Potential Hot Spots: April 5, 2005


The ancient division of Yemen, into a Shia and tribal north, and Sunni and urban south persists in creating friction. Fighting continues in the north, with another three soldiers and ten tribesmen killed in the last few days. The tribesmen under attack are Islamic conservatives, who believe Yemen should be more active is the war against Israel and infidels (non-Moslems) in general. Further complicating the situation is the Yemeni president, who wants to start a dynasty. The 63 year old Yemeni president 'Ali' Abdallah Salih, is a former brigadier general, and has been in power since 1978. He got there through a series of coups, the presidency of  the Yemeni Arab Republic (Northern Yemen ), and a united Yemen. In 1990 he presided over the unification of the tribalist north and the formerly Marxist South. There was some civil war action involved. Since then, popular "elections" (in the last he got 96.3 percent of the vote), have kept him in office. He's now trying to insure that his son succeeds him. Salih has some solid accomplishments, including settlement of the civil war, while adhering to a moderate religious line, promoting economic stability, and settling a border dispute with Saudi Arabia on favorable terms. But his government is rather authoritarian. Unfortunately, there's no real alternative, as the principal opposition movement, stemming from his native northern part of the country, favors a more traditional, tribalist society, while the minority opposition is Islamist. Another problem is that the northern tribes can muster a total of some 200,000 armed men, while the army only has 50,000 troops. The tribes have few heavy weapons, and are divided by dozens of clans and ancient feuds. The battles will go on, with neither side having much chance of winning.


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