There are two new articles out on Yemen both asking roughly the same question: Is Yemen the next Afghanistan. The first by Diane Tucker of the Huffington Post relies mostly on western experts, including yours truly and friends of Waq al-waq Thomas Heghammer and Charles Schmitz. The second by Bay Fang is published by The New Republic and relies heavily on local, Yemeni experts. Both come to roughly the same conclusion, namely, Yemen is in a lot of trouble.

I have a handful of small, factual complaints with the second but that is neither here nor there. The main issue, I think, with the piece is whether or not Shaykh 'Abd al-Majid al-Zindani's comments are accurate. My guess - I have no inside information here - is that the comments were either mangled by the translator (if there was one in the interview) or misunderstood by Fang (I don't know if Fang speaks/understands Arabic).

I find it hard to believe that al-Zindani is coming out in favor of anti-western attacks in Yemen. This may be one of the reasons that al-Zindani rarely meets with outside reporters.

Also, I don't think it is that hard to get into al-Iman these days - it certainly was in the immediate aftermath of the US Treasury Department's announcement, but even in 2006 it was fairly easy to walk in the front gate. I know I spent a great deal of time in the university's library and the director as well as a number of students had no problem with me walking around the campus and chatting with different people. The most interesting part of the library, at least for me, was the dissertations that have been produced by al-Iman's three graduating classes.

Finally, doesn't the symbolism of Faris al-Sanabani tooling around San'a in his Porsche while the economy tanks present a pretty stark picture?