Yemen is Falling Apart: Details (Video)
The poorest country in the Middle East is fast becoming the newest and hottest disaster in the region. There are many dimensions to the chaos in Yemen; sectarian, political, geographic.
The Yemeni government collapsed at the beginning of this year. Its Western and Saudi backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi resigned under pressure in January, 2015, after the Shia militia, known as Houthis, seized the presidential palace and besieged his residence in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital.
The Houtes are partially backed by Iran and their power base is in the mainly Shia northern highlands. Houtes has been at war with Al Qaeda and other hardcore Sunni Islamists for most of a decade in Yemen. Meanwhile ISIS has entered the mess as well, trying to further its goal of starting an inter-religion civil war that will cleanse Islam of the Shia.
Jihadist existence in the region dates back to the early 1990s, when thousands of mujahadeen returned to Yemen after fighting the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was formed in January 2009 through a union of the Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al-Qaeda.
Another huge problem Yemen is facing is lack of water. According to the report by Foreignaffairs.com, “As policymakers butt heads over the best course for Yemen, the dwindling water supply is already leading to instability: according to Al-Thawra, one of the country’s leading newspapers, 70 to 80 percent of conflicts in Yemen’s rural regions are water-related. And across the country, Yemen’s Interior Ministry estimates, water- and land-related disputes result in about 4,000 deaths each year — 35 times the number of casualties in the deadliest Al Qaeda attack in the country’s history.
The cultivation of qat, a mild narcotic plant that releases a stimulant when chewed, accounts for up to 40 percent of the water drawn from the Sana’a Basin each year, and that figure is rising. That is both because qat takes a lot of water to farm. Farmers are willing to put up with the plant’s high demand for water because it has a more regular yield than other crops and because the market for it is virtually guaranteed.”
Yemen’s history goes back to 275 AD and multiple dynasties. For the sake of simplification I have summarized its modern history by date (Source: BBC, CFR.org, Yemenparliament.org):
- The Zaydis and Ottomans: 1500s
- 1839 – Aden comes under British rule, and when the Suez Canal opens in 1869 serves as a major refuelling port.
- 1918 – Ottoman empire dissolves, North Yemen gains independence and is ruled by Imam Yahya.
- 1948 – Yahya assassinated, but his son Ahmad beats off opponents of feudal rule and succeeds his father.
- 1962 – Imam Ahmad dies, succeeded by his son but army officers seize power, set up the Yemen Arab Republic, sparking civil war between royalists supported by Saudi Arabia and republicans backed by Egypt.
- 1967 – Formation of People’s Republic of Yemen, comprising Aden and former Protectorate of South Arabia.
- 1969 – Marxists take power in south, rename state People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen and reorient economy, society and foreign policy towards Soviet bloc.
- 1986 – Thousands die in south in political rivalry. President Ali Nasser Muhammad flees the country and is later sentenced to death for treason. New government formed.
- 1990 May – Two Yemens united as Republic of Yemen with Mr. Saleh as president, as Soviet bloc implodes. Tension between former states endures.
- 1990s – Thousands of mujahadeen returnes to Yemen after fighting the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, forming branches of Al-Qaede
- 2004- Houti insurgency starts, led by Hussein al-Houthi in the north.
- 2011-President Saleh pledges not to extend his presidency in 2013 or to hand over to his son after days of “Arab Spring” inspired protests.
- 2011 November – President Saleh agrees to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
- 2012 January – President Saleh leaves country. Parliament grants him full immunity in the face of objections from thousands of street protesters.
- 2012 February – Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi inaugurated as president after uncontested elections.
- 2015 January – The Houthis reject the draft of a new constitution proposed by the government. They seize state TV and clash with troops in the capital, in what the government called a coup attempt. President Hadi and his government resign in protest at the takeover by Houthi rebels of the capital. He later flees to his native city of Aden and rescinds his resignation.
- 2015 February – Houthi rebels say that they are seizing power and that transitional five-member presidential council will replace President Hadi. UN Security Council denounces Houthi move, demands they negotiate power-sharing agreement under Gulf Cooperation Council aegis. Numerous embassies close because of disruption. President Hadi flees house arrest in Sanaa, escapes to Aden.
- 2015 March – ISIS carries out its first major attacks in Yemen – two suicide bombings targeting Shia mosques in Sanaa in which 137 people are killed.
Photo credit: Rare.us
Video credit: PBS, News Hour