Friday, 8 October 2010

Once the home of the Queen of Sheba, Yemen is now one of the Arab world’s most inhospitable countries

Source: First Post
Yemen is one of the most impoverished, lawless and inaccessible countries in the Arab world. This week's RPG attack on the British deputy head of mission and four embassy staff comes only months after a failed suicide attack on UK Ambassador Tim Torlot and has confirmed the picturesque capital Sanaa as the most dangerous in the world for British diplomats abroad.

The attacks have highlighted the fact that the country of 24 million people, once the reputed home of the Queen of Sheba, is now the base of the recently formed al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), a 300-strong merger between Al-Qaeda cells in Yemen and across the border in the world's largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia.

With its camps in the remote mountain areas of the country ominously reminiscent of those on the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan (with which Yemen also shares governmental corruption on a staggering scale), the group was much emboldened by the failed attempt at Christmas by a Yemen-trained suicide bomber to blow up a Detroit-bound US airliner and murder nearly 300 passengers.

Days before this week's attack against the British (above), security around western embassies in Sanaa was increased by the Yemeni authorities following the receipt of information about a new attack being planned by al-Qaeda.

Western embassy staff have good reason to take seriously the AQAP call "to every Muslim who cares about his religion and doctrine to assist in expelling the apostates from the Arabian Peninsula by killing every crusader who works at their embassies".

Britain is in the front line of those under threat because of its leading role in the international campaign to stop the Arab world's poorest country collapsing into a hopelessly failed state by boosting development and economic reform.

With diminishing oil reserves likely to run out in seven years, similarly diminishing water resources and an abundance of guns (reportedly enough for each citizen to have three), the ageing President Ali Abdullah Salah has been unable to pay off tribesman in remote desert and mountainous areas, which has inevitable driven them in what was the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden into the arms of al-Qaeda.

The rise and rise of al-Qaeda in a country where in 2000, the US Navy destroyer Cole was attacked near the port of Aden with the loss of 17 US lives, has been assisted by new leaders released from the US prison at Guantanamo and the influx of 200,000 refugees from Somalia, where al-Qaeda has been active on the recruiting front.

"The Somalia problem is merging with the Yemen issue," explained Magnus Ranstorp, of the Swedish National Defence College.

The US has already earmarked $50m (£95m) in military assistance to help with training, equipment and intelligence, and there is pressure to boost this figure much higher.

But the Americans have been warned by regional experts that any direct US intervention will inflame the inherent anti-Americanism among many Yemenis.

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