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Moscow as Middle East Peacemaker?

Yemen at War Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Qurbi Interview with the Foreign Minister of Yemen

Investing in Reality Andres Cala

What it Means to be a Houthi Issue 1527, 10 October 2009


Dear reader، Established by Hisham and Mohamad Ali Hafez Editor- in- cheif ADEL Al TORAIFI

Managing Director TARIK ALGAIN


elcome to The Majalla Digital. This edition is the first to be published on our new and improved Website. We hope that you will notice the changes and like the new home of the Leading Arab Magazine. We are currently developing more ways of bringing The Majalla digitally to our readers and in the very near future you will be able to access it directly from your mobile phone and download it to your e-reader. This week we are focusing on Yemen with an in-depth report on the Houthi movement, a rebel group whose origins coincide with the socio-economic and political grievances that have been growing in the country and the opposition that they are presenting to the Yemeni government. Our debate asks the question “Has Sa’ada War opened the door for regional intervention?” and our contributors respond with their views on whether the government has the potential and capability to solve its problems itself. The effects and impact of Qat, Yemen›s primary cash-crop, are explored in our Economics section. Also, don’t forget to read Paula Mejia’s article on Iran and the diplomacy of teqqiya, which explores the hidden idea of teqqiya in Iran’s foreign policy regarding the bomb.

The Majalla Magazine HH Saudi Research & Marketing (UK) Limited Arab Press House 182-184 High Holborn, LONDON WC1V 7AP DDI: +44 (0)20 7539 2335/2337, Tel.: +44 (0)20 7821 8181, Fax: +(0)20 7831 2310

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Arab leaders are angered at Iran’s exploitation of Houti rebellion in northern Yemen

10 October, 2009ŘŒ 1527


Contents 08 Geopolitics Moscow as Middle East Peacemaker?

09 In Brief Around The World Quote Of The Week Magazine Round Up Letter

14 Features What it Means to be a Houthi

21 Debate Has Sa’ada War opened the door for regional intervention?

25 Ideas Iran and the Taqqiya Diplomacy

THE MAJALLA Editorial Team London Bureau Chief Manuel Almeida Cairo Bureau Chief Ahmed Ayoub Editors Stephen Glain Paula Mejia Dina Wahba Wessam Sherif Editorial Secretary Jan Singfield Webmaster Mohamed Saleh Translation Sherif Okasha

10 October, 2009


29 People Interview Yemen at War Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Qurbi, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Profile From One Rebellion to Another Abdel Malik Al-Houthi

Issue 1527, 10 October 2009

Submissions To submit articles or opinion, please email: Note: all articles should not exceed 800 words

35 Economics


Arab Economics Why Qat is more than just a bad habit Interntional Investor Investing in Reality Markets


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43 Reviews Books Understanding Hezbollah Reports Dealing with Hamas Readings

50 The Political Essay Soldiers, Militants or Mercenaries?

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25 Issue 1527

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Moscow as Middle East Peacemaker A New Face For The Former Superpower


ussian officials are eager to reinvigorate their Middle East peace credentials. In particular, Russian diplomats are vigorously lobbying to host a Middle East peace conference in Moscow as a follow-up to the November 2007 Annapolis meeting. Although Russia’s previous peace efforts have not had much impact, Moscow might soon have an opportunity to make an important contribution. For the past two decades, the Russian government has played a supportive but distinctly secondary role in the Arab-Israel peace process. The Russian Federation—along with the European Union, the United Nations, and the United States—is a core member of the Middle East Quartet of international peace intermediaries. Russian diplomats have staunchly supported the Quartet’s position that a comprehensive ArabIsraeli settlement requires establishing an independent, sovereign, and viable Palestinian state whose leaders, along with other Arab governments, accept Israel’s right to exist in peace within internationally recognized boundaries. Although the parties in the Middle East have generally welcomed Russia’s peace initiatives, they have typically turned to the other Quartet members when seeking concrete progress. In the future, however, circumstances may fortuitously change to give Russia its long-sought leading role in the Middle East drama. In his June 14 speech outlining his conditions for peace, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted his government would only accept a twostate solution if a Palestinian government can ensure Israel’s security. Moscow is well placed to help meet this stipulation. First, Russia can continue to help reign in Hamas and enhance the security capacity of the Palestinian Authority, actions which most other governments are reluctant to undertake. Second, and most importantly, the Kremlin can assume a lead role in a multinational peacekeeping force that could help police a two-state solution. Moscow alone among the Quartet members has formal ties with Hamas. The Russian government has refused to designate Hamas a terrorist organization, 10 October, 2009

frequently chastising Tel Aviv for various polices seen by Moscow as excessively inflexible or confrontational. In recent years, the two countries have managed to avert major tensions resulting from Israel’s support of Georgia as well as Russia’s possible sale of advanced S-300 air defense missiles to Iran.

Richard Weitz and instead have sought to work with its leaders to induce Hamas to follow the original Palestine Liberation Organization and renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and adhere to all the obligations the Palestinian Authority had undertaken. Until now, Russia’s influence has proven insufficient to secure Hamas’ adherence to these three Quartet conditions. Hamas’ use of force in 2007 to exclude Fatah and the Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip further strained relations between Russia and Hamas. Russian officials subsequently engaged only with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his West Bank government. They even supplied the Palestine Authority its security forces with light weapons and security training with the permission of Israeli authorities. Late last year, the Russian government also joined with Abbas and others in a futile effort to induce Hamas to resume its six-month ceasefire with Israel. Hamas’ clear military defeat in the subsequent war for Gaza has led some members of the group to reconsider their policy toward Israel, at least in practice if it not in public. If Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree to create an independent Palestinian state, many in Hamas might not contest the agreement. Hamas would not welcome a continued Israeli military presence in the occupied territories, but they might accept the deployment of an international peacekeeping contingent, including in their power base in the Gaza Strip. Although complex, relations between Russian and Israeli leaders have been generally good since the new Russian state abandoned the distinctly pro-Arab policies of the Soviet Union. Since 1991, Russian policy makers have staunchly defended Israel’s right to exist even while

One asset the Russian government might use more effectively is influence it enjoys with the hundreds of thousands of Israelis of Russian or Soviet origin. Members of this group, which constitutes the largest Russian-speaking Diaspora outside the former Soviet Union, typically vote to support political parties, such as that led by current Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, that resist negotiating concessions with Palestinians. They might moderate their positions if military units of their former co-nationals were defending them. Israeli leaders would not trust a UNled peacekeeping mission to defend their security interests in Palestinian territories. At best, they might accept a force answering to the Quartet, in which the UN plays only a modest role. American and European troops might be willing to deploy in West Bank. Only the Russian government, however, would be prepared to base peacekeepers in Hamascontrolled areas. Russia has already played such important peacekeeping roles twice before. In both Bosnia and Kosovo, the presence of Russian troops helped reassure Serb minorities sufficiently to contribute to modestly successful peace agreements under the overall guidance of NATO and other international institutions. The Russian government’s long-sought desire to host an international conference on the Middle East is admirable. Even so, Moscow could more effectively contribute to international peace and security by sending its best peacekeepers to the region. Richard Weitz, Ph.D. Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, Washington DC. 08

In Brief Around The World

Quote Of The Week

Magazine Round Up


Friends again? King Abdullah’s visit to Syria solidifies rapprochement


by the Syrian president to attend the opening of King Abduallah University of Science and Technology.

The visit is understood by analysts as a sign of the strengthening of relations between the two countries. It follows a recent visit to Saudi Arabia

Relations between the two countries had deteriorated significantly over the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the assassination of Lebanese leader Rafiq Hariri who had strong ties to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh was also at odds with Syria in the past for the countries ties to Iran. Saudi Arabia

n Wednesday October 7 King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia arrived in Damascus as a sign of the strengthening of ties between the two Arab states. This two day trip, is the first visit King Abdullah is making since taking the throne in 2005.

Issue 1527

and Syria have been long time rivals for influence in the region. This situation began to improve however in July when Riyadh sent an ambassador to Syria, after having left the post empty for one year. The Syrian news agency SANA said the two sides have expressed happiness over the level of coordination and consultation between the two countries.


In Brief - Around The World

Around The World 1 Iran In a joint press conference with head of the Iranian Nuclear Agency, Mohamed Al-Baradei, directorgeneral of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that IAEA inspectors will be able to inspect the new Uranium enrichment facility near the Iranian City of Qom. He added that Iranian relations with the West are moving from conspiracy to cooperation and that the conflict between the two sides can be resolved through diplomatic channels.



3 Jordan

2 Egypt A spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry ruled out the possibility that the Goldstone report regarding Israeli and Hamas war crimes will affect the Palestinian reconciliation, saying that these are two separate issues. He also stressed that Egypt will invite the Palestinian factions to sign the reconciliation agreement later this month in the presence of several Arab foreign ministers. 10 October, 2009

In a press conference held in Amman, Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abu Al-Gheit accused many foreign and regional sides of trying to interfere in Yemen. He stressed that Egypt rejects any kind of foreign interference in this Arab country and considered the Sada crisis as an internal affair.

