Yemen: Cut Or Be Cut


August 9, 2014: Saudi Arabia and the other wealthy oil states in Arabia are getting fed up with the inability of Yemeni leaders to deal with their problems. But Yemen is too big (23 million people in the only part of Arabia with ample rainfall) to simply ignore. The basic problem is that unlike the other parts of Arabia the Yemenis have not yet learned how to get along with each other. This is not a unique problem. A century ago most of northern Arabia (Saudi Arabia) was in the midst of a long war to settle who would be in charge (the Saud family won) and the coastal states (emirates) had long ago leaned to be autonomous yet cooperative with neighbors and foreigners (like Britain and later the United States). Worse, Yemen is the only state in Arabia without much oil and that lack of cash causes a lot of conflict. But the worst problem is the tribalism, which is strongest in Yemen and resistant to ling in a single unified state. The oil rich states have been keeping Yemen afloat financially but seem to be getting little for all that charity. Yemen continues to fester with rebellion and Islamic radicalism. The recent removal of a long time ruler has not changed much.

Not surprisingly the neighboring oil states, and especially the Western foreign aid donors are demanding that Yemen make some key changes if they want the aid money to keep coming, at least at its current level. In particular the donors want the government to curb the practice of maintaining thousands of phantom workers on the government payroll so that senior officials can take the money for themselves. This sort of thing has long been considered a fringe benefit for those in power. The donors were the main force behind demands that the subsidies on fuel to be cut as well because this is expensive and the source of much stealing by government officials. Donors believe that much aid money is wasted because of the corrupt practices and often does not do the general population much good at all. Another problem with all the corruption and illegal business deals is that a small number of tribal leaders benefit from all this and have private armies to help them resist government efforts to reform. Some of these tribal leaders even support al Qaeda because they and the Islamic terrorists both want government power curbed. Of course al Qaeda is also opposed to corruption, but first things (seizing power) first. Meanwhile foreign aid analysts believe that at least 60 percent of Yemenis need economic help in the form of food and other essentials. Water, food and power shortages, as well as growing unemployment make life miserable for most Yemenis.

In the south the army has been mostly eliminated Islamic terrorists in Abyan and Shabwa provinces but there are still problems with AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) in nearby Hadramout. The main problems is cooperation with local tribes. In Abyan and Shabwa there was more cooperation from tribes fed up with al Qaeda. Thus army operations since May have caused most of the Islamic terrorists there to either die, get captured or flee (mainly to nearby Hadramout.) The army has sent additional troops to Hadramout because most of the tribesmen there are cooperative (or at least neutral towards) al Qaeda. Some of the Hadramout tribal leaders even go along with al Qaeda efforts to impose Sharia (Islamic) law and take control of the provincial government.

August 8, 2014:  In the southeast (Hadramout province) Islamic terrorists stopped a bus carrying soldiers to the capital for some vacation time. Fifteen soldiers were taken off the bus and shot dead. This was apparently in retaliation for an army offensive that killed at least 25 Islamic terrorists during the last two days.

August 7, 2014: In the southeastern province of Hadramout Islamic terrorists made attacks on several army posts which left two soldiers and eight attackers dead. The Islamic terrorists did succeed in robbing a bank in Hadramout.

August 6, 2014: In the south (Shabwa province) Islamic terrorists ambushed an army patrol and killed five soldiers. In the southwest (Hadramout province) a clash left 18 Islamic terrorists dead and several captured. Two soldiers died as well.

August 4, 2014: In the southwest (Hadramout province) Islamic terrorists attacked a checkpoint and killed six soldiers. Meanwhile nationwide, but especially in the north, thousands of demonstrators are in the streets protesting the recent hikes in fuel prices. This hike was long demanded by foreign aid donors.

August 3, 2014: In the north a ceasefire agreement with Shia rebels fell apart within hours as Shia and pro-government Sunni tribesmen clashed. This sort of violence has left about 30 dead in the last month and many more wounded.  

August 2, 2014: In the north a ceasefire agreement with Shia rebels was worked out that was to begin on the 3rd.  In the south (Shabwa province) Islamic terrorists attacked a checkpoint and killed three soldiers.

July 30, 2014: Street protests erupted all over the country as fuel prices were finally increased 60 percent (to 93 cents a liter/$3.60 a gallon). A third of government income has been spent on fuel subsidies each year and foreign aid groups were threatening to halt aid if the subsidies were not cut. The last time (in 2005) the government tried to cut the subsidies they had to back off after street violence left 20 dead and over 3oo wounded. This time the government insists it will not back down.

For the second time since May irate tribesmen bombed the oil pipeline to the Red Sea, halting the flow of 100,000 barrels of oil a day. This is the source of much needed income for the government. Normally Yemen produces 270,000 barrels of oil a day and most of it is exported (accounting, with natural gas, 90 percent of export income). The 320 kilometer long pipeline extends from oil fields in Marib province to the Red Sea export terminal. Such attacks cost the government a billion dollars in lost revenue in 2013. Tribesmen loyal to deposed president Saleh are often blamed. President Hadi caused some bad feeling in Marib when he cut cash payments going to pro-Saleh tribal leaders and instead gave it to those he trusted more. The tribesmen who lost out responded in the traditional way, by attacking the assets of those they saw as responsible; namely the oil fields and pipelines. AQAP has been popular in Marib because the Islamic terrorists will hire local tribesmen and promise a larger share of gas and oil income for the local tribes once AQAP takes control of the country. 

July 27, 2014: In the south (Abyan province) several clashes with Islamic terrorists left two soldiers and ten terrorists dead.

July 25, 2014: In the south (Baida province) an Islamic terrorists attack on a checkpoint killed four soldiers.

July 24, 2014: In the south (Lahij province) AQAP assassins killed an army officer.

The main oil pipeline in Marib province resumed pumping oil after repairs were completed.

July 21, 2014: AQAP announced the establishment of an Islamic emirate (religious dictatorship) in the southwest (Hadramout province). Government control in this province (with a population of 1.3 million) has always been shaky because so many of the tribesmen there are separatists and/or back AQAP.

The United States warned its citizens to avoid travel to Yemen because of the current unrest.

July 18, 2014: In the south (Shabwa province) Islamic terrorists clashed with the army leaving two soldiers and a terrorist dead. 




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close