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Topic: Yemen (Read 6001 times)
FP: How we "lost" Yemen
Reply #50 on:
August 09, 2013, 10:50:03 AM »
THE SNAKE DEN: A PRIMER ON YEMEN
Reply #51 on:
August 11, 2013, 10:06:04 AM »
First, a comment on the previous post, Foreign Policy: How we "lost" Yemen. I notice Crafty has quote marks around "lost". Excellent article, loaded with facts and great analysis, yet I (too) question the title concluding that "we" "lost" Yemen. It isn't all about us, and it isn't all lost. But it does seem to be the focal point of AQ style terrorism at the moment and certainly warrants our attention.
THE SNAKE DEN: A PRIMER ON YEMEN By John Ford
To understand Yemen you must begin by understanding that there is very little reason for Yemen to be a country. In fact, until very recently it wasn’t a country at all. For most of the last 500 years, Yemen has been divided into a north and a south. The Northern part of Yemen is predominately Shia Muslim. Until 1918 it was dominated by the Ottoman Empire and after that it was an independent country dominated by the Zaidi Shia.
South Yemen was a British protectorate. The port of Aden was valuable to Britain as a fueling station on the way to India. It remained under British control from the mid-19th century until independence in 1967. Its population and economy were much smaller than that of North Yemen and its people were predominately Sunni Muslim but it still had one very important seaport in Aden.
After centuries of being divided first by imperial powers and then by the borders drawn by Imperial powers the two Yemens were united in 1990. North Yemen would be the senior partner in the marriage by virtue of being much larger in population and its President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, would be the President of the new united Yemen. Ali Salim al-Bidh, the President of South Yemen would be Vice President. The arrangements of Yemen’s merger set the stage for the serious problems Yemen faces today.
First, Saleh was an erratic personality. He called his political strategy for governing Yemen “dancing on the heads of snakes”. He was a bumbling would-be Machiavelli of the Arabian Desert whose modus operandi was to switch government patronage from one tribe to another and back again in such a manner that he was sure to alienate all parties. He began his administration of Yemen by siding with Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War and promptly lost nearly all his foreign aid when Saddam was defeated. Since 9/11, he posed as an ally against terrorism and took American aid to fight al Qaeda while he quietly coddled Salafi extremists. He seemed at times to connive for the pure joy of conniving and he spent his 20 years as President steadily losing one group of supporters after another until he was forced out of office during the Arab Spring.
Second, Saleh’s ruling coalition as President of North Yemen had been based on the support of his fellow Zaidi Shia, who comprised a slim majority of the population of North Yemen. But in the unified Yemen, the addition of almost exclusively Sunni southern Yemen gave the country a slight majority of Sunni Muslims. This prompted Saleh to switch patronage over time to the Sunnis and away from the Zaidi Shia and this in turn helped lead to a revolt against Saleh’s government by people who had once been his political base.
Yemen’s weak government and religious divisions helped set the stage for the civil war that began in 1994. Al-Bidh, Saleh’s Vice President, tried to launch a secession movement to break the south off from the newly united Yemen. As former President of South Yemen his power base was in the lightly populated south. He found himself increasingly marginalized in Saleh’s northern dominated government as resources were diverted towards the powerful Zaidi sheiks that Saleh depended on for support. Saleh won the civil war, but the country he won was severely damaged by the conflict. Saleh came out of the war having concluded that his Zaidi-dominated government was not durable in a majority Sunni country. He began to tilt towards Sunnis, increasing the patronage bestowed on Sunni tribes at the expense of the Zaidi (Even though Saleh was himself a Zaidi). By the decade’s end, Saleh’s government was dominated by Sunnis.
Yemen’s problems also made it a perfect target for al Qaeda. Yemen became a hotbed of al Qaeda activity in the late 1990s. An al Qaeda cell based in Aden bombed an American destroyer, the USS Cole, in 1999. Three years later, another attack occurred when Yemen based al Qaeda terrorists hit the Limburg, an oil tanker, off the coast near Aden. Saleh did not intend to repeat his mistake of supporting Saddam during the Gulf War. He saw the al Qaeda threat was of paramount importance to the US. He worked to ingratiate himself to the Americans and struck a pose as an ally in the War on Terror.
