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23 April 2016


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Abu Sinan

The fact that the war is not a Sunni/Shi'a issue is one of the few statements that the article says that I can agree with. Having interacted with Martin here before on Yemen I am familiar with his point of view which is a rather common when one amongst supporters of the south.

There have been more than 6,000 civilian deaths in Yemen, Martin's claim that they were mostly combatants is false. In a reported dated Sept 2015, the UNHRC reported thousands of deaths, the majority civilian, the majority by coalition airstrikes.


There has been a wholesale destruction of infrastructure despite what Martin claims.

"Five months of war in Yemen has wrought destruction similar to that seen in Syria after five years, said the head of the International Red Cross on Wednesday." Peter Maurer-Head of International Red Cross.


The idea that there is no real siege and no food shortage in Yemen is just devoid of the facts. If not for the great work of UN relief groups and other NGOs tens of thousands of Yemenis would have died from the shortage Martin claims doesn't exist.

The British government says that over 21 million Yemenis need food assistance, over 80% of Yemen. The UN, in July of 2015, declared Yemen to be in a level three emergency, making it in the top four humanitarian disasters in the world. 7.6 million are facing a severe food crisis. The same report shows that Yemen is facing a severe fuel crisis as well, despite what Martin claims.


AP reports that 900 children have been killed, 1,300 wounded and over 3,000 civilians killed with coalition airstrikes responsible for 61% of the deaths. Coalition airstrikes killed twice as many people as all other actors combined.

The article notes 2.3 million internally displaced persons with destruction of power grids, schools, hospitals, roads, storehouses, farms and water pump stations. The report also makes it clear that the blockade, under the auspices of a UN resolution that placed an embargo on a hand full of people, had caused major issues when it comes to resupplying the country with food and medical supplies.


It just makes no sense at all to claim that a country that imported the vast majority of food before the war would not be majorly impacted by a war raging across the entire country along with a naval blockade.

Why would the Saudis do this? Several reasons here. Saudi society generally looks down on anyone who isn't Saudi, even within Saudi society Najdis look down on Hijazis, ect. Saudis of Yemen background are seen as second class citizens. But I think the truth of the matter is, Saudi hopes to spin the situation to make the Houthis and Saleh responsible.

Martin's refrain is unusual for those from Yemen, especially the south, because he denies these things are happening. Most southerners who hate Saleh and the Houthis will actually admit that everything that Martin claims is not happening, really is. The difference is they'll rage about the complete destruction of Yemen, the starvation of its children, but blame it on the Houthis and Saleh. That is the answer to Martin's question. They do it because they think they can get away with it and blame it on the Houthis and Saleh. The tactic has been working well.

Saleh did work with AQAP to a certain extent before the war. He used their threat to gain billions of dollars from the US and other sources. AQAP, like all terrorists organisations, has those around them who are there for the money and prestige. Saleh also used them as a foil when he could against the Houthis.

This was a relationship of convenience. The situation has changed dramatically. Saleh is now working hand in hand with the Houthis who have a long history of effectively fighting AQAP. There is no longer billions to be made from using their threat. The idea that Saleh is still manipulating AQAP to his own personal end makes no sense and would be counter productive at this point. It has come to be a point of mirth amoungst Yemeni analysts where the tactic of blaming Saleh for any AQAP attacks, or those done by Da3sh and other Salafists, are done by Saleh men with beards, ie the infamous "Saleh beards".

The last few days has seen UAE working with local tribes to move AQAP out of some locations. Al Mukulla being one of them. There were large aerial attacks on the town and the area around it, but very little reports of real casualties. One news outlet with a history of being pro KSA talked of 800 AQAP fighters killed in a day or two. That type of PR would make the Cold War dictator proud. I have talked with people who are in Mukulla now and they are reporting hundreds of AQAP leaving the area with their arms, openly in no real haste.

The truth of the matter is the actions against AQAP of the last few days were already part of an agreement that AQAP would vacate certain areas. No one can honestly think that an area so well built up, armed and fortified would have fallen so easily to attacks consisting of mainly airstrikes.

The whole move by UAE against AQAP is interesting in its timing coming on the heels of the visit by Obama and growing tensions in the coalition between UAE and KSA as this move shows, after VP Bahah was sacked in favour of Ali Muhsin al Ahmar with his close ties to KSA, Salafis and ties to al Islah, the main Islamist party in Yemen, although Muhsin's ties to the Islahis atr not what they used to be. UAE was very upset at the move. Not all of the coalition partners have the same aims or history in Yemen and there have been long standing rivalries as the Muhsin appointment demonstrates. Keep in mind the Houthis and Hirak dislike Muhsin, and getting back to Saleh links to AQAP, Muhsin was one of the main men involved in that connection.

