March 20, 2013: In the last three years Saudi Arabia has increased security on their 1,800 kilometer long Yemen border. This was necessary to stop the growing number of people trying to sneak into Saudi Arabia. Most of these border crossers are economic refugees. Two years ago the border guards were catching over 20,000 a month, but now that is down to about 4,000. Two or three percent of them are smugglers, who are arrested and their goods (often drugs like hashish) are confiscated. The economic refugees are sent back, unless they are suspected of being Islamic terrorists. Those suspects account for less than one percent of the people the border patrols catch. With the war over in Yemen, most of the economic refugees headed for Saudi Arabia are Africans (mainly Somalis and Ethiopians) looking for work. More of the crossers are smugglers, who sometimes bring known Islamic terrorists in. This doesn’t happen very often because there has been a lot less Islamic terrorist activity in Saudi Arabia in the last six years. The police have a good informant network and it has become difficult for the Islamic terrorists to operate. Most of those who sneak back in are either passing through or retiring from the Islamic radical life.
Down in Marib province government negotiators are trying to work out a deal with local tribesmen to end the attacks on the oil pipeline. It’s all about money, jobs, and favors (like getting a misbehaving tribesman out of jail). The problem is that if you pay off one bunch of tribesmen with too attractive a compensation package, you can simply encourage a crew from another clan to start blowing holes in the pipeline. It used to be you could buy pipeline security from tribal chiefs but these leaders have lost control of some of their members and are not willing to deal with the bloodshed (and bad feelings) necessary to restore discipline. Another problem in Marib is the electricity transmission lines, which are also being attacked. Even the repair crews are shot at and now need detachments of troops to escort them while out fixing downed power lines.
In the south troops and pro-government tribal militias continue to hunt for al Qaeda members. Islamic terrorists who did not flee the country are hiding with friendly, or well-paid, tribesmen, often in remote villages. This is risky as the pro-government tribesmen have a good idea which villages might harbor terrorists. Some of these tribesmen are also seeking revenge for kin killed by terrorist attacks. When someone connected with al Qaeda terror attacks is caught, they are usually killed on the spot. The troops prefer to take al Qaeda members alive, for their intelligence value.
March 18, 2013: A government sponsored meeting on the future of the country began. The government proposed reorganizing the country into six regions, each with a lot of autonomy. Many southern tribes still want to create (or recreate) a separate state in the south. Since that would include the oil, the rest of the country is not eager to go along. After two decades of a reunited Yemen (and centuries of a chaotic Yemen before that) most Yemenis agree that too many of them are more loyal to tribe and clan than to any national or even provincial government. The 500 people at the conference are trying to come up with some new ideas.
March 16, 2013: Separatists in the southern port of Aden and several other towns staged general strikes for the day and shut down most economic activity. Although the rebels lost the recent civil war (in which they allied themselves with al Qaeda) the separatist sentiments in the south are still strong.
March 13, 2013: In the south demonstrations by separatists turned violent, and police killed two civilians. In the last week about a dozen people have been killed during these demonstrations.
March 7, 2013: Off the north coast in the Red Sea, the navy caught a freighter transferring weapons to a smaller fishing boat. This is the second such incident this year. The previous smuggling effort was traced back to Iran, and this one appears to be similar.
Outside the southern town of Loder, an Islamic terrorist was killed while a roadside bomb he was planting went off prematurely.
March 6, 2013: A pipeline near the Red Sea was bombed again, halting flow of oil and much needed income for the government. The 320 kilometer long pipeline extends from oil fields in Marib to the Red Sea terminal for export. Such attacks cost the government a billion dollars in lost revenue last year.