4 Turkey

5 Ireland

The President of the International Monetary Fund held a general assembly at Biligi University in Istanbul which will host the annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank in the next few days, to discuss ways to battle poverty and strategize ways to prevent a repeat of last year›s global economic crisis.

The Irish people voted on the EU›s Lisbon Treaty at a second referendum - a vote that may decide the future of long-delayed EU changes. 67,1% of the Irish voted for the treaty, while 32,9 % rejected it. This marks a relief for Brussels since the suspension of the treaty last year due to the 3 million Irish people rejection of it. 12


In Brief - Around The World

8 Afghanistan

4 2



Militant fighters streaming from an Afghan village attacked a pair of remote outposts near the Pakistani border, killing eight U.S. soldiers and as many as seven Afghan rebels in one of the fiercest battles of the eight-year war. Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the deadliest on coalition forces since a similar raid in July 2008 killed nine American soldiers in the same mountainous region.


8 7


9 North Korea Areas under Taliban control/influence

Mar 3, Lahore: Gunmen North-West Frontier attack Sri Lankan national Dir Province cricket team, wounding Jamrud several players and killing six policemen and driver Federally Mar 27, Jamrud: Islamabad Administered Suicide bomber Peshawar demolishes packed Tribal Areas Lahore mosque killing up to 50 people Punjab A F G H A N I S TA N Quetta




6 Somalia More than 40 people were killed and other 90 were injured as a result of fierce clashes between Al-Shabab Al-Mujahedin movement and Hezbul-Islam group which opposes the interim government in Mogadishu. The fatalities included field leaders of both sides who are trying to take control of Kismayo City, 500 km south of the capital. Issue 1527



Mar 30, Lahore: Gunmen attack police academy killing at least 12 May 27, Lahore: Suicide car bomber targets police buildings, killing at least 30 May 28, Peshawar: Twin attacks kill 10 people



200 miles


Jun 5, Upper Dir: Mosque blast leaves at least 38 dead Jun 9, Peshawar: Suicide vehicle bomb attack at five-star Pearl Continental Hotel kills at least 17 people, including two UN employees © GRAPHIC NEWS

7 Pakistan Five were killed at the attack on U.N. food agency in Pakistan. U.N. Secretary General Ban Kimoon condemned the suicide bombing, calling it a «heinous crime». The UN temporarily suspended its operations in Islamabad following the attack. Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the blast, saying international relief work in Pakistan was not in the «interest of Muslims»

On a highly anticipated state visit, Chinese Premier visits North Korea to meet with top North Korean leaders and attend events commemorating 60 years of diplomatic ties. This visit comes amid signs that the North Koreans may be willing to restart dialogue over their nuclear programs following months of resistance.

10 Nigeria One of Nigeria›s militant leaders has given up his armed struggle against the government in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Ateke Tom told a news conference the government had offered him a pardon, and said: «I hereby formally accept the amnesty offer and lay down my arms.» But other rebels are still fighting, saying they want a fairer distribution of oil wealth. 13

In Brief - Quote Of The Week

Magazine Round Up

Quote Of The Week “I think these negotiations were a step forward and I hope we proceed with the same trend so we will have constructive cooperation to resolve all outstanding global issues.” Said Ahmedinejad with reference to the Geneva talks on Iran’s nuclear programme held on October first. “The issue of reconciliation has become more important than the issue of liberation.” Dr. Abd El Moneim Saed writes in “Al Ahram” criticizing the Palestinian division. «Given the importance of the policy to our security - and to our troops - will be rigorous and deliberate, while moving forward with a sense of urgency» President Obama with regard to increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan to 40,000 “China will continue to work with the people of all countries to push foreword the cause of peace and development and build a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity” – President Hu Jintao declared China’s commitment to promoting an independent foreign policy of peace. 10 October, 2009



Round Up 1 Newsweek After Iran Gets the Bomb

This week Fareed Zakarai addresses the question that has been looming over the heads of most world leaders: If Iran manages to one day acquire nuclear capability, how will the world change? Zakarai argues that it will not be the end of the world. More importantly, however, Zakaria analyzes past political behaviour on the part of the U.S. to understand how we reached the point we are in today. Equally interesting is his assessment of the alternatives that the world would face if Iran acquired a bomb, and what the outcome of each alternative might be. 14



2 Foreign Affairs Climate Countdown The United States and other countries are finally grappling with global warming. Foreign Affairs asks four experts to weigh in on the question: Is it too little, too late? Joel Kurtzman, argues that despite the free market’s recently battered reputation, it reamsin a powerful tool for allocating capital and for effecting social change. This is especially the case for confronting and reversing climate change which can rely on effective cap-and trade systems for greenhouse gas emissions.


Change We Can’t Believe In A photo montage of Barak Obama crossed with George W. Bush accompanies the cover story entitled “Change we can’t believe in.” The NewStatesman’s message this week is clear, Barak Obama has promised a significant break from the Bush era politics but it is clear that some trends continue during his administration. What went wrong? The lack of distance between Bush and Obama should not come as a surprise. The continuity of US presidents results from the nature of the modern imperial presidence, at the apex of a bloated national-security state.


4 The Economist After the leaders of the G20 group met in Pittsburgh, it came as no surprise that their aim is to achieve economic normalcy. How far of is it, and what does a “normal” global economy look like after such a significant recession? These are the main issues that the Economist addresses in its featured piece this week. The outlook of the economy has improved significantly, but upon closer inspection this new “normality” suggests caution.


Cover of the Week

Cover Of The Week

Inside the Crisis The New Yorker looks to take yet another perspective on the approach the American government has taken to confront the economy. The issue introduces the White House economic team, with a particular focus Lawrewnce Summers, President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser. In doing so, the New Yorker seeks to shed light on the political, academic and personal experiences that contribute to the formation of the White House team’s economic policy.

Issue 1527


In Brief - Letters

Letters India’s Soft Gulf Offensive

Issue 1526, 20 July 2009

Constantino Xavier

The Chess Master Henry Kissinger

US Former Secretary of State

The not so happy Yemen:

India’s Soft Gulf Offensive

What’s Next For Hezbollah?

Constantino Xavier

Raphaëlle Camilleri

Yemen should seek some sort of internal solution aided by external mediation, to try and get conflicting factions on the same wavelength, this given that the many infrastructural shortcomings that are mentioned in this article are dealt with primarily. Very interesting article and was a delight to read.

Separatism & Radicalism in Xinjiang By Ramon Pacheco Pardo

ISSN 1319-0873


9 771319 087013

Darham Al Abcie, Yemen

The fading hopes of Turkey’s EU membership

Europe is of course fearful of a potential identity loss, if turkey does join the EU. Immigration for jobs and different living standards is expected if Turkey joins the EU. There are other means of cooperation; EU is not the only way… Richard lewis, London

A Non-Negotiable Friendship



It is clear by now that regardless of incentives offered to either side, the Iranian-Syrian relationship shall continue to grow. Nevertheless, it has been observed that sanctions on the other hand have been a little bit more effective when it comes to tying down what could be considered a regional threat. I believe that sanctions are not the way to go however. Great article!!

The Future of the Iranian Islamic Republic Recent elections in Iran with the subsequent protests and divisions in the religious and cultural establishment and bloody confrontations that ensued have given rise to new insights into the future of the Iranian Islamic Republic and the so –called Guardianship of Islamic Jurists. Some observers believe that the role of the Supreme Leader lost its luster following the ineffective speech that has been recently addressed by Ayatollah Khomeini to the Iranian people. Some others see the current events as a civilian protest which reveals the democratic face of Iran, despite the grave errors made. According to this view, these events will not have an impact on the overall stability of the Islamic Republic.

Faras Deeb, Syria

In this edition of The Majalla magazine, these conflicting views expressed by different writers have been brought into focus within the context of the Iranian Islamic revolution and the velayat al-faqih system in Iran


The future of the global recession:

Beyond Oil: China’s external markets are growing exponentially, and they are now dealing in different products and investment portals, that however highlights Middle Eastern oil as a crucial bargaining tool in the SinoMiddle Eastern relationship, great analysis. Aline Porch, USA 10 October, 2009

American currency variations are the primary reason to which the recession is connected. Not to mention the US campaign in Iraq that has led to sky rocketing oil prices benefiting exporters, while harming the rest… Ahmed Galal, London

The Majalla

Iran: Between Disappointment and a New Revolution This article is spot on when it comes to potential cracks in the Iranian system, if nothing is done about the status quo. The Shiite religious façade is simply not attractive anymore, neither externally or internally. Mohamed Aliraza, London 16

g Comin Soon

Introducing Iphone Mobile Apps


10 October, 2009


What it Means to be a Houthi By Paula Mejia Atef AlShaer

Issue 1527



What it Means to be a Houthi

The Divided House of Zaydism Paula Mejia and Atef AlShaer

The Yemeni government currently faces serious opposition from the Houthis, a rebel group whose origins coincide with the socio-economic and political grievances that have been growing in the country. The Houthis are particularly interesting because of their relationship to Zaydism, the role of their former leader, Houssein Al-Houthi, as well as the conflict’s potential ties to influential neighbours, most notably Iran and Saudi Arabia. These multi-dimensional factors associated to the conflict hold the key in providing a clear picture of who the Houthis are, and what their presence implies for Yemen.

