Yemen: Ripple Effects from Tunisia. On Saturday, thousands of Yemenis demonstrated to demand an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year tenure as President. The demonstration was confined to the University of Sanaa grounds, but nearly 2,500 students, activists and opposition groups gathered and chanted slogans against the president, comparing him to Tunisia’s ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Protests were also held in Aden. Police fired on demonstrators, injuring four, and detained 22 others in heavy clashes.
An Islamist lawmaker and head of the teachers’ union stated, “there will be an escalation.”
Also on Saturday, President Saleh replaced Trade and Industrial Minister Yahya al-Mutawakil with Deputy Minister of Planning and International Ministry Hisham Sharaf Abdullah after protesters demanded the government curb increasing commodity and fuel prices. Demonstrations continued for seven days prior to the cabinet shift, which will not satisfy the demonstrators.
On 23 January, President Saleh announced that Yemeni security forces will receive a pay raise of 5,000 rials ($25) per month and will receive health insurance. During a speech at an annual armed forces conference, Saleh said that the qualitative construction process has been on an advanced level during the past few years and that security forces are targeted by terrorist elements, especially al Qaida. Saleh told the security forces that they should be protected and that personnel should be provided with modern equipment. The military institution is not aspiring for illegal ambitions through chaos, Saleh said, adding that Yemen should deliberate power peacefully and not by chaos like Tunisia.
Comment: Unlike Tunisia, Yemen has a vicious, active Islamic opposition force that has the capability to take power from Saleh and his security forces in the form of al Qaida. A pro-Islamist government in largely illiterate and backward Yemen would be a major setback for US policy. The US might have to fight in Yemen to protect Afghanistan and friendly entities in eastern Africa.
As in Tunisia, the main threat to the government is a fracture in the ruling elite that leads to another palace coup by a faction that is pro-al Qaida. That threat explains the pay raise for the security forces, to prevent their defection as occurred in Tunisia.
Phi Beta Iota: This is but the tip of the iceberg. The food crisis is caused by corruption–the scarcity is contrived. Along with the food crisis is an emergent water crisis that will make Haiti look like a sideshow, spawning disease as well as instability. And then there is the spread of the Internet. Everything the US Government is doing overseas–without exception–is making matters WORSE, not better. Absent integrity, it is not possible to be right with God or with the public one ostensibly serves.