Posts Tagged ‘Yemen’

As I read internet news today, I have to wonder about the spreading protests in the Arab world. Muslim against Muslim, it seems… the people against their governments in country after country. The headlines and the shouted messages seem to say, the people want freedom. Freedom from corrupt governments, freedom from economic woes, freedom from oppressive rules and regulations.

So far we’ve heard about Algeria. Tunisia. Egypt. Jordan. Lebanon. Yemen. Djibouti – yes, that tiny little country too. Worries from Saudi Arabia and Syria. Maybe Kuwait.

I did a bit of research into the differences between two major Muslim groups today. Here’s an abbreviated synopsis.

“Sunnis elect, Shias appoint”

Sunni Muslims make up the majority (85%) of Muslims all over the world. They elect their leaders.

Sunni = “one who follows the traditions of the Prophet.” Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet’s companions, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. They believe leadership is not a birthright, but a trust that is earned and which may be given or taken away by the people themselves. No basis for veneration of leaders.

Shias (or Shi’ites) constitute only 10-15% of overall Muslim population worldwide. Their leaders are appointed by Allah or his representatives.

Shia = “a group or supportive party of people.” The commonly-known term is shortened from the historical “Shia-t-Ali,” or “the Party of Ali.” They are also known as followers of “Ahl-al-Bayt” or “People of the Household” (of the Prophet). They believe that following the Prophet Muhammad’s death, leadership should have passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law, Ali. They do not recognize authority of elected Muslim leaders, believe leadership should have stayed within the Prophet’s own family, among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself.

Shias follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad or God (Allah) Himself. Shias believe the Imam – such as Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran – is sinless by nature, and that his authority is infallible as it comes directly from God. They do venerate their leaders.

So, with the above in mind, let’s look at the Arab world and those countries which are in turmoil right now. (Percentages obtained from Wikipedia, may not be totally accurate.)

Although Sunni Muslims constitute 85% of all Muslims, Shias form a majority of the population in Iran, Yemen (? – see * below) and Azerbaijan, Bahrain and 60% of the population of Iraq. There are also sizable Shia communities along the east coast of Saudi Arabia and in Lebanon.

Iran – majority (89%) Shia. Ayatollah Khamenei (Iranian Supreme Leader) is a fundamentalist Shia. He supports the policies of Iran’s President Ahmadinajab, who says that the “12th Imam” is causing all the uprisings in the Arab world now so that Islam can take over the world. See Joel Rosenberg’s blog 18 Feb 2011: Ahmadinejad claims 12th Imam behind current events.

Note that Hezbollah is a Shi’ite terrorist group funded and supported by Iran and Syria. This well-known guerilla organization forced the Israelis out of southern Lebanon in 2000 and is still causing problems for Israel. Hezbollah recently caused the government of Lebanon to fall.

Does Iran have a hand in instigating the various Arab world riots, working behind the scenes and perhaps using Hezbollah to do it?

Bahrain – majority of the population is Shia but the King is Sunni. Extreme violence today as police opened fire on protesters, then blocked ambulances from reaching wounded.

Libya – majority Sunni but in 2007 Gaddafi said he wants all of N. Africa to be Shi’ite (in an overture to Iran) – a statement that was considered idiotic by many people in his own country. Protests in Libya turned violent today with a number of people killed and many wounded as the government cracks down on protesters.

* Yemen – 52% Sunni, 46% Shia. President is Shia. Prime Minister (appointed by President) is Sunni. Both are men of very bad reputation, associated with Saddam Hussein, terrorists.

Dijbouti – 90% of population Muslim, nearly all Sunni. President is Sunni. Has just started having protests in the streets today.

All of these protests are for better economic conditions, with food and fuel prices high and unemployment also high. Large populations of young people cannot find work after finishing their education. It doesn’t appear to matter whether the government is by a dictator, elected President, military generals or a monarch, they want the government pulled down. To be replaced by who? How, and how soon?

It looks to me like a set-up for a charismatic leader to emerge. It’s going to be an interesting year.

To follow events in these and other middle eastern countries, read “Arab Awakening” in The Star online.

While Tunisia struggles to keep its fragile interim government functioning, similar pro-democracy protests seem to be “going viral” across the region…

Tunisian wind sweeps through Arab regimes as protests erupt in Yemen online 23 Jan 2011
Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Tunisian-style protests erupted in Yemen over the weekend with thousands demanding the downfall of its autocratic president who has joined leaders from Algeria to Jordan in the crosshairs of a regional revolt.

Pressure for regime change in the stagnant Arab dictatorships has shifted across the Middle East and North Africa since Tunisia’s Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali fled in the face of demonstrations in Tunis on January 14.

