Monday Papers: or all the news that is fit to print
It was a busy weekend – both in Yemen and for the Waq al-waq team – but despite our busy schedules we are going to try to bring you a bit of a round-up.
First, there is this report from Reuters on the video that the Huthis have released of a captured Saudi prisoner. (I have decided not to link directly to these, but anyone with elementary Arabic skills and who is even slightly knowledgeable about the history of the conflict should have little trouble locating them). I just watched all four videos and I have to say that I disagree with Reuters statement that the man doesn’t match his card.
“They also posted a picture of a military identity card carrying Omari’s name but the photograph alongside it showed little resemblance to the man in the video.“
But I have also been told by more than one reporter that I should go easier on those in the journalistic arts and so I won’t say anything more.
Most news outlets, including this piece from the National’s Mohammed al-Qadhi, seem to suggest that the clashes between Saudi Arabia and the Huthis are coming to a close. But I am much more cautious on this. What might look for the moment like a stop could, in the long term, be more of a pause.
The direct Saudi influence is going to significantly alter the complexion of the conflict. Now that Saudi Arabia has stepped across the line of direct confrontation I am not sure how it can get back and hiding behind “joint operations” or any other diplomatic coding is not going to fool anybody in Yemen. Direct Saudi involvement is going to prolong rather than shorten this war and it will give the Huthis many more supporters – even if only tacitly so.
There is also this interview with the Governor of Sa’dah, who claims there are no more than 600 Huthi fighters in Sa’dah. This statement as with his others is, well, interesting.
There will be much more on the Huthi conflict in the days ahead, as I will be publishing my own thoughts in a more polished format as well as a more distinguished forum.
But for the moment I will just say that the latest clashes between Saudi Arabia and the Huthis as well as the attempted assassination of Muhammad bin Nayif are, I believe, indicative, of what is to come from Yemen. That is, the view that some in Washington hold that Yemen will implode and that its problems can be contained within the borders of what we now know as Yemen is wishful and willful ignorance. As Yemen continues to dissolve the country is going to explode and its problems will spill over the border creating regional and international challenges.
Time Magazine has this piece on President Salih’s inauguration of the new LNG plant. I will say I was quite impressed to read that Total hired mostly Yemenis and that it negotiated with separate tribes.
“The mounting hostility to Westerners is one reason Total opted to hire thousands of Yemenis to construct its new natural-gas facility, despite the fact that most needed extensive training. The company says Yemenis comprised about 70% of the 11,000 or so people who built the project. Total even negotiated separately with each of 22 tribes through which the pipeline travels in order to avoid angering locals.”
But I was disappointed to see that the story ended with these two lines:
“Another attention-grabbing figure is 500. That’s the number of Yemeni soldiers hired to guard the heavily fenced facility and pipeline. Because in a country as unstable as Yemen, any symbol of progress is also a constant target.”
This implies that Yemenis hate modernization and all the trappings that westerners assume come with it and are eager to destroy anything new, nice or clean. I find this explanation ignorant at best, but mostly just insulting. Things like the LNG plant are targeted for many reason but none of them are because they are “symbols of progress.” That is just sloppy thinking.
At the opening of the plant Salih did say that the war with the Huthis was just beginning, which is, or maybe more accurately, should be worrying news for everyone. The official US concern, expressed last week by Ian Kelly, seems to be having little impact. But today the US Embassy expressed concern over freedom of the press in Yemen. (Arabic here and English here)
At the same time the LNG plant is opening, the Jahm tribe – of which the Governor of Marib is a member – has cut off a road over frustrations – these are deep-rooted – regarding a land dispute in San’a.