Yemen: Iran Celebrates A Victory


October 2, 2014: The capital has been taken over by thousands of Shia tribesmen after a month (since August 20 th ) of demonstrations and fighting. The Shia have forced the government to agree to form a new one, starting with a new prime minister and new ministers acceptable to the Shia. The Shia also want more autonomy and the fuel subsidies restored. The government can no longer afford the subsidies but the Shia are ignoring that for the moment. The subsidies were eliminated July and that caused the price of gasoline to go up 60 percent and diesel 95 percent. The Shia always wanted a new government that would have an “independent” prime minister. The Shia also wanted president Hadi out as well and now Hadi has agreed to go but is not gone yet and appears to be preparing to stay.

The Shia also want corruption eliminated. 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 wanted more power and influence in the government and now they have it, or at least the promise of it. But every other group wants more and this is a central problem in Yemen.

The government found that the security forces were not willing to fight a battle with the Shia in the capital, as that would result in lots of dead civilians and a lot of property damage. So the soldiers and police just stood aside after more than a week of violent street battles and let the Shia take control of the streets and many government facilities.

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 the current Shia demands are and a growing number of non-Shia tribes quietly supported the Shia in their fight for less corruption and more efficient government. Actively supporting the Shia was 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, especially in Yemen. This turned out to be true as Iran immediately praised the Shia victory in Yemen. The peace deal that halted the street battles involved freeing several jailed Iranians, who, along with several Yemenis, were prosecuted for being agents of the Iranian government.

Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni states in Arabia see this as an Iranian attempt to form another Hezbollah in Yemen and do what the Hezbollah did in Lebanon. In both Yemen and Lebanon the Shia are about a third of the population, but because of the Iranian supported (since the 1980s) Hezbollah militia in Lebanon the Lebanese Shia basically have veto power over anything the Lebanese government tries to do. The Yemeni Saudis have made it clear that they will not tolerate this. This sort of Iran supported Shia takeover was always the biggest fear of the Saudis but it comes at a time when the Gulf Arabs and Iran are cooperating to fight a common enemy (ISIL). This is going to get messy and complicated. ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria) is an immediate threat while, for Iran, Shia domination in Yemen is an opportunity.

September 30, 2014: Shia leaders said they would not pull their gunmen out of the capital until president Hadi appointed a new prime minister, and one that is acceptable to the Shia. Hadi is stalling on this and the Shia suspect he is organizing an armed response. The shooting has died down but in the last week nearly 300 have died in the capital as the Shia gunmen basically seized control of the government. The Shia gunmen set up their own checkpoints all over the city and seized (and looted) several army bases. At the moment there is not much armed resistance to the Shia actions in the capital.

Turkey warned its citizens to stay away from Yemen until the security situation settles down.

September 28, 2014: In the capital hundreds of Sunni civilians demonstrated against the Shia occupation of their city. There was no violence.

In the east (of the capital in Marib province) an AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) suicide truck bomb attacked a temporary Shia hospital and killed 15 people and wounded at least fifty. Nearby AQAP gunmen ambushed a truck full of Shia militiamen, wounding six of them.

In the southwest (Taiz) two policemen were shot dead by a gunmen on a motorcycle.

September 27, 2014: At the home of the director of the National Security Bureau three Shia gunmen and at least as many Sunni guards were killed during over two hours of gunfire. National Security Bureau is an intelligence agency that works for the president to provide warnings of internal and external threats. Shia gunmen have been raiding homes of senior officials of the deposed government. They say these are to seek out illegal weapons and ammo stockpiles. When they encounter armed resistance they will often fight for a while and then withdraw, which is what they did here.

AQAP took credit for firing a rocket propelled grenade at the American embassy compound, which wounded several security personnel nearby. AQAP said this was in retaliation for a recent American UAV attacks that killed AQAP members.

In the south (Shabwa province) Islamic terrorists ambushed an army patrol and killed two soldiers and wounded several others.

September 26, 2014: In the north (Al Jawf province) an American UAV used missiles to kill two al Qaeda men. AQAP claims that some children were wounded as well. But the only wounded reported by people on the scene were two other Islamic terrorists.

The U.S. advised Americans to stay away from Yemen until the situation settled down.

September 25, 2014: Three Iranians, accused of being members of Iranian secret police, were released from prison. Also released were eight Yemenis who had been arrested, with the help of the U.S. Navy, in January and were charged smuggling Iranian weapons into Yemen. This release, and several others, were part of the peace deal negotiated with the Shia tribes on the 21st.

In the south (Shabwa province) an American UAV used missiles to kill four al Qaeda men.

September 24, 2014: Two Lebanese, accused of being Hezbollah members, were released from prison.

The U.S. ordered some of its embassy personnel out of the country.

September 23, 2014: Shia gunmen besieged the National Security Bureau compound and after three days gave up. Throughout the capital Shia gunmen replaced policemen and soldiers who were providing security for government buildings and facilities.

AQAP called for the Sunni majority to units and fight the Shia tribal militiamen now occupying the capital.

September 22, 2014: In the capital Shia gunmen succeeded, after a week of street battles that left over 300 dead, to seize control of many government administrative, police and military compounds.

September 21, 2014: After four days of fighting soldiers loyal to Islamic radical groups in the largely Shia north, the Shia militias basically took control of the capital. This came despite a government ordered curfew. Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa resigned, as the Shia gunmen had been pressuring him to do for weeks. This came after the UN brokered peace deal was actually signed.

September 20, 2014: The UN brokered a peace deal between the Shia and the government in which the Shia agreed to withdraw their gunmen from the capital once president Hathi appointed a new prime minister and an acceptable Shia presidential advisor. No deadline was set but the Shia apparently expected some action soon.

September 19, 2014: Hundreds of armed and hostile Shia militiamen moved, sometimes under fire, from the suburbs into the center of the capital. The Shia gunmen drove away soldiers, police or Sunni militiamen who tried to block the advance. At least sixty people have died in this violence over the past two days.

Most international airlines suspended flights into the airport near the capital because of the continuing gunfire in the streets. Some of those bullets have landed in or near the airport.

September 18, 2014:  In the capital Shia gunmen attacked Iman University, a stronghold of Islamic conservatives who consider the Shia heretics. It was tensions with Sunni like this in the north that started the Shia offensive in mid-2013.

September 16, 2014: In the south (Abyan province) two battalions of the 111th infantry brigade have mutinied and refused to obey their officers. The troops complain that their officers keep sending them out to patrol areas known to be full of Islamic terrorists and these patrols are frequently ambushed. The troops are angry that the brigade has done nothing to chase down and eliminate the Islamic terrorists causing all these (several dozen recently) casualties.

In the north, near the Saudi border, fighting between Shia and Sunni tribesmen left over twenty dead and many more wounded.





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