But while he was taking American aid he would not separate himself completely from some of his extremist allies. Saleh always appeared to be playing a double-game with the US on the terrorism issue. On the one hand, Saleh would allow American drone strikes like the one that killed al Qaeda leaders like Qaed al-Harithi and Anwar al-Awlawki to occur on his soil.
On the other hand, there were a series of suspicious “escapes” by terror suspects from Yemeni jails. In the most egregious jailbreak incident 23 terrorists escaped a jail in the capital city of Sanaa by tunneling into a women’s bathroom in a mosque next door to the prison. One of the escapees, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, is now the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the second highest ranking member of al Qaeda in the world. Few observers believe this escape was possible without help from the prison guards. While Saleh tried to play games with al Qaeda the terror group grew in strength and now controls large swaths of Yemen’s interior. The group is becoming stronger every day and now threatens to take control of the port of Aden.
Al Qaeda was not the only problem Saleh faced after 9/11. Saleh’s tilt towards the Sunnis had alienated his Zaidi allies. His alliance with the US had alienated them further. In 2004, a powerful family of Zaidi Shia called the al-Houthi began to lead organized protests against the government. The government overreacted massively by arresting hundreds of protests and killing the leader of the protest movement, Sheikh Hussein al-Houthi. The government’s crackdown sparked a broader revolution of Zaidi Shia. The revolution has become extremely violent and has killed 25,000 people since it began in 2004 and left 250,000 more internally displaced.
By 2011, Saleh’s position had become untenable. In the north, he faced a broad based rebellion of his own Zaidi sect led by the al-Houthis who were receiving arms from Iran. In the country’s center and south, he faced a growing al Qaeda insurgency that was beginning to take control of entire towns. Yemen’s security services were unable to win this two-front war. Saleh’s government was toppled during the Arab Spring.
The post-Saleh government of Yemen is sandwiched between two insurgencies it cannot seem to control. The United States continues to send substantial foreign aid to the government of Yemen in the hopes that Yemen’s government will be able to contain these twin rebellions but it is now obvious that as time goes by AQAP grows stronger while the central government grows weaker.
The US has no interest in seeing al Qaeda take control of Yemen and turn it into a base from which it can launch attacks against western targets. Nor does it wish to see the Houthi rebellion take control if it would increase Iranian influence in the Arabian Peninsula. It cannot afford to simply ignore the problems in Yemen. As the attack on the Cole and the Limburg show, a terrorist dominated Yemen would be a severe threat to international shipping. A terrorist safe haven for al Qaeda anywhere would be a base from which al Qaeda could launch attacks against American interests around the world.
The hope going forward is that Yemen’s government will be less duplicitous now that Saleh is gone and that it will stop playing a double game between the US and al Qaeda. For the moment, the US has no real choice but to continue to prop up Yemen’s government in the hope that it can roll back the two insurgencies it faces. This task will prove difficult because Yemen has no natural reason to be a country and the two insurgencies fall along Yemen’s natural dividing line going back for hundreds of years: A Zaidi Shia north and a Sunni dominated south.
For further reading:
“Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes” by Victoria Clark
“The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia” by Gregory Johnsen
“High Value Target: Countering al Qaeda in Yemen” by Ambassador Edmund Hull
Reply #52 on:
February 14, 2014, 10:42:28 AM »
Armed gunmen assaulted Yemen's Central Security Prison on Thursday, freeing at least 14 inmates potentially associated with al Qaeda. The attack on Yemen's main security prison, located in the capital Sana'a, allegedly began with a car bomb explosion at the prison's entrance. Militants engaged in a prolonged firefight with Yemeni security officials near the prison gates and reportedly used car bombs and grenades to break into the structure. Yemeni security forces report that seven policemen and three militants were killed in the attack, and several others were wounded. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but Yemen is facing a growing threat from al Qaeda within its borders. The Yemeni al Qaeda branch, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has conducted numerous militant operations against Yemeni state structures in the past year, including a brutal attack against Yemen's defense ministry in December 2013.
