Yemen: Thirst And Hunger Cripple The Revolution

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August 12, 2011: President Saleh continues to insist on remaining in power. A coalition of anti-Saleh tribes is forming a new government, but does not appear strong enough to replace the pro-Saleh coalition. The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council, the oil-rich Gulf Arab states) continues urging Saleh to resign, but Saleh refuses. Four times this year, Saleh agreed to a GCC plan for him to resign, and each time Saleh changed his mind at the last minute. The Yemeni opposition is crippled by the fact that it contains Islamic radical and leftist groups, along with anti-Saleh tribes. All the tribal leadership is conservative, and generally hostile to both the leftists (who tend to be more secular) and the Islamic radicals (including al Qaeda.)

The UN is pressuring Saleh to quit, if only to stop al Qaeda from gaining more support. The power struggle has hurt the economy, putting more men (almost all of whom own guns) out of work and making it easier for al Qaeda to recruit them. But the power struggle began because illegal drug exports. Yemen’s economy has been shrinking because there are too many people and the nation is running out of water. Well water is being exhausted by the production of Khat, a narcotic plant that is very lucrative because it is exported to Saudi Arabia (where it is illegal.) No one is willing to ban Khat production, or confront the growing water shortage and population explosion.

The opposition is being hurt by the disruptions they have caused to the economy. The most serious problem is the fuel shortage. Some 30 percent of fuel goes to farming, and the attacks on oil pipelines and truck traffic has reduced fuel availability by over two-thirds. As a result, many farms are losing crops of vegetables and fruit, as well as Khat (the big money crop). Diesel fuel is needed to run the generators that pump well water into irrigation systems. The cost of food in the markets has more than tripled in many areas because of shortages (either due to lack of water or lack of transportation to the urban areas.) The tribes can disrupt the economy, but do not have the weapons, training or organization to take on the armed forces (who have armored vehicles, artillery and warplanes.) The government has obtained additional fuel from friendly GCC countries, and is using it to persuade hostile tribes to cooperate.

August 11, 2011: President Saleh appeared on TV, along with key aides, from Saudi Arabia. Saleh recently left the hospital and is planning to return to Yemen. The GCC and the U.S. are trying to persuade him not to. Saleh has become a divisive personality in Yemen, but there is no one of comparable stature to replace him, at least not yet.

Outside the southern city of Zinjibar, army artillery fire killed four Islamic radicals. Several hundred Islamic radicals (a group allied with al Qaeda) have controlled parts of the city for the last three months.

August 10, 2011: Outside the southern city of Zinjibar, pro-government tribesmen killed Yasir al Shalily, a leader of Ansar Al Shariah (Partisans of Islamic Law) as Shalily tried to lead some armed men into the city.

August 9, 2011: A truce has been negotiated in the southern city (population 460,000, second largest in Yemen) Taiz. Rebel tribesmen will get off the streets and soldiers will return to their base.  

August 8, 2011: Fighting flared up in southern Abyan province, leaving over a dozen dead and wounded (mainly Islamic terrorists.)

August 7, 2011: President Saleh left the hospital in Saudi Arabia, where he had spent two months recovering from burns suffered during a June rocket attack on the Yemeni presidential palace. The U.S. convinced Saleh to not immediately return to Yemen.

Anti-Saleh tribesmen have been skirmishing with troops on the outskirts of the capital.

August 4, 2011:  Several tribes that had ceased cooperating with the army last week (because an air force bomber accidentally hit a friendly village and killed dozens of armed tribesmen and civilians), has resumed working with the military. Apparently compensation was paid for the lost lives (the usual way of settling such matters.)

August 3, 2011: The second-most-wanted Islamic terrorist in Saudi Arabia, Salam al Faraj, has returned to Saudi Arabia from Yemen and surrendered.

 

 

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