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Guest Thinkers

Dead Men Who Aren’t

It isn’t only al-Qeada leaders who stubbornly survive government press releases- Abdel Malik al-Houthi, the leader of the Huthi rebellion is still clearly alive, which everyone suspected despite rumors a month ago of his death.

“According to the information available to us, Houthi sustained wounds to his leg and hand, and his leg was amputated after that,” a local government official from the northern province of Saada, the rebel stronghold, told Reuters.

Not meaning to be glib, but I can’t help but think the government is shooting itself in the foot by, well, shooting people in the foot. The more people are announced dead, like Houthi or al-Raymi, the more their turning up alive enhances their reputation and undermines any credibility the government might have.

But there might be a very cynical reason for these premature wakes, according to Brian Whitaker at The Guardian. President Salih is attempting to show off victories in order to placate the West and get more money rolling in, but also wants to keep the war going, so that the money doesn’t dry up. Therefore, he argues, it is in hisinterest to feign success while keeping the enemy alive.

I am not positive I agree with this- I think Salih would love to see al-Qaeda gone, as it is a headache he doesn’t need. I just don’t think that they have the ability to do so, and certainly not by military strikes alone. They aren’t exactly skilled at surgical attacks. But I do really like the last two paragraphs in his article, which I’ll print in full. These are helpful whether you’re a hawk or a dove or trying to figure out which stance pays better.

For a start, Yemen should be pressed to publish a “most-wanted” list, as the Saudis did with al-Qaida and as the Americans did with the Ba’athists in Iraq. Then, at least, we’ll be able to see if those rounded up or killed are genuine militants or not. The Yemeni authorities should also be discouraged from claiming successes that they can’t prove.

More generally, though, everyone should tone down the al-Qaida hysteria. It should be made clear to Saleh that in return for aid he is expected to perform on a variety of fronts – not just with the militant Islamists. He needs to get serious about the country’s political and economic mess, he needs to crack down on corruption and stop harassing the media. And he should be reminded that in September 2013 he must leave office as required by the Yemeni constitution.


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