claim. Ali Saleh frequently exaggerates threats to his regime in order to maximize foreign assistance and win cover for his repressive attacks on the northern and southern rebellions.
It is also unclear whether the Houthi rebellion is drawing support from al-Qaeda, though al-Qaeda is active in Yemen. The Houthi rebellion is unrelated to another violent front in Yemen–in the southern, former Marxist-socialist region that used to be the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, or South Yemen (North and South Yemen unified in 1990, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which used to sponsor South Yemen).
The Yemeni government and the Houthis have fought a half dozen rounds inconclusively. In 2007, Qatar brokered an 18-point peace plan, but neither side accepted it. Military analysts say the rebels are not strong enough to threaten the central government despite fighting that, in 2008, spilled from the northern mountains to the suburbs of Sanaa, the capital.
But the central government is too corrupt, and its military too disorganized, to get past an attrition war with the rebels. According to the Congressional Research Service, “The fundamental grievances that started the conflict in the first place were not resolved. Sa’da remains one of the poorest areas of Yemen, and experts believe the Al Houthi family seized upon the desperation of many of the province’s inhabitants to build a religiously-inspired insurgent movement capable of fighting guerrilla warfare in the region’s mountainous areas. The conflict, much of which has taken place in civilian areas, has witnessed atrocities on both sides, though some human rights groups have accused security forces of using disproportionate force to quell the rebellion, thereby further inflaming their opponents.”
According to Human Rights Watch, some 130,000 Yemenis have been displaced by the fighting and aid agencies are prevented from providing relief. “Many agencies must ask separate Interior Ministry permission for each and every trip, an almost impossible operational requirement,” Human Rights Watch concludes. “By the end of September 2008, the government allowed aid agencies access to a limited number of towns in Sa’da governorate, but well into October this expanded access was insufficient to reach many of those who have long gone without assistance and who remain at risk.”
Battles between the government and the Houthi rebels in 2009 became so violent that analysts feared the conflict would become more regional. President Saleh’s government exacerbated the conflict’s underlying momentum by refusing to rebuild Houthi areas or provide aid affter the fighting.
Yemen’s war: Pity those caught in the middle
A bitter local conflict threatens to spread across the region
Nov 19th 2009 Mazrak Camp
MUHAMMAD REDWAN and his family were being hammered from all sides. In early August, rebels from Yemen’s Houthi clan took over his village in the rugged mountains of the Malahid district, near the border with Saudi Arabia. First they harassed him, telling him not to listen on his television to music that “contradicted the values of Islam”. Then they told him he was “praying in the wrong way”— with arms raised, as is the custom elsewhere in Yemen. But then he got squeezed from another side, when Saudi armed forces, entering Yemen from across the border, issued warnings by loudspeaker. “If you want to stay alive, leave your homes immediately,” they blared.
A 35-year-old smuggler, Mr Redwan took the hint. After a three-day journey of 100km (62 miles)—by donkey, in a truck and finally by foot—he, his wife and six children managed to reach Mazrak Camp, south-west of the regional capital, Saada. This is where more than 10,000 recently displaced Yemenis now languish in misery. The UN-run camp cannot cope with the thousands of people who are arriving every week. Tens of thousands of other displaced people have recently sought refuge in villages and towns scattered across a swathe of northern Yemen.
For five years the Houthis have been rebelling against the government in Sana’a, the capital. But the conflict is now taking on a more dangerous regional hue, with Saudi Arabia, Iran and supporters of al-Qaeda all accused of involvement. In early November, after the Houthis had apparently attacked Saudi forces across the blurred border, the Saudi air force and ground troops responded against Houthi positions. The Houthis blame the Saudis for letting Yemeni government troops cross into Saudi territory to surprise the Houthis by attacking them from the north.
The Saudis have been intensifying their attacks, sending reinforcements from the town of Jizan and telling the Houthis to withdraw at least 10km inside Yemen—or face heavier bombardments. At the same time, the Saudi navy is blockading the coast to stop arms reaching the Houthis by boat. The rebels say they have rocketed a Saudi military base in Jizan.
The Saudi and Yemeni governments both accuse Shia Iran of helping the Houthis, who belong to the Zaydi branch of Shia Islam. Iran, they say, has secretly landed arms on the Red Sea coast. Last month, says Yemen’s government, its navy intercepted an arms-carrying Iranian vessel. Yemen’s state-controlled press claims Houthi rebels have been trained in an Iranian-run camp across the Red Sea in Eritrea. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, says members of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hizbullah militia are teaching them. The Yemeni authorities also darkly note that the Houthis’ long-time leader, Hussein al-Houthi, who died in battle in 2004, used to visit Qom, one of Shia Iran’s holiest cities.
None of these accusations has yet been borne out by independent observers. The Iranians deny any involvement and have told the Saudis that they should keep out of Yemen’s affairs.
