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Street Battles in Yemen

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What started months ago in Yemen as a peaceful standoff between President Saleh and protesters seeking his removal has taken a tragic turn. The standoff is now spiraling toward civil war. There are reports of street battles and lives lost in the capital city of Sanaa.

People are fleeing the city. When violence strikes, hunger and sickness are quick to follow as basic necessities inevitably become shortages.

Violence will solve nothing for Yemen. Both sides, Saleh’s forces and the opposition, have to show restraint. What is needed now more than ever in this crisis is calm and cooler heads. Only a peaceful, negotiated settlement with President Saleh leaving office is the answer.

A civil war will only plunge this already suffering country into depths from which it may never recover. A civil war would leave a legacy of death, destruction, chaos, and starvation for millions. The leaders of both sides can go this route and share that legacy — or they can choose a road to peace.

If the road to peace is chosen at this critical time, there will be guides along the way. That is where the international community will come in with a new policy toward Yemen, one more sympathetic to the people’s needs. No longer will hunger and poverty, the biggest threat facing the country, be ignored.

It is up to Yemen to first choose peace and dialogue, and that is where we stand at this moment.

Read more about hunger and malnutrition in Yemen at the Yemen Times and New York Times.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.
  • Blake Parker

    (Quoting Frederick W. Kagan,
    Director, Critical Threats Project &
    Resident Scholar from an email):

    “Heavy fighting between government forces and tribesmen outside of Yemen’s capital has broadened the conflict. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has gained operating space as Yemeni security forces have pulled out of al Qaeda strongholds to protect the regime’s interests.

    Yemeni air force fighter jets conducted air strikes on tribal targets in Nihm district north of Sana’a. Republican Guard soldiers reportedly attacked a village, provoking tribesmen to retaliate and to gain control of two Yemeni military compounds. Military helicopters with reinforcements tried to land nearby and tribesmen report that they captured two helicopters, along with a number of soldiers, and shot down a third. This is not the first time the air force bombed Nihm; on May 10, government air raids killed four tribesmen.

    Fighting in the capital has intensified, where Hashid tribesmen have been fighting the Yemeni security forces for five days. Security forces have closed the roads to prevent Hashid tribesmen from entering Sana’a. An estimated 10,000 Hashidi tribesmen have arrived in the capital since May 22. Hashid tribal leader Sheikh Sadiq al Ahmar announced that there is a ceasefire in Sana’a, but “if Ali Abdullah Saleh returned (to fighting) then we are ready.”

    The defection of a Republican Guard commander may indicate a fracturing within Yemen’s elite force. Colonel Ali al Shaddadi released a video statement urging security force members to disobey orders.

    The unrest has increased al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s operating space. Suspected al Qaeda militants have taken over the southern city of Zinjibar in Abyan governorate. Yemeni security forces have been redeployed from restive regions in the south to the capital to protect the Yemeni regime.

    On May 22, President Saleh refused to sign a transition agreement in the absence of Yemeni opposition leaders, warning that the leaders were dragging the country into a civil war. The deal would have ended months of unrest in Yemen that have already challenged the fragile state. Mass demonstrations, inspired by Egypt and Tunisia, are occurring daily in Yemen’s major cities and these have been met with an increasing use of force. The opposition, united in its demand for the president’s resignation, has not been able to force Saleh out of power, decreasing the likelihood of a relatively peaceful transition.”

    The author of this blog has been making some good points regarding Yemen. If hunger and poverty were addressed sooner the AQAP threat and civil conflict may not have progressed to this point. –Blake Parker

  • Antown

    Without the intervention of the international community the situation in Yemen is not resolved. The standoff between President Saleh and the protesters can continue for many years.

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