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Thursday Papers: Yemen experts abound and al-Midhar

Yemen is saying that it is open season on al-Qaeda in the country, claiming that it will fight them wherever it finds them and warning Yemenis against helping them or providing refuge to them. I have my doubts as to how well these public calls will work.

In an answer to a question posted here at Waq al-waq, the Yemeni papers are full of information about al-Midhar.

It seems that 25 al-Qaeda suspects escaped the siege on his house and fled to the mountains. There were a number of different military and police units involved in the siege, but it seems to have been a rather loose perimeter.

They did, however, discover all manner of weapons in al-Midhar’s house – although how different this is from many houses in Yemen I’m not all that sure. At least it isn’t terribly different from the houses of some of my friends, although the RPG isn’t something I always see.

Yemen is claiming that al-Midhar was known as the “Amir of Shabwa.” Hmm, maybe.

His full name according to this Mareb Press story, which is following the 26th of September is: ‘Abdullah Ahmad ‘Abdullah BaYasin, which suggests a connection to the Hadramawt. And his kunya was Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman and he was known by the name ‘Abdullah al-Midhar – something the Washington Post could not be bothered to get correct in its story today, calling him for reasons passing understanding: “Mehdarhad.” Not that anyone notices, it is just a funny foreign name anyway.

Al-Midhar was born in 1965, was married to two women and has a high school education. And was the shaykh of the Al Faqih, which is the leading family of the village, according to my geographical and tribal dictionary.

He is also said to have given an oath of allegiance to al-Wahayshi, which at least for me, fits nicely into my argument that al-Wahayshi is attempting to model himself after Osama bin Laden and build the organization along the template that bin Laden used in Afghanistan while, of course, learning from and correcting mistakes that earlier versions of al-Qaeda have made. Or at least this is what I argue in the newest, special issue of the Sentinel.

One of the more worrying things about al-Midhar was that, again according to Mareb Press, he railed against and attacked schools in the district on the grounds that they were “mixed” that is both boys and girls went there. This is similar to the criticisms AQAP launched against the university in Saudi Arabia recently.

The 26th of September (the original) is similar to the Mareb Press article, although anyone interested in al-Midhar’s ID number and his passport number – why you would be is beyond me – should go here.

Next up is the newest Yemen expert, Fred Kagan and his op-ed along with Chris Harnisch in today’s Wall Street Journal. (Full disclosure: The Wall Street Journal asked me for an idea for an op-ed, but dismissed my pitch as “not sexy enough.”) I don’t know about Kagan, but I do know that Harnisch has at least visited the country. Still, I think what they propose with regards to the Huthis is incredibly dangerous and a very bad idea.

Their overall idea that throwing money at the problem won’t solve the issue is good and smart, but suggesting that the US get involved in the Huthi conflict by making the Huthis the enemies of the US is the type of unfamiliar thinking that can be particularly incendiary in Yemen. There is no military solution to this conflict. The US should be pressuring both Saudi Arabia and Yemen to quit the military aspect of the conflict and sit down to negotiate a settlement.

Nobody. Not the US, not Saudi Arabia and certainly not Yemen can bomb the Huthis into submission.

Finally, is a number of reports on Shaykh ‘Abd al-Majid al-Zindani – can we please stop calling him Yemen’s most influential cleric, the most photogenic, maybe, but not the most influential (Similarly, be wary of anyone, like the Long War Journal, who lumps al-Zindani in with al-Qaeda) – and his warning against foreign intervention in Yemen.


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