Whether or not there is a link to Iran, the rebellious Houthis have long been a thorn in the side of governments in Sana’a. But they—and Yemen’s Zaydis in general—have not usually been keen to spread or impose their version of Islam. They insist that they simply want a better deal from the central government for their impoverished northern region. Abdul Malik al-Houthi and Yahya al-Houthi, two brothers of the late Hussein, argue that they are merely defending their beleaguered community from the government’s aggression and discrimination.
President Saleh denies that he wants to do down the Houthis. He is himself a Zaydi, whose adherents may account for more than a quarter of the country’s 25m people, most of whom follow the Shafi school of Sunni Islam, one of its main four.
In any event, the Saudi intervention has helped Yemen’s own hard-pressed forces. But the Houthis, whose armed rebels are said to number anything from 2,000 to 10,000, are far from defeated. They dig tunnels into the mountains, lay roadside ambushes and hit Yemeni and Saudi patrols with “improvised explosive devices” (IEDs) similar to those that insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan use against Western forces and their local allies.
The role in Yemen of jihadists loyal to al-Qaeda is unclear, however. Thousands of Yemeni mujahideen who fought against the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1990s are back home. Many are said to be loyal to a former mujahideen leader called Asker Zuail, who now has a senior position in the Yemeni army and works directly under the general responsible for the current anti-Houthi campaign, often acting as a government spokesman.
But a new generation of Yemeni disciples of al-Qaeda is establishing itself in the east of the country. Unlike those loyal to Mr Zuail, they are said to have been told by an influential Jordanian jihadist cleric, Abu Muhammad al-Makdissi, that they should keep well out of the war against the Houthis. Mr Makdissi says they must not help Yemen’s pro-Western government, which deserves to be overthrown. The country’s main Islamist opposition, the Islah party, says the same. To make matters worse for President Saleh, his government is being rattled by the resurgence of a secessionist movement in the south of Yemen, which used to be a separate country.
Meanwhile the people of Saada, in the north, are suffering and suffocating. The main roads into the city from the west and south have been closed. Smugglers are sending in food and weapons via checkpoints on the road from Boqa, north-east of the city. Pro-Houthi fighters are also finding ways of sneaking in. But prices for such basics as food and fuel have soared. Life in the camps and in makeshift tented villages nearby looks set to worsen. Mr Redwan and his family have little hope of returning home any time soon—especially if outsiders do get more embroiled.
Saudi Air Strikes Target Yemen Rebels Along Border, Group Says
February 05, 2010, 11:37 AM EST
By Khaled Abdullah
Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) — Saudi warplanes struck areas controlled by Shiite Muslim rebels along the border with northwestern Yemen, according to the insurgents, who said they killed eight Yemeni soldiers in clashes.
The rebels, known as Houthis after the family of their leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, said Saudi jet fighters carried out 25 raids today on the Shada, Ghamr, al-Malahid and al-Dhahir districts of Yemen’s Saada province. Four houses were destroyed and two women injured in the village of al-Farha, the rebels said in a statement.
The Yemeni troops died in a firefight in the Old City of Saada, the provincial capital, the group said. Saudi and Yemeni government officials couldn’t be reached for comment today, when their offices were closed.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, got drawn into the five-year conflict between the insurgents and Yemeni government forces in early November, after the rebels killed a Saudi soldier during a cross-border incursion. Yemen accuses majority-Sunni Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran, which is led by Shiite clerics, of arming the Shiite fighters.
The rebels began fighting in the northwestern province of Saada in 2004, claiming discrimination by the majority Sunni population in Yemen. Yemeni authorities accuse the group of trying to reinstall Shiite religious rule overthrown in 1962.
The insurgents announced a cease-fire with Saudi forces on Jan. 25 and their withdrawal from Saudi territory a day later. On Jan. 30, they followed with a proposal for a cease-fire to the Yemeni government, which rejected the offer, demanding that the militants first stop attacking Saudi territory.
Yesterday, the Houthis said Saudi Arabian warplanes bombed border areas, killing 15 people. They also said the Saudi army fired 620 rockets into Yemen during the past two days.
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz said on Jan. 27 that the Yemeni rebels must halt sniper fire on Saudi forces on the border and return missing Saudi soldiers to end the conflict.
Saudi Arabia vs. the Houthis: A senseless war winds down
By Rannie Amiri
It has been nearly three months since the Saudi military directly inserted itself in the conflict between Zaidi rebels and the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen’s mountainous northwest governorate of Saada. After two of its border guards were killed last November by the rebels, known as Houthis (named after their erstwhile leader, Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi) and claims made that they had crossed into Saudi territory, a massive aerial assault was unleashed.
Using U.S. and Western-supplied weapons unavailable to Saleh’s government, the Saudi military employed Apache helicopters, F-15 and Tornado jets, infrared detection equipment, surveillance drones and quite possibly banned white phosphorus shells, to target Houthi positions in the rugged terrain of the border region and well into Yemen proper.
