A new year finds most Yemenis fed up with Yemen. The Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 seemed to be working at first as a long-time dictator was forced out of power by 2012 and there seemed to be hope that decades of crippling corruption and bad government would end and Yemen would become more livable. That did not happen. Tribal loyalties still counted in Yemen and the fighting continued. Shia tribes in the north wanted autonomy as did Sunni tribes in the south. The deposed dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, still had many supporters in the government and he was also a Shia with links to the rebellious Shia tribes. Iran was also supporting the Shia tribes, something it did not admit until the Shia rebels were obviously winning in 2014. In the south Islamic terrorists were taking advantage of the turmoil to establish bases among tribes that supported Islamic radicalism. When it seemed like the Shia tribes to take control of the entire country in early 2015, the Sunni Arab neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia, invaded. The fighting continues and even after the Shia tribes are defeated the Shia will still be angry as will many of the Sunni tribesmen who are now supporting the government. In 2016 more Yemenis are seeking a way out of Yemen than a way to save it. In Yemen hope has also been a casualty of all the fighting. Overall about 6,000 have died in the major fighting that broke out in early 2015. Half of the dead have been civilians.
In the southwest (Taiz) pro-government forces are still unable to break the Shia siege of Taiz city. Enough Shia rebels remain in the area to block aid attempting to reach civilians and pro-government forces in the city. For months it was believed that the Shia resistance wouldn’t last much longer because Shia strength in the province and territory held has been gradually shrinking since August 2015. The Arab air strikes had been constant and pro-government tribes cut regular access to rebel held bases outside Taiz. But the Shia resistance continued in Taiz because the province has a lengthy Red Sea coastline which enables smugglers to bring in weapons and other aid for the Shia rebels even though the rebels lost control of most of the Taiz coast. This made smuggling operations along the Red Sea coast more difficult but obviously not impossible. There are Red Sea smugglers who will (for a much larger fee) get stuff in. Meanwhile most government forces are involved with the effort to capture the national capital (Saana). The siege pf Taiz city has been going on for over five months and tribal leaders are demanding more help from the government to end it. Over 1,500 civilians have died in the city and UN supply efforts are blocked by the Shia gunmen.
Saudi Arabia is trying to expand the coalition it formed in early 2015 to help Yemen. Thus un mid-December Saudi Arabia announced the formation of an anti-terrorist organization (the Islamic Military Alliance or IMA) initially composed of 34 Moslem nations including Somalia as well as Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Qatar, the Palestinians, Pakistan, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, the UAE (United Arab Emirates), and Yemen. All the initial members are largely Sunni. Some nations are not welcome, like Iran, Syria and Iraq. This is because the Sunni Gulf States (led by Saudi Arabia) are at war with Iran, which considers Syria and Iraq allies. Many IMA members are the recipients of Saudi financial assistance, so refusing to join the IMA was not considered fiscally prudent for Somalia. The only specific terrorist organization IMA is at war with is ISIL but Iran is implied.
Iran is suffering a rare defeat in Yemen and is trying to delay the defeat of the Shia rebels until something can be done to distract or disrupt the Saudi led Arab coalition that has deprived the Shia rebels of the victory they seemed on the brink of a year ago. The UN hosted peace talks brought no peace so far but the UN is still trying. Both sides continue fighting and government forces are closing in on Sanaa, the national capital. As powerful as it is, the Arab coalition is dependent on popular support at home and that means keeping coalition casualties down. So the advance is deliberate and prudent. Nevertheless this conflict appears to be ending without addressing the corruption and bad government that have made the nation a bloody mess in the first place. Saudi Arabia has its lobbyists in the West working overtime to deal with Iranian supported accusations that the Saudi led Arab coalition air attacks in Yemen have killed so many civilians. The Iranians are working this angle as much as they can, along with accusations (mostly false) that Arab forces and their tribal allies are interfering with foreign aid efforts to desperately hungry or sick Yemeni civilians. Iran has been less successful defending the Shia rebels from all sorts of misbehavior accusations. When there is a war between Shia and Sunni things tend to get ugly. It is no secret that Arabs tend to be brutal when fighting each other and regularly treat civilians badly. The Saudis and other Arab states prefer to keep this out of Western media while continuing to operate as they always have. Western governments, although not most Western media, are cooperating as best they can regarding Yemen and looking the other way.
January 12, 2016: UN sponsored Yemen peace talk that were supposed to begin on the 14th have been delayed for at least a week. Part of the problem is that former president Ali Abdullah Saleh refuses to participate in the talks. Many factions in Yemen are still loyal to Saleh.
