Yemen: US plan won’t stop the violence

Submitted by Matthew on 4 November, 2010 - 10:11 Author: Dan Katz

The plague of crazed Islamist violence and threats has continued with an apparent attempt to bring down planes with explosives. No-one will be surprised that the conspiracy seems to have begun in Yemen.

By any standard measure of freedom and well-being Yemen and its people fare poorly.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Yemen at 170 of 178 countries for press freedom. Transparency International puts it at 131 out of 179 countries for corruption.

National Income per capita is $950 per year; 45% live below the official poverty line while a tiny minority live very well indeed; there is at least 35% unemployment.

Nearly half of Yemen’s rapidly growing population of 23 million is under 15 (UN figures). Life expectancy is 63 years; literacy rates are 35% for women.

Yemen’s meagre oil reserves will be dry by 2017, as will the aquifers which supply its capital, Sanaa, with drinking water.

Yemen has no normally-functioning state. The central government has direct authority over only a minority of the country.

Elsewhere it has to bribe, haggle and negotiate to achieve any goal — a process that the president, Ali Salih, has described as “dancing on the heads of snakes.”

Ali Salih has co-opted many of the Yemeni mujhadeen who fought the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s and returned in the 90s.

He now faces a new wave of jihadists aligned with al-Qaeda, based in the south and east of the country. Al-Qaeda have been routed in Saudi Arabia and have now regrouped in Yemen.

However, Yemen is also being pulled apart by a simmering rebellion in the north, run by a minority Shia sect, the Zaydi, and, additionally, by a southern secessionist movement based on those who look to re-found the old south Yemen state.

In such conditions it is difficult to see how a US-led western intervention, based on funding a corrupt and incompetent state, supplemented by drone strikes, can defeat these utterly reactionary Islamists.

More likely, intervention will make matters worse — and, in the first instance, it will make matters worse for those women, journalists and remaining Yemeni Jews who will feel the full force of an Islamist backlash.

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