Displaced Yemeni men from the northern Saada province are pictured at a camp set up by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Mazraq in Yemen›s Hajja region, 360 kms northwest of Sanaa, on September 10, 2009. Yemeni troops engaged in heavy fighting with Shiite rebels in the rugged northern mountains claimed to have made major advances in an offensive now in its fifth week. © KHALED FAZAA/AFP/Getty Images

Tell me how this ends?


n January 17, 2002 a mass of Houssein Al-Houthi’s followers stood outside the Great Mosque in Sana chanting “Allah Akbar, Death to America, Death to Israel, Damn the Jews, Victory to Islam.” The “cry”, as it came to be known, was really an “outcry in the face of arrogance” according to Houssein Al-Houthi, the leader of the rebel movement at the time. Having given a lecture to followers earlier that day on the perils of American tyranny, and the disgrace from which the Arab and Islamic peoples suffer, AlHouthi urged his followers to present his message in the capital at the Mosque where the President of Yemen could be found that day. The conflict taking place today in 10 October, 2009

Yemen between the government and rebel forces, known as the “Houthis,” has many causes, but the origin of the modern conflict begins outside the Great Mosque in the country’s capital. Since 2004, five rounds of fighting between the government and the Houthis have created over 160.000 internally displaced people in the country. Numbers that large cannot express the humanitarian impact that they represent for a country where already 15% of the population lives under one dollar a day. Naturally, those caught between the fighting ask themselves how could this possibly end? The government led by President Saleh has given an answer: Operation Scorched Earth. The ominous title of the latest campaign between the rebels and the

government is illustrative of how much the conflict has marred the stability of a country that has been historically recognized for its peacefulness, for its ability to bring together difference, for cross-sectarian harmony in a region that is generally weakened by such demographic configurations. These traits have earned the country the title of “The Happy Yemen.” Yet today, sociopolitical and religious tensions have undermined the title that Yemenis are so proud of. While the conflict in Saada has not received much international attention, other than its framing by the Yemeni government as yet another safe haven for Islamist terrorist groups, the conflict is in fact quite significant for its potential impact on Yemen, and the region more 20

Features generally. The conflict is a reflection of not only the internal tensions that have been building up in Yemen over religious, socio-economic, and political strains. Rather, the conflict also represents the greater geopolitical and historic context that has developed around and within Yemen. Consequently, understanding who the Houthis are, how they came to be and what they are fighting for is essential for understanding how Yemen is gradually becoming unhappy. The short answer to this question is that the Houthis are Zaydis, the most moderate of the Shia groups and closest to Sunni Islam. But more than that, the Houthis are a revivalist Zaydi group who believe that the Zaydi identity is threatened by the Sunni or Salafi identity. This sense of threat experienced by the Houthis is grounded in their historical role as leaders in Yemen. The Houthis are also Zaydi Hashemites, who ruled over Yemen for 1,000 years before the country’s revolution in 1962. This revolution marked the end of the Northern Yemeni Imamate and the beginning of the economic and political demise of the Zaydis which opened the window for the development of factors that have instigated the current conflict in Saada. The Flower and the Rock Yemen comprises an old religious mosaic which includes Muslims, Christians and Jews. However, the majority of Yemen’s residents are Muslims who belong to two doctrines, Sunni Islam or Zaydi Shi’a. Though the Sunni Muslims of Yemen are the majority, which totals approximately 60 percent of Yemen’s population of 22 million, they are not the sole holders of authority in Yemen. Ali Abdallah Saleh, the President of Yemen since 1978, is Zaydi by origin. Yet, the current conflict between the Houthis and the Yemeni government makes the question of Yemen’s religious makeup interesting, particularly since the Houthis are Zaydis by origin. To distinguish the Zaydis from the Houthis it is important to stress that not all Zaydis are Houthis. Zaydism is a religious strand of Shi’ism; it is different from the mainstream Shii’a Twelfth imamate doctrine which mainly resides in Iran. However, modern political conditions in Yemen created divisions among the Zaydi community and made some of the Houthis closer to the Shi’a of Iran than Issue 1527

the Zaydis were originally. The political ambitions of Houssein Al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthi movement in Yemen, coincided with the interests of Iran in the region. Increasingly, Houssein Al-Houthi became closer to the Shi’a of Iran than to the original Zaydism, which theologically is close to Sunni Islam. Some literature on the Zaydis and Houthis in Yemen refer to him and his followers as belonging to the Twelfth Imam’s strand of Shi’ism. Here in lies the presence of what author Adel AlAhmadi refers to as the “ Flower and the Rock” in Yemen’s religious configuration. The rock, or the hardliners are the Houthis of Yemen who have shifted their religious alliances and positions to befit their political interests which coincide with Iran. The other Zaydis, the Flower, who are not Houthis, have remained allied with the government of Yemen and condemned

Since 2004, five rounds of fighting between the government and the Houthis have created over 160.000 internally displaced people in the country. the Houthis as a group of heretics who resourced the interests of Yemen to outside powers in return for political vetting. The conflict in Yemen today, is founded mainly in the differences that exist between the Flower and the Rock of the Zaydi tradition. The Believing Youth The notion of the Flower and the Rock highlights that despite it’s religious under current, the conflict in Yemen is grounded on a political struggle for power as well. When the 1962 revolution ended the Northern Imamate, it was accompanied by an alteration in the social order that had dominated Yemen in the past. Since then, the region inhabited by the Zaydis has undergone systematic political and economic marginalization. Various analyses of the conflict relate this to the fact that while the end of the Imamate

saw the rise of republicans to power as well as growing consensual identity between the two largest religious sects – Zaydi Shiism and Shafei Sunnism – there continued to be exceptions. The most important of which was the emergence of Salafis, who maintained ties to Saudi Arabia, and marginalized Zaydis in Yemen for their alleged links to Jaafarism (the dominant Shiite sect in Iran and Iraq). Consequently, Zaydi revivalists, particularly the Houthis, have been mobilized by the rejection of Salafi influence in Yemen. More importantly, it has led the Houthis to perceive the republic as fundamentally anti-Hashemite and anti-Zaydi. However, to understand the Houthis’ commitment to their rebel cause, one must first delineate the role that Houssien Al-Houthi had in creating this militarized group. Houssein Al-Houthi is in many ways at the source for understanding the current conflict taking place in Yemen. Al-Houthi was a parliament member in Yemen prior to the separatist movement that broke out in the country in 1994. Up until that time, Houssien Al-Houthi had been a member of the Al-Haqq party – a sectarian party established by the Zaydi people. This party had created for the Zaydis an important means of political expression. However, during the separatist movement, the Al-Haqq party supported the Yemeni Socialist Party against the General People’s Congress, the current party in power led by President Saleh. This created problems for the Al-Haqq party, which motivated Houssein al-Houthi to flee to Syria and Iran. After his return he resigned from the Al-Haqq party and, in 1997, created the Believing Youth, a group seeking to revive Zaydi activism through education and proselytizing. At this point, Houssein Al-Houthi’s importance multiplied. He was able to create a following of idealists, who gradually turned the group into a type of crusade. The Houthis then founded the group on a platform grounded in antiUS, anti-Israeli, and at times anti-Jewish ideas. However, the actual demands of their agenda remain vague. What is known about the Houthis is that the arrest of Houssein Al-Houthi was called for by the government for instigating people not to pay the zakat; for breaking into mosques; and for promoting ideas that undermined the government. These factors led to calls for his arrest in 2004, and ultimately attempts at 21

Features arresting Al-Houthi became full-scale confrontations between the government and his followers. The first conflict in Saada resulted in his death, although not in the death of his legacy in Yemen’s conflict. The government was highly criticized for how it handled the conflict, leading to growing support in favour of the rebels. By the fourth confrontation support for the rebel movement has evolved. Today, very few supporters are genuinely in favour of the slogan that has been as close as the Houthis have gone to identifying an agenda. In addition, the participants in the fighting are no longer a homogenous group. They do not carry a specific ideology. Instead, the battle has extended to other members of the tribal community. People who had never heard of Houssein Al-Houthi are participating in the fighting. Attack and Defense In 1994, Houssein Al-Houthi fled to Syria and then Iran. In Iran Houssein experienced the Iranian economic system and the ideological formation which sustains the Islamic Republic firsthand. Upon his return to Yemen, he deserted the Al-Haqq party because it no longer appealed to him for its lack of enthusiasm to challenge the Yemeni government. The Al-Haqq party was no longer, if ever, radical enough in its opposition. Consequently, in 1997 Houssein Al-Houthi founded the “Believing Youth Party,” or ‘Shabab al-mu’mineen’. The formation of the new party took ideological cues from the Iranian revolution. It organised summer camps where children received ideological and revolutionary education, exhorting people against the Yemeni state and depicting America and Israel and other Arab regimes in the area as enemies of Islam. In the style of Hizbollah, Al-Houthi and his followers collected Zakat and founded charities, creating in effect what amounts to state-within-state institutions inside Yemen so that, in time, the Houthis might be able to challenge the Yemeni government and impose their political ideology consequently gaining more power in Yemen. Houssein wanted to create a self-sufficient economic system which will sustain his followers and force the Yemeni government to surrender to the Houthis’ demands. The impact of these measures were particularly important because of the lack of development in 10 October, 2009