The Iranian tie to Yemen is one usually only pushed by those supporting the attack on Yemen. The fact is, the Iranians have done very little in Yemen, whilst sitting back and enjoying the PR score racked up from those giving them credit for nothing. There have been no credible evidence of Iranian arms going to Yemen in any real amount. Who, when critically thinking, thinks the Iranians would take the time and effort to send a boatload of AK-47s and other similar weapons to a country awash in these weapons. You can find AK-47s a dime a dozen in the street. It would only make sense to send things of high value and that are are needed, not things that there are a glut of in Yemen already. If they found a boatload of MANPADS with questionable provenance one could wonder, but a boatload of AKs? Not likely.

In short, Martin's diatribe is only unusual in that it denies what other anti-Houthi/Saleh types readily admit, but blame on the Houthis. As I have shown, there is more than enough credible evidence out there from news sources, NGOs, the UN and other places to discredit his white washing of the Saudis.

I have been lobbying Congress the last couple of weeks on the issue and most of them are aware of the circumstances even if they do not want to stand up against Saudi money. The exception being those like Senators Murphy and Paul who have introduced legislation on placing curbs on US supply of weapons to KSA and it seems Representative Lieu is working on it in the House.

The UN is well aware of it. Holland put forward a move to have an independent investigation on KSA and other groups in Yemen for war crimes. It had a lot of support until some last minute moves by the Saudis had them remove it where it was then replaced with a call to have the Yemen government, read Hadi, investigate himself and his coalition. I had a friend there who was assured of support for the original document only to have it pulled the next day.

I will likely be at the UN in Geneva in June at the UNHRC speaking and then working on a panel discussion at the session. Myself and others will continue to advocate for Yemen and to hold KSA responsible for clear war crimes.

I would have written more and gotten more in depth with Martin's post, but I am just operating on an iPhone at the moment.

Abu Sinan

Thank you FB Ali. I showed this to a Hirak supporter I know and he couldn't believe. He is one of those types who jokes about the "cave dwellers" in the north of Yemen.


I conducted independent research on malnutrition among school-age children (large anthropometric survey)in Yemen. This was in 2011. Of course, I referred to data from the past and continue to follow events. Yemen was the worst performer in the MENA region. Some areas like Saada were particularly bad. The humanitarian situation in the rest of the country was not at all at emergency levels.

However, a war-induced humanitarian disaster, that you dismiss, is proven by my colleagues who continue to work there. You can fudge a lot of things (real AQAP or pseudo AQAP), you cannot fudge data on child wasting and stunting. Recent data shows that all child nutrition indices have significantly worsened and crossed emergency levels.


"And for just a little bit of diplomatic effort, some military training, some statements in Tehran and a few million dollars. What a smart move!"

To this nitwit, the more basic support he suggests or relations Martin suggests, wouldn't be surprising or necessarily ill-intended only. Wrong?

But this statement reminded me of events around the second generation of our Red Army Fraction. Who at one point were allowed to leave to Yemen. I am aware of much more training grounds, but never seriously looked into matters, only am aware that Southern Yemen was supposed to be such a place too.

I would be more interested, from an admittedly highly limited knowledge base concerning the region, how we can get from some type of media training to military training.

And strictly, Babak, on first sight, I could have easily been distracted by what feels like a rather emotional response by you.



"to convenience you"

Persuade, convince?

the larger choice makes me wonder, admittedly, as does more generally your more emotional responses beyond your two central theories.

No doubt we are all human, but both don't seem to fit into what I experience as your more frequent present seemingly rational side.


I can't thank you enough for this response. Martin J's analysis has so many holes it's like swiss cheese. Glad to see someone fill some of them in especially about the blockade and civilian casualties.

"There are not hundreds of civilians dying from airstrikes" <-- I wasn't sure if this was a joke... I don't think I could come up with a more patently false statement

FB Ali

Thank you for your knowledgeable comment exposing the propaganda posted by Martin. His was a pretty poor effort, full of such outlandish claims and exaggeration that even those with a little knowledge of the situation in Yemen could see through it. Still, it is nice to have someone with firsthand knowledge confirm one's opinion.

The Saudi PR offensive is obviously very powerful if it could even 'invade' a site such as this.