Despite their sophisticated weaponry, Saudi Arabia lost an unusually high number of soldiers; 133 at last count. Although an unknown number of Houthi fighters – and Yemeni civilians – were killed in the attacks, what is known is the great humanitarian toll the Saudi intervention exacted on the population. Already a cauldron of human suffering, malnutrition and overflowing camps for the internally displaced as a result of five years of war, the fresh offensive only added to the misery of Saada and the neighboring provinces.
Since the conflict began in 2004, aid agencies place the number of displaced Yemenis at 200,000. The Saudi government’s policy of forcibly returning those fleeing the conflict back into the war zone – a morally reprehensible practice not to mention a violation of international law – was widely condemned.
This week, the Houthis announced a unilateral ceasefire and declared their intention to voluntarily withdraw from any Saudi territory occupied. The current Houthi leader, Abdul Malek al-Houthi, stated, “If the Saudi regime maintains its aggression after this initiative, it would be showing that its intention is not to defend its territory, but to invade our borders.”
Yet, just after of the Houthi proposal was made, the Saudi government claimed it was they who had driven the rebels out of the border region.
“They did not withdraw. They were forced out,” asserted Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan.
In order for Saudi Arabia to accept the Houthi ceasefire, Sultan said the rebels must create a 10 km buffer zone between them and the border, agree to let Yemen’s military to take up positions along it, and return six captured Saudi soldiers.
Regardless of whether any tenable agreement is actually reached, it must be asked: what was accomplished by Saudi Arabia’s attack on Yemen?
The more salient question is: what was the real message behind Saudi Arabia’s (fruitless) intervention?
Although it was purportedly to defend the “territorial integrity” of the Kingdom, even supporters of the Royal Family concede it was more to stem perceived encroaching Iranian influence at its doorstep. Yet that too is a spurious argument.
To date, there has been no convincing evidence of any significant material support provided to the Houthi rebels by the Iranian government. Claims of such have been found to be no more credible than those issued by Yemen’s government that Abdul Malek al-Houthi had been killed in the fighting (he appeared on video a few days later appearing quite healthy).
To understand the real motive behind the bombardment, one only needs to return to the primary demand of the Houthi rebels: an end to the ever-increasing socioeconomic marginalization and religious discrimination of the Zaidi community in Yemen.
This war was not just to aid the fledging Saleh regime in combating an enemy far less threatening to its existence than al-Qaeda, but to send a clear message to Saudi Arabia’s own citizens who suffer the same systemic and institutionalized discrimination as do the Zaidis. Namely, Shia Muslims, Ismaili Muslims, Sufi Muslims and any who dare challenge the authority of the House of al-Saud or the doctrines of the officially-sanctioned Wahabi school of thought.
Saudi Arabia’s own oil-rich Eastern Province has seen tensions with Saudi Shia Muslims escalate in recent months as the Wahabi religious establishment clamps down ever more harshly on the practice of their religion and liberties as citizens of the state.
The senseless war in Saada waged by the Saudi government was thus meant to send an unmistakable warning to any in the Kingdom who might espouse similar beliefs or demands as the Houthis: do so at your own peril.
One wonders, though, whether those on the Saudi side who advocated or supported such reckless interventionism were aware of this equally important admonition: military force never succeeds in quieting the quest of people striving to achieve their basic rights, freedoms, and dignity.
Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator.
The Houthis (Arabic: الحوثيون = al-Ħūthiyūn; the ‘s’ is the English plural suffix; alternately: al-Houthis, (al-)Huthis) are a militant group of Zaydi Shia operating in Yemen. They have also been referred to as a “powerful clan,” and by the title Al-Shabab al-Muminin (Arabic: الشباب المؤمن, translated as Believing Youth or Youthful Believers). The group takes its name from Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, their former commander, who was reportedly killed by Yemeni army forces in September 2004. Several other commanders, including, Ali al-Qatwani, Abu Haider, Abbas Aidah and Yousuf al-Madani (a son-inlaw of Hussein al-Houthi) have also been killed by Yemeni forces. The Houthi brothers’ father Badr Eddin al-Houti is said to be the spiritual leader of the group.
Membership of the group had between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters as of 2005 and between 2,000 and 10,000 fighters as of 2009. In the Yemen Post it was however claimed they had over 100,000 fighters.
The Houthis have asserted that their actions are for the defense of their community from the government and discrimination, though the Yemeni government has in turn accused them of wishing to bring it down and institute Shia religious law (Houthis have told people they are “praying in the wrong way” by raising their arms, as is the custom among Sunnis in Yemen), destabilise the government and “stirring anti-American sentiment”.