Maybe AQAP shouldn't have been so cocky
Reply #53 on:
April 21, 2014, 08:20:52 AM »
Our side was making some noise the other day when AQAP released a video of a big open air meeting. Maybe we were premature. It now looks like AQAP got a bit too cocky.
Air strikes in southern Yemen have killed more than 40 suspected al Qaeda militants as well as three civilians over the past three days. According to the defense ministry strikes on Saturday and Sunday were launched as part of the government's efforts to combat terrorism. A source from the High Security Committee said Sunday's strikes targeted a southern mountainous region between Abyan, Shabwa, and Bayda provinces and were based on information that "terrorist elements were planning to target vital civilian and military installations." A government official said the operation was conducted in collaboration with the United States but did not reference drone strikes, however local sources said drones had been seen circling the target areas prior to the strikes. According to the New America Foundation, the United States has carried out over 100 drone strikes in Yemen since 2002.
Reply #54 on:
April 22, 2014, 11:06:59 AM »
Yemen Confirms 55 Militants Killed in Joint Aerial Campaign
Yemen's interior ministry confirmed that 55 al Qaeda linked militants were killed in what a Yemeni official called an "unprecedented" joint aerial campaign between Yemen and the United States in the mountainous Abyan, Shabwa, and Bayda provinces from Saturday to Monday. Air strikes, possibly from U.S. drones, reportedly targeted a training camp as well as several vehicles in the region. Another Yemeni official estimated the number of dead in the 40s. According to the interior ministry, three senior members of al Qaeda were among the fatalities as well as three civilians. Additionally, reports suggest Ibrahim al-Asiri, al Qaeda's chief bomb maker, may have been killed in an ambush over the weekend by U.S. backed special forces. Since the weekend's strikes, gunmen have killed four senior security officers, according to Yemeni officials.
US officers kill attempted kidnappers
Reply #55 on:
May 09, 2014, 09:06:10 PM »
U.S. Officers Kill Armed Civilians in Yemen Capital
A United States Special Operations commando and a Central Intelligence Agency officer in Yemen shot and killed two armed Yemeni civilians who tried to kidnap them while the Americans were in a barber shop in the country’s capital two weeks ago, American officials said on Friday.
The two Americans were whisked out of the volatile Middle East nation within a few days of the shooting, with the blessing of the Yemeni government, two senior American officials said.
READ MORE »
AQ wipes out rival camp
Reply #56 on:
June 02, 2014, 04:47:31 AM »
Re: AQ wipes out rival camp
Reply #57 on:
June 02, 2014, 04:58:27 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on June 02, 2014, 04:47:31 AM
An obscure YouTube video must be to blame.
Yemen: Rebel Advance could topple regime
Reply #58 on:
July 30, 2014, 10:35:00 AM »
In Yemen, a Rebel Advance Could Topple the Regime
July 29, 2014 | 0407 Print Text Size
Yemen's Escalating Houthi Conflict
Shia loyal to the al-Houthi movement ride past Yemeni soldiers near Yaz, Yemen, in May. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
The success of a rebel campaign in northern Yemen is threatening to destabilize the already weak and overwhelmed government in Sanaa. After capturing the city of Amran, a mere 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the capital, in early July, the rebels from the al-Houthi tribe are in their strongest position yet. The Yemeni government is developing plans to divide the country into six federal regions, and the rebels believe this is their chance to claim territory for the future bargaining.
The central government is nearly powerless to fend off the rebels; its forces are already stretched thin. Neighboring Saudi Arabia has intervened in Yemen before and still supports Sunni tribes in the north, but the risk of inciting a Shiite backlash or creating space for jihadists to move in could deter another intervention.