Abu Sinan

Thanks Peter. As I pointed out before, Martin's response was way out in left field even for highly partisan Yemeni fanatics. If you or anyone else is interested I have a 9 page document, fully referenced, going through the history since 2011 to the current situation. It is one of the documents we have been providing the members of Congress we have been meeting. It was developed by one of my friends who has been doing a lot of work with the UN in Geneva. It is much too big or I would have put it here as it covers and refutes almost everything Martin talked about about and some. I also have copies of complaints that weere submitted to the UNHRC concerning issues such as use of mercenaries in Yemen, deliberate destruction of cultural/heritage sites, war crimes, blockades and the like. My e-mail address is marc.springer71@gmail.com Thanks.


FB Ali

I am sometimes accused of not allowing posts I disagree with. In this case I allowed one I disagreed with. What policy do you think I should follow? pl


FB Ali

I'm not writing here to confirm anyone's opinion. I know I am being provocative but perhaps that is one way of generating a debate. Few people or news outlets discuss Yemen at all.

You are making an ad hominem attack on me as the author of something you disagree with rather than refuting my points.



I have spent the past year trying to understand exactly what the Saudis have been doing. The news simply polarises debate into pro-Saudi propaganda and pro-Saleh/Huthi propaganda.

For example, there is a siege by Saleh/Huthis on Taiz yet the Gulf make only lip service to relieving that siege. Why? There is a blockade yet fuel and food continues to be available. How? The Huthis could invade Saudi and cause the collapse of the country. Why don't they??

The answers are not because the Saudis are generous but because they are being guided in this war by the US. No one mentions this. The only debate becomes a human rights one about the US selling weapons to the Saudis. I'm arguing for a deeper examination of that relationship.

The answers intrigue me because - IMO - every party on all sides of this conflict is engaged in positioning themselves in a negotiation stance with the Saudis.

Babak Makkinejad

You are not paying attention.

Your answer to the question: "What is Justice?" is very different than mine.

While there are some overlaps, our notions of Justice are incommensurable.

The devolution of global power is also encouraging the reassertion of local and particular notions of Justice among a fractured human global population.

Once we admit that we are facing multiple incommensurable ideas about Justice, then we can proceed to develop and harness the tools of diplomacy - such as flattery and pleasant sweet nothings to get something done in spite of mutual loathing and distrust.


Abu Sinan

you may be surprised to learn that there is nothing in what you say I disagree with. Including Iran, including weapons, including the rivalry between UAE and Saudi, including Ali Muhsin etc.

The only point I would include is that the Huthis (as all Yemenis must do) take some of the blame. I am not anti-Huthi at all, I am just pointing out that they took a decision to switch from insurgent movement that had fought 6 wars against Saleh to taking a decision to ally with him.

The people of Sa'adah are among the most food insecure and malnourished in all of Yemen. They are now bombing and shelling people on behalf of their former foe. such is the way of things in Yemen. But they can't act victim when they are playing this game.

This sense of victimhood and being pawns of global conspiracy run deep in Yemeni psychology. Part of my 'diatribe' is about taking the debate beyond that simplistic level.

And yes, the Saudis are bombing and killing civilians. Yes its vile. Well so is what AQ are doing. So is what the southerners are now doing to each other. So is what the rest of society is busy doing, tearing itself apart and destroying the old order. Its painful for me to look at.

Abu Sinan


Thank you for allowing Martin's post. Of course I don't agree with it, but I also like the fact that different viewpoints can be provided, read and discussed. I feel it is the "zero sum" aspect of politics in many countries that play a large part in the conflicts that happen. Thanks again for the post.


I may not agree with your post in full but there are aspects of it which i can agree to. I commend you for this post which is outside the comfort zone of so many here and thank Col for allowing a different perspective.

A little disappointed to see ad hominem attacks. I mean, people here including honorable Birg Ali write hagiography of Putin and by line all that comes out from his propaganda channels all the time and no one attacks them as part of a PR offensive.

FB Ali

Col Lang,

I can see you are in a difficult position: either way, you could be open to criticism.

I think you should follow your best judgement. Your blog is such a valuable resource that such quibbles should not distract you from running it the way you are.

Abu Sinan

To effictivelt relieve the fighting and seigs in Taiz would require more boots on the ground than the coalition has. I believe they intended to, but it proved more costly than they thought in terms of their own men. Hundreds died, often 80+ in single attacks. There is only so much they are willing to do with domestic politics in mind. There is also another consideration to keep in mind. The coalition wants to keep Yemen intact. They are not fans of Hirak/southern succession. Much of the effort being made in the fighting in Taiz is being done by Hirak fighters. The longer the fighting keeps up in Taiz, the less Hirak fighters the coalition might have to face in the future. Have no doubts about it, the coalition will turn on the south and anyone else if they move beyond the coaltion' desired outcome.