The Yemeni government has also accused the Houthis of having ties to external backers, especially the Iranian government (as Iran is a Shi’a-majority country). In turn, the Houthis have countered with allegations that the Yemeni government is being backed by virulently anti-Shi’a external backers including al-Qaeda and the government of Saudi Arabia. It can be found after transparent investigation that Saudi Arabia is also brutally killing this group. Iran is also not helping them due to taking the whole matter as internal matter of Yemen. Alqaida belongs to wahaabis who have always been against shiaism. So, it is false to say affiliation of Alqaida with this group.These facts can be unveiled by allowing the media to approach the area and understand the facts and realities. People belonging to Houthis have chosen the way of self defense after enduring stress and discrimination by Shaafi Muslims.
Saudi forces captured 250 militiamen loyal to al-Houthi in fighting in the south of the country in recent days, al-Arabiya Arabic satellite TV network reported on Monday.
Yemen: Muslimn Brotherhood leader calls for end to Saudi military action
Sanaa, 9 Nov. (AKI)- The supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, has asked Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to stop the military offensive against Shia rebels in Yemen.
In a statement published on the Internet, 81-year-old Akef asked the Saudi monarch to end military action against the militants aligned with the imam Abdel Malik al-Houthi.
“We are upset and saddened by the recent bombings by the Saudi army to harm the much loved Yemeni people,” the statement said.
“Saudi Arabia’s intervention does nothing but feed the useless bloodshed on its border with Yemen.”
Saudi Arabia said it had regained control of territory seized by the rebels in an incursion last week and there were reports that Saudi military had resumed air raids on Monday.
Saudi officials also insisted that the air and ground offensive, launched last week after a soldier was killed in a raid in the Jizan region, had not strayed into Yemen.
Meanwhile, rebels in northern Yemen claimed to have shot down a Yemeni fighter jet attacking their strongholds on Sunday.
Sanaa denied the claim, saying the Sukhoi crashed because of a “technical error”.
It was the third Yemeni military plane to crash since the latest fighting between the army and the rebels, known as the Houthis, began some four months ago.
“The Saudi air raids resumed this morning,” rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam reportedly said on Monday.
“Saudi combat fighter jets launched intense raids against border areas inside Yemeni territory on Sunday night. The Saudi military used phosphorus bombs during those night raids, burning mountainous regions.”
But he rejected suggestions that rebel fighters had crossed the Saudi border, saying those who had been detained were illegal migrants, and accused the Saudi government of allowing the Yemeni military to use its territory to launch attacks.
But Saudi assistant defence minister Khaled Bin Sultan insisted on Sunday that Saudi troops were trying to force the rebels from its territory and seal the border to prevent incursions.
Saudi television aired footage on Sunday of Saudi soldiers capturing and blindfolding men who were identified as Houthi fighters.
“The Challenges of Dealing with Yemen’s Deep Crises”
This is an astute and comprehensive analysis written by Dr. Abdullah al Faqih, Political Science professor at Sana’a University and member of Academics against Corruption. The section on al Qaeda will be of interest to many. The analysis offers several tangible strategies to deal with the current crises and forestall future disaster.
I agree completely that the Saudis should stop funding the Sa’ada War (and the hard core religious institutes and tribal Sheiks!) and instead funnel all available funds transparently into development projects. Saudi aid is estimated to be in the billions but it is used to fight the Houthis, spread Wahabbism and keep Yemeni sheiks divorced from both the central government and their own tribal constituencies. Rationalizing Saudi aid could have an immediate impact on stability. For Dr. Al Faqih’s website, click here.
The Challenges of Dealing with Yemen’s Deep Crises (ARI)
by Abdullah Al-faqih ARI 29/2010 – 4/2/2010
Theme: President Saleh’s foremost concern is to keep total economic and political power in his own hands as long as he lives, and to hand it down to his son afterwards. The US and the international community are concerned with the threat posed by al-Qaeda to regional and international peace and many educated Yemenis are concerned about the potential for tension between Saleh’s goal and that of the international community.
Summary: The first decade of the new millennium was supposed to be Yemen’s best in modern times. However, in the summer of 2004 an open-ended rebellion broke out in the Saada region in the far north. By mid 2007, resentment against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime among the population of the southern governorates came to a head, with thousands of people pouring out onto the streets every day. While Saleh is busy waging war against the insurgents in the north and trying hard to quash the massive unrest in the south, Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda operatives have merged together in the so called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Any sound strategy to tackle Yemen’s complexities should meet several conditions: (1) it should be comprehensive in scope and inclusive of political, economic and security issues; (2) its priority should be to dismantle the ongoing political conflicts in the north and south; and (3) it should fully engage Saleh using a combination of incentives and disincentives.
Analysis: The first decade of the new millennium was supposed to be Yemen’s best in modern times. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who came to office in north Yemen in 1978, had by the beginning of the decade survived the unification of the two Yemens, eliminated his southern Socialist opponents in a brief civil war in 1994 and solved his country’s border disputes with Oman, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia. He also centralised power in his own hands and in the hands of his very loyal sons, brothers, nephews and in-laws, and weakened all potential competitors within his family, clan, larger tribe, ruling and opposition parties, the country as a whole, and even among Yemeni politicians living in exile. While grooming his son Colonel Ahmed to succeed him, Saleh perhaps thought he had brought Yemen’s history to an end.