Followers of Zaidi Islam, a branch of Shiism, ruled northern Yemen intermittently for centuries before the Yemen Arab Republic was created after a coup in 1962. The Sunni-led government in Sanaa has since marginalized and repressed the Zaidis, who account for 40 percent of Yemen's population. The Zaidis were left to administer their rugged and resource-poor redoubt in northwestern Yemen's Saada province.
In 2004, the al-Houthi tribe, a member of the Zaidi order, rallied Yemen's Shia to reverse decades of subjugation. The tribe led an insurgency from its mountainous territory in the north against Saudi-backed Wahhabi and Salafist tribesmen and the Yemeni military, both of which the al-Houthis believed were encroaching on historically Zaidi territory. Five more bouts of fighting over six years failed to produce any changes on the ground.
Over time, the al-Houthi rebels became an effective insurgent force of more than 10,000 fighters. By the time Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was deposed in 2011, the al-Houthis were strong enough to exploit the ensuing power vacuum. They captured Saada city, installed a governor and began collecting taxes and directing the local government. They also began to openly contest tribal control of adjacent territory in al-Jawf, Hajja and Amran provinces.
Click to Enlarge
The latest round of violence began in October, when al-Houthi and Salafist fighters clashed in Dammaj in northern Yemen. Many groups and tribes had targeted the al-Houthis over the years, viewing them as a threat to their influence or territory in the north.
The al-Houthis launched a major offensive after Yemen's January National Dialogue Conference, which designated a year to draft a new constitution and proposed dividing the country into six regions. The offensive was intended to pressure Sanaa into bending on important territorial disputes during the constitution-writing process.
The tribe is displeased with the demarcation of its region, Azal, which has no access to the Red Sea, a large population and little in terms of water or natural resources. The al-Houthis claim rights to coastal Hajja province, including the valuable al-Midi port to the north, and al-Jawf province, which is within reach of Yemen's central oil fields. They have also rejected the Azal region's connection to the overcrowded and distant Dhamar province.
Proposed Regions of Yemen
Click to Enlarge
Over the course of a month the al-Houthi rebels gained territory in Hajja and al-Jawf, took the town of Kitaf near the Saudi border and forced the Salafists of Dammaj to retreat south to Sanaa. The focus of the offensive was Amran province, which the Ahmar clan (leaders of Yemen's most powerful tribe, the Hashid tribe) has historically dominated and through which the region's largest highway runs to the capital. By early February, the al-Houthis held most of northern Amran province and had expelled the Ahmars from their home district, Khamir. Notably, anti-Ahmar and anti-government tribes, reportedly including supporters of former president Saleh, joined the rebels' military campaign.
The Yemeni government has been unable to divert forces from other regions to reinforce Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar's 310th Brigade, which has been battling the al-Houthi rebels for more than a decade. The Yemeni armed forces are busy containing al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula activities, which are spreading from the country's southeast. Meanwhile, southern secessionists are threatening the country's unity, and tribal militants are threatening its infrastructure.
Despite several short-lived government-brokered cease-fires, heavy fighting continues in Amran, and the al-Houthis have been able to acquire large stockpiles of heavy weaponry and armaments left by withdrawing military forces and tribesmen. With rebels closing in on the capital in early June, President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi approved airstrikes against al-Houthi positions in Amran for the first time since the fighting resumed in October. By July 10, however, the al-Houthi rebels had taken Amran city itself, including the 310th Brigade's headquarters and armaments within the city.
Hadi announced July 23 that an agreement had been reached to return Amran to state control, but the al-Houthis will remain on the outskirts and will ensure that no threatening forces are allowed to move back into the city. Moreover, their advance, which the Iranians quietly encouraged, has raised concern in Saudi Arabia.
The Sectarian Divide in Northern Yemen
Click to Enlarge
A Proxy War
For Iran, Yemen's Shiite insurgency is an opportunity to distract its rivals in Saudi Arabia and eat up their resources, keeping them from focusing on regional theaters in which Tehran has bigger interests. Tehran can use its support for the Shia in Yemen as leverage during exchanges with Riyadh over sectarian competition in Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon and Iraq. Over the years, Iran has provided the al-Houthi rebels with limited materiel and financial support and has reportedly directed Hezbollah operatives and potentially Quds Force commanders to help train and direct the rebels.