I do not believe that the Houthis could invade and destroy Saudi Arabia. I think they are more than happy with invading and occupying small swaths of land along the border on the KSA side. It has forced the Saudis to evacuate large areas of land and has resulted in some major losses on Saudi territory. The Houthis don't have the men to continue the fight in Yemen and launch what would amount to a massive new front in Saudi. They don't have the men, they also realise any such attempt would bring aid to the Saudis that the Houthis couldn't hope to withstand. Besides, the Houthis have no need nor desire to topple the Saudi regime, no matter rhetoric. The devil they know.

How does fuel continue to come in despite the blockade? The Yemenis are master smugglers and there are thousands of miles of land boarders as well as coastline. As is commonly done, much of what is supplied by the coalition ends up the black market to be sold and used by the highest bidder.

To state that there is not much debate about the US role is not true at all. I don't know if or how much you read Arabic, but the war is regularly described in the Arabic press as the Saudi American war on Yemen. Our role is being examined more and more now due to the increased scrutiny of KSA due to the 9/11 report and attempts by their survivors to sue the Saudi government and subsequent Saudi economic threats against the US. A real "own goal" in football (soccer) terms.

Recent stories about UAE attacks on AQAP in Mukulla, along with local tribes is making news and the PR folks in the media are making hay of it. This only works if the average person is not aware it is pretty much nothing more than a PR stunt. The tribes "fighting" AQAP there now are the same tribes that a large chunk of the AQAP members are from. The same troops that were "driven out" by the UAE are now headed to the front lines in places like Lahj where they are going to continue their fight against the Houthis, allied with the same coalition that supposedly removed them from Mukulla and surrounding areas. A win/win for the coalition. It gives the impression they are fighting AQAP when they were really just sent to bolster the front lines in and around Taiz. As the BBC recently exposed, a fact many of us were long aware of, AQAP have been fighting side by side with the Arab coalition for some time.

I agree we need to look at our policy of supporting KSA, because like I have been pointing out to our lawmakers again and again recently, what is happening in Yemen today will have serious national security implications for the US in the next few decades. AQAP was, and I still believe is, the biggest terrorist threat to the US at home. The majority of Americans have no idea of where Mukulla is now. Unfortunately I think In the decades to come it will become a household name in the US because of the epicentre it is going to become in the launching of future attacks in the US which will be able to be traced back there and the events happening there now.

Abu Sinan

I will be the first to admit I really have no idea why Houthis allied with Saleh. I still believe at the end of the day it is a marriage of convenience and eventually there will probably be a reckoning. So many want to try and figure this situation about be looking back a few years, look back to the multiple Sada wars. That is a huge mistake and will leave one as purplexed at the end of the process as it did at the beginning.

For me one of the key issues to study is the society and foreign influences that lead to the whole Zaidi Revivalist Movement from which the Houthis sprung out of. In short it was a reaction to the massive flood of Saudi religious teachings, money and propaganda into traditional Zaidi areas in the north of Yemen. Ultra-Salafiyah set up mosques and schools right in the middle at the Zaidi heartland. Who can forget the extremist school/compound in Dammaj that had a history of bringing in local and foreign students and exporting terrorists to conflicts around the world? The last straw for the Houthis was the stockpiling of small and heavy weapons at the school which lead to the seige of the compound.

Saleh had a long history of marginalising the Zaidi community. Zaidi teachings and concepts were shunned and scorned on the national level and the north discriminated against. Although Zaidi himself, his power base was not with the religious Sayyids and he made q conscious choice to embark on a sunnification process of the Zaidi community. That, coupled with Zaidis going and working in the Gulf meant that Zaidi teachings were disappearing and Zaidi Yemenis were coming back from years abroad in Yemen with a distinctly Salafiyah outlook on religion. Hence the actions of Saleh and KSA and the wider Gulf set in play a series of events that almost guaranteed massive armed conflict.

After 2011 the NDC again marginalised not only the north, but the legitimate issues that the south continues to have. I ponder what a Houthi/Hirak coalition might have achieved. This would have faced multiple issues one of the greatest being the complete lack of unity. Hirak is so splintered, one of the reasons the Houthis got as far as they did in Aden, why it took them so long to eject the Houthis and why Taiz is still under seige.

Babak Makkinejad

You are expecting some sort of Collective Rationalism from Yemenis. I have heard such sentiments from Western Diocletian people often - one time I heard it from my German friend in regards to Argentinians.

