They say Yemen is threatened with division again. They say there are now two capitals in that blighted country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Sanaa in the North, and Aden in the South. They say that former president Hadi (bin Zombie) is claiming he is back in power from Aden, that he and his local southern allies and the GCC countries run whatever they can run from Aden. That the Houthis and their allies now rule from Sanaa. Two capitals and two rival claimants to power, each claiming the other is not legitimate (they are probably both right). While the AQAP-hunting drones rule the skies. That is Yemen for now.
Now we have two regimes and two foreign policies in the United States as well. Both rule from the same city, geographically speaking. One is Likudnik, largely Republican, but also bi-partisan to some extent, and it takes its signals from Tel Aviv (okay,
West Jerusalem) via AIPAC and Las Vegas and other campaign money centers. It follows the cult of Netanyahu, a demagogue that reminds me of a softer gentler version of (dare I say it?) another ruthless demagogue (or two, my alibi). The other regime is Democrat and also claims Washington. They diverge in many ways, but now especially in foreign policy. Each is pinning its hopes on 2016 to sweep into absolute power. Neither looks set to realize that hope, not in that year.
Let’s see which of the three cities can stop being dysfunctional, can manage to become functioning, first………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Here is where the Yemen situation stood yesterday (it is morning here, it could have changed overnight). Things move fast over there:
- Former president Hadi escaped to Aden a few days ago, as soon as the Houthis allowed him free movement. Apparently he is trying now to establish a shadow authority in the south. He will have to contend with two powerful forces in South Yemen: the Independence Movement (Hirak) and Al Qaeda (AQAP).
- Not clear how Hirak (movement to regain Southern independence) will deal with Hadi (someone called him Al Zombie, but not me). Not clear how AQAP will deal with him. Both strong in South Yemen. Not to mention his former partners, the Islah Islamists.
- Gulf GCC ambassadors (at least Saudi and Qatari) will move embassies to Aden now. GCC Secretary General Al Zayani a Bahraini potentate, has already visited Hadi in Aden. The media showed Zayani, suspiciously reeking of Old Spice, smirking at the cameras.
- Houthis seem frustrated now by the turn of events, and it shows. Abdel Malik al Houthi (Americanized as AMH) spoke that Hadi was a Saudi-American stooge (perhaps because he was put in place by GCC with US blessing). He added that any ambassador who doesn’t like Sanaa is welcome to move (a no brainer but thanks for the invite). Adding that Saudi money did not help the Yemeni people much (that is true, it did not help the poor much). It would be more helpful if they allow Yemeni labor instead of restricting them.
- There have been no reports that the American drone campaign against AQAP terrorists has slowed down by recent political developments. No objection has been voiced by Houthis or their rivals to continued drone activity, not yet.
- Iranian and Hezbollah media are now moving faster in support of the Houthis. As the GCC moves quickly to set up their own acceptable regime in Aden. Would this indicate that more sectarian polarization in Yemen and the Middle East is to be expected? Do bears pee in the forest?
- Yesterday‘s report from UN that deposed president Saleh had amassed $60 billion over the years seems farfetched (actually the figures are ridiculous). Yemen is too poor to allow anyone an opportunity to steal $ 60 bin. As I tweeted yesterday, even some Saudi princes may find it hard to steal $60 billion. I just don’t believe it. I believe the stealing but not the numbers: all Arab leaders are entitled to steal and they all do so.
So, back to two Yemens? Will the GCC start supporting the old Marxist People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Arabia)? Or will we continue with about four Yemens for some time?
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Reports tell us that Yemen’s former president General AbdRabuh Hadi escaped San’a dressed as a woman. This tale about “dressed as a woman” could be just an Arab urban legend. He escaped on the day his term as president expired, which is when the Houthis released him from house arrest. He went to Aden (South Yemen which is his native land) and promptly declared himself “the president”, although his term had expired and he had resigned. The UN mediator Binomar obligingly started to call him ‘president Hadi”.
This is not the first time an Arab leader reportedly escapes dressed as a woman. There have been others. For example, Nuri Al-Said (Pasha), former PM of Iraq once tried to escape from Baghdad dressed in an Abaya. In his case it was a real long shot: it didn’t work, he was caught and murdered by a mob. There have been past reports from Iraq that some Baathist leaders and generals may have escaped Baghdad in drag after the US invasion in 2003.
Anyway, what will happen now in his native south? The region around Aden is dominated by separatist South Yemenis (Al Hirak, or The Movement), Al Qaeda and other tribal elements. Will Yemen be divided de facto back to North and South now? In that case, Hadi will certainly not be the president of the South, he probably has no political base there. Al Hirak or Al Qaeda or both can eat him alive once they decide he is of no use. And he was VP of Salih in the North only because he was from the South. Besides, giving him the benefit of the doubt (just for today), nice guys don’t win civil wars……..
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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