But by the middle of the decade, Saleh’s greatest achievements began to crumble. In the summer of 2004 an open-ended rebellion broke out in the Saada region in the far north with the government in Sana’a accusing a Shiite group called the Houthis of trying to reinstate Imamate rule, which had dominated Yemen’s history for more than a millennium before it was finally overthrown in 1962. In 2005 Yemen’s divided opposition, which Saleh had succeeded in weakening, surprised him by adopting a shared comprehensive reform agenda, calling among other things for a parliamentary government similar to those found in India, the UK and many other genuinely democratic countries. In the late summer of 2006 the opposition rallied behind a single candidate to challenge Saleh in the first reasonably competitive presidential election in the country’s history.
By mid 2007, resentment against Saleh’s regime among the population of the southern governorates, the former South Yemen, came to a head with thousands of people pouring out onto the streets on a daily basis. To make things even worse, the booming oil revenues on which Saleh’s regime depended to meet the country’s need for hard currency, took a nose dive by the end of 2008, depriving the country in 2009 of almost 65% of its foreign revenues. While Saleh is busy waging war against the insurgents in the north and trying hard to quash the massive unrest in the south, Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda operatives have merged together in the so called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Saleh, who celebrated 31 years in office in July of last year, often quotes an old Yemeni adage, telling journalists and visitors: ‘ruling Yemen is like dancing over the heads of snakes’. In saying so, Saleh is probably trying to imply that ruling Yemen is no easy task and that he is the only dancer in town who can manage not to be bitten. But the convergence of Yemen’s mighty challenges –a war in the north, a secessionist movement in the south, AQAP and the economic crisis– casts a dark shadow of doubt not only on the dancer’s ability to perform but on the stability of the stage itself.
War in the North
For most of Yemen’s history in the Islamic era, political, economic and social power was dominated by the Hashemites, comprising around 12% of Yemen’s current population of 24 million. The Hashemites, who claim to be descendants of the Prophet Mohammed through the sons of his daughter Fatimah, ruled Yemen intermittently for some 11 centuries. They legitimised their reign exploiting two mechanisms: (a) the teachings of Zaidism, a very moderate Shiite school followed by roughly a quarter of Yemen’s total population; and (b) a carefully crafted and maintained social structure in which one’s political, economic and social roles were determined by lineage.
In September 1962 the Hashemites’ theocratic rule in North Yemen was abruptly brought to an end when a group of military officers backed by Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt took over the Imam’s palace and declared the establishment of a Republic. The event marked the beginning of a six-year civil war between the Republicans supported by Nasser and the Royalists backed by the Saudis. With the Royalists failing repeatedly to capture the capital, the two sides finally agreed on a power-sharing deal which preserved the Republican regime but tilted power towards an alliance of Zaidi sheiks and military officers, who come from the two very powerful northern Zaidi tribes: Hashid and Bakeel. One unresolved issue in the new regime was and still is the question of religious legitimacy. According to the Yemeni Constitution and laws, any Yemeni can be a legitimate ruler, but in Zaidi doctrines only a Hashemite male fulfilling certain conditions can be a legitimate Imam.
For Hashemites and tribesmen sharing power in the Republican era, the question of what makes a legitimate Imam served as a dividing factor. Therefore, consecutive republican Presidents, who came from strong and heavily-armed northern tribes, tried constantly to undermine the Zaidi faith in order to prevent a come-back by the Hashemites. By contrast, the Hashemites of the Zaidi sect defied attempts to assimilate them into the mainstream Sunni sect. Parties to the conflict, however, succeeded in keeping their differences within certain well-defined limits. The dynamics of political conflict between the two groups were transformed only after the unification of Yemen. On the one hand, the newly-founded Republic of Yemen (RoY) embraced a fairly open political system that allowed citizens to exercise some political and civil rights, including forming political parties and interest groups, establishing and owning newspapers and freedom of expression. On the other, the Zaidi Hashemites of northern Yemen sought to take advantage of newly introduced reforms by allying themselves with the Socialists of the south –some of them secularised Sunni Hashemites.
In turn, and fearing the impact of racial affinities, President Saleh supported the creation and expansion of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform –known by its Arabic short name Islah (reform)– as an Islamic-oriented Sunni party comprising Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Sunni and Zaidi groups close to the regime. Apparently, Saleh wanted first to balance the Socialists of the south with the Islamists of the north, and then to further weaken the potential for a come-back by the northern Hashemites. Concurrently, Saleh also made sure to divide the Hashemites into several political parties, preventing them from establishing a unified political force.