Yemenis are fighting an Arab tribal war - which is for limited aims and for limited purpose at the termination of hostilities they resume being friendly again.

That is how Saddam Hussein thought of his war with Iran - this must be part of the Arab culture.

One can claim that all these people are stupid but are they any more stupid than those in Russia, in China, in US, and elsewhere that are building and deploying hyper-sonic thermonuclear weapons - to be delivered anywhere on this planet within 15 minutes?

What Yemenis are doing are only threats to themselves, what US, Russia, China (and likely Brazil, India, France) and others are threats to entire mankind.

Babak Makkinejad

This forum is akin to an electronic version of the French Salons of the Enlightenment period.

You cannot expect the host to ask people to leave a salon solely on basis of voicing an unpopular opinion.

I must say that I do miss the actual Salons, inhaling the perfume of the comely heavily made-up smart women and their conversations - all the while assessing their strategic locations, etc.

Those were the days...


Babak. Interesting that you assume to know my answer to the question: "What is justice". Seems I don't have an answer, at least not ready to deal with your challenge. Never mind to what extend I sympathize with your last two paragraphs.

Yesterday I watched Akira Kurosawa's Ran once again. Incidentally one of my favorite films based on Shakespeare's King Lear. I can assure you that my take on justice is: it's ultimately beyond our human reach.... And there may be "overlaps" concerning good and evil everywhere.

I don't have much knowledge in the genre of Science Fiction, or only little knowledge, thus my take may be somewhat misguided. Beyond the human, and good versus evil, I could imagine that it somewhat vacillates between Utopia and Dystopia.

Babak Makkinejad

You can ask any Muslim - devout, practicing, non-practicing, atheistic, secular and all the shades in between the question:

"Was the creation of the State of Israel an act of Justice?"

They would say "No".

You would not say "No" - you would almost certainly try to equivocate likely because you cannot come out of your closet and say that its is act of Justice.

This, however, is sufficient to establish the existence of different notions of Justice.

Abu Sinan

Partition of Yemen is extremely unpopular outside the south, with southerners being a small minority in Yemen. The vast majority of Yemen lives in the central and north. The outside powers involved do not want partition either. The one potential exception would be a case that could be made that the Saudis would like to see Hadramut succeed on itself, separate from the south, with the potential that KSA would later annex it. The place holds a special Saudis and many Hadrami would potentially support it.

The south itself, despite having most of natural wealth, has a poor record of statehood, it's history is more as a vassal/safelite/client state.

Abu Sinan

Martin, when you talk about 30 million people of Yemen and equate that with 30 million tribal members, that is incorrect. Not all Yemenis are tribal, a good chunk are not. For the population that does have tribal affiliation, the tribes have nowhere near the power they did. Years of political and armed conflict have changed the role and impact of the tribes as well as outside wealth and employment.


"They would say "No"."

I agree, Babak, but then, to quote Pat: Life isn't fair. Put another way, would fairness only result from completely reversing events picking up speed at a certain time in Europe?

Since you focus the debate like that. I have to admit that your above statements mirror, at least partly, it feels, Israeli standard responses. That made me respond, really.

"By the same logic, taken to its conclusion, should Iran cease to exist all would be well among Arabs and Muslims."

Like: 'Would it help the Middle Eastern population, if Israel ceased to exist?' (Solidly placing blame on the one and only guilty party: Arab/Iranian(?) parties only misuse the issue as propaganda for their citizen.)

Or your more provocative, "we will not commit suicide to convenience you.". That has a solid 'never again' opposing 'truth' position. "Should we wait till we are killed", with its seemingly preemptive strike corollary?

We are no doubt witnessing a widening gap between the dominance of Israel's narrative both in public opinion and academia. Thus you may find it more and more difficult to find a pure 'Yes' versus 'No' answer outside the ME too. The question is, aren't we by now way beyond the expiration date to any type of fair compromise? Besides no "foreigners" at all on "holy ground" may not be helpful either longterm.

Beyond: "While there are some overlaps, our notions of Justice are incommensurable." Admittedly, I sometimes wonder too, to what extend your position on the Arab world overlap with the Israel's perspective on the "Arab Mind/Arabs" and if so, why. Or if that initially made Iran one of Israel's favored allies in the region. Apart from maybe that it is not exactly my strength to pass final judgements as if with a swiftly falling blade. Much less on limited amounts of knowledge.

Can I end on a Jimmy Hendrix quote: "There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief,..." without any specific significance attributed to either actor.

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