January 11, 2016: Britain revealed that it does have some military personnel in Yemen, assisting the Arab coalition with intelligence work and identifying worthwhile targets for air attack.
January 10, 2016: In the south (Aden) government forces, acting on a tip, raided an unused warehouse near the port and found tons of weapons and ammunition apparently smuggled in by AQAP. The increase government efforts to fight AQAP in Aden has led more civilians to report the suspected presence of AQAP men.
AQAP Islamic terrorists based in Yemen declared, via an Internet message, that Saudi Arabia would suffer more terror attacks because of the recent (January 2nd) execution of over a dozen AQAP members. Saudi Arabia executed 47 people on the 2nd, including a prominent Shia cleric. That one death generated anti-Saudi demonstrations in Iran and an attack on the Saudi embassy. This led the Saudis to break diplomatic relations with Iran. AQAP has made several attacks in Saudi Arabia since 2014, mostly against Shia Moslems. Of the more than fifty people killed in these attacks Shia were the majority. But fifteen members of the security forces have also died. The Saudis responded by arresting hundreds of suspected AQAP supporters or members and prosecuting dozens of AQAP men for carrying out, or trying to carry out, attacks. In 2015 AQAP warned the Saudis to not execute any of their men and now AQAP has backed itself into a corner with this latest threat. Saudi forces are operating in Yemen, the last base area AQAP has access to. AQAP must be expecting some divine intervention because nothing else will protect them from Saudi forces now. That said, a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran would take pressure off AQAP.
January 5, 2016: In the south (Aden) an AQAP suicide car bomber attacked the newly appointed governor of Aden province. The governor was unharmed but one of the security guards was killed and eight other people were wounded. Further north Shia rebels claim to have killed an ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) leader in Taiz province. Most of the AQAP attacks against government officials are directed as officers involved in finding and attacking AQAP in Aden and elsewhere in the south. The Shia kill ISIL men wherever they find them because ISIL does the same for all Shia they come across.
January 3, 2016: In the south (Aden) government forces fought AQAP gunmen in the port area for several hours. This led to 17 dead and after the battle was over a curfew was reinstated, at least for a few days. Inside Aden the growing number of AQAP men has enabled the Islamic terrorists to take control of some neighborhoods. The port area was particularly important for the Islamic terrorists because they can more easily get smuggled goods in if they have some control there. The government has been trying to clear AQAP held neighborhoods but there is not enough manpower right now to complete the job because most government forces are up north fighting the Shia rebels in the capital.
January 2, 2016: The government forces declared the truce officially over. The truce began on December 15th but was observed by only a few units on both sides. The Saudis were particularly annoyed at the Shia continuing to fire ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia. None of these missiles hit anything of value mainly because Saudi anti-missile systems (U.S. Patriot PAC-3 missiles) were able to shoot down missiles that were headed for a populated area. The UN reported that 81 civilians died as a result of fighting in December, which was more than twice the number killed in November. For all of 2015 about 2,800 have died in the Yemen fighting.
January 1, 2016: Pro-government tribal militiamen manning a checkpoint east of Aden got into a gun battle with a truckload of AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) men headed for Aden. Three militiamen and three of the six AQAP men were killed and the other three Islamic terrorists captured. One of the AQAP dead was an Islamic law judge in Mukalla. Most of the AQAP men in Yemen are east of Aden, mainly in Hadramawt province. AQAP rebels control the port city of Mukalla and most of Hadramawt and has been very active in sending men into Aden to stage assassination or bombing attacks. To thwart this the government has persuaded more of the local tribal militias to man checkpoints along the roads leading into Aden.
December 31, 2015: Shia rebels fired several rockets into Saudi Arabia and killed three civilians and wounded eleven others. Most of the 14 casualties were children.
December 30, 2015: Saudi Arabia said its air defense forces intercepted another ballistic missile fired from Yemen. The interception was outside Jizan city, which is 150 kilometers from the border. This would mean the missile was a SCUD as the SS-21 ballistic missiles the rebels also use only have a range of 70 kilometers. The Saudi Air Force reported that their aircraft quickly found and destroyed the launcher for the missile. Elsewhere on the Saudi border a Bharani F-16 crashed on the Saudi side of the border because of equipment failure. The pilot ejected safely and the wreckage is being examined to determine exactly what happened.
December 29, 2015: In the south (Aden) a prominent judge, presiding over cases involving AQAP members, was assassinated by gunmen. AQAP was believed responsible as these Islamic terrorists have been identified in similar murders.