#Cartoon - #Yemen wants Ali Abdullah Saleh OUT!  on Twitpic

Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh has decided to leave power and hand over the reins of  government to a transitional government  in exchange for immunity from persecution. It seems that Saleh is now, finally , on his way out . What implications this holds for Yemen ? More mayhem perhaps.

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Yemen has long been on the brink of being a failed state . It is an impoverished state which imports most of its food from outside. Its suffers from high population growth and a large unemployed youth population . The sources of revenue for the government are dwindling, with oil reserves running out . Yemen could also be the first state in the world to run out of water. Tribal divisions run deep. Add to that prevalence of widespread Khat intoxication , and you have the prefect socio-economic nightmare .

The problems of Yemen don’t end here. The  country has a large population of Zaidi Shias . These have long been engaged in a bitter conflict with Saleh government . The government has long tried to supress their rebellion , with direct Saudi and covert American help, with little effect.

Al-Qaeda has also been active in Yemen and have frequently attacked government forces. The recent parcel bomb attacks on board FedEx and UPS have originated in Yemen .Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula has publicly identified Yemen as the base for their operations in Saudi Arabia.

Then there is the movement for South Yemen , which aims to create a separate State of South Yemen . This movement, centred in Aden , perceives itself to be exploited and marginalised by the northerners and aims to set it right by creating a separate state of South Yemen.`

This country in short is an almost impossible place to govern. The fact that Saleh was able to hang in for 32 years, is a testimony to the amazing political skills the man possessed. He used every trick in the book to keep these political demons under the lid .Saleh has described his 33-year rule and his power plays with the leaders of the country’s many tribes, as a "dance on snake heads."   But now he is gone and there seem to be nobody on the  Yemeni political scene with the skill and the wherewithal to keep these snakes in check.

The current opposition is held together by a common hatred of the regime and is very likely to disintegrate post Saleh. The various competing interests of the Southerners, the Islamists, the Houthis are likely to ensure a weak government in the days to come.  There are already signs of dissent within opposition ranks . Further none of the opposition leaders have a mass following.

This absence of credible leadership post Saleh would enable the separatist movements to further gain steam . Al-Qaeda is probably already watching with glee the prospect of a weak government at the helm. Yemen with its difficult terrain and proximity to Saudi Arabia will be the perfect base for them .

Regimes like that of Saleh  , for all their brutishness and corruption , have brought stability to historically unstable places like Yemen.  Long entrenched , these have been felled like oaks in a storm by the youth revolt . But the world may soon find out that these youth have little experience in running a country, let alone one as complex as Yemen .

Although this doesn’t justify their continued existence, there is certainly a case for their more orderly phasing out. The sudden demise of these regime might just have left a  vacuum which would be difficult to fill and which ,like all vacuums, would be very destructive to the geopolitical fabric of middle east.

Demons from Hell

October 30, 2010

The recovery on Friday of explosive packages  ,dispatched from Yemen to synagogues in Chicago  on board FedEx and UPS flights,  served to clearly underscore the growing threat from Yemen. Sadly , without a massive overhaul of the country’s economic, social and political infrastructure, there is little that can be done to prevent Yemen from becoming the next Al-Qaeda command post.

For the price of a few hundred dollars,terrorists were able to set off a broad terrorism scare. Law enforcement agencies in several countries were put on high alert, two global corporations — FedEx and UPS — had to disrupt services and inspect dozens of packages around the world, Canadian fighter jets were mobilized, passengers on board a completely innocent commercial flight were scared out of their wits . Even the president of the United States made a short statement on this.

These terrorists, Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula as they call themselves , have yet again demonstrated their ability to cause disproportionate losses to the western world and to disrupt the western way of life. They are fanatical , motivated, and most importantly they seem to have found the perfect hideaway for themselves: Yemen

Yemen

Yemen is a terrorist paradise. Its geography is extreme in its ruggedness. It has a long and porous border with Saudi Arabia and an equally porous maritime border with Somalia.Yemen is also desperately poor. Most of its population lives on less than $2 a day. The mainstay of its economy , oil is projected to run out by 2017

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More worryingly , Yemen might well be the first country in the world to run out of water. Large scale exploitation of water resources, mainly for the cultivation of Khat , a mildly narcotic chewing substance, has led to a severe shortage. Scientists fear that the country is literally chewing itself to death and might have no water left by 2017.

Wadi Dahr khat plantations

To make it worse , the central government has only a tenuous hold on the country. The Houthi rebellion in the north and the tensions between the various tribes in the south has led to the steady erosion of central authority. President Saleh has till now been able to buy off the tribes with the oil money. With oil running out , these rented loyalties might soon evaporate.

All these factors together with the widespread illiteracy, pervasive gun culture, and proximity to Wahhabi ideological centres,  make Yemen  one of the world’s most conducive environment for global terrorist networks to fester and operate. Yemen also provides the ideal geo-strategic location to these groups. Its location on the Arabian peninsula , provides the Al-Qaeda with a terrific  launching platform to overthrow the hated monarchies of the Arabian peninsula. Its proximity to the lawless regions of Somalia ensures safe haven for terrorist leadership in case of any international operation. Yemen is the ultimate geo-strategic nightmare for the western strategist.

In face of the threats, the response of the world community has at best been amateur. Apart from extending millions of dollars in aid to President Saleh, little has been done.  Much of this aid money had been siphoned off by corrupt government officials. There have been no efforts to invest into upgrading the social and physical infrastructure of the country. Nothing has been done to  diversify the nation’s income sources and stave off the looming financial collapse.

Yemen is on its way to becoming another Afghanistan . Something which the world could ill afford.  The war on terrorism , if it starts on this land, might be not winnable at all. The world needs to end this war, before it starts . Terrorism must be stamped out before it takes root in this society. And to do that, we need to do more than throw dollars and send drones.