Potential Hot Spots: December 4, 2004


In northeastern Yemen, tribal warfare left at least 29 dead and 20 wounded after three days of violence. An old tribal feud was renewed when men from the Al-Saida and Al-Maraziq tribes clashed at a police checkpoint. There are believed to be 50 million guns in this country of 20 million people, and tribal feuds go on for generations. The tribes along the Saudi Arabian border have been largely independent of the central government for as long as anyone can remember. Osama bin Laden's family comes from this area, and bin Laden is something of a local hero. Speaking of local heroes, the daughter of Saddam Hussein's half brother is seeking political asylum in Yemen. There are currently 30,000 Iraqis living in Yemen. Some of these Iraqis are believed to be involved in supporting the Sunni Arab rebellion in Iraq. The Yemeni government has cracked down on al Qaeda and terrorist activities, but the tribal areas cannot be investigated without launching major military operations. This has been done several times in the last few years, and has resulted in over a hundred deaths. Yemen bought about $100 million worth of weapons from Russia, its main supplier, this year, in order to maintain an edge over the heavily armed tribesmen. The United States has provided Yemen with  $100 million in aid to help fight terrorism. However, Yemeni culture and politics can be very tolerant of things like international terrorism. Keeping the peace inside Yemen is, obviously, more important to Yemenis than is tracking down every Yemeni who is involved in terrorism outside the country. The current Yemeni government wants to move the country out of its chaotic past. But this isn't easy. Yemen has known much civil war and internal disorder over the past half century. The heavily armed tribes, and wheeler dealers in the coastal cities continue to keep the country on the verge of another major blowup.


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