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Tuesday Papers: or The Lost Weekend

A weekend of personal travel and holiday fun has put me behind in the blogging game, but I will try to catch up on all the news we missed over the weekend.

First, Human Rights Watch has a new report out on the south. I have been hearing about this report from a variety of sources in recent weeks and have been a bit concerned with what I have heard, but I will reserve judgment until I have read it all myself.

The BBC’s Owen Bennett-Jones is filing dispatches from the San’a. Today’s is about Yemen’s “multiplying crises.”

Here is his opening:

Faced with a civil war in the north, pro-independence protests in the south and al-Qaeda attacks throughout the country Yemen’s government has its work cut out. But ministers insist the country has survived worse crises in the past and that the central authority will prevail.

I have heard similar things from numerous people, and I addressed this thought in an upcoming article. Unfortunately, due to space considerations, the paragraph was cut, but I reproduce it below:

“In the absence of any easy or obvious solutions, Yemeni advisers and a surprising number of foreign experts are putting their faith in the country’s blind ability to muddle through the multitude of challenges it will face in 2010. This belief is buoyed by intimate knowledge of the past – Yemen, they claim, has seen far worse and survived – but such an argument confuses history with analysis. And in Yemen hope, even desperate hope, is not a strategy.”

Next up is the growing confusion over General David Petraeus’ remarks on al-Arabiyya this weekend. Most of the Yemeni Arabic press is reporting that Petraeus announced US military support for the Yemeni military against the Huthis. Here is one such piece from al-Sahwa. (This does not seem to have been what Petraeus was saying, I have been told he was talking about US support for counterterrorism operations in Yemen, but I have been unable to find the interview on al-Arabiyya.)

Predictably, this has caused some confusion, and the Huthis seem to be attempting to turn this towards their advantage by reporting that the US is helping the Yemeni military select targets. Rumors like these have a way of continuing to expand the war.

Falling into the category of “not new news” is the Daily Telegraph’s reporting that US Special Forces are in Yemen training troops. That is true, just as it has been true since 2002.

There are, as usual in western reporting, a wildly disproportionate number of anonymous sources in Damien McElroy’s reporting, but I am very curious as to who said the following:

We’ve got two years to try to save the state and that means the president must end the war in the north, re-establish control over the tribal populations affected by extremism and fend off the destablising spill over from Somalia,” said a Western diplomat.”

Where does the two years come from? Is this linked to the 2013 presidential elections? The end of oil? The end of water?

This sounds suspiciously like guesswork to me, but I am all ears if there truly is a reason for saying “two years.”

Also over the weekend the Saudis reportedly bombed a camp near Razah. Here is Robert Worth and Khalid al-Hammadi’s report on the subject (two reporters I trust on Yemen).

Over the weekend there was also this report from Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal. To me, this is illustrative of the old adage that people who talk don’t know and people who know don’t talk.

Given my cheeky comment above I am tempted to remain silent – but that would just wouldn’t fit the Waq al-waq profile. Instead, let me simply say that anyone who links ‘Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, Nasir al-Bahri, (Abu Jandal) and Nasir al-Wahayshi all together as part of the same al-Qaeda threat clearly has no clue what they are talking about. This is the sort of confused and muddled writing that leads one to hear Islamist and think al-Qaeda.

There is a vast gulf between the thinking of al-Zindani and al-Wahayshi, as there is between al-Zindani and al-Bahri as there is between al-Bahri and al-Wahayshi. True, none of the three are friends of the US or US policy (but that is a rather broad category in Yemen that includes most) and that alone does not make them al-Qaeda. I have met both al-Zindani and al-Bahri, something al-Wahayshi would never permit.

Finally, there is this article from the Boston Globe on Yemen becoming al-Qaeda’s next base.

There are some cringe-inducing parts:

The growing Al Qaeda activity there comes as Yemen’s nascent democratic government, which held its first contested presidential election in 2006, …” (My emphasis)

And the usual number of anonymous comments, which means little new.


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