Counter-Terrorism: Yemen Pacifies Radial Shia Tribes


June 18, 2007: After three years of fighting, Yemen has worked out a deal with rebel Shia tribes in the north of the country. This peace deal is likely to stick, as it is backed by a large amount of cash from wealthy Arab Gulf States, that do not want to see more Shia unrest on their side of the Persian Gulf. In Yemen, hostility between the conservative north and the more liberal south is nothing new. Civil wars between the two regions took place as recently as the 1980s and 1990s.

The current violence has had the northern tribes on the defensive. There has been some terrorism in the last few years, but mostly from radical Sunnis in the south. The fighting in the north is against a radical Shia religious leader (Hussein Badr Eddin al Huthi), and Shia tribes along the Saudi border. The fighting has been low key, but has left several hundred tribesmen and soldiers dead in three years. It's mostly tribesmen versus soldiers and police.

Al Huthi the elder got in trouble with his incendiary sermons against the United States, Israel, and the Yemeni government. Al Huthi got his followers so stirred up that they began blocking roads and attacking policemen. The peace deal was negotiated with Abdulmalik al Huthi, the grandson of the late Hussein Badr Eddin al Huthi. The tribal leadership took heavy casualties during the fighting.

The bin Laden family originally came from Yemen, and Osama bin Laden is something of a hero to the conservative tribes along the border. The tribes have never really recognized any central government, and, for thousands of years, have been fighting any government that tries to control them. Years of military pressure (lots of heavily armed patrols, roadblocks to interfere with tribal commerce, and American UAVs in the air constantly), and the offer of generous peace terms, finally got the tribesmen to give it up. The leaders of the rebellion will go into comfortable exile, and millions of dollars will be invested into economic development projects in the tribal territories. All will be quiet, until the next uprising.




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