Yemen police on Sunday arrested Tawakel Karman, a female Islamic activist, who had organised the 2,500-strong demonstration in the grounds of the University of Sanaa. A heavy police presence and an active role by the secret police thwarted attempts to move the demonstration to the streets of the capital.


Protests erupt in Algeria, Jordan and Yemen online
23 January 2011

CAIRO: Clashes broke out in Algeria as opposition groups defied a government decision on Friday. Police cracked down on a pro-democracy demonstration in the Algerian capital on Saturday leaving several people injured, the leader of an opposition party that organized the rally told AFP.

“There are several injured… and numerous arrests,” Said Sadi, the head of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), said. Among those arrested was the head of the party’s parliamentary group, Othmane Amazouz.

The government had warned people not to show support for the demonstration in a statement issued on the eve of the march, amid fears of popular unrest spreading from neighboring Tunisia….

On Friday, More than 5,000 people rallied in Amman and other cities in Jordan…

“(Prime Minister Samir) Rifai, out, out! People of Jordan will not bow,” protesters chanted as they marched from the Al-Hussein mosque in central Amman to the nearby municipality building. “Our demands are legitimate. We want bread and freedom.”

Police handed out bottles of water and juice to the demonstrators, who carried banners reading, “We demand social justice and freedom,” “No to oppression, yes to change” and, “We need a national salvation government.”

About 1,400 people demonstrated in other parts of Jordan, mainly the northern cities of Zarqa and Irbid….

On the same day, thousands protested in southern Yemen to reject political reforms proposed by the government, including a limit on presidential terms, saying they did not go far enough.

The government announced its reform plans in the face of growing discontent that sparked sporadic protests this week…

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has ruled Yemen for over three decades. Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, is facing soaring unemployment and the oil reserves that buoy its economy are dwindling. Almost half of its population of 23 million lives on $2 a day or less…

The pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported that an unemployed Yemeni youth set himself on fire in the southern province of Baidah on Wednesday, following the example of the young vegetable seller whose self-immolation inspired revolt in Tunisia and copycat acts in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania.

These are serious threats, but I wonder if they aren’t elaborate smoke-screens hiding more sinister threats coming into the US another way. Two articles about the “package” bombs:

More bomb-parcels sought in probe of Al Qaeda air cargo plot
DEBKAfile Special Report October 30, 2010

As the multiple investigation got underway, British Home Secretary Theresa May and Dubai police speculated Saturday that the two rigged parcels could have exploded on aircraft before they reached their Chicago addresses.

A broadening multinational investigation seeks to probe the scale of the al Qaeda air freight plot causing mayhem in the international cargo freight system on the assumption that the threat is still viable. Yemen, to which two explosive parcels bound for Chicago synagogues were traced, itself seized more than 30 suspect parcels before they were loaded on outward flights.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Saturday, Oct. 30, that a woman suspected of sending the explosive parcels had been arrested in Sanaa on the basis of US and intelligence.

Debkafile’s counter-terror sources say Yemeni claims of success should be taken with a pinch of salt. Saleh is eager to show results in his probe as he is under pressure from Washington to show fast results and he has high hopes for financial rewards. Above all, his army is fighting a losing war against Al Qaeda’s inroads in Yemen and therefore unlikely to be able to contest the terrorist infrastructure which set up the package plot.

Were it not for a tipoff from Saudi intelligence identifying the UPS and Fedex bomb parcels directed from Yemen to Chicago on separate cargo planes, they would not have been discovered before they blew up. Even so, debkafile’s counter-terror sources report, al Qaeda chalked up a coup by successfully penetrating and paralyzing the main intercontinental air mail systems.

The packages taken off planes at the British East Midlands airport and Dubai Friday, Oct. 29, and rendered harmless were affixed to separate detonators- a cell phone SIM card SIM card and a trigger.

President Barack Obama reported a credible terror threat to the United States Friday night and pointed to Al Qaeda in Yemen (AQAP). He said two Chicago synagogues were targeted, but did not specify to which of the 140 Jewish places of worship in the Chicago area the packages were addressed. The city is the president’s political base. His outgoing chief of staff mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel and his wife attend Anshe Shalom.

The United States, European and Middle East airports went on high terror alert after Washington was informed of a bomb threat to the US by means of air cargoes Thursday night. All the same, local airport security authorities in the US, Britain, Germany, France and Dubai were not aware of the threat and let the packages go through to their destinations. Suspicion was first aroused at the East Midlands airport by a photocopier ink cartridge with wires and white powder. Our sources report it contained PETN (pentaerythritol trinitrate) explosive material disguised by a chemical coating.