Yemen. In a country where only 55% of the population is literate, and where 20% of the population dies before reaching the age of 40, these measures implied a noticeable improvement in their standard of living. It was in this way that Al-Houthi and his movement grew increasingly powerful. It was not only economic assistance by Houssein to the Houthis that increased the support for him, but also the charismatic character of Houssein himself, who gave revolutionary sermons in the mosques. In these sermons, Houssein portrayed the Yemeni government as subservient to America and Israel and highlighted the example of the Lebanese movement Hizbollah. It was through his comparison to theses actors that an important aspect of the conflict developed- its relations to movements and influence from neighbouring states. A Prayer with Ayatollahs The Yemeni conflict, and thus the true meaning of what being a Houthi entails, is complicated yet again by the ties the rebels and the government have with other countries in the region. The government accuses the rebels of being allied to Iran as well as the Lebanese Hizbollah. On the other hand, the Houthi

Today, very few supporters are genuinely in favour of the slogan that has been as close as the Houthis have gone to identifying an agenda. leaders denounce the government’s close ties to the U.S., as well as Saudi interferences through the funding of the government and of local tribes. In other words, the conflict in Yemen is also being presented by the parties involved in the fighting as a SaudiIranian proxy war. Although concrete claims of foreign involvement in the conflict are difficult to prove, it is true that the region has been significantly

affected by the competitive relationship between Riyadh and Tehran, especially during the Iran-Iraq war. If history is known for repeating itself, then the tense relationship between the Iran and Saudi Arabia could be worsened by Iranian ascendancy in the region, particularly through its influence in Palestine and Lebanon. The same could be said of the impact of alleged Shiite irredentism in Saudi Arabia. Because the war in Yemen has a sectarian dimension to it, there has been an opportunity for conflicting interest between outside players to develop throughout the course of the war. But to what extent is this group truly allied with Iran? The historical roots of the conflict are deeply connected to the ideological void that the Zaydis felt following the fall of the last Imamate. With the absence of an Imam, scholars had to compensate for this loss and in some way manage to revive their legitimacy. This task became easier with the outcome of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran which provided Shiites throughout the Muslim world with an alternative model of government. It is true that the Houthis’ original leader, Houssein al-Houthi, travelled to Iran during his exile, and was significantly influenced by the teachings of Ayatollah Khomeini. Yet, the claims that he was a follower of Khomeini are hard to prove. Instead, AlHouthi’s experience in Iran created more of a mimic. Thus, while Iran has played an important role in the ideological dimension of the Yemeni conflict, the extent of its influence should not be over exaggerated. The Pursuit of Happiness When the writers of the Declaration of Independence were setting out to delineate the foundation of American principles they were faced with a difficult decision. Understanding that wealth could not be promised to everyone, but acknowledging the importance of equity for the stability and growth of a country, they declared instead that all men were deserving of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. In many ways, for Yemen to be able to re-establish its title as the Happy Yemen, it will have to live up to a similar promise it makes its 22

Features own people in the 1994 Constitution. There it declares that “the national economy of Yemen is founded on freedom which benefits the individual and society and enhances national independence.” The factors that delineate the Houthi movement make it clear that the conflict between the Houthis and the Yemeni government is symptomatic of the state’s inability to provide sufficient development for the different social strata within the country. Since it was united in 1990, Yemen has not ceased to experience violent upheavals whether on its northern or its southern fronts. The problem of Yemen is not only related to ideology. Yemen suffers from grinding poverty, which manifests itself in ideological movements, such as the Houthis.

more likely that the Yemeni will end this conflict through the use of force as it currently aims to through Operation Scorched Earth. The Houthis are small in number, and though nestled in mountains and rough hideouts, do not have much power to confront the Yemeni forces for a lengthy period of time; though it is interesting that they have held the ground for so long in their fighting against the Yemeni State.

its supreme authority in Yemen, lest other potential groups rise up against it and undermine its authority. On the other, Yemen, with its limited resources, is incapable of providing economic welfare for its citizens. It acts in congruence with regional and international alliances that do not always provide the suitable answer for the problems of Yemen, or other countries for that matter. Subsequently, the fighting between the Houthis and the Yemeni government will not settle down peacefully. It is

The fact that the Houthis do not enjoy the full support of the Zaydi community from which they hail and are inspired by outside powers that do not share contiguous space with them, put Yemen: Sa’dah Complex Emergency (September 25, 2009) the Houthis at a great disadvantage. The Houthis are by far not the only problem that the Yemeni government SA' DA H S A U D I faces today, yet they A R A B I A represent the extensive list of grievances caused AL JAW F by underlying tensions Y E M E N within Yemen’s society. # * Understanding who ‘A M R A N the Houthis are, and why they are fighting # * H AJ JA H the government, thus highlights the importance of economic and community development Yemen requires if it aims to establish lasting peace.

Sa’ada War Complex U.S. Department of State


July '09

Aug. 11

Aug. 12

Though several agreements were signed between the government and the Houthi movement to put an end to the fighting, none of them lasted longer than few months. On the one hand, the Yemeni government feels that it needs to showcase

Aug. 14

• Sporadic clashes erupt between Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG) forces and Al-Houthi rebels. • The UN registers upwards of 10,000 new IDPs in June in addition to approximately 95,000 displaced from previous clashes.

• Following weeks of skirmishes, the government launches a major offensive against Al-Houthi rebels.

• Newly displaced individuals flee beyond Sa‘dah Governorate; 750 families arrive in 'Amran Governorate, some cross into Saudi Arabia. • ROYG declares state of emergency in Sa‘dah.

• Al-Houthi rebels kidnap 15 Yemeni Red Crescent health workers from an IDP camp near Sa‘dah city. They are later released unharmed.

Governorate capital City International boundary Governorate boundary Road






Zarahan Customs Post

20 Miles





Dahyan! Sa‘dah Airport*

*Airport closed to aid flights

Al-Anad Sam Sa‘dah Al-Ehsa


IDP camp IDP movement Fighting

Al Malahit


Aug. 25

Sept. 2

Sept. 9

Sept. 16

Sept. 1920

• UNHCR estimates that fighting has displaced 35,000 people over the course of two weeks. • Sa'dah city reported to be without water, telecommunication services, or electricity since August 10. • The UN launches a flash appeal for US$23.75 million. The U.S. remains the only country to pledge funds to UNHCR through the appeal (as of 9/24).

• A rapid nutrition assessment of Al-Muzruk Camp finds that 21% of children under five are acutely malnourished, while 8.9% are severely malnourished. • As many as 87 people are killed in a ROYG air raid on a makeshift IDP camp in 'Amran Governorate. • UN OCHA reports ongoing access concerns due to blocked roads and insecurity. Many IDPs and health facilities in Sa‘dah and 'Amran remain inaccesible. • ROYG issues a unilateral ceasefire ahead of Eid holiday. • Houthi rebels reject ceasefire by attacking three Yemeni military checkpoints. 140 rebels reportedly killed.


Sources: US depemrmnt of state






Al Harf


Red Sea

Khaywan (proposed)

Names and boundary representation are not necessarily authoritative.

Number of IDPs Residing In and Out of Camps

UN Flash Appeal Funding Requirements

$0.7 mil.



IDPs Residing in Camps IDPs Residing outside Camps

$4.5 mil.

$5.1 mil.

$3.2 mil.

$0.1 mil.

$5.3 mil.

$2.3 mil.

$2.5 mil.

Agriculture Coordination and Support Food Aid Health Nutrition Protection and Education Shelter / Non-Food Items Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Estimated Number of IDPs per Governorate 12,500





Sources: USG, UN OCHA, WHO, NY Times, Reuters, BBC, Agence France-Press

Hajjah ‘Amran Al Jawf Sa‘dah Other Areas

U83 8-03 STATE (HIU)

Houthi War Timeline 2004 June

Government troops battle supporters of dissident cleric Hussein al-Houthi in the north; estimates of the dead range from 80 to more than 600.

2004 September

Government says its forces have killed dissident cleric Hussein al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthi revolt in the north.

2005 April

More than 200 people Issue 1527

are killed in a resurgence of fighting between government forces and Houthi rebels.

2006 September

President Saleh wins another term in elections.

carrying firearms in Sanaa. Demonstrations without a permit are outlawed.

2005 May

2007 March

2008 January

Scores are killed or wounded in clashes between security forces and Houthi rebels in the north.

President Saleh says the leader of the rebellion in the north has agreed to renounce the campaign in return for a pardon.

2006 March

More than 600 Houthi members who were captured in 2004 are released under an amnesty.

Renewed clashes between security forces and Houthi rebels.

2009 August

Rebel leader AbdulMalik al-Houthi accepts a ceasefire.

Government troops claim to have killed more than 100 Houthi rebels in major offensive in Saada province.

2007 August

2009 September

2007 June

Citizens banned from

Ceasefire not respected,

fighting is reported to be continuing despite a conditional ceasefire called by the government in its conflict with the Houthi rebels.

