The Desert War in Yemen
July 12, 2010 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Is Yemen the New Afghanistan? Al Qaeda may have found the perfect combination of tribal hospitality, chaos and military opportunity. [Photo slideshow.]
posted by lullaby (36 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
(I think the piece is much better than the title makes it seem.)
posted by lullaby at 4:01 PM on July 12, 2010

I hear Prague is the new Paris.
posted by GuyZero at 4:02 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

It is running out of oil and may soon be the first country in the world to run out of water.

I understand running out of oil, but running out of water? (and I understand it's in the desert)
posted by angrycat at 4:05 PM on July 12, 2010

The architecture looks amazing, too bad I'll never be able to view it in person.
posted by wcfields at 4:10 PM on July 12, 2010

The War Nerd Looks At Yemen

I've actually been expecting this for like 4 years now. There seems to be a big push in some military circles toward Yemen. It will, of course, be a disaster.

and Prague's prices are getting close to Paris.
posted by The Whelk at 4:13 PM on July 12, 2010

In areas of nations that are less than stable; in nations that are often tribal in large areas; in places where there seem to be a restless insurgency going on, what common thread does there seem to be?
posted by Postroad at 4:19 PM on July 12, 2010

Is Yemen the New Afghanistan?

Not if we don't invade it.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:21 PM on July 12, 2010

Not if we don't invade it.

I'm pretty sure we already have (cough southamerica cough) it's just if it's big and public and suitable for TV viewing. Anytime the NYT seems on board with something I get deeply suspicious.
posted by The Whelk at 4:24 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just started reading this and think it's great so far, but that is one weird mischaracterization of khat, which is a mild stimulant, not an opiate.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 4:36 PM on July 12, 2010

The late Fred Halliday was always informed and interesting on Yemen. He points out at the second link there that the two countries share a similar fractious recent history in large part because of their prior historical success at resisting outside intervention, which does fit with the narrative served up by the NYT (agree with The Whelk that sets the alarm bells ringing in itself) that Yemen is now an Al Qaeda haven. But then the burden of Halliday's oeuvre was really to highlight the diversity of the Arab nations and wider Middle East/Muslim world, so I'd hazard that Yemen is only the new Afghanistan when viewed through that narrow lens of the interests of a few agencies in Washington.
posted by Abiezer at 4:37 PM on July 12, 2010

Interesting, The Economist said that Russia thinks Kyrgyzstan is the new Afghanistan.
posted by spicynuts at 4:44 PM on July 12, 2010

Wow, that mosque in the slideshow is beautiful.
posted by reductiondesign at 4:46 PM on July 12, 2010

Is there oil there?
posted by BeerFilter at 4:46 PM on July 12, 2010

What a fascinating, well-written article. I think I learned more about Al-Qaida in this piece alone than I have in the past five years. Even the minor details are intriguing.
The two men have also followed bin Laden's example in building an ever-more-sophisticated propaganda arm for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including frequent video and audio tapes and an Internet magazine, Sada al-Malahim (The Echo of Battles), that appears every two months or so. The magazine makes for bizarre reading, by turns chilling and poignant. The first page of one recent issue showed a colorful 1950s-style stock image of a hand that was mixing fluid in a chemical beaker, alongside a hand grenade and the headline "Year of the Assassination." The authors are clearly familiar with the style of Western magazine journalism, and many articles are framed as regular features like View From the Inside and The Leader's Editorial. There are didactic items, with headlines like "Shariah Is the Solution" and "Practical Steps Toward the Liberation of Palestine." But some of the articles are almost whimsical ("A Mujahid's Thoughts"), and there are sharp satires ("The Saudi Media on Mars"). Much of the content has an earnest, proselytizing tone, a bit like the ads that Western corporations publish to trumpet their civic responsibility. One recent article, for example, was titled "Inside View: Why We're Fighting in the Arabian Peninsula."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:14 PM on July 12, 2010

I can not fully recall but wasn't OBL and Al; Qaeda located for a time in Yemen, being tapped by NSA, and then we somehow messed up and didn't do a follow up on what was perceived as a real threat?
posted by Postroad at 5:40 PM on July 12, 2010

setting aside the very important social issues, including the absolute horribleness of war and related civilian disasters that attended such issues, it seems that Yemen would be a much preferable battle ground for Western style war fighting than Afghanistan. Smaller size not as many extremes of varied terrain....

posted by edgeways at 5:42 PM on July 12, 2010

Pesto is the quiche of the '80s.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:55 PM on July 12, 2010

You can review the history of Britain's war in Aden for some insight into how that might go edgeways.
posted by Abiezer at 6:00 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I went looking for the temple of the Queen of Sheba, which is in Yemen. Then I followed the wadis, until I came to a fantastical city, with a brand spankin' new road down from Saudi. The city was over capitalized and by all stated standards, the very 14th Century society that OBL seems to yearn for. The last photo I had seen of OBL was in some deep wadi, and dang if it didn't look exactly like this territory. After that image, OBL sensed his number would be up if he didn't invest in some backdrops.

So I would say that Yemen is his residence. That road from Saudi is the money funnel, and there you have it. This place in the middle of nowhere, and I mean that, but with electricity, and the whole shining citadel looks just like it is in a tributary of the Grand Canyon. It looks like images from my antique family bible. If only we had built like the Yemenis out in the western canyons of the US.

