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Guest Thinkers

Missing the story for the fireworks

The big news coming out of Yemen today is that roughly 40 prisoners – southern activists – escaped from a jail in al-Dhala after a guard threw a hand grenade in a vain attempt to break up a demonstration. This, I believe, is big news simply because something exploded and newspapers and their reporters are enamored of big bangs.

Much more important news, at least in my opinion, is this report from al-Tagheer that details a group of soldiers – and veterans of the war in Sa’dah – seizing a pair of military transports on Tuesday evening in protest over some of their comrades who are being detained in San’a and as a way putting pressure on the government to release their salaries. There are no explosions, but instances like this are much more important for the future trajectory of the crisis in the south – oh yeah, the soldiers are from the south – than the escape of a few handfuls of prisoners.

Also, raising alarm bells this week is the robbery of nearly 80 million Yemeni Riyals from a government car in Abyan that was carrying salaries of eduction and health officials. This report from al-Tagheer suggests that the robbers are militants and that the money will ultimately find its way to al-Qaeda.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports on an ambush in Shabwa that cost the military two soldiers.

And finally, Kelly McEvers of NPR has this report from Yemen on Guantanamo. I’m a big fan of McEvers and respect her reporting, but I disagree sharply with Letta Tayler’s take in the piece that the problem in repatriating Yemeni detainees is President Salih:

Tayler says the problem is that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh lacks the will to pursue such a solution.

“If President Saleh sees the repatriation of Yemenis as a political asset at any given moment, he will advocate for that. If he does not see it as politically expedient at any given moment, he won’t. And a lot of the time, he does not see it as politically expedient, he sees it as a headache,” Tayler says.

I’m not sure how anyone can look at the current mess that is Guantanamo and blame President Salih for the fact that the Yemenis are still there. This is, in my mind, a horrible misunderstanding of the situation.

Still, it is nice to see that identity still matters when speaking to reporters. All the Yemenis blame Obama (and the Umar Faurq) for not following through on his promise, while the American blames Salih.

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