2009 October

Airstrike reportedly kills dozens, Yemen›s military opened an investigation into reports that an airstrike intended for Houthi rebels is mistakenly struck and killed displaced Yemeni civilians.



Has Sa’ada War opened the door for regional intervention? Yemen: Swinging between internal and external forces Yemen is a poverty-stricken state. Since the unification between the north and the south in 1990, disturbances have not ceased. The phenomenon of Houthis that emerged in Yemen in 2004 does not seem to be the last one. Day after day, the battles between the Yemeni forces and the Houthis escalate in ferocity and intensity in a way that threatens the sovereignty of Yemen, the unity of its territories and the neighbouring countries. In this context, it is worth noting that Yemens neighbours have opposing interests. That’s why they may support one side against the other. Does Yemen have the potentialities and capabilities that enable it to solve its problems itself? Or does this country need a substantial external intervention that would put an end to these problems and rebellious acts going on its land? A diplaced Yemeni man from the northern Saada carries belongings in a metal trunk on September 15, 2009 at a camp set up by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Mazraq in Yemen›s Hajja region near the border with Saudi Arabia, 360 kms northwest of Sanaa. The UN and the international Red Cross called for an aid corridor to be established to let urgent relief supplies reach civilians trapped by combat in Yemen›s restive Saada region. The UN estimates that some 150,000 people have been displaced since 2004 by persistent instability in and around Saada. © KHALED FAZAA/AFP/Getty Images

Issue 1527



The Lonely Yemen

The Costs of Non-intervention in Yemen Yemen does not have the potentialities to establish security and stability on its soil. Thus, leaving Yemen to fight alone for its unity under complex circumstances and huge difficulties, will lead this country to stand on the verge of chaos and total collapse. This would have serious implications on Yemen›s neighbouring countries.


rab States, like most sovereign entities, do not want others to intervene in their internal affairs, even if they were on the verge of losing control of problems threatening their national security. There is a lack of trust in such circumstances, particularly because of the lack of stability already in place. The only case in which Arab States can accept intervention, is when neighbouring or powerful countries support their way of managing a crisis. Such kind of behaviour might create a critical situation for the threatened country, since external parties might have a different understanding of the ongoing crisis. This is the common «rule of engagement» which is understood in most Arab capitals. Yet every time an Arab nation faces an internal crisis caused by armed groups, this «rule of engagement» is re-tested. This appears to be the case in the current situation in Yemen. What is happening in Yemen cannot be considered solely an internal Yemeni issue, at least for major Arab powers like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Yemen is a geographic neighbour to Saudi Arabia and strategic neighbour to Egypt. Ignoring what is happening in Yemen might cause both external parties to face serious threats to their own national security and national interests. Saudi Arabia will find itself facing a problem similar to that which Egypt faces with «Gaza». The SaudiYemeni border, which stretches for 1,500 km, will become a theatre of military operations. Indeed, estimates of how Egypt and Saudia Arabia might deal with developments in Yemen have never been simple. It is clear that both Riyadh and Cairo hoped that the Yemeni government would be able to deal with the problems it faces, with respect to both the Houthis in the north, or the separatists in the south. In addition, Cairo and Riyadh have been monitoring with great concern the increasing scope of activities of al-Qaeda in Yemen, and the piracy 10 October, 2009

Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Salam activities committed by some Yemenis in the Gulf of Aden. Their worst nightmare was that Yemen would become a «failed state». Despite the doubts and suspicions of many Yemenis regarding the intentions of neighbouring States, important sources in the two countries confirm that the stability and normalcy of Yemen has always represented a strategic interest for Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Consequently, the prevailing conviction in the two countries which has not been explicitly expressed is that the cost of ignoring the situation in Yemen will be disastrous. Saudi reports on smuggling across its southern border with Yemen demonstrate why Riyadh thought of building a «wall» between its border with Yemen. Egypt has taken similar precautions as well. In 1993, for example, there was a plot in Yemen to assassinate one of the most famous Egyptian prime ministers, Dr. Atef Sedki. Consequently, Egypt suspended the telephone calls between the two countries, after many Jihad and Egyptian Islamist Group›s elements established a base in Yemen. In addition, the Iranina factor further destablizes Yemen from the perspective of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But the two capital cities also understand perfectly that the cost of intervention in Yemen might be huge, to the extent that this option might appear feasible only in theory. The reason behind this understanding is simple and very convincing: both countries have had a first-hand experience intervening in Yemen, with negative results. Egypt intervened militarily in Yemen during the sixties, and the results have made officials reluctant to become involved in Yemeni affairs. Saudi Arabia has also been rumoured to have tried to influence the war in Yemen in 1994.

The implications of its acts were disastrous. Usually there is not much talk in the Arab region about those sensitive experiences, but the critical point is that no one wants to be directly involved, even if they were asked to do so officially. Yemeni official Sources in Sanaa reject potential intervention in the country. Three states are referred to in this regard. For the two Arab countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, it is quite clear that they support the Yemeni government›s stance toward the Houthis in order to promote stability within Yemen and especially near its borders. These two countries support Sanaa by providing Yemen with advice and mediation with regard to its problems in the South. However, these are allegations and there is no clear evidence that either country is providing concrete support. The third country associated with intervention in Yemen is Iran, whose involvement is more evident as opposed to that of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But a question persists here, that no one in Cairo or Riyadh is willing to answer: What will happen if the situation in Yemen collapses? If the state loses control of the situation? If Sanaa turns a deaf ear on the friendly countries› appreciation of the aggravating circumstances? Or if Washington – that is on the alert to deal with any bad scenarios which would emerge in Yemen – starts to change its stance? In this respect, no one claims to have a specific answer. Yet, the logic that extensive interference is not on the agenda suggests that the rational decision is to prevent such possibilities from occuring in the first place. Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia seem to insist upon this commitment . Again, Yemen appears to be too valuable to be left alone in this tragic situation. Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Salam Director of the Regional Security Program, Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies,Cairo. 26


Yemen Is The Master of Itself!

The Saada Crisis: Foreign intervention and internal national solutions The Houthi insurgency crisis can only be resolved in the framework of an internal comprehensive solution, which distances it away from any from of foreign interference that might complicate the situation and make it more entangled. This is the only way out for Yemen


ome believe that the relationship between regional players and the players in the conflict in Saada (Yemeni state and its Houthi opponents) can contribute to a successful mediation that might attempt end the war and solve the crisis. But we believe that the opposite is true. The parties to the conflict stand on opposite sides regarding the mediation of such influential regional forces. The Yemeni authorities can not accept any mediation by Iran or any other Shiite sides. They believe that they are not impartial, because they provide material and moral support to the Houthi rebels. This was clearly obvious during the Sixth war, through the sympathy evinced by Shiite media channels, or the statements of Iranian officials and Iraqi Shiite religious and political leaders. In addition, such mediation will be rejected by, neighbouring countries, Saudi Arabia in particular, which would interpret intervention as a sign of increasing Iranian influence in the region. The Yemen’s government takes these risks seriously. The Yemeni Foreign Minister stressed the fact that Yemen refuses any interference by Iran in Yemen’s internal affairs, because such interference might harm the security and stability of the region. In addition, it could damage political relations between the region›s countries, as it raises many concerns and fears about the dimensions of such interventions. Yemen’s understanding of the concerns of the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia in particular regarding Iran›s role in the Saada crisis is what drives the Houthis to reject any initiative by the Gulf states to resolve the crisis. Houthi discourse accused Saudi Arabia of intervening in favour of the Yemeni government and the war against the Shiites in general. Thus, any rumour about the participation of Saudi Arabia in the sixth war in Saada is enough to make the Houthi warriors long for more fighting. For these reasons, the most influential powers are unable to undertake any mediation attempts to end the war, despite their willingness to do so. Iran has shown its willingness to mediate between the Yemeni State and the Houthis; the Sadr movement in Iraq tried to act as a mediator through the Yemeni Ambassador in Beirut. «We have tried, as Arabs and Muslims, to intervene and Issue 1527

Zayed Mohammed Jaber

make a mediation to end the crisis between the Yemeni people according to correct diplomatic means,» said a spokesman for the Sadr movement. But the Yemeni government did not only ignore this mediation, but instead saw it as evidence that these countries support the Houthi insurgency. President Ali Abdullah Saleh stressed in a recent interview with Al Jazeera television that «Muqtada al-Sadr, proposed to mediate between the government and the Houthis, this means that he has connections with them.» He also stressed that the Houthi group received financial assistance from Iran, and that this financial assistance amounted to one hundred thousand dollars. On the other hand, the Gulf States were content with sending the SecretaryGeneral of the Gulf Cooperation Council to Yemen, and confirming its support of Yemen «for the welfare and stability and security in the region.» The Houthis, however, saw this as an implicit support of Yemen - a response to the Yemeni government›s request to allow for the continuation of military operations against Houthis, in order to force them to accept the terms of the State to end the war. Although the government had announced suspension of military operations after the arrival of the Secretary General of the GCC, the resumption of the war after two hours from the announcement made the Houthis view the suspension as a «a selfacquittal « attempt by the government, and a cover- up for the Gulf States› real position. In the Houthis view the Gulf States› position is no different than the Saudi position supporting the Sanaa regime›s military settlement of the situation. These regional interactions have been and remain the main reasons behind the failure of any mediation attempts. The government is also sensitive towards any kind of mediation by foreign powers. It views it as a moral victory for the rebels, as such mediations make the Houthis look like an ‹equal› to the

