Ginny Hill has written a couple of articles over the past few days on Yemen and Guantanamo and al-Qaeda and failed states. The first is at Open Democracy and provides a good overview of some of the challenges that face not only closing down Guantanmo but also Yemen in general.
Hill writes about the possibility of sending some Yemenis to Saudi. I continue to believe and argue to all that will listen that this is a bad idea. In my view – and I know my view differs from a number of people – Saudi Arabia’s program is not a solution. Hill writes: “Saudi Arabia put its own returnees through a well-resourced and closely supervised re-education scheme, but cash-strapped Yemen’s failure to reassure the US that it could offer similar facilities has created today’s bottleneck at Guantánamo.”
I don’t think the program is a closely supervised as many have been led to believe, and just because Saudi has a much better PR program than Yemen (it is not hard) does not mean that it has a firm understanding of what it is doing. Read for instance, Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, a former Guantanamo detainee, in the current issue of Sada al-Malahim. All is not quite as the Saudis say in public.
Also, I think it is worth while to speculate on what exactly made Muhammad al-‘Awfi give himself up. Now if one is of the opinion that he was captured or that he was working as a Saudi plant (trust me, I’ve heard numerous variants of both) then this line of thinking is not productive. But if one thinks there might be a possibility that the Saudis pressured him to give himself up, while at the same time using President Salih to pressure the tribes to give him up, then, the question to ask is: What did the Saudis pressure him with?
I’m also concerned with rumors I’m hearing about what is going to happen in Yemen during this coming month. Things haven’t been good this past month but, in my opinion, the month to come will be worse on a number of fronts.
Hill’s second article is at the Guardian in its Comment is Free section. In this article, she lays much of the blame for Yemen’s failures at the feet of its foolishly naive policy (or maybe, more accurately, its lack of a policy) when it was on the UN Security Council in 1990.
Many of today’s development programs are designed to address problems that stem from the international backlash following Yemen’s support for Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The cancelled US aid program and loss of remittances from 800,000 Yemeni workers expelled from Saudi Arabia hampered the shaky process of state building that followed the introduction of democracy in 1990.
One quick point here – although I know certain people (such as another contributor to Waq al-waq, who shall remain nameless) disagree – this is exactly the opposite of the argument made by Paul Dresch in A History of Modern Yemen. He writes: “To blame Yemen’s subsequent problems on the Gulf War would be easy and largely false.” (186)
Also, while I agree that Yemen’s situation is particularly acute, it is important to note – as Salih did in his interview with al-Hayat – that people have been writing Yemen’s obituary for years, and yet the place keeps on stumbling along.