In the summer of 1994 Saleh, with the support of the newly-founded Islah, defeated his southern Socialist rivals in a brief civil war that lasted for about 70 days. In the aftermath of the war, Saleh started to shift his political alliances gradually away from Sunni Islam towards a Zaidi group called the Youth Believers (YB), that portrayed itself as a revivalist group within the Zaidi sect. Possible reasons for the shift were many but the most important were Saleh’s worry about the growing power and influence of Islah –perceived to be supported by the Saudis– as well as his desire to pursue old policies of undermining Zaidism, this time by encouraging new trends seeking the legitimisation of his reign. In addition, Saleh faced strong pressure to settle his country’s border dispute with the Saudis, and by supporting the Youth Believers –who were concentrated in border areas– he might have sought to counterbalance Saudi influence itself and not only pro-Saudi political forces. In supporting the Youth Believers, Saleh allowed them to establish religious schools to teach Zaidism, receive Iranian support and have their textbooks printed by the government. Saleh also provided them with a modest monthly allowance, the exact amount of which has always been disputed.
It is not quite clear how the relationship between the Youth Believers and Saleh changed over the course of 10 years from alliance to rivalry. What is evident is that during the period Yemen did witness many internal and external developments affecting not only Saleh’s regime but also the Zaidi revivalist group. Internally, Saleh’s concerns for his own political survival and for retaining power within his own family afterwards seem to have collided with the Youth Believers’ growing influence and independence. Externally, Saleh solved his country’s border problems with the Saudis and he badly needed to offset the Sunni / Wahhabi Saudi’s fear of a growing radical Shiite group on its southern front.
After concluding a border agreement with Saudi Arabia, Saleh pursued a policy of containing the Youth Believers by various means, including strengthening his support for a Saudi-backed and presumably apolitical Salafi movement. Included in the Salafi movement are groups such as the revivalists al-Hikmah al-Yamaniah Anthropic Association and the traditional Dar al-Hadith. In return, the Youth Believers exploited Saleh’s alliance with the US in the global war on terrorism and adopted the famous Shiite slogan ‘God is great, death to America, death to Israel’. The Youth Believers’ followers began chanting the slogan in mosques and daubing it on walls around Yemen’s capital city. In response, Saleh ordered a crack-down, eventually apprehending and jailing scores of Youth Believers’ followers. But when he sent troops to the Saada region in June 2004 to capture Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi, the leader of the Youth Believers, after whom the group would later be named, the Youth Believers responded violently and the event marked the beginning of the first war. Since 2004 Yemen has witnessed an average of one war per year, with the sixth round of violence starting in August 2009 and continuing to the present.
The Saada war has served as a catalyst for the failure of the Yemeni state by draining the country’s limited resources, encouraging southerners to challenge the regime, creating a haven for al-Qaeda and eroding Saleh’s legitimacy. Nevertheless, Saleh seems unwilling to accept the Houthis as a political and social force. In fact, the weaker he becomes, the more he is insisting on a military solution to this political conflict.
Calls for Secession in the South
Having militarily won the political conflict with his southern partners in the process of unification, Saleh’s victory and subsequent policies shattered the national feelings that served as the driving force for unity. The northern military, tribal and jihadist invasion of the south in 1994 looted community, state, and private assets, including state buildings, equipment and most of the country’s land, which was publicly owned under the command economy followed in the south during the period from 1970 to 1990. In addition, the government adopted policies that intentionally or unintentionally led to the cultural, political and economic marginalisation of southerners. Most senior and junior officials ended up in exile or were forced to take early retirement, or chose just to quit their jobs and seek refuge in the seclusion of their homes. Names of streets, schools, TV and Radio stations and other public places were changed as a part of a comprehensive unwritten policy of erasing any memory of the past. Public enterprises of the former southern state were privatised –usually sold to officials in highly corrupt deals–. As it turned out, southern Yemenis lost more than the war of 1994: humiliated by defeat, most southerners went unheard, while others staged small-scale protests but faced brutal repression.
When, in 1995, the government started to implement an economic restructuring programme aimed at stabilising the economy, it focused primarily on cutting expenditure on social programmes and withdrawing subsidies from basic commodities. The southerners, whose lives were completely dependent on public programmes, were hit the hardest. While the northern-dominated government in Sana’a relied for survival on revenues from resources extracted from the south, the people of the south were by the beginning of the new millennium living on the sidelines of the national economy. Rocketing inflation consumed their income and the economic restructuring programme deprived them of free education, health and other public services.
After approximately 13 years of deprivation and frustration, southerners finally took to the streets, sometimes in their hundreds of thousands. There were many factors responsible for the southerners’ outrage, but three stand out. The first is the failure of the September 2006 presidential elections to produce any meaningful change in terms of leadership or policies. In fact, the strong show by the opposition parties during the election led Saleh to adopt tougher policies. Surprised by a strong campaign against his policies and leadership style, and by the southern-born opposition candidate’s refusal to accept the results as legitimate, Saleh viewed the whole affair as a personal insult and in retaliation began his new term in office by imposing measures restricting the freedom of expression and travel. Activists who backed his opponent during the election were jailed and tried in fabricated cases or in cases related to acts during the campaign. While the election campaign weakened Saleh vis-à-vis his challengers from within his ruling General People’s Congress and from opposition parties, his reaction has been to concentrate power and wealth and centralise decision-making in his inner circle. The second and third factors contributing to the uprising in the south have been the regime’s inability to crush the insurrection of the Houthis in the far north and the deterioration in their living conditions.
