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.