This was the same substance used by the “Underpants” bomber Farouk Abdulmuttalab when he failed to blow up a Delta passenger flight last Christmas and “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid nine years ago. After that, cargo planes with freights originating in Yemen were kept back on arrival at Philadelphia and Newark, NJ international airports for thorough screening.

Intensified security measures at all US airports for passengers as well as freight and the public advised to be extra vigilant. Friday, as confusion mounted over the nature of “attack”, dozens of alarms were phoned in during the day from different parts of America. They included sightings of two UPS pick-trucks in Queens and Brooklyn, an unaccompanied bag on a street bench which caused part of San Francisco’s financial district to be temporarily evacuated and a knapsack outside a courthouse in Portland, Maine.

Linda Haase, the associate vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, said Friday that synagogues in the area had been on alert since being informed of a potential threat. She referred to threats to synagogues and the White House and mentioned “black powder.” The reference to the White House as later dropped from the report.

Obama’s statement stressed that the terror threat was still in force and US security and intelligence services were on guard to protect US citizens, friends and allies. The Transport Security Agency was ordered to intensify security checks at all American airports.

Saturday, the US media disclosed that Saudi intelligence had been the source of the tipoff to Washington about dangerous air freight on its way to the United States providing the consignment numbers of the bomb packages.

In the UK, following discovery of the rigged ink cartridge, a new counter-terror center was established with labs for testing suspect articles. Prime Minister David Cameron called the COBRA committee into session to look at the lapses of the British air security system. The suspect package was noted and cleared at East Midlands and sent on its way. It is chaired by the Home Secretary Theresa May as Cameron has a date with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They too are no doubt discussing the ramifications of al Qaeda’s air cargo plot

Even after the ink-bomb raised suspicion at East Midlands, major questions remain to be answered:

1. Without the Saudi tipoff, the bomb-parcels would have remained undetected and reached their targets. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has succeeded in breaching the intercontinental air freight system, one of the wheels which makes Western economies go round and can claim a tactical success.

2. Although PETN had been used by failed al Qaeda’s bombers on international flights in the past, several airport security agencies at ports on the routes of the cargo flights failed to detect the presence of this explosive substance.

3. While only two packages have been identified as dangerous, there may be more still be found in meticulous sweeps of many tons of freight – or even delivered. Their presence refutes the first theory widely held by terror experts that the plot was a dry run to probe for weak points in the intercontinental air freight system.

4. The imposition of heightened security for air cargo comparable to that applied to passenger traffic would throw the mail industry into chaos, causing extreme financial losses and disrupting an important branch of the Western economy. That too would be accounted by al Qaeda a major success – at very little cost to itself.


Yemen accuses woman of sending mail bombs
Device could have downed plane, U.K. minister says

Saturday, October 30, 2010
CBC News (Canada)

A woman has been arrested in the Yemeni capital on suspicion that she was involved in sending two explosive devices found on cargo planes bound for the United States, the president of Yemen said Saturday.

Security officials went to a house in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, to arrest the woman a day after the plan was thwarted on Friday, President Ali Abdullah Saleh said.

He told reporters the United States and the United Arab Emirates provided him with information that identified the woman as a suspect.

Yemeni security officials said the woman was detained as authorities search for a number of suspects believed to have used forged documents and ID cards that played a role in the plot.

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
November 23, 2009, 10:58 PM (GMT+02:00)
Image: USS Chosin off Yemen faces Iranian flotilla

The Yemeni conflict is fast evolving from a Houthi insurgency against the Abdullah Salah regime in Sanaa to a broad regional conflagration drawing in Saudi Arabia and Egypt as major players and increasingly the United States, whose involvement is building up into a direct confrontation with the rebels’ sponsor, Iran.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that over the weekend, the Aegis class cruiser USS Chosin was designated the flagship of Combined Task Force 151 which is patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.

Responding to this signal, Iran’s navy commander Adm. Habibollah Sayyari announced Monday, Nov. 23, that Ghadir-class submarines would be joining the four Iranian warships already in position opposite the Yemeni coast. He did not say how many subs were to be deployed.

Aljazeera 11 Nov 09

yemensoldiersIran has said that it is ready to help restore security in Yemen, which is currently engaged in a deadly conflict with an armed Houthi opposition group.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Hossein Shobakshi, a columnist with the Arabic Asharq Alawsat newspaper, was critical of Iran’s offer to help.

“It is a very odd situation that Iran threatens anybody that interferes in Yemeni affairs. This is an internal issue between the Yemenis. Saudi Arabia is protecting its borders. What business does Iran have stating what it has stated?”

“But it falls in sync with what Iran has been doing, interfering in other countries’ affairs – we have seen it in Jordan, Sudan, Palestine, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iraq – creating pockets of influence and trying to control its puppets in every part of the Arab world.”