State, and not a rebel group that lacks constitutional legitimacy. This was expressed by President Saleh during the Qatari mediation, which resulted in the government and the Houthis signing the Doha agreement in 2007. These barriers to foreign mediation emphasize the importance and the need for an internal solution to the crisis in Saada. There are several local players who can play the role of a mediator between the parties to the conflict. On the top of these are the opposition parties, like the «Joint Forum,» which can come up with a solution that is satisfactory to both sides. The opposition parties, as basic components of the Yemeni political system, are another face of authority in the country. They have no less interest than that of the ruling party to maintain the prestige of the state and its constitutional right to defend the country and to extend its influence over the Republic›s whole territory. Thus, the six conditions posed by the Supreme Security Committee on the Houthis can not be ignored by the parties of «Joint Forum» bloc, if they were given the chance to play such a role. There is nothing unfair or unlawful about those conditions, except perhaps for the condition requiring the release of abducted foreigners, as the Houthis deny their involvement in such acts.

Parallel to this, the position of the «Joint Forum» bloc, as the main opposition bloc, would assure the Houthis that their legitimate demands will not be ignored, such as releasing Houthi detainees, allowing them to observe their beliefs and religious practices, and ensuring that they will not be hounded or harassed by the Yemeni authorities. It is time for the opposition parties to do their job and fulfil their national duty. The government should offer them its support and allow them to play their role, which will not only contribute to stopping the Yemeni bloodshed in Saada, but will also restore trust in the political equation (the Authority and the opposition). It will represent a successful approach to a serious and comprehensive national dialogue to resolve all national crises in the country. Zayed Mohammed Jaber A Yemeni researcher and political analyst.



Yemen Needs a Savior!

The Lifeboat is not Yemeni-made this time! When internal circumstances are not suitable for solving the crisis, it is inevitable to recourse to a neutral and impartial external side to intervene in order to save whatever can be saved. The external intervention has become a necessity for overcoming the rebellion crisis in Saada.


t is known that external interference in the internal affairs of any country is often a result of internal weaknesses in that country. When States fail to resolve their internal problems, this necessarily requires the intervention of regional and international sides and forces, regardless of the nature of such intervention and the motives and real intentions of each side. Yemen is suffering at this stage from a complex and severe crises at the political, economic, and social levels. The most important of these crises is the brutal war going on in the north of the country, between the army and the insurgents. Although it has temporarily abated during different periods, this war, which erupted in 2004, continues. Now, the sixth war is intensifying rapidly, its dimensions are widening, its sides are multiplying and the number of its civilian and military victims is increasing. However, there are no signs on the horizon that the crisis will be resolved internally, either by a decisive military victory or by way of a political solution. Despite our understanding of the government’s concerns and fears about foreign mediation, problems in Yemen appear to be complicated enough to the require external interference. Foreign interference will help ease the tense situation in the country, such as what the Doha agreement did in Lebanon between the Lebanese factions. I believe that external intervention by a fair and impartial third side, whith no political agenda, acting as a mediator could make the two conflicting sides come to a mutual understanding and help them find suitable grounds for developing a final and comprehensive solution to this disastrous war. This is necessary for several reasons: Solving the Saada crisis internally and without help from external sides requires a minimum of stability. Particularly, a consensus between Yemeni political forces and parties, as well as other political players. This is currently not available in Yemen. Yemen suffers from political and 10 October, 2009

Saqaf Omar Al-Saqaf national security crises, both in Saada and in the south, not to mention the growing threat posed by al-Qaeda. There is great controversy and a stark contrast in views between the various political forces over all these issues and challenges, particularly between the ruling General People›s Congress Party and the main opposition parties, which are untied under the so called «Joint Forum» bloc. Since the outbreak of the war in 2004, all mediation efforts undertaken by tribal and political parties and committees, and social and religious figures have failed in stopping the fighting in Saada. Other steps taken by the government failed to calm the situation. One such step was the Government›s initiative in September 2005 on the occasion of the forty-third anniversary of the revolution, in which President Ali Abdullah Saleh offered to pay compensation to the Hamiddin family who ruled northern Yemen until the revolution of 1962. Other measures and actions to stop the war unilaterally have also failed, such as what happened last year when President Saleh announced that the war has permanently ended. Despite the failure of the Qatari mediation to end the war in Saada, they proved that an intervention by a third party with good intentions and without any personal interests, could contribute to resolving the crisis. The Qatari mediation approach to resolve the Saada crisis was one of the most objective and realistic approaches. It would have succeeded, if it hadn›t ignored issues concerning the provision of effective follow-up mechanisms to monitor and implement the provisions of the Doha agreement between the rebels and the state. There were, however, also external players who intervened and contributed in the failure of this mediation. In fact, to be peacefully saved from Saada crisis, Yemen is in an urgent need for assistance of other sides - whether

externally, regionally or internationally - as much as it internally needs true efforts and sincere intentions. This assistance has become so much needed especially because the internal solution has become nearly impossible. But any external intervention should be cautiously dealt with. The Intentions of mediators or initiatives posed should be tested. Any side that would intervene in Saada crisis as a mediator should enjoy credibility and should seek solving the problem and helping Yemen to overcome this crisis. Excluding the Qatari mediation, at least in the current stage, there are regional forces that could play this role in Yemen such as Egypt or Turkey. I believe, if both countries express their willingness to intervene to solve the Saada crisis, they will be welcomed by both the two parties of conflict. In addition, Cairo and Ankara have qualifications necessary for playing such role. Based on its political and historical relations with Yemen, Egypt would successfully play this role. Moreover, Egypt is trying now to regain its political role and regional rank, after this international position diminished in the last decades. Turkey also seeks a pivotal role in the regional politics. Ankara›s policy towards the Arab countries focuses now on relocation and seeks new important roles in the region. Therefore, I believe that an intervention by either country could achieve their personal ambitions and at the same time, increase the chances for of success in rescuing Yemen from its crisis by putting an end to the long war in Saada. It can therefore be said that the if Yemen fails to overcome its crises because international forces avoid a positive intervention, Yemen could easily become a failed state. If this happens, the negative impact will not be limited to collapse of Yemen but it would extend to threaten security and stability of the region as a whole. Saqaf Omar Al-Saqaf A researcher in the Centre for Research & Information In the Yemeni News Agency (Saba) 28


Iran and the Taqqiya Diplomacy Satellite image, the site of a possible nuclear facility is seen September 27, 2009 in Qom

Issue 1527



Iran and the Taqqiya Diplomacy

The Persian ethic and the spirit of Khomeinism The recent discovery of the uranium enrichment site in the city of Qom has once again put into question the peaceful intentions of Iran’s nuclear program. Could it be that recent cooperative gestures demonstrate a turning point in Iran’s intentions, or is cooperation instead part of a political taqqiya meant to buy Tehran time so they might develop a nuclear weapons program?


n Max Weber’s seminal work, he argued that the ethics of the dominant religion in a community could come to shape other realms of that community’s behavior. Although he was referring to the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, recent Iranian behaviour suggests this maxim may be applied to other contexts. The recent show put on by Iran concerning the legitimacy of its uranium enrichment plant in Qom, raises the possibility of understanding the hide-the-nuclearfacility program routine Iran has with the West as an approach derived from taqiyya. Iran’s dominant religious sect, Twelver Shiism, includes the concept of taqiyya, or “dissimulation,” as an acceptable means of protecting the life of those who fear they may be endangered because of an overt practice of their beliefs. Taqiyya, thus creates a condition for which an existential threat may be avoided by “concealing or disguising, one’s belief’s, ideas or convictions.” Iran has insisted that it considers Israel’s access to nuclear weapons an existential threat. Beyond that, Tehran argues that the monopoly on nuclear weapons by a select number of states is unjust and that Iran should equally be able to carry out measures that bring it closer to having this same access. Yet, Iran denies that any of its nuclear-adept plants are intended to create military weapons. Further, the leaders of the Islamic Republic put a halt to a nuclear weapons programme in 2003. Although increasing evidence from British, French, American and Israeli intelligence suggest that if the programme in fact ever came to a halt, it has since resumed. What to believe? Iran’s claims contradict themselves, and even more importantly, the evidence found by international intelligence agencies, suggest that the underlying purpose of the plant 10 October, 2009

