Yemen: The Screwed Strike Back


August 1, 2012: The war against al Qaeda in the south is not over. Police and soldiers are now hunting down hundreds of al Qaeda members known to have fled to remote villages, regrouped, and resumed making terror attacks on their enemies (the security forces and pro-government tribal leaders). Many of the southern tribes are still angry at the government. Some of the grudges are real because the government is corrupt and if your tribe does not have a member in a senior government position, to look out for the tribe's interests, your tribe gets screwed. Sometimes a tribe does have a member in the government who takes care of himself and his family but not his tribe (and blames that problem not on personal greed but other members of the government). Al Qaeda plays on this discontent by promising payback if the tribes will help the Islamic radicals establish a religious dictatorship. This won't work and many tribesmen know it, but enough go along with the fantasy to provide al Qaeda with lots of supporters in the south.

Many al Qaeda members are not fleeing Yemen because they have no better place to go to. Despite heavy losses in southern Yemen this year, refuges can still be found in rural villages in southern Yemen and rich Islamic conservatives in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states are still willing to contribute (but not as generously as a decade ago). Many religious schools in Arabia still preach an extreme form of Islam that emphasizes imposing restrictive (no music, dancing, video, or shaving) lifestyle rules for men and even more severe ones for women. Most Arabs oppose this sort of thing but the Islamic conservatives insist and fancy themselves reviving the militant religious practices from the golden age of Islam. This was over a thousand years ago, when Islam was imposed at sword point. Islam is the only major religion that was born in violence and spread quickly through military conquest. This sort of thing is no longer practical (the last major Islamic offensive was five centuries ago and it failed), but many preachers and teachers in Arabia still promote this kind of "jihad" (literally, "struggle"). And a lot of young guys still embrace violence as a divine mission. Arabs have been reluctant to go after the root cause of this terrorism (which kills mostly Moslems). Until the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula, and their leaders, go after these pro-jihad and "kill the infidel" (non-Moslem) attitudes (and schools that teach them), there will always be replacements for dead terrorists. The leaders of Arabia know where the terrorists come from but the Islamic conservatives know how to play the Islamic history card and the reluctance of Arabs to denounce their violent past as religious warriors. In southern Yemen many tribal leaders are caught in that bind. To go after Islamic terrorists risks trampling on long-held beliefs of many of their followers and this is how a tribal leader becomes a has-been.  

The U.S. is still using its UAVs to track down and attack al Qaeda men in Yemen. The government provides some information, from pro-government tribesmen and the growing number of police and army patrols now carried out in the south. The UAV attacks are often described as Yemeni air strikes. But Yemenis, and foreign journalists, can tell when it's the UAV missiles. If the attack was very precise and limited (in the damage done), it was probably American. The Yemeni air force does not have smart bombs and expects to do a lot of other damage when they try to hit a specific target.

There is growing hunger in Yemen, especially in the south, as months of fighting disrupted the economy. Moreover, a major cause of all the fighting is overpopulation, corruption, water shortages, and a shrinking economy. All these problems are still at work and the war against al Qaeda just made them worse. Foreign aid efforts are hampered by bandits and corrupt officials, who steal aid before it reaches the most needy.

July 31, 2012:  Over a hundred policemen and street thugs who used to work for former president Saleh, and lost their jobs when Saleh did, attacked the Interior Ministry in the capital demanding compensation. So far there has been over fifty casualties and the attackers control most of the compound. There had been demonstrations at the Interior Ministry since the 29th demanding compensation. There are lots of former Saleh gunmen in the capital and they are unemployed and angry.

July 30, 2012: In the south police arrested Abdulrahman al Baihani, a wanted al Qaeda leader who had organized several spectacular terror attacks in the capital. He had been chased out of the capital and had been involved in the fighting in Abyan province.

In Central Yemen the 14 year old son of a pro-government tribal chief died when a parcel he had been given, to pass onto his father, exploded. This was believed to have been an al Qaeda attempt to kill the father.  

July 29, 2012: In the capital tribesmen from the east kidnapped a security officer at the Italian embassy and are holding him until the government settles a real-estate dispute. This use of kidnapping as a negotiating tactic is a common Yemeni custom. Other tribesmen occupied parts of the Foreign Ministry compound to encourage these negotiations. In the last 14 years over 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in this fashion.





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