Yemen: The Irresistible Force Meets The Immovable Object


September 15, 2014: The capital is still being disrupted by daily street protests by thousands of Shia tribesmen. These began on August 20 th and the government has been unable to suppress the demonstrations or clear the Shia out of the capital. The Shia have several demands and resumed formal negotiations with the government on the 11 th . The Shia want the fuel subsidies restored. But the government can no longer afford the subsidies and that was why they eliminated them in July. That caused the price of gasoline to go up 60 percent and diesel 95 percent. The Shia also want the government to resign and an “independent” prime minister to be appointed. Apparently the Shia want president Hadi out as well and Hadi refuses to go. The Shia also want corruption eliminated. The Shia are not in a compromising mood. There is no agreement on who would be acceptable as an appointed prime minister and who exactly the “technocrats” the Shia demand to take key positions would be. The Shia have no practical plan to deal with the corruption, which has defied reform for a long time. The Shia also want the media to be impartial and fair, something else that is fine in theory but impossible in practice. Finally the Shia want more power and influence in the government. But so does every other group, which is a central problem in Yemen. The government does not want to start a battle with the Shia in the capital, as that would result in lots of dead civilians and a lot of property damage. But the Shia seem unwilling to compromise or leave the capital until they have a lot more power in the government.  The Shia refuse to be specific, perhaps indicating that the Shia leadership is divided as well.

For decades the Shia have pressured the government to reinstate the autonomy the Shia tribes enjoyed until the 1960s. This is one issue all Shia can agree on. That demand was not popular with most Yemenis, but many of the current Shia demands are and some non-Shia tribes are quietly supporting the Shia. Actively supporting the Shia is difficult because most Yemenis are Sunni and that still prevents close cooperation between the two religious sects. Moreover, many Sunnis throughout Arabia believe Iran backs and controls rebellious Shia living in the Arabian Peninsula.

In addition to the Shia mass demonstrations in the capital soldiers and Shia tribesmen continue to fight in the north (al Jawf province). In the last ten weeks this has caused several hundred army and pro-government tribe casualties, including about a hundred dead. Shia losses are probably at least as high if not higher because the Shia do not have artillery and warplanes. Over 10,000 people have been driven from their homes by all this fighting. The Sunni tribes are blocking the Shia tribes from sending more people to the capital.

In the south AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) continues to carry out terror attacks and assassinations, but is spending most of its time trying to avoid army patrols and raids as well as the American UAVs. AQAP is apparently saving its remaining strength for the possibility that the Shia will cause the collapse of the government and the security forces. This would be a great opportunity for the Islamic terrorists, but most Yemenis do not want that to happen and continue to support the current government.

September 11, 2014:  In the south (Lahij province) AQAP assassins killed another army intelligence officer. Another AQAP death squad tried to kill the chief of police in the provincial capital, but only wounded him. Elsewhere in the south (Shabwa province) an American UAV missile attack killed four Islamic terrorists.

September 10, 2014: The oil pipeline to the Red Sea has been repaired again after a recent bombing. The pipeline carries 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. 

September 9, 2014: In the capital troops fired on a large Shia demonstration, killing nine and wounding over a hundred. The demonstrators were trying to enter a government compound to shut down the government. After this the Shai demonstrators toned down their aggressiveness.

September 8, 2014: In the capital the president fired the head of the special forces for being unable to get the Shia protestors out of the capital. The new commander is expected to get some results.

A pipeline to the Red Sea was bombed again, halting flow of oil and much needed income for the government. The 320 kilometer long pipeline extends from oil fields in Marib province to the Red Sea export terminal.

AQAP announced its support for the new head of al Shabaab in Somalia. The previous al Shabaab boss was killed by a recent American UAV missile strike.

September 7, 2014: In the capital police failed to clear Shia demonstrators from the main road to the airport.

In the north fighting between Shia and pro-government Sunni tribesmen left at least 40 dead over the last two days.

September 3, 2014: The government offered to restore about 30 percent of the fuel subsidy but the Shia demonstrators in the capital refused this. The problem is that the government simply does not have the money to pay for full restoration of the fuel subsidy. The Shia leaders either don’t believe that or, as many see it, mainly want to take down the government.

September 2, 2014: President Hadi dismissed the prime minister and other ministers, as the Shia demonstrators requested. The Shia said that this was unacceptable unless new ministers that met with Shia approval were appointed. There was no agreement on this point.

In the capital thousands of unarmed Shia demonstrated downtown causing traffic jams and not cooperating with police trying to clear the roads.

September 1, 2014: In the north fighting between Shia and pro-government Sunni tribesmen left at least 21 dead over the last two days.

August 31, 2014: In the capital the Shia leader called on thousands of his followers in armed camps outside the capital to go downtown and demonstrate more aggressively.

In the south (Hadramout) AQAP executed three people who were accused to being a spies for the Americans. AQAP has been hurt badly by all the UAV surveillance and missile attacks and is always looking for spies who report to the Americans where terrorist leaders and key people (like bomb makers) will be so they can be attacked with missiles. Many of the “spies” are innocent (at least of spying) but are falsely accused because it’s good for morale if the Islamic terrorists can show they are seeking out, finding and punishing spies.

Elsewhere in the south AQAP terror attacks and army operations left 11 soldiers and at least ten Islamic terrorists dead over the weekend. AQAP death squads continue their attacks on police and army personnel.

August 29, 2014: Over 20,000 unarmed Shia are in the capital to demonstrate for more power for the Shia and a lot of other things they won’t get. At least as many pro-government demonstrators are turning out to confront the Shia. The government is discouraging their supporters from confrontations because this could get out of control and result in costly anarchy throughout the city.

August 28, 2014: In the north fighting between Shia and pro-government Sunni tribesmen left at least eleven dead over the last two days. The government again blamed Iran for all the unrest in the Shia north. This is partially true, but mainly the Yemeni Shia just want more power and money. 




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