As the US pushes for the Yemeni government to escalate its fight against al-Qaeda, they managed earlier this month to convince them to agree to a ceasefire with the Shi’ite Houthis in the north. That ceasefire is just over a week old and already at risk, but Yemen has quickly shifted gears to find other non-al-Qaeda people to fight.
Now, Yemeni forces turn their eyes south, arresting at least 80 “suspected separatists” in the breakaway region this weekend, fueling tensions in yet another portion of the country.
South Yemen was an independent nation from 1967-1990, and maintained close ties with the Soviet Union until its unification with the northern Yemeni Arab Republic. In recent years, however, southern Yemenis complain that they are being treated as second-class citizens, and wish to return to the days of independence. The Saleh government has deployed the military to crush the secessionist movement.
The Pentagon announced today that it was approving $150 million in direct military assistance to Yemen, ostensibly aimed at fighting al-Qaeda. Yet clearly the Saleh government has made plenty of other enemies that the US aid will also be used against.
Though the Obama Administration has clearly decided that fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) necessitates propping up the strongman Saleh. The Yemeni government is such a basketcase, however, with so many non-al-Qaeda enemies, that the US is putting itself clearly at odds with broad swaths of Yemeni society.