A brief guide: Yemen

While Following news and commentary from major news outlets covering the explosive events in Yemen today, I noted a serious lack of in-depth knowledge and area expertise flowing through the air waves, particularly on CNBC’s Closing Bell. Many individuals are conflating events in Yemen with those in Iraq, or overemphasizing external tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which undermines local narratives, historical conditions, and more importantly internal solutions for whats going on.

I recommend that those who want to truly be informed about Yemen, pass over the same-old discourse that focuses on sectarianism between Sunnis and Shias, and instead engage with some of these analysts.

1. For ground coverage, see Ammar Al-Aulaqi :: @ammar82

2. For analysis, see Peter Salisbury :: @altoflacoblanco

Written in January, when Houthi operations were on Sanaa's outskirts.

Salisbury. Written in January, when Houthi operations were on Sanaa’s outskirts.

Yemen 2

Also check out some of the highlights from his piece here http://businessweekme.com/Bloomberg/newsmid/190/newsid/263#sthash.2cDCQscx.dpuf

Today, men in traditional Yemeni dress armed with kalashnikov rifles still populate checkpoints across Sanaa, displaying banners embossed with the Houthis’ eye-catching slogan, the sarkha: “Death to America, Death to Israel, Damn the Jews, Victory to Islam”.

These men’s presence initially left few in doubt as to who was in charge in the capital. But as the weeks have passed it has become increasingly clear that they are not, in fact, made up of the same people who in September fought with the remnants of the First Armoured Division, a once powerful military unit that led the government campaign in a de facto civil war with the Houthis between 2004 and 2010. 

Those men are a distinct entity from the People’s Committees, which did not take part in the fighting. The committees instead took control of the streets after the Houthis had fulfilled their military aims and are made up of men from Sanaa, with each area of the capital guarded by locals.

In interviews with Bloomberg Businessweek Middle East, a number of those manning People’s Committee checkpoints say that they are longstanding members of Ansar Allah, or “Partisans of God”, the Houthis’ preferred name for their movement. But roughly the same proportion say that they joined the movement on or around 21 September, as the Houthi militias were completing their rout of First Armoured. The vast majority of this second group are supporters of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former president, and the General People’s Congress (GPC), Yemen’s historical ruling party. Saleh was ousted in a 2011 uprising after leading the country for 33 years.

“I am with Ansar Allah,” says Jamal Abdullah, 30, a resident of the largely pro-GPC Bier Shamla district of Sanaa. “We are working with the People’s Committees and the army to make sure things are calm.” Yet like many others he says that he had joined the movement on 21 September. Of Saleh — who oversaw six wars with the Houthis between 2004 and 2010 — he says: “He was the best of them, of all the politicians in Yemen”.  Many of the men in charge of the armoured trucks guarding government buildings interviewed for this article say they are former or current members of the Republican Guard, an elite military unit commanded until 2013 by Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali. 

One thought on “A brief guide: Yemen

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Victoria Clark, Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes | InternationalScope

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