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Has Yemen Turned into Another Libya?

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Yemen has been in the news on and off  lately. Recently, Al-Qaeda captured a key city, Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province in South Yemen. Many westerners are wondering how this could have happened, but it seems that Ali Abdul Saleh had already predicted such a thing, according to Haaretz, “If the system falls……al-Qaida will capture Maarib, Hadramout,Shabwa, Abyan and al-Jouf (and) it will control the situation,” Saleh said, listing provinces where al-Qaida’s Yemen-based wing has been active. The Los Angeles Times quotes him as well,  “This is the message that I send to our friends and brothers in the United States and the European Union … the successor will be worse than what we have currently,”

Since Saleh believes the United States and the EU are his “brothers,” there is no doubt that he could have orchestrated such a takeover. Because the US has carried out attacks in the past on Yemen, he is counting on such a thing to occur now. Saleh believes he is the glue that holds Yemen together and thus would never relinquish power. Saleh views Al-Qaida as insurance rather than as a threat; insurance in the sense of keeping the regime alive and getting more support from the west.

“Even if Saleh can defeat all those challenging him, his ability to ‘govern’ the country in any coherent sense of the word is gone forever,” said the Yemeni political analyst, Abdul Ghani Iryani, writing in the Guardian, “Even in the most autocratic regimes, governance relies on some degree of acceptance of authority. In Yemen there is no sign whatsoever that this exists. Either Saleh leaves power through a political deal he brokers from a position of weakness or he is ousted by force by breakaway military groups and tribal leaders.”

Ali Abdullah Saleh must believe that if the king of Bahrain and Muammar Gaddafi can hold on to power by force then can do so as well. Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, unlike Bahrain and Libya, whose economies are both doing better then Yemen’s.  One of the major contributing factors to Yemen’s ongoing (and worsening) poverty is the rampant corruption of the autocratic regime governed by Ali Abdullah Saleh and his family and tribesmen. Unfortunately, corruption is so bad that reform-minded ministers are thwarted at every turn and the contributions of donors are squandered, misspent or in some cases, unspent. Millions, perhaps billions of rials, in donor funds are totally wasted, stolen by the elite, and rarely benefit their intended recipients. The $4.6 billion rials pledged at the November 2006 donors conference has had little positive impact. Since Saleh is supported by the west and his powerful ally to the north, Saudi Arabia, it would be hard to give up power so easily. Lord Acton was right when he said, “All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

In terms of civil war, yes, Yemen somewhat resembles Libya. Yemen has a major active Al-Qaeda cell. Not to long ago, Al-Qaeda issued a call for supporters to back the Libyan rebellion, which it said would lead to the imposition of “the stage of Islam” in the country. It would seem the only benefactor of a failed state in Libya and Yemen would be Al-Qaeda, which thrives in war-torn nations.

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About Rahman

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    To answer your question: no.

    First, it seems that Saleh has given up. I think his flight to Saudi for medical treatment was a thinly disguised attempt for him to leave the country (and office) without suffering disgrace. Now he can say – no I really want to go back and rule Yemen but alas they won’t let me back in.

    Yemen and Libya resemble each other in some ways – strong tribal loyalties coupled with easy access to weaponry and a pissed off population – but in many ways they are very different. Like you mentioned, Saleh is close with America/Europe becuase of his “committment” to fighting terrorism (a load of you know what) while Gadaffi was a pariah. Also, Libya has vast oil reserves (mostly sitting in Gadaffi’s pocket)while Yemen is slowly ruining its economy and water supply through its addication to qat.

    Another key difference is that Saleh seems to be fairly rational, whereas Gadaffi is crazy.

    Hopefully Saleh’s departure will mean a quicker return to peace in Yemen and prevent continued devestation.