When the southern movement started in mid-2007, it was led by ad hoc organisations formed by military and security retirees. At the time, protesters called for the return to service, promotion and compensation of those southerners who were forced to take early retirement or lost their jobs after the 1994 civil war. They also called for the return of land confiscated by powerful –mostly northern– military officers and sheiks.
Shocked by the magnitude and intensity of the protests, the government adopted a dual carrot and stick policy. On the one hand, it tried to reinstate, raise salaries and promote those who were forced to retire or had lost their jobs. It also sought to buy out influential leaders in the protest movement by appointing them to senior government positions and giving them cars, houses and other benefits. It tried, on the other hand, to repress the movement. Between mid-2007 and the end of 2009, scores of protesters and policemen were killed and thousands of people were detained for varying periods of time. Government repression increased rapidly as protesters started calling for the secession of the south although its ability to do so had significantly declined, leading it to lose control over certain areas. Some argue that the government might have been supporting jihadists to counter secessionist groups, a policy that aggravated the situation in some areas. In such a context of chaos and weak or missing government control, AQAP began to expand and establish training camps.
The Resurrection of al-Qaeda
The roots of the terror groups in Yemen lie in the dynamics of inter- and intra-Yemeni political conflicts. During the 1970s and 80s, religious extremism was encouraged by both the Yemeni and Saudi governments as a strategy to contain the Marxists in the south. Later on, the task of the Yemeni jihadists would be expanded to liberating Afghanistan from the Soviet occupation. In less than a decade, the Yemeni jihadists could claim several triumphs: (1) victory against the Marxist forces in the north who, with the backing of the Communist regime in the south, were trying to topple Saleh’s regime; (2) the expulsion of the Soviets from Afghanistan; (3) the disintegration of the Soviet Union; and (4) the reunification of the two Yemens –an event directly linked to the collapse of the Communist regimes around the globe–.
By the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, the Yemeni jihadists began to return home. But they were not alone on their return trip. Many of their international comrades, unable to return to their countries out of fear of prosecution, found in the newly-founded Republic of Yemen a haven. While the chaos resulting from the hasty unification of the two Yemens may have played a role in attracting the so-called Arab Afghans, some argue that they came to Yemen because they had a role to play, a new round of jihad, this time against the Yemeni left in general and members of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) in particular. In the first few years of unification, Yemen witnessed a wave of terror attacks mostly targeting leaders of the YSP and of parties close to it.
In the 1994 civil war between the ruling northern and southern elites, Yemeni and Arab jihadists, who fought in Afghanistan, took Saleh’s side in the war. In return, the government rewarded the jihadists in various ways. Yemenis were incorporated into security and military forces and some groups, especially in the south, were encouraged as a way of containing the moderate Islah. Some Arab jihadists were incorporated into formal and informal educational institutions, but most of them would soon be forced out of Yemen due to mounting pressure on the government from other countries in the aftermath of terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere involving elements believed to be operating from Yemen.
In the years after September 11 terrorist attacks, Saleh, who had resisted the idea of allowing US investigators access to detainees accused of attacking the USS Cole in October 2000 in the Gulf of Aden, willingly or unwillingly joined the international war on terror. In 2002 he allowed US drones to assassinate some al-Qaeda leaders on Yemeni soil. He later entered into a controversial dialogue programme with al-Qaeda, apparently giving them some financial benefits and allowing them to move freely. The latest resurrection of al-Qaeda can be attributed to three main factors: (1) the Yemeni government was pressured by the international community to restrict the movement of al-Qaeda operatives and prevent them from travelling to Iraq to engage in the jihad, much to the annoyance of al-Qaeda; (2) as the government’s financial resources dwindled, al-Qaeda operatives asked for more, while the government was unable to deliver; and (3) the intensification of political conflict –electoral or by other means– made the Yemeni regime reluctant to hunt down al-Qaeda members, either because they represented a potential ally in the regime’s war for survival, because the regime did not perceive al-Qaeda as a threat compared to other challenges or because the regime had become too weak to confront it.
