Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Yemen Rounds Out Middle Eastern Religious Fighting in Which Extremists Win

Yemen's civil war is reaching a "turning point" of sorts as the Houthi rebels (a large Shiite militia tens of thousands strong, very Islamist and anti-American) have totally taken over the capital, dissolved parliament, and set up a revolutionary council of sorts.

They're planning to stick around: they've rejected UN's call to cede power--not surprising.

Source: Wikipedia. Yellow represents Houthi control; Red is old regime; grey is al-Qaeda/etc

As we can see, al-Qaeda has taken hold, probably in the government's back lines as they had the bulk of their troops in the northwest. Yemen's been a big al-Qaeda stronghold for a while (recall the USS Cole bombing of the 1990s). Oh, and it's worth noting that there have been separatists in the south fighting the government to secede entirely. Yemen was two countries until 1990 and (probably) the notion of jointly producing and exporting large oil reserves brought them together. 



But this unification was during a period of time where it was looking like Shiites and Sunnis would be able to live together in more harmony than they do now. In retrospect, the fairly clear lines between Sunni and Shiite populations might have been helpful--"good fences make good neighbors."


Like Iraq and Syria, this ethnosectarian civil war looks like it doesn't have a clear way of getting resolved. There's little likelihood of an agreement to just split back up--these things are often hard in general, and oil makes it way more complicated (which is part of why the Sudanese civil war went on for 25 years before it became too painful to continue).

The Houthis being in control will make the southern Sunni separatists even more motivated to get the heck out, so they're likely to keep on fighting. Meanwhile, away from the action, al-Qaeda will continue to entrench itself. The very anti-American Houthis are also quite unlikely to invite the US to strike al-Qaeda with drones (where the old regime was quite happy to have the help), so expect their power to grow in time.

If I were the US national security adviser, I'd be pulling my hair out.

Next time: we're going to go over in some detail Obama's plan for dealing with ISIS.
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