[dehai-news] (Orato) The State Department Military Attache's Opinion On Yemen

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From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (eritrea.lave@comhem.se)
Date: Tue Feb 03 2009 - 04:44:05 EST

The State Department Military Attache's Opinion On Yemen
By Citizen Correspondent Ryan Fletcher

Date Posted: 02/01/09
My conversation with the State Department military attache to Yemen
during the Sadah conflict in 2007, after a party at his compound in the
country's capital Sana'a.
"They will be stopped", Bill told me with absolute certainty, "These
ideologies cannot be left to fester; otherwise we have the same problems
we had in Afghanistan". We're sitting in a mansion on the outskirts of
Sana'a, the capital city of Yemen, and in the red hills above us there's
a gunfight going on. Bill works for the state department as a military
attaché to the Yemeni government, and has spent a long time working in
Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. We go up to the roof with a beer and try
to figure out where the fighting is taking place. I ask what caused the
shootings, and he replies in a gentle mid west accent, "Tribal disputes
man, hell somebody probably stole somebody else's goat, these guys don't
need much reason to fight".
The Heart Of The Conflict
Bill is in Yemen to help defeat the Shia tribesman of Sa'dah who are at
war with the democratic government. The term democratic is used very
loosely because most of the country is made up of heavily armed
fiefdoms, and the legislation is based on Islamic law. The northern
province of Sa'dah has always been a contentious place in Yemen, and the
tribesman of it hills, loyal to an extreme Shia sect called the
Al-Houthi, have at best only tolerated the government’s presence in the
area, and have often come into conflict with it. When I spoke to Bill
and other people involved with military operations in Sana'a, I began to
get the feeling of being under siege, and for good reason; there are
real problems in Yemen. The government is constantly on a precipice, and
is not in control of large swathes of the country.
Three weeks earlier I'd tried to get into Sa'dah city to report on the
conflict, because for a long time it had been completely off limits to
the media and international aid agencies. I was arrested as I traveled
west from the coast into the region along the Saudi border. The northern
coast of Yemen already looks like the end of the world; mud huts,
burning winds, dust storms, and refugee camps all populate the harsh
desert landscape.
A Yemen Worth Fighting For
Fortunately I arrived back in Sana'a safely after three days of fraught
traveling. I didn't get to report on the conditions in Sa'dah, which are
horrific for the local populace, but I did notice the instability and
confusion between government troops and tribal fighters in the area. "I
told you", Bill said when he heard, "its complete chaos here". A marine
that was with us agreed, "This country is just a worthless pile of
dust". I found this difficult to agree with after having lived in the
old city of Sana'a, one of the most distinct places on earth, among the
hospitality and kindness of the Yemeni people. Yemen is an unusual
place; though parts are lawless and inhospitable it is also renowned for
its culture and ancient architecture.
When I pointed out that inter-tribal warfare, government corruption,
religious extremism and poverty, all major factors in the Sadah
conflict, would continue regardless of foreign advice and funding, that
Yemen was “just a worthless pile of dust” that would do as it pleased,
Bill agreed. So why is the US involved in training and arming the Yemeni
military if it isn't going to produce stability, national unity, or real
democracy? "Ideologies", replies Bill in a focused tone, "the Iranian's
are supporting the Houthi and we're supporting a democratic government."
 Old city of Sana'a, in Sana'a - Yemen.


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