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US aid to Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan 11, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Central Asia, Iraq, Yemen.
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By 2008, nonmilitary [US] aid to Yemen had dwindled to less than $20 million. Afghanistan is expected to receive $2.7 billion a year in nonmilitary aid, Pakistan $1.5 billion and Iraq $500 million.

The administration doubled Yemen’s economic aid last year, but as Barbara K. Bodine, another former ambassador, pointed out, the amount “works out to $1.60 per Yemeni.”

The NYT.

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A brief Yemen reader 3, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Yemen.
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Everyone who is anyone is, you may have noticed, waxing semi-intellectually about Yemen, or rather The Yemen if you want to sound a bit old school about it. Here’s what you need to read to fake it and join in the conversation.

  • Marc Lynch offering an excellent, tempered overall view.
  • Security crank doing much the same.
  • It didn’t just begin to be a problem on X Mas day you know, as Simon Tisdall and Kristian Ulrichsen sagely elucidated some time ago.
  • A bit of background from Carnegie.
  • A little bit on the Iran link.
  • And the answer from Waq al Waq.

The Yemen debacle spills over 21, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Gulf, Yemen.
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bum bomber

(Abdullah Asiri: the bum bomber [what an ignominious failure…])

You will not find a better or more knowledgeable article tying together the recent assassination attempt in Saudi Arabia (the bum bomb) and the mess currently unfurling in Yemen than the one in the National by Kristian Ulrichsen. Academic journalism at its best.

Yemen: Who’s pulling the strings? 15, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Yemen.
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Simon Tisdall in the Guardian has a good piece on Yemen. Unlike the Michael Collins Dunn who does not see much evidence of foreign involvement but rather a Sunni media frenzy over the potential of Iran interfering, Tisdall quotes the rebels in the North claiming that Saudi planes have bombed them and that they have recovered Saudi mortars. They, therefore, have been helped by Al Sadr’s Shia forces which are generally believed to be at Iran’s behest.

So far it seems to me that rhetoric is overtaking facts and that the Sunni half of the Gulf’s perpetual view that Iran is just bound to interfere has led them to either pronounce that they in fact are meddling or for them to counter and support their ‘own forces’ in the conflict.

It is, however, a messy conflict to the extent that Tisdale quotes the Wall Street Journal as describing it as being second only to the unruly Af-Pak border area of North Waziristan as a ‘terrorist’s Shangr-La‘.

Update:

Carnegie on Yemen. Worth a read.

Iran meddling in Yemen? 10, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East, Yemen.
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yemen

(Yemen was once variously known as Arabia Felix or Happy Yemen. The word being pushed off the cliff is Al Saaeed (Happy) by the other word Al Yemen. Al Hayat)

Michael Collins Dunn over at the indefatigable and ever-informative Middle East Institute Blog puts forward an intriguing case focusing on what he sees to be some level of distortion of coverage of the Yemani conflict. He discerns that there is something of an agenda of sorts being pushed by what appears to be much if not most of the Arabian Gulf’s media [I use the term pointedly, for a reason] to implicate Iran as fermenting, to various degrees, the trouble in Yemen.

This complex conflict between the Houthi rebels in the north against the south is being woefully simplified to the good, old fashioned binary Sunni/Shia conflict. Yet – needless to say – it if far more nuanced that this. Instead, Iran are ipso facto, so to speak, ‘supporting’ the Zaydis because they are quasi-Shi’ite and, ‘as usual’, – so the narrative goes – supporting terrorism of some description.

Dunn makes clear that there may well be sympathy from Tehran towards the Zaydis or even tacit (or otherwise) support. Yet there is little evidence of this. He further links this with the recent assassination attempts in Saudi (the bum bomb) and concludes that:

The result is that there seems to be an emerging narrative: the Yemeni Government is hand-in-glove with Al-Qa‘ida, or at least looks the other way, while their enemies the rebel Houthis are Iranian stalking horses. Or, if you want to combine the two, here (in Arabic) is a Saudi article in Al-Watan saying that the Houthis are actually supporting Al-Qa‘ida.

But the narrative is building. True, false, or in between, the charge is growing that Iran is fueling things in Yemen.

See this article in the Huffington Post for a Yemeni conflict primer.

The Spread of Wahhabism 12, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia, Yemen.
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Here’s a link to a fascinating post by US Professor Brian Ulrich on his excellent blog Brian’s Coffeehouse. He quotes from a book on tribal order in Yemen on the odd reasons that lie behind the spread of Wahhabism in what one might assume to be areas where it would not penetrate.

One of the remarkable features of the Sunni-Wahhabi movement was that it flourished in the birthplace and heartlands of Zaydi-Shi’ism. This was largely because it tapped a hitherto dormant resentment of key tenets of Zaydi doctrine still manifest there – especially the sayyid claim to religious authority and social superiority on the grounds of religious descent, which Wahhabis felt contravened Islamic ideals by promoting inequality.

..
The most public and active converts to Wahhabism in Razih were shibab (young men -ed.) from some qabili and most ‘butcher’ families (lower states -ed.). These young men, who were struggling to find work and marriage payments, and were traditionally subordinate to their elders and ‘betters,’ were attracted to Islah (which they equated with Wahhabism) by its welfare program, and to Wahhabism by its egalitarianism. They credited their education for their conversion. In contrast to their mostly illiterate fathers, who had depended on religious specialists for guidance, they had attended the first secondary schools (which opened in Razih in the 1980s), and had studied the Sunni texts then flooding Yemen and formed their own opinions…

Yemeni security services in outlandish claim 7, October 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Yemen.
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Yemeni authorities are maintaining that they have captured a terrorist cell with links to Israel. The clear insinuation being that Israel are in some way, shape or form, funding terrorist activity in Yemen. This seems highly implausible. Aside from the fact that Israel have infinitely more pressing concerns far closer to home, Israel’s main weapon, so to speak, in currying sympathy in the wider world rests on the fact that whilst they too my well kill civilians, they do this accidentally. They are, thus, wholly more moral than terrorists who often specifically aim for such deaths. If they are sponsoring terrorism, then they are implicitly sanctioning the knowing killing of civilians. Without doubt, we are talking about petty, semantic differences and indeed Israel have employed a number of legally and morally questionable tactics in the past, but to resort to the literal sponsoring of terrorism would be beyond the pale, even for the often hawkish Israelis.