Paula Mejia in the holy city of Qom is ultimately weapon oriented. The most recent and controversial report of the IAEA, Possible Dimensions of Iran’s Nuclear Programme, claims that “Qom is aimed at the development of a nuclear payload to be delivered using the Shahab-3 missile system.” The report notes that Iran’s Shehab-3 missiles are capable of targeting the Middle East and parts of Europe. Additional investigations have also noted that Iran has looked into mechanisms for moulding enriched uranium into spear-like shapes, a capacity of limited use outside military technology. The sum of this evidence has once again put into question the sincerity of Iran’s peaceful intentions, at least regarding the recently discovered reactor. International pressure on Iran has sent them a clear message: the world is not ready or willing to see Iran develop nuclear capabilities. Although reasons abound, the major concern is that while as a state, Iran may understand the consequences of deploying such a bomb, instability in the country and ties to nonstate actors might put their nuclear capabilities into the hands of less rational actors. Iran has been juggling the pressure of the international system on the one hand, and its desire to develop nuclear capabilities on the other. Taking into account the growing weakness of the regime in place, Iran appears eager to acquire a weapon that might make it look more powerful. Considering the stakes at hand, Iran has looked for a means to buy time so that it might pursue a nuclear program. Could it be that Iran’s religious identity has presented them with a solution to save face internationally, and develop a weapon it claims it needs for its own safety? If Iran has indeed been implementing a sort of political

taqiyaa to allow the regime to pursue the development of nuclear capabilities, the recent discovery f the uranium enrichment site in Qom may have problematized these efforts, at least for the time being. The international community has interpreted Iran’s lack of transparency, in conjunction with the mounting evidence of their commitment to produce a nuclear weapon, as a sign that more pressure and more surveillance is necessary. If this is the case, not only will taqiyaa become more costly as a result of sanctions and international alienation, it will also prove more difficult to implement. Nuclear fallout: The impact on rapprochement In previous years, a foreign policy priority for the US and its allies has been to normalize relations with Iran. Recent developments, however, have further increased the obstacles that stand in the way of rapprochement. The talks that took place in Geneva between Iran and the 5 plus 1 countries (the permanent members of the Security Council and Germany) offered Iran an opportunity for improved political and economic relationships. The talks included discussion on regional security and cooperation n civilian nuclear technology. However, Iran’s defiant stance, embodied by the testing of its Shahab-3 missile on September 28, demonstrated the negative effect that recent developments have had on a rapprochement. According to a New York Times article that was published on October 4 , the 6 countries have agreed on a dual track strategy of engagement if possible, with an alternative for more forceful measures if the first approach is unsuccessful. While these declarations are to be expected of the US and its European allies, it was the Russian and Chinese response that the world was watching as a means of measuring the impact to of Iranian secrecy on international 30

Iran›s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) speaks at a news conference September 25, 2009 in New York. Bombshell claims about Iran›s secret uranium plant near the holy city of Qom reveal a tale of years of clandestine espionage by Western spies peering into the hidden heart of Tehran›s nuclear program © DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

diplomatic relations. In the past, previous intelligence about the military aims of Iran’s programme have failed to convince Russia and China that Iran poses a threat to international stability. Yet the Qom site surprise has intensified Moscow’s position. In an article published by Reuters it was noted that Russian President Dimitri Medvedev said the “disclosures are a source of serious concern.” Although China’s reaction has been less apparent, a proposed sanction which has been proposed includes a ban on exporting refined petroleum products to Iran. A ban such as this, would have a serious impact on SinoIranian trade relations. Because of the necessary Chinese involvement in such a measure, it is becoming increasingly evident that Iran’s recent hide-and-seek game my have inspired Russia and china to agree to harsher sanctions than those currently in place. Geneva Talks: A Turning Point or Misdirection? Iran did agree during the meeting in Issue 1527

Geneva which took place October 1st to allow IAEA inspectors to access the site in Qom. The agency has subsequently scheduled a visit to the site for October 25. And the weekend following the October 1st meeting, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the IAEA was able to visit Tehran to discuss access to the facility.

part of the US and the UK. Yet both have insisted that while these talks may be evidence of Iran’s willingness to negotiate, neither are interested in “talking for talkings sake.” The American Ambassador to the UN insisted that “Iran has a finite period to come to a settlement on its nuclear programme.”

In addition to these cooperative measures, Iran has also agreed to transfer the bulk of its known nuclear fuel to other countries to enrich it. Analysts have called this move surprising yet welcomed as it would temporarily reduce Tehran’s potential to make bombs.

Despite the importance of Iran’s cooperation, the 5 plus 1 countries should not take Iran’s behavior for granted. The existence of the site in Qom is demonstrative of the shortcoming s of American efforts to dissuade Iran from pursuing a nuclear programme through diplomatic means. Although engagement is necessary, the 5 plus 1 countries should take heed of Michael Levi’s recommendations. The council on Foreign Relations export on nuclear proliferation has reiterated the importance of allowing for an alternative to sanctions. He has argued that until now, sanctions have proved ineffective. The 5 plus 1 countries should not forget that Iran was caught off guard and much of its cooperation now may continue to be part of a grand strategy of nuclear taqiyya.

Mohamed ElBaradei, said of his during his visit “ I see that we are shifting gears from confrontation into transparency and cooperation. I continue, of course, to call on Iran to be as transparent as possible.” This call to transparency was echoed by the international community as proof that Iran is in fact only seeking nuclear technology for energy pruposes. Iran’s cooperation has resulted in a positive assessment of the talks on the



Yemen at War

Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Qurbi, Yemen’s Foreign Minister

Issue 1527


People - Interview

Yemen at War

Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Qurbi, Yemen’s Foreign Minister In this interview, Dr. Abu Bakr AlQurbi, the Foreign Minister of Yemen, states that there is no place for negotiations with the Houthis and that the purpose of the military attacks against them is to force them to negotiate with the Yemeni government.


r Abu Bakr al-Qurbi, For Majalla›s interview with Dr Abu Bakr al-Quirbi:

Q: Do you think a military confrontation with the Houthi insurgents in Saada will succeed? Abu Bakr al-Qurbi: As we have always said, the objective of military operations is to push these rebellious elements to sit on the negotiating table. We know that the rebel group is carrying out acts of sabotage and guerrilla war in an attempt to impose its vision and demands without committing itself to the Constitution and the law. As you have seen, the government has been trying since the first war to open communication channels with the group, in order to persuade them to return to their right mind. Their dialogue with the government and their demands – which are nothing more than vague slogans - do not reveal the true objectives of this group. Therefore, the aim of military operations, as I have just said, is to push them to enter into dialogue with the government, but if they continue their acts of aggression, the Government will continue its efforts to end this insurgency. Q:In your opinion, why did the Doha agreement fail in ending the fighting in Saada? We explained this before. I think that the message sent by the Commission [which was set up to monitor the implementation of the Doha agreement] to His Excellency the President – which was published in newspapers and its signatures were clear enough– has shown that the reason for the failure of the Doha agreement was caused by the Houthis. 10 October, 2009

Q:How do you see the religious and sectarian dimensions of the armed confrontation? Are you worried about that? Im the kind of person who is always worried of the presence of a sectarian or racial element in any conflict. It reflects an intellectual backwardness crisis, from which those who promote this type of conflict suffer. Q:What is your assessment of the position of the opposition regarding the war in Saada? Especially as they consider the insurgents and the government «equal» parties, as the opposition›s latest statements show? Unfortunately, the opposition was not successful in the case of the Houthis. They tried to use this issue to gain certain political partisan advantage. Their position was not based on any attempt to apply the Constitution or the law. When the opposition parties call for the government to stop the war and enter into dialogue with the insurgents, they forget or ignore the fact that the government has actually tried to stop the war several times, but the Houthi group did not respond to the government›s attempts. The government has always said that the door to dialogue is open; the opposition therefore did not come up with something new. They need to direct their message to the Houthis, and call for them to abide by the Constitution and the law, and engage in genuine dialogue to end this dispute. If the Houthis have legitimate and constitutional demands, we are committed - as a government – to consider and address such de-

mands. Q:Do you think that what is happening in Saada has an impact on the situation in the south? No, I do not think so. The truth is that what is happening is related solely to the political mobility in the country as a whole. The opposition parties always try to take advantage of existing differences, both in Saada, or in the southern provinces. Q:President Ali Abdullah Saleh has lately accused certain Iranian parties - which he did not name - of supporting the rebellion in Saada. What›s your assessment of the current stance towards Iran? We said that we have certain information, and that we are making investigations based on this information. Once the investigations are completed, the findings will be announced. Q:In regard to this matter, did Iran actually offer to mediate between the government and the Houthis after the outbreak of fighting in recent weeks? Was there a clear framework for the mediation? Iranians expressed a desire to help the [Yemeni] government, but did not submit a detailed or clear proposal about what they can do. We told them that the most important role which Iran can play is to uphold its announced position to support the unity and stability of Yemen, and not to resort to violence to resolve any differences. We also asked Iran to neutralize their media 34

