In the remote country of Yemen, a determined and heroic democracy movement battles an alliance of al-Qaeda, Saddam's generals, and a corrupt regime that wields all the tools of the state. The terrorists are operating on the proceeds from gun running and oil sales. The reformers are operating on pure determination.
Throughout Yemeni security forces, military, businesses, and public institutions, an interlinked web of corruption and brutality is stealing Yemen's resources and attacking any Yemeni who opposes it. And the majority do oppose it. All the natural enemies of the jihadiis are under attack in Yemen: reformers, democrats, journalists, socialists, pluralists, Shiites, Sunnis, anti-corruption advocates, human rights workers, and more. As forces unite against them, the Yemeni people unite for democracy.
In 2003, al-Qaeda praised Yemeni President Saleh as the only Arab leader not beholden to the West. It's clear why. Saleh has refused to freeze 143 UN identified terrorist affiliated bank accounts in Yemen. Some of the millions in those accounts may be proceeds from weapons sales, narco-terrorism, and oil sales. One person who might be able to provide details is Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Saleh's half brother, prominent military commander, and reputed al-Qaeda loyalist.
Wherever there is a conflict in the region, the jihadi side seems to be armed by the Yemeni weapons pipeline, reportedly controlled by top military officials. Yemen has sold tanks and missiles to the genocidal Sudanese government. Yemen provides weapons to Eritrean and Somalian terrorists, according to the Eritrean Center for Strategic Studies. "It's no secret" that weapons smuggling to Palestinian insurgents is sanctioned by the Yemeni government, an Israeli intelligence official said. The Saudis say they catch Yemeni arms dealers "hourly."
There's a lot of missing oil and missing oil revenue in Yemen. Parliamentary member Ali Ashal notes the official sale price for Yemeni oil is $22/barrel, but it is sold on the market at $45/barrel. The Canadian corporation Nexen takes nearly half of all its Yemeni oil production as royalties. It’s a sweet deal, but not for the Yemeni people. Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. The word corruption is a rather benign term to describe the rape of the Yemeni economy by its top officials.
Ayatollah Sistani recently advised the world that a "pact of evil" extends from Iraq to Yemen. It’s a pact between al-Qaeda-linked Yemeni officials and numerous former officials of Saddam's regime currently residing in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. In 2004, Radio Free Europe noted the recruitment of many Iraqi generals into the Yemeni military. Recently, the Chief of the Yemeni Supreme Shia Council stated, "(Iraqi) military men advised Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh to kill Shiias in the country as did Saddam in Iraq." Sistani has termed the ongoing violence in Sa'ada, a Shiite region, "genocide." The integration of al-Qaeda infiltrated Yemeni security forces with Saddam's henchmen has many victims.
A Yemeni official recently stated that al-Qaeda affiliated Yemeni security forces have established Ba'athist training camps in Yemen for Iraqi "insurgents."
Shaykh Zindani, a prominent Yemeni political leader and business executive, is described by the US as a mentor to Usama bin Laden and a "Major Terrorist" who supports and finances a variety of terrorist activities. (Neither he nor his assets have been restricted in Yemen since this designation in 2004.) The US Treasury Department notes Zindani as a contact for the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam, parent organization to Ansar al-Sunna operating in Iraq. Ansar al-Sunna has claimed responsibility for beheading 12 Nepalese workers in Iraq and bombing a US mess tent in Mosul which killed 22 people.
The Yemeni population is attacked by the military and the courts. Thousands are in jail without trial for months. Outspoken individuals are arrested and social groups targeted by identity. Within about a week recently, two reformers were arrested, an opposition newspaper targeted, a female journalist crudely defamed, the socialist party headquarters bombed, an opposition politician kidnapped, mass and arbitrary arrests occurred, and the slaughter in the Sa'ada continued. In response, Yemenis only stand more firmly and call more loudly for reform, democracy, and pluralism, for an end to the corruption, an end to the dictatorship.
The Yemeni people are trapped inside a box of propaganda. On the outside is a democracy; on the inside is a tyranny. The official news agency touts impotent political structures as proof of reform as al-Qaeda grows more dominant. With the ongoing ascension of radical Islamists in Yemeni leadership, Yemen may become the first modern state fully corrupted by al-Qaeda, a threat much greater that Afghanistan is considering Yemen a strategic location for international shipping.
Presidential elections in Yemen are scheduled for 2006. Last election President Saleh received 96% of the vote. Yemen has a well developed and mature civil society. US policy should favor Yemen's reformers, not its dictator. During President Saleh's upcoming trip to Washington, President Bush should advise President Saleh to step aside, as Yemeni opposition parties have asked. Twenty seven years is enough for any dictator. It was enough for Saddam, it's enough for Mubarak, and it's certainly enough for Saleh. For the security of Iraqis, Americans, and Yemenis, the pact of evil from Iraq to Yemen must be replaced by a pact of democracy, and a pact of freedom between the Yemeni people and the democratic world.