Yemen: Righteous Resentment

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November 17, 2010:  In the north, several days of fighting continues between Shia rebels and pro-government tribesmen. There have been over a hundred casualties, including nearly 30 dead. One reason for the rebellious attitudes of the Shia tribes up there are feuds with neighboring tribes. Such feuds are common throughout the country.  The most dangerous feud is the one involving once more dividing Yemen into two countries (North and South Yemen). Yemen has often been divided into two or more tribal confederations. The current unified state is only two decades old, and constantly in danger of coming apart. The southern separatists have, so far, expressed their anger via demonstrations, not heavy gunfire.

Unrest is also driven by overpopulation and the resulting food shortages. Over two-thirds of food is imported, and a third of the population can't afford to buy all they need. The tribal leaders are often, but not always, wealthy enough to hand out food to starving followers. About half the young men can't find work, and getting paid to carry a gun for someone is seen as a suitable substitute for a real job. Because so many Yemenis believe in Islamic radicalism, or simply have bad attitudes, they are not welcome in the rest of the region. Neighboring countries would rather import workers from India and Pakistan. The current refusal of the Yemeni tribes to hand over known Islamic terrorists simply confirms anti-Yemeni attitudes in the region. The governments of neighboring Arab countries support the Yemeni government in the fight against Islamic radicals with cash and some military equipment. But this support would quickly turn to open hostility if the Yemeni government refused to go after the terrorists (or at least pretend to in a convincing fashion). Yemeni old timers remember the days before oil wealth, when Yemen was the most powerful state in Arabia. Those days are gone, and there is a general resentment among Yemenis because of the changed circumstances. Taking charity from the Saudis and Gulf Arabs, who for centuries were subservient to Yemeni power (because of more rain, and people) rankles. Bad attitudes and Islamic terrorism are a nasty combination.

It's rumored that Iran is allowing senior al Qaeda operatives, held under house arrest since they fled Afghanistan in 2002, to move to Yemen and, hopefully, die for the cause (of killing Americans.) There has been no confirmation that these guys are actually in Yemen, but is sounds like the sort of thing Iran would do.

Frustrated with the corruption and business as usual attitude of the Yemeni government, the U.S. is now dealing with Yemen the way it has with Pakistan. That means more intelligence collection and armed UAVs. As long as the missiles kill foreigners, even if they are Arabs, it is believed the Yemeni government can handle the local backlash. As in Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan, tribal politics and personal feuds dominate politics in Yemen. It's a bizarre mix of politics, personality and paranoia that the U.S. has learned a lot about in the last decade. American intelligence agencies (CIA, SOCOM, DIA) believe they can cope. Given the growing number of international terrorist attacks coming out of Yemen, those coping skills will be put to the test. This is especially the case with the many tribal leaders who have, or still do, support Islamic radicalism. Some of these guys don't go much beyond mouthing off like terrorists, while others provide bases and protection for Islamic terrorists. While the Yemeni government (via its police and intelligence agencies) has a lot of detailed knowledge of what is going on within the tribes (as in where the best terrorist targets for missile attacks are), they are reluctant to share. The CIA believes they can cut a deal, but first insist on being put in charge.  The U.S. Department of Defense is currently running the show in Yemen. The CIA runs the more successful intelligence/UAV/missile attack operation in Pakistan. The CIA and Department of Defense have often feuded over who should be in charge of operations like this. The Department of Defense has its own intelligence agency (the DIA, or Defense Intelligence Agency) which competes with the CIA (although, officially, it isn't supposed to.)

November 13, 2010: Germany has allowed passenger flights to resume from Yemen, but air cargo from Yemen is still banned.  In Yemen, the police arrested four separatist leaders in the south. These four continued to organizes public demonstrations against the government.

November 12, 2010:  In the south, a separatist demonstration left five wounded, including three soldiers.

 

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