Yemen: Saleh Surrenders As South Separates

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November 22, 2011: For the fourth time, president Saleh has promised to leave power, and is supposed to sign the deal today. The latest deal would have Saleh turn power over to his deputy, but retain the title of president (without any power) until January elections can elect new national leadership.

Qatar, which has led the Gulf State coalition seeking an end to the Yemen violence, and the UN, kept up the pressure on president Saleh to resign. Saleh tried to wait out the opposition coalition (which is not united and always shows signs of splintering). But this time, most Yemenis are tired of Saleh and his allies. Most Yemenis are tired of the corruption and incompetent government. The country faces serious water shortages, chronic (and worsening) poverty and the government seems to be more part of the problem than part of the solution. This encourages the Qatar and UN peace negotiators, who know that Saleh is not stupid enough to die trying to hold onto power. Now that he senses that the end is very near, he is apparently edging towards the exit. Qatar and the UN are keeping that door open.

In the south, police and troops search for al Qaeda camps and urban hideouts. These are attacked when found, and the terrorists suffer dozens of casualties a week from these operations. But in return, the Islamic terrorists have been successful in targeting police and army commanders. This assassination campaign makes the counter-terrorism efforts very personal.

The security forces have been finding many foreigners among the Islamic terrorists they have killed or captured in the south. That region has apparently become a popular refuge for Islamic radicals. This explains the enthusiastic assistance of Islamic radical groups in the battle against the Saleh government. Any new government will feel obliged to continue tolerating the Islamic radical groups in the south, and deflect foreign calls for shutting down their al Qaeda bases. 

In the south, a coalition of tribal and Islamic radical leaders announced the formation of a committee to work out the details for the formation of the Islamic Arab South. This would be partition of Yemen, if it succeeded.

November 21, 2011: Tribal militiamen attacked and captured a small Republican Guard base 70 kilometers outside the capital. The base commander and some of his troops died defending the place, but the rest of the troops were captured or fled. The attack appeared to be mainly to steal weapons and equipment. Groups of young men are forming independent armed gangs, and are becoming more of a public menace.

November 19, 2011: In the capital, several hundred members of the Republican Guard (the core defenders of the Saleh government) defected to the rebels. So far, about ten percent of the Republican Guard has deserted or defected. The Saleh forces are led by Ahmed Saleh, the president's son and commander of the Republican Guard. Ahmed is considered more corrupt, and meaner, than his father. Over the last six months, the Republican Guard has gradually been withdrawn from towns and cities in the south, and brought back to the capital, to insure Saleh's safety.

The security forces contain 150,000 men. This includes 80,000 troops in the military, plus 70,000 in paramilitary forces (50,000 police and 20,000 in tribal militias that are on the payroll, an effort to keep them loyal.) Over half of the government budget goes to maintaining these 150,000 armed men. Until recently, most were been neutral, or loyal to Saleh. The president has about 20,000 armed men (half Republican Guard, half secret police) he can really depend on. Most of the others are increasingly less dependable, and more and more of them have actively fought against the government. So far, over a thousand protestors have been killed in nine months of demonstrations against president Saleh. There have been fewer deaths among the security forces, tribal rebels and Islamic radicals (mostly al Qaeda).

Perhaps in response to the latest Republican Guard defection, president Saleh said he would turn control of the country over to the military, if he resigned. This is not what the opposition coalition wants, and would increase the possibility of a civil war.

The nation's only oil refinery halted operations, because continued attacks on oil pipelines had finally cut all supplies. The refinery can normally handle 150,000 barrels of crude oil a day, but recently had been getting not more than 40,000. The reduced operations of the refinery this year has caused growing fuel shortages throughout the country.

November 14, 2011: President Saleh now says he will step down within 90 days. All his opponents are sure of is that Saleh will keep delaying his departure.

November 11, 2011: For the second month in a row, at least 12,000 refugees arrived in Yemen from Africa (mainly Somalia.) Over 85,000 have arrived so far this year. Drought in northeast Africa has driven more people to leave and the Yemeni and Somali smugglers have been very busy. Yemen has refugee camps with about 200,000 of these foreigners, plus 450,000 Yemenis displaced by months of violence.

 

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