As to the spark that triggered the recent events, it is very likely that the US was aware that al-Qaeda was plotting an attack against the US and, as a result, sought to foil the plan by carrying out –alone or in cooperation with the Yemeni government– the pre-emptive attacks that were finally launched on 17 and 24 December 2009. This assumption is supported by mounting evidence, including the following: (a) the father of the Nigerian youth Umar Farouk Abdulmutalib, who tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane, contacted US intelligence in early December and informed them of his son’s affiliation with al-Qaeda and his last call from Yemen; (b) the American media were at the time concerned about the role played by the US-born preacher Anwar al-Awlaqi, who is resident in Yemen, in the Fort Hood attack; (c) US officials had repeatedly expressed worries about AQAP’s exploitation of Yemen’s security conditions to establish itself and recruit and train new members; (d) Abdulmutalib, who left Yemen in early December, did not immediately head towards the US; (e) the US strikes targeted areas believed to have been the places where al-Awlaqi was hiding and in which Abdulmutalib is believed to have been trained and equipped with explosives; (f) AQAP operatives came out and threatened to retaliate after the first attack on 17 December; and (g) Saleh would have never allowed the US to strike areas controlled by one of his very important political allies –the Awlaqi tribe– unless he had been convinced that there was an eminent threat against the US.
A Rentier Economy
During the era of division, the two Yemens depended on a rentier economy, with the south relying on the Soviets and the north depending on the Gulf countries. After unification in 1990, Yemen faced its most serious economic crisis. This was largely due to its stance on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, that led it to be viewed by its neighbours and by the international community as a backer of the Iraqi dictator. To punish Yemen, the Saudis expelled hundreds of thousands of Yemeni workers and, as a result, the country lost not only its workers’ remittances but also development aid, taking the Yemeni economy very close to collapse.
At the time, the international financial institutions and the Yemeni government agreed in 1995 on a reform programme to stabilise the economy. The premise of the reform was to fund investments and create new jobs for the unemployed. But the programme had mixed results. On the one hand, the government succeeded in stabilising the economy; on the other, savings from the withdrawal of subsidies largely ended up in the pockets of corrupt officials. The reform programme ground to complete halt, especially after Yemen’s oil revenues started to rise, first because of increased production and afterwards due to rising oil prices.
While paying donors lip service, the Yemeni government evaded implementing any genuine reform that could have a negative effect on Saleh’s grip on power. In fact, Saleh has been keen to concentrate investments in the hands of his relatives and of those whose loyalty to him and his heir apparent is unquestionable. The outcome of Saleh’s self-serving policies has been catastrophic. Poverty grew so fast that it came to affect most of the population, making Yemen the poorest country not only in the Arab world but also in the Middle East and the world in general, aside from Sub-Saharan Africa. Levels of corruption climbed to new heights and the institutions responsible for holding public officials to account were further weakened to give corrupt officials full immunity from prosecution. Over a period of almost 20 years, the Yemeni House of Representatives was unable to impeach even a single official. Corrupt and incompetent officials were recruited on the basis of kinship and personal loyalty and have rendered state institutions almost useless by personifying the functions of those institutions.
The Way Out
President Saleh’s foremost concern is to retain total economic and political power in his own hands as long as he lives, and to hand it down to his son afterwards. The US and the international community are concerned about the threat al-Qaeda poses to regional and international peace and many educated Yemenis are concerned about the potential for tension between Saleh’s goal and that of the international community. Of all his enemies in the south and north, al-Qaeda appears to be the least dangerous and less of a threat to what he values most. In fact, he has had it on his side on at least few occasions. Saleh might not be using al-Qaeda or the Houthis to blackmail neighbouring and friendly countries, as some of his critics often suggest, but it is obvious that he lacks a strong incentive to be rid of al-Qaeda once and for all or to reach a settlement with the Houthis. With Saleh and his country’s future depending largely on what the outside world says and does, al-Qaeda is an insurance policy for dancer and stage, but can also become an accelerator for the collapse of both of them.
The international community’s options in Yemen are very limited. On the one hand, it cannot turn its back on Yemen without risking disastrous consequences; on the other, it cannot rally behind Saleh against his opponents either in the north or south or even against al-Qaeda alone while leaving the other two for Saleh to handle alone. Any sound strategy to tackle Yemen’s complexities should meet several conditions: (1) it should be comprehensive in scope and inclusive of political, economic and security issues; (2) it should aim as its priority to dismantle the ongoing political conflicts in the north and south –the Saudis, in particular, should immediately stop paying the bills of the war in the north and direct the money instead towards development and reconstruction–; and (3) the international community should fully engage Saleh using a combination of incentives and disincentives.
Containing the secessionist movement in the south and preventing Yemen from degenerating into a Somalia-like state will require restructuring and strengthening the Yemeni state and political system in ways that will allow meaningful power-sharing, accountability, the de-personalisation of power and the rule of law. Parliamentarianism, deep decentralisation, bicameralism, proportional representation and free media are all key components to any viable solution to Yemen’s current myriad problems. The separation of south and north is almost impossible and if allowed could lead to the breakdown of the country as a whole into warring tribes, sects, regions and ideological orientations. As in Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq and elsewhere, only extremist groups focusing on passion and advocating terror can gain advantage in the event of a split.
Abdullah Al-faqih – Writer, activist and Professor of Political Science at Sana’a University, Yemen