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Guest Thinkers

Day 5: In which I try to blog about everything in Yemen

There have been many things to blog about lately – Salih’s meeting in Amran with shaykhs from Bakil, even while the Hashid governor watched,’s mocking take on Tariq al-Fadhli’s failure to put people in the streets in Abyan (Ar. – I do love the picture, an aging jihadi at home) – but sadly little time.

Anwar al-Awlaki put out a new audio tape – minus the al-Malahim logo – and today AQAP put out issue 16 of Sada al-Malahim. 

But instead we will talk about what everyone else is talking about, the protests.  This is day 5 of the popular protests that got started after Umar Sulayman in Egypt announced that Hosni Mubarak was no longer the president. 

For those who follow Waq al-waq, you’ll remember that these two things – Mubarak stepping down and popular protests outside the umbrella of the JMP – were the two things that, for me, signaled Yemen would be headed for troubled waters.  A point I expressed to Reuters and to the Financial Times.

It seems the regime agrees.  President Salih announced that he was postponing his trip to the US in late February (I’d heard it was scheduled for March, but whatever).  Now, is obviously not a good time to be out of the country. 

The US with its usual tin ear for public diplomacy, announced a $75 million project to train Yemeni CT forces, which in Yemen will be seen as training people loyal to President Salih, who will fight whomever he decides is an enemy.

So now what?  According to many on the ground, the protests have been fairly small so far, but President Salih has reacted incredibly aggressively, apparently in an attempt to keep them from getting out of control.  This has meant regime loyalists have used, sticks, batons, and tasers to disrupt the protests.

Human Rights Watch has been particularly vigilant in pointing out the regime’s aggression in press release after press release. 

For me, I’m watching Taiz to see what happens there.  Sanaa is important, but if Taiz really gets going this thing could take off.  Still, I think we are at – as I keep saying – a critical juncture.  I could still see these protests going either way.  Something that galvanizes society could push more people out into the street or weary apathy could take over, depleting the numbers.  Whatever the case, I’m not as confident that “Yemen won’t fall” as most “Yemen experts” I keep listening to.

Said al-Shihri: I know some people had their doubts, but now the head of security in Abyan is confirming that he was killed. (Ar.)  I had heard through the grapevine (Yemen style) that there was an explosion in that area on that day, but no one was yet able to confirm al-Shihri’s death.  Saudi sources are still saying they can’t confirm anything.  But I still think my initial leanings were correct and that he is dead.  Of course, if I’m wrong then I’ll pack up my magic-8 ball and stop making predictions.  (Probably not.)  And now as I write this, the very same security official is saying, oh no, he never said such things.  As always in Yemen, people are on record on all sides. 

Recommended Reading:  Two articles that I wanted to give a shout-out to as particularly worth your time.  (Full disclosure: I know and admire both authors) 

1. Stacey Philbrick Yadav: MERIP: No Pink Slip for Salih.

2.  Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star: The Unlikely face of Yemen’s Opposition.

There are other reports that I’m sure are good – some of which I have yet to read – as well as some real howlers.  Someone in the Washington Post put Yemen’s Civil War in 1992 in yesterday’s copy.  C’mon now, we can do better than that.  (It actually took place in 1994).

Logo: Waq al-waq also unveils its new logo today – hopefully it will be more popular than the Big 10’s horrible division names.  Many thanks to my brother for the design.


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