The Saudis are concerned that the violence, or the al-Houthis' ambitions of autonomy, may spill over into Saudi territory. Saudi Arabia is home to a small Shiite population in its mountainous territories in the southwest, and a far larger Shiite population in its oil-rich Eastern province. In fact, when al-Houthi rebels in 2009 showed signs of overwhelming Yemeni forces and carried out small-scale operations in Saudi territory, Riyadh massed troops on the border and initiated serious airstrikes against rebel positions in northern Yemen until the al-Houthis capitulated.
As in the past, Saudi Arabia's ability to contain the al-Houthis depends on its ties to northern Yemen's conservative tribes, which Riyadh has historically supported financially to oppose the Shia. Nevertheless, the Saudis' influence over the tribes has waned, especially since Riyadh denounced the Muslim Brotherhood, effectively alienating the powerful al-Islah opposition group -- whose inner circle is dominated by the Ahmar family -- and its affiliated tribesmen.
There is also the fear that Saudi aid may find its way into the hands of jihadists in the north, particularly with the Islamic State expanding its influence in the region and threatening to strike in Saudi Arabia. If recent developments are any indication, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's decision to create a unit tasked to combat the al-Houthi rebels and the July 4 jihadist attack on the Wadia border post, Riyadh's fears are well-founded.
With Yemen largely unable to contain the rebel threat and the al-Houthis sitting on the outskirts of the capital, the Saudis could consider a military incursion similar to the one they conducted in 2009. There have been several recent high-level Yemeni-Saudi talks, including a July 8 meeting between Hadi and King Abdullah in Riyadh and a July 23 unannounced visit by Yemeni Defense Minister Muhammad Nasir Ahmad to the kingdom. Riyadh is likely providing selective assistance to the more moderate Salafist fighters in northern Yemen -- as it has in the past -- to strike back against al-Houthi territorial gains. Nevertheless, the Saudis must take care not to incite the Shia, particularly in Saudi Arabia's own southern territory, or to allow al Qaeda or Islamic State jihadists to fill the security vacuum in northern Yemen that would follow an intervention.
A Fragile Regime
The al-Houthis are unlikely to advance into Sanaa. They recognize the risk of reprisal from the Saudi military, are wary of triggering a nationalist response that unites northern tribesmen against them and are trying not to spread their forces too thin. The al-Houthis will also probably limit the expansion of their operations northward for fear of repeating the mistakes of 2009, when fighting spread too close to the Saudi border.
Nevertheless, the rebels will work to consolidate control in the territory they have captured and to undermine the support of their Sunni rivals, particularly the Ahmar family. The al-Houthis will also work to strengthen their defensive lines in anticipation of limited counterattacks by Yemeni armed forces and of growing jihadist activity. Yemen's leaders may be flexible on some of the al-Houthi rebels' demands regarding border demarcation and autonomy, but they are unlikely to concede on the al-Houthis' overarching desire for greater autonomy.
More important, the al-Houthi offensive comes at an inopportune time for the Yemeni regime. A large share of Sanaa's military forces have been busy combating al Qaeda elements in Shabwa and Abyan provinces since April. The Hadi regime is also struggling to contain secessionist activity in the south after one of the secessionist movement's most prominent leaders escaped from house arrest and vowed to renew the struggle. Within the government and military, supporters of Saleh are increasingly challenging Hadi; coup rumors came out twice in June. Finally, frequent militant attacks on energy infrastructure have hurt oil and natural gas production, and protests have grown over water, fuel and electricity shortages.
Despite Saudi assistance, Yemen's internal pressures have put Hadi's regime in its most fragile state since the 2011 uprising. The regime could be at risk of breaking down in the near future.
Read more: In Yemen, a Rebel Advance Could Topple the Regime | Stratfor
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