This country is poor, poor, poor, and has received some very bad press regarding the rights of their women, and I have to say, that we should leave them alone. They are out of water, qat agriculture has dried them out. I had read recently that some industrial/ops types were wanting to build a bridge from the southern Yemeni coast to the African side of the equation. I have to say anytime some western schmuck sees a dollar, then women and children start to die. There must be major crap across the water from there that they want.

Even if OBL were there, he creates enough suffering just by his presence. The ad war has already set up, you hear nothing positive out of Yemen, only bad press. That is usually the precursor to the big take.
posted by Oyéah at 6:28 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite] then some more bad stuff out of yemen, that poor misunderstood country
posted by Postroad at 6:34 PM on July 12, 2010

Let me put it this way, Yemen is not our stuff. The American people that I know, are sick of our military and our government getting all over other peoples' stuff. I don't like sharing responsibility for the death and destruction war for resources causes. Yemen is a poor, nation, living in their own time, in their own way, and neither you or I have to understand them, or do anything for or about them. Yemen is Yemen's. The oil devil is in the Gulf of Mexico, the slavish service to the energy demon is now our addicted master plan. It is horrific what we have become accustomed to in terms of obeisance to the next money plan.

The money, the potential money is writing history, rewriting scientific research, is metaphorically burning down our daily lives in order to indulge in pleasant speculation of even more surfeit.

Yemen, is this the next place where we will incinerate the capital we need to have a peaceful and productive society?
posted by Oyéah at 6:43 PM on July 12, 2010

Close the roads in from the north. I bet that financing terrorism is sport for Saudi rich kids.
posted by Oyéah at 6:49 PM on July 12, 2010

How many Muslim countries can we invade? Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen...
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:16 PM on July 12, 2010

May I present the latest American invasion checklist:

1) Is it a mostly Muslim country? Yes.
2) Does it have a non-nuclear military? Yes.
3) Is the government weak and easy to control? Yes.
4) Has it been linked - accurately or not - to terrorism? Yes.
5) Is the alleged terrorism directed at America or its allies? Yes.
6) Is it not Saudi Arabia? Yes.

Congratulations! Your country qualifies for military intervention. You can look forward to "freedom and democracy" in the form of "death and destruction" until your government at least pretends to capitulate to our demands. Our interest in your democracy is so high, we never take no for an answer!

Should this invasion of your sovereign country lead to more sympathy for homegrown resistance to occupation, we must inform you that any Muslim in a Muslim country defending themselves is considered a terrorist. Please remember to remain peaceful while you watch your family and community slowly raped and murdered, or you may be accidentally killed as well. True patriots should remain calm during airstrikes and home raids. Remember, you can always fill out the appropriate forms your nearest Marine base to let us know what you think of the invasion.

Bush II

and of course,

The Apathetic American Public
posted by atypicalguy at 8:41 PM on July 12, 2010 [7 favorites]

Before the unification in 1990 I don't think there's been any serious attempt at imposing a single state on that area since what, the early Zaidi imams? Al-Mutawakkil Isma'il held territory about the extent of modern Yemen after conquering the Hadramut, but that was 1676, and no one was able to do it since. Even those powerful imams struggled mightily with tribal conflict and regionalism, and it seems like little has changed.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:46 PM on July 12, 2010

: I understand running out of oil, but running out of water?

posted by jackflaps at 8:52 PM on July 12, 2010

I was in Yemen a few years ago, as a tourist. The area Wadi Dawan (part of Wadi Hadramawt) in the slideshow is right in the middle of a desert, hundreds of miles from the sea. The funny thing is, apparently in the middle of Arabia, people look very South East Asian (as does the palace).

It turns out that in the days of the British Empire, a number of Yemenis from the Hadramawt made it big in Singapore as traders, and there was substantial population transfer in both directions. To this day, apparently, there are Indonesians who consider themselves Yemeni because that's where thir paternal line (and name) originate. IIRC, Yemeni ancestry confers quite a lot of status.

Not much to do with its failed-state-to-be status, but interesting nonetheless.
posted by claudius at 8:56 PM on July 12, 2010

Once again, wikipedia knows all.
posted by claudius at 9:03 PM on July 12, 2010

Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden (Osama's father) was from the Hadramawt area of Yemen.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:45 PM on July 12, 2010

Bush II

and of course,

The Apathetic American Public"

You forgot: William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon.

We've been in a pretty much constant state of war with some other country since the Spanish American War. Arabs have just recently become the object of our war machine.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:28 AM on July 13, 2010

here's a great 360 degree view of sana'a, tyler cowen's thoughts (also btw a college buddy is there now and a member of his group is blogging; he sez: "if it weren't for the terrorists, Yemen would be a tourist's paradise") and i found margaret warner's interview w/ president saleh pretty illuminating (+ her dispatches 1, 2, 3)...
posted by kliuless at 7:21 AM on July 13, 2010

You forgot: William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon.

I don't think you read the checklist.
posted by spicynuts at 8:34 AM on July 13, 2010

posted by adamvasco at 1:26 PM on July 13, 2010

I don't think you read the checklist.

I don't think you read the last two sentences of my reply.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:31 PM on July 13, 2010

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