Yemen: Little Big War


June 14, 2011: President Saleh has been in a Saudi Arabian hospital for ten days now, and is supposed to give a televised speech to the nation soon. Saudi Arabia has been pressuring Saleh to resign. Meanwhile, the president's son (Ahmad Ali Saleh) is running things back in Yemen. That's despite the fact that the vice-president is supposed to be in charge. No, the Saleh clan is still giving orders, orders that will be obeyed. The anti-government forces in Yemen are not as organized and united, which is why president Saleh lasted so long.  But over the last decade, economic conditions have deteriorated (water shortages, declining oil production, population growth and higher unemployment), making it more difficult to keep all the factions happy. The big problem is that none of the possible new coalitions that might take over are capable of solving these problems. Many Yemenis realize this, which is why Saleh still has so much support. But that support is unraveling not just because of opposition groups, but because close associates believe Saleh has not been energetic enough in dealing with tribal and terrorist violence. Meanwhile, Saleh supporters continue to hold demonstrations in the capital, often close to anti-government ones.

The U.S. has been basing more armed UAVs across the Gulf of Aden, in Djibouti, for flying recon missions over Yemen.  The UAVs, with an endurance of 15-20 hours (depending on how many missiles carried), require about two hours to Yemen and back, from their Djibouti base. For over a year now the American JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) have been increasing its fleet of UAVs in Djibouti. JSOC has, for the last decade, devoted most of its efforts to monitoring, and occasionally intervening, in Somalia. But the JSOC demand for UAVs, to watch Somalia, the waters off Somalia (where pirates proliferate) and Yemen has grown rapidly in the last year. So now the CIA is moving some of its UAVs in Djibouti, mainly to monitor al Qaeda activity in Yemen. This will put over a dozen UAVs in Djibouti. The UAVs are mainly concerned with finding al Qaeda members and tracking them. It's preferable to capture these men and interrogate them. If the conditions are right, Yemeni troops and police can do that. If not, UAVs can use missiles, or Yemeni aircraft can use bombs, to attack and kill the terrorists.

Low level fighting in the two southern provinces of Abyan and Taiz continues, with more tribal militias taking up arms against the government. This is unorganized fighting, with groups of armed men (from a few dozen to a few hundred) attacking soldiers and police. There have been over 200 casualties a week from this fighting in the south, while the ceasefire in the capital has held for the last ten days. The fighting in the south is largely skirmishes in cities and attacks on army checkpoints out in the country. Long term, the biggest problem is the disruption of the already fragile economy. Yemen is highly dependent on food and other imports. The rebellious tribesmen tend not to interfere with that, as they and their families would go hungry as a result.

Al Qaeda is small, in numbers, in Yemen and only looms large in the media. For all that publicity, Islamic terrorists based in Yemen have not managed to accomplish much. Well, they have been successful at talking big, but actual attacks outside Yemen have been few. Attacks inside Yemen have not been frequent, and most of the clashes consist of al Qaeda fighting to save itself from death or capture.

June 13, 2011:  Police have arrested several suspects in the June 3rd attack that injured president Saleh.

Russia has sent airliners to Yemen to evacuate 175 Russian citizens there. Many other nations have warned their citizens to get out, and many have.

June 8, 2011:  The city of Taiz, several hundred tribal gunmen have taken control of some neighborhoods. The city of a million is about 250 kilometers south of the capital. There have been large anti-government demonstrations, and the armed tribesmen came to protect the demonstrators from government security forces.





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