Arabia Once Long Ago Felix. (Speaking of ‘felix’: I wonder if they had the qat or gat in those ancient days):
- In the late 1960s the British gave up on their colony around Aden and Southern Arabia. They tried to leave behind some form of confederation of mini-states, a South Arabian Confederation which failed.
- Marxist insurgents took over the whole lot and established the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (Marxist South Yemen). Meanwhile, the “Yemen”, i.e. somnolent North Yemen, remained unchanged: tribal and underdeveloped under the Republican regime as it was under the Hameededdeen Imamate.
- Early 1990 or thereabouts, (Marxist) South Yemen was torn by factional disputes among its leaders, the former comrades in arms were divided and at each others’ throats. The Soviet Union was moving away from Middle East entanglements.
- South Yemen leaders got the urge to merge with North Yemen, by then ruled by military dictator Ali Abdallah Salih. Possibly they thought they could outsmart the wily colonel and run the whole thing.
- The colonel was wilier than the Marxists and he managed to sideline them, as colonels often do.
- The union was a backward step in some ways for South Yemen. Especially on social issues and in women’s rights, where they had to conform to strict repressive North Yemeni standards.
- A long story. By 1994 the southerners knew for sure that they had a raw deal, got the short end of the stick. They rebelled to regain their independence. They failed.
- As Yemen fell apart to tribal and Al-Qaeda divisions, the Southerners saw another opportunity to regain independence. Meanwhile the GCC Gulf potentates and the UN managed to get Salih to resign and his deputy General Hadi to replace him. They claim Hadi was elected by an astounding but Arabic 99.8% of the “vote” (more than Sisi’s paltry 98% in Egypt or Assad’s embarrassing 88% in Syria). A weak leader, Hadi shared power with others, including the Islah (essentially the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood). Corruption continued unabated, and the Houthis were emboldened to march from their stronghold and take Sana’a. That is where it stands now.
- Except that Al-Qaeda (AQAP) Wahhabis are entrenched now, mostly in formerly Marxist South Yemen. The Houthis and Islah (Muslim Brotherhood) and other Salafis in the North and secessionists and Al-Qaeda (AQAP) in the South. Throw in a couple of other tribal ‘issues’, just to further complicate matters and make things more interesting.
They are all fighting each other now. Can the USA solve that? Certainly not, not even a combination of John McCain and Lindsey Graham can do that. The American goal is probably more realistic: to keep AQAP off balance.
Which means no other outsider can solve Yemen either.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum