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Yemen – Still not Better

Al Jazeera is reporting on violence across Yemen.  Honestly, if less than five people die in a single day there, no one seems to notice.  Yemen’s part in the Arab Spring reached a climax when the GCC states and the United States collectively called for Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down from the presidency, and he appeared prepared to do so before surprisingly reneging.  Now, it feels like stalemate.  Saleh himself is still in a hospital in Saudi Arabia.  The article points out that

UN human rights officials gave warning on Tuesday of an impending civil war unless the political deadlock was resolved.

Civil War in Yemen would be disastrous, first because of the tangled tribal relations that would make lines of alliances at least as complicated as the Civil War that rocked Lebanon for years, and second because there is an Al Qaeda presence in Yemen that would benefit from the chaos, especially in that it would gain operating space.

So today’s big question is, from the United States perspective, what is the best thing we can do to bring stability?  A few options are to do nothing, to back Saleh, or to back those calling for his ouster.  If we back one party, does that equate to supportive speeches, to sending supplies, or to arming a faction?  How aggressively can we pursue Al Qaeda in Yemen as this deadlock continues?

Some other news, in case you missed it:  David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy are visiting Tripoli, but the New York Times is concerned about Islamist’s growing sway in Libya.  In Jordan a million man march is planned against the Israeli embassy, so Israel is pulling its diplomats as a precautionary measure.  Finally, we are nearing the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN, and Ban Ki-moon (who was here in Denver a few weeks ago) hopes that the bid at least spurs a meaningful dialogue.



One Response

  1. While all eyes are now trained on Syria, Yemen, the oft-forgotten little land mired in antiquity, could be just as big a powder keg spreading upheaval from the horn of Africa to Iraq. It’s a testament to the Yemenis themselves that with the second most armed population in the world, after the US, massive civil violence has not already broken out. The US would be wise to consider this. The Yemenis know better than anyone that if they don’t get a lid on the situation they will be the biggest losers. Lots of people are still around who served in the civil war of the 90’s and noone wants to be killing their brethren again.

    The US would do well to ease Saleh out for good. Nothing will come of his continued presence in any Yemeni power positions. The key to the military opposition is the Al-Ahmar tribe confederation, of which both Gen. Muhsein and Saleh are members. Hopefully the Ahmar’s can work within their tribal system to ease the Saleh branch out without too much more bloodshed. However, the US ought to do what it can to ensure that this all northern tribal ruling elite work the former southern Army and leaders into a better power-sharing arrangement and redress some of their legitimate grievances, because the best bet against AQAP is the Yemeni people themselves, (last Friday’s opposition march in Sana’a was actually “a day against terrorism”, in a show of popular solidarity against AQAP) and with AQAP strength in the south, the southerners and their leaders are key. As for Saada, the US would do well to also pressure for some redress of grievances there by the ruling elites. The fact that Saudi seems less adverse to intervening might actually give them some leverage.(see Prince Turki’s stern words to US in NYT’s op-ed about not supporting Pal bid for statehood at UN and Saudi willingness to diverge from US interests, ie. sending troops to Bahrain. Bluff or no, as KSA needs US military to protect oil shipping lanes, the Saudis are none to pleased about the US setting up a Shia regime in Iraq and strengthening Iran’s hand in the region-thanks neocons!). No Yemeni wants to see the Saudis get more involved than necessary. Some measure of autonomy within a federal framework has been amenable to Saa’da in the past. Let’s hope it may still be.

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