Tag Archives: Islah

One Yemen, Two Yemen, Three Yemen, Four……..

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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                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

A Tale of Two of the Wars in Yemen……..

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I saw the following two headlines on Twitter this morning. I believe they were about the same clashes in the multifaceted multipronged civil wars of Yemen:

  • Alarabiya (Saudi news and propaganda network) headline:  “BREAKING- Dozens killed in clashes between Houthis and tribesmen in Yemen’s Ibb, Al Arabiya correspondent reports”.
  • Press TV (Iranian news and propaganda network): “At least 250 people are killed in fighting between Houthis and al-Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen”.

So, one side’s Al-Qaeda is the other side’s tribesmen.
The truth? The Saudis and their allies were never comfortable with the Islah-tribal regime. Even though they helped set up the sham elections of 2012 that set up the not-so-new regime. Generalisimo Abd Rabu Hadi Al Zombie won an astounding 99.8% of the votes, embarrassing even by Arab standards (Al Sisi won less than 98% in Egypt). The Saudis like the tribal part: they have spent decades bribing tribes and their elders across the Arab world, from Yemen to Iraq and Syria. They don’t like the Islah part and not only because the word means “reform” in Arabic, which means that it is in reality meaningless in Arab politics.

The Islah is also dominated by the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood, MB. The MB have bad relations with almost all Gulf GCC rulers now, except for some ambiguity with the Bahrain ruling family. Now the Saudis also worry about their “own” who have set up shop in Yemen, the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

But I suspect that the Saudis worry the most now about the Houthi “rebels”, as the media calls them. They worry about them mainly because they are an offshoot but divergent branch of the Shi’a sect. Saudis have never cottoned up to Shi’as getting involved in politics (not that they like anybody other than princes in politics). They have had past clashes with the Houthis in which the superbly-armed but battle-incompetent Saudi armed forces were trounced. And they worry about an Iranian connection, about being pressured by the mullahs from the south. The Iranians, for their part, have been crowing about the Houthi ‘victories’. Which raises Saudi suspicions about Tehran’s ties with the new masters of Sana’a. But things are fluid in Yemen, too many variables working there, too many local and foreign forces. Nothing is certain.

There has been some propaganda ‘stuff’ in the media about risks to the Bab El-Mandab and Red Sea maritime traffic. But that is probably just propaganda to get Western ‘special’ attention focused more on the Houthis and less on AQAP (or the tribals as Alarabiya calls them these days).

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum