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Wednesday Papers: or Hamas the Peacemaker

Khalid al-Hammadi has an excellent report on the surprise visit of Khalid Mishal of Hamas to San’a, where he offered to serve as a mediator between Yemen and Iran. Very interesting stuff, particularly since, as Khalid points out, Yemen has twice in the last month refused to host Manoucher Motttaki, Iran’s Foreign Minister.

I do, however, have to disagree with Khalid’s phrasing here:

بدعم ايران المباشر وغير المباشر لحركة التمرد الحوثي الزيدية القريبة إلى المذهب الشيعي الاثني عشري

I think it is a bit misleading to claim that the Zaydis are close to twelvers.

Mareb Press announces the death of Salih ‘Ali ‘Awadh, the nephew of former South Yemeni President Ali Nasir Muhammad on Tuesday in clashes between the Southern Movement and government forces in Abyan.

In English we have this article from Dominic Moran, which relies almost entirely on an anonymous “Gulf analyst with an intimate knowledge of the conflict.” – I have no idea what that means. Has this Gulf analyst been to Yemen? Has she been to Sa’dah?

I get very worried when analysts refuse to attach their name to what they say and even more concerned when journalists readily quote anonymous sources. This conflict already has enough rumors and half-truths swirling around it; it doesn’t need any more.

I also have my doubts about how intimate this particular analysts’ knowledge of the conflict is when she says things like:

Referring to the al-Houthi rebellion, the Gulf analyst said: “The Saudis have generally tried to stay out of it,” adding, “it is not their policy, they would rather stay away from military conflict.” She argues that the Saudis chose to become involved in the fighting as a defensive move.

Surely anyone who has been following the conflict so intimately would have a hard time arguing that Saudi Arabia has attempted to remain above the fray, I mean, seriously. At numerous different times, the Saudis have pushed the conflict.

We also have this article from the LA Times’ that buys into just about every stereotype of Yemen opening:

The president’s new mosque shimmers over this ancient city like an illusion of stability against images of MIG fighter jets screeching overhead toward rebellion in the north or the latest news of pirates seizing ships in the treacherous Gulf of Aden.

In Sana’s snug alleys, men speak of war, secession and Al Qaeda, which is busy scouring schoolyards and mosques for new recruits while much of the population spends hours each day getting a mellow buzz from chewing khat leaves.

If Yemen were a theater, which sometimes it appears to be, it would be an unnerving place of trapdoors and shifting facades. This is the poorest nation in the Arab world and one of the most strategically located, with 3 million barrels of oil sailing daily past its shores, tucked between Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

He goes on to write the President Salih has “for almost 20 years has balanced conflicting tribal and sectarian voices, but his government’s grip is slipping.”

I understand his point here, or at least I think I do. He is talking about unification in 1990. But Salih has actually been in power since 1978. By only talking about the last 20 years, Fleishman makes it seem as though all politics in Yemen started with unification – oh, if only that were the case. In fact, much of contemporary politics is mired in pre-unification loyalties and divisions. Did the Huthi conflict only begin in 2004? Or only in the 1990s? This would ignore the establishment of Shaykh Muqbil’s institute in the early 1980s. What about the Southern Movement?

Much of the article, despite my harping above, is actually quite good and Fleishman does a good job of discussing many of Yemen’s problems. I just wish he would leave off with the hyperbole of al-Qaeda “scouring schoolyards” and so forth.


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