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Yemen        Empty Yemen

Post  polka23dot Thu Jul 11, 2013 1:57 pm

Yemen has always been a region, not a country. Like most of the rest of the Persian Gulf and Horn of Africa region, the normal form of government, until the last century or so, were wealthier coastal city states, nervously coexisting with interior tribes that got by on herding or farming (or a little of both). This whole "nation" idea is still looked on with some suspicion by many in the region. This is why the most common forms of government are the more familiar ones of antiquity (kingdom, emirate or modern variation in the form of a hereditary dictatorship.)... Al Qaeda is not a large presence in the country. Perhaps a few hundred full time members, and a few thousand part-time supporters. Nothing like Iraq or Pakistan, or even Somalia. Al Qaeda has found refuge in parts Yemen largely because of the culture of corruption. Although some Yemenis, especially in the south, agree with al Qaeda, what really makes al Qaeda welcome is bribes (or “gifts”) paid to tribes who will host the terrorists. Most Yemenis want al Qaeda gone, if only because their mayhem and attempts to turn the country into a religious dictatorship make matters worse for all Yemenis. So despite the assassinations and bribes the army and police continue to hunt for remaining al Qaeda members, most of them now hiding out in the south. The government does not want to start more tribal wars by going after al Qaeda who are living in remote villages, protected by sympathetic tribesmen. But the airports are scrutinizing people headed in, or out, more carefully, and detaining al Qaeda suspects. The navy is trying to keep Somalis out, but these are brought across the Gulf of Aden by Yemeni and Somali smugglers, who have 400 kilometers of coastline to land on... Taking advantage of the military’s preoccupation with al Qaeda in the south, the northern Shia tribes have quietly driven many government officials out of three provinces and established a degree of autonomy. This has angered the Sunni tribes up there and created growing pressure from northern Sunni tribes to move some troops from the south to the north to push back this Shia control. Although Iran denies supporting the Shia tribes, the mood up there is very pro-Iran. The tribesmen shout the same anti-American and anti-Israel slogans the Iranians are so fond of. The government has caught smugglers trying to deliver Iranian weapons to the northern tribes and it’s no secret that the Shia tribes are getting lots of cash from somewhere. The most likely source is Iran. The Shia tribes renounce any Iranian connection because they are caught between a Sunni majority to the south and a Sunni (and very anti-Iran) Saudi Arabia to the north. Just across the border are related Shia tribes in Saudi Arabia, who have long since learned to keep quiet and enjoy the slice of Saudi oil wealth they receive from the government. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/yemen/articles/20131031.aspx

International surveys list Yemen as one of the most corrupt nations on the planet. This starts early in life, as can be seen by the extraordinary measures taken this year to prevent cheating in the exams high school students must take to graduate (and get into college). Bribes are often paid to get the test answers, but in some cases the students come armed, in a group, and make threats to those objecting to their cheating. To guard against this, three armed soldiers are being assigned to each exam center this year. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/yemen/articles/20130710.aspx

Yemen has, for thousands of years, been the most populous and prosperous part of Arabia because it was the area with the most water. The annual monsoon rains made agriculture the major economic activity. Even today over 70 percent of Yemenis depend on agriculture for a living, but agriculture only accounts for 17 percent of GDP. Moreover, much of the agricultural activity no longer produces food. The water supply is rapidly running out because nearly half of it is now being used to grow the addictive Khat plant, most of which is smuggled into Saudi Arabia where there is great demand. The rest is consumed locally and leaves much of the adult male population dazed and idle most of the day... The economy is collapsing and taking the government with it. Oil and gas production has been halted by attacks on pipelines, cutting of the main source of money for the government. The economy is a mess, with only four percent of the population having bank accounts and most people just getting by, or trying to get out of the country. Thus with a rapidly disappearing water supply, a growing population, a corrupt government, tribes constantly in revolt, rampant smuggling (of Africans into Yemen and drugs and other banned substances into Saudi Arabia) and little legal revenue sources for the tax collector, chaos is seen as inevitable.  While Yemenis complain that their government is run by corrupt crooks, an outlaw attitude is popular throughout the country. This makes it difficult to form a new government that is not full of self-serving scoundrels. The basic problem is the tribalism. The chiefs of the major tribes are rich men, who are often deeply involved in the activities (Khat farming, smuggling and other criminal behavior) that cause so many of the problems in the first place... Violence in the north continues as it has for decades since the government took away the autonomy that the dominant Shia Bakil tribe long enjoyed up there. Now the government is backing the smaller Sunni (and pro-government) Hashid tribe and that has led to increasing violence with the dominant Bakil. The most recent violence revolves around the town of Damaj and a Sunni religious school there. This violence has left over 200 dead and more than 500 wounded since it began on October 30th. The Sunni tribes in the north have been fighting the Shia tribes for generations but it has never been this bad. Damaj is about 40 kilometers south of the Saudi border and the Sunni religious school has been there since the late 1970s and now has thousands of students, many of them foreign. According to the Shia tribes the school is now producing Sunni Islamic radicals who seek to kill Shia (as Sunni religious conservatives consider Shia heretics.) Damaj has become a battlefield in the struggle over leadership of Islam by Sunni Saudi Arabia (which backs the Islamic conservatives in Damaj) and Shia Iran (which supports the Shia tribesmen of northern Yemen). source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/yemen/articles/20131210.aspx

One of the perennial problems in Yemen is kidnapping. This is only reported to the outside world when foreigners are grabbed. Few of the foreigners are held for ransom and are usually released once the government submits to the demands of the kidnappers. That usually means releasing a fellow tribesman arrested for some crime the government considers serious but the prisoner’s fellow tribesmen consider a minor misunderstanding. This use of kidnapping is a lot more frequent that the foreign victims would indicate. Last year at least 124 children were kidnapped, which is more than ten times the number of foreigners is taken. Some kids were held for ransom but most were grabbed as part of some tribal dispute (either tribe-tribe or tribe-government). Adult men are avoided because most of them are armed and it could get messy. Women are also avoided since that is considered an assault on family and tribal honor which often leads to people getting killed. The first victim is often the woman (or older female child who has hit puberty) followed by kidnappers or other males of that tribe. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/yemen/articles/20140418.aspx

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