The Threat to Yemen: al-Qaida and the Perils of More War in Yemen
Yemen, that oddly-shaped nation on the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is one of the world’s poorest nations with a very uneducated, illiterate population. It is also a hotbed of violence, tribalism, insurgencies and protests against the weak central government, along with a history of civil war and conflicts among Yemen’s very different regions. Most men in the rural mountains and deserts own guns, know how to use them, consider kidnapping foreigners a fun and profitable way to pass the time, and they don’t like their alleged central government telling them what to do.
Oh, and to top off the list of unfortunate things about Yemen, it is the traditional homeland of the bin Laden family, (yes, THAT bin Laden family!), and, according to U.S. military and intelligence sources, it is turning into a possible new safe haven for al-Qaida fighters and leaders as they look for a more out-fo-the-way place to lead their Jihad from. Yemen gained notice in the U.S. in 2000 with the al-Qaida attack on the American warship, the USS Cole. The U.S. did not publicly respond to that attack, but after the al-Qaida attacks of September 11, 2001, Yemen sided with the United States, and began dealing with its own militant problem with American aid. The U.S. also conducted Predator drone strikes against Jihadist/al-Qaida targets in Yemen, most likely with the knowledge of the Yemeni government.
In 2004, the Sa’dah Insurgency began in the northwestern tip of Yemen, with the Islamic cleric Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, the leader of the Shiite Zaidiyyah sect, launched an uprising against the Yemeni government. The Yemeni government also has problems in the south of the country, (which used to be the independent and avowedly Marxist/Socialist People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen). Southern Yemen is making noises about seceding from the northern-dominated government, and some analysts and commentators (http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=35108&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=7&cHash=cf625c5341) claim that al-Qaida is getting involved in the southern protests and violence against the government.
So, why should the U.S. or any other Western nation care? Look at the map of where Yemen lies.
Map of Yemen and Surrounding Region
Yemen is next to Saudi Arabia, and across the Bab al Mandeb (narrow straits separating Arabia from Africa) lies Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Most of the Somali pirate action is in the Gulf of Aden, which lies between southern Yemen and Somalia. A LOT of the world’s oil supply travels through those waters, and a seriously unstable Yemen on the scale of pre-2001 Afghanistan or the present-day Somalia is bad news for Saudi Arabia and Western interests.
The potential for a new Yemeni North/South War (past North/South conflicts erupted in 1972, 1979, and 1994) is serious and could spell trouble for the whole region. This bears watching…
Some websites and blogs of interest regarding Yemen:
Jane Novak’s Yemen Articles
Wars of Yemen (1914-Present)