People - Interview coverage of the crisis, despite the improvements made to them, as the Iranian media have been supporting and adopting the Houthis view during the previous period. Q:What is your assessment of the Iraqi position regarding the crisis in Saada? Especially since some political parties in Iraq are accusing Yemen of harbouring important figures of the former Baathist regime? A statement issued by the [Iraqi] Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied any claims that there might be any intentions to allow the Houthis to have there own offices in Iraq. It has been emphasized that the Iraqi constitution and the Iraqi government reject any kind of interference in the internal affairs of any other State. The Iraqis do not link the issue of the presence of some Iraqis in Yemen with the issues raised by Some Iraqi parliamentarians. Q:Do you demand a regional intervention or an intervention by the Gulf States to resolve the crisis? We have said clearly that this is an internal crisis, which will be resolved through internal dialogue. Unfortunately, foreign mediation gives the impression that this outlaw group and the government are equal parties. Q:Does this mean that you are closing the door in front of any mediation efforts that might be initiated by any of the countries of the region? I said that this is an internal issue in the first place, and it will be addressed in Yemen by the Yemeni authorities. Q:But if the crisis continues to be unsolvable internally, will the Yemeni government continue to refuse foreign mediation? The intractability of the crisis comes in the framework of the sabotage and guerrilla warfare committed by the Houthis. Any external or foreign solutions, such as the Doha agreement, will Issue 1527

Yemeni Foreign Affairs Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi (R) speaks with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki during a ministerial meeting at the 9th Conference for Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) in Sanaa on June 25, 2009. The five-day conference started on June 20 and included commercial, economic and technological discussions with representatives of the 18-member countries. © KHALED FAZAA/AFP/Getty Images)

always be temporary ones. The rebellious elements will exploit such solutions for a certain period before they return to revolt again. Therefore, there must be radical solutions to such problems. Unfortunately, mediators in most cases can not provide the appropriate political climate for implementing this kind of solution. Such political climate can only be achieved internally, through a real and serious national dialogue. Q:What is your comment on those who say that Yemen has turned into an arena of rivalry and settling of matters between regional countries‫؟‬ There is a lot of speculation and political analysis about what is happening in Yemen. All of these readings and possibilities must be taken into account. But the issue in the end must remain a Yemeni internal affair. All political parties in Yemen (including opposition parties, the government and society in general), must understand that their responsibility is

to maintain the security and independence of Yemen. They must not make political wrangling and narrow partisan objectives stand as an obstacle in front of finding solutions. All mediations will not bring any results if the Yemenis did not have real intentions to normalize their internal circumstances and overcome their differences and problems. Q:How do you see the future of the efforts of Yemen and its chances in joining the regional Gulf system in light of the crisis of Saada and other crises that the country is undergoing? Indeed, the march of Yemen to join the Gulf States is moving at a rapid pace. It has taken more momentum in the context of the current positions of the Gulf States towards Yemen. The GCC has become convinced that what is happening in Yemen requires it to give the Yemeni government more political, economic, and developmental support, so that it might overcome all the diffi35

People - Interview culties it faces. Any serious repercussions that might occur in Yemen will have direct implications on the Gulf countries and regional security as a whole.

Q: Can this war be solved through military means, or do you believe that it is an ideological conflict that must be addressed differently?

Q:Have you discussed this matter with the Secretary General of Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdulrahman Al-Attiyah, during his recent visit to Yemen [at the beginning of September]?

I think that the issue of confronting a way of thought is very important; intellectual deviation is one of the most prominent risks that our societies suffer from. Intellectual deviations in the Arab and Islamic worlds over the centuries have led us to catastrophes. One of the most important problems concerning ideological deviation is that some people inflame them In order to serve personal interests and agendas of particular States or groups, in or outside the region. But in the end, everyone pays the

Of course we discussed this subject with him. We also raised the issue of the rebellion in Saada and other issues with the Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. We wanted them to know the truth as it is and not through the media, which sometimes tend to distort facts. Q:What is your assessment of the positions of Western Europe and America regarding the war in Saada? Is it true that the Yemeni government took from the Americans the green light to resort to a military solution in its battle with the Houthis? The Yemeni government does not need to take a green light from anybody to solve an internal issue that concerns national security. It is an issue of special interest to us in preserving national unity, and ending the armed rebellion against the legitimate Government of the country. European and Gulf countries called for a cease-fire and to take into account the humanistic aspect while in war. They showed their appreciation for the efforts being made by Yemen in this regard. Yemen is perhaps one of the few countries where the Government and people have made a significant effort to help displaced people and supply them with provisions. The United States, as you know, has announced in its second statement [about the war in Saada] that the government has the right to confront armed and outlawed rebellious elements. 10 October, 2009

price for these intellectual, ideological, and religious conflicts. Such deviations can only be addressed through thought. One can only counter a thought by another thought. This can be done through several ways, such as an education that removes the erroneous understanding and reading of religion and history. It is a long-term issue, because even if you were able to put a group that adopts an erroneous way of thinking on the right path, after a period of time, if you do not have sound educational foundations, you›ll find other groups suffering from intellectual deviations.

Q:Finally, how do you see the future of Yemen in the light of the complex crises it suffers from either in the North or the South, not to mention the aggravation of al-Qaeda threat? The triangle that the government faces now is a one representing extremism in thought. It is also, as I said earlier, a group that does not read history correctly. All of this will certainly result in harming the stability and development in Yemen, and harming the lives of Yemeni citizens. All of these rebellious elements swim against the current, with regards to history and the era in which we live. Thus, they are fighting a losing battle. The problem is that they are hindering the progress of Yemen and The Arab and Islamic nations as well. The enemies of the Islamic nation and Arab nation are the ones who reap the harvest of what these rebellious elements are doing under the claim of fighting such enemies. The issue of the South has a political dimension. It has been addressed several times before, and we continue to address it. I am sure that the voices calling for a disengagement or separation do not represent the majority of Yemen in the north and south, because unity is rooted in the conscience of the Yemenis. As usual, there will always be complaints when there are economic problems, difficult circumstances, and an administration that might have committed errors. But such problems should be addressed within the constitutional institutions and legitimate political movement. Q:According to your opinion, how much time Yemen will need in order to restore its stability? I am not a fortune teller. But I hope it doesn’t take too long. Interview conducted by Mohammad Saif Haidar, Saba, Yemen. 36

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People - Profile

From One Rebellion to Another Abdel Malik Al-Houthi

Abdel Malik Al-Houthi has emerged as an influential figure after the death of the spiritual father of the Houthis in Yemen,Hussein Al-Houthi. Here, we traces several dimensions of Abdel Malik›s leading personality.


ive years ago, on 10 September 2004, Yemeni authorities were able to kill Hussein Badr El-Din Al-Houthi who led a violent armed revolt in Saada. At the time, many breathed a sigh of relief and there prevailed a general feeling that President Ali Abdullah Saleh managed for the second time to overcome one of the most formidable challenges he had ever faced throughout his long rule of Yemen. This is particularly the case given the relatively long time it took to quell the Shiite revolt (3 months) which was led by the son of one the most distinguished Shiite and Zaidi authorities in Yemen. This can be compared to a quick showdown in the summer of 1994 that culminated in the defeat of Southern separatists in a shorter period of time (two months and few days). Yet unfolding developments in the subsequent few months proved that this was a misleading feeling. The revolt jumped to the forefront of events again, this time under a younger and more determined leader, with a greater resolve to carry out the project started by Hussein Al-Houthi. The movement was met with great sympathy and patronage on the part of his father, Badr El-Din, the wellknown Zaidi authority. With Hussein›s younger brother, Abdul Malik Badr El-Din Al-Houthi taking the helm since 2006 at leading the revolt opposed to the rule of president Ali Abdullah Saleh, a qualitative development took place in the revolt›s performance, on the political and organizational levels and in the media. It also became more fierce, within a few days new rounds of conflict with a weak central government erupted and the revolt expanded geographically away from its major centre in Saada to neighbouring areas in the governorates of Omran and Goof. Gradually, it came closer to the midi district overlooking the Red Sea. Though Abdul Malik Al-Houthi›s name has often been mentioned in recent years as the leader of the Houthi Movement, his persona is still shrouded in mystery and so little about him has been Issue 1527

known that it is impossible to form a clear picture about the young man who has led four rounds of fighting against the Yemeni government. However, it is known that he was born in Saada in 1979, making him only thirty. He grew up in a conservative rural family with an interest in following local and international affairs. During his childhood, he moved alternately between Maran and Gomaa Ibn Fadil neighbourhoods in the mountainous Haidan district, where he received his education in the Zaidi religious schools. He is married and has several children. Until recently, Abdel Malik AlHouthi was a familiar name among the Yemeni people, but his face was unknown to many of them. Since 2005, the media in Yemen has circulated an amorphous portrait of the man, in which he wears a grim child›s face and a beard so thin that it seems as if it sprang up suddenly. His looks seem completely average. When Abdul Malik Al-Houthi›s information office distributed a portrait of him in late 2008, this was considered an important media landslide, given his well-defined

contours, though he looked older. His picture had a spectacularly emblematic significance, as he posed an elegant gesture, with a Palestinian cape round his neck, and an array of microphones in front of him while he was standing before a pulpit adorned with plastic flowers. As some accurately remarked, these are appearances hardly to be found in the remote Saada governorate. In contrast to his late media appearance, the fame of Abdul Malik al-Houthi as one of the leaders of the Houthi mainstream, started relatively early. At the start, his name appeared next to the name of Abdullah Eida Al-Razami, who was a former parliament member and field commander of the Houthis. AlRazami soon resumed the rebellion movement in Saada and fought a second round of battles against the Yemeni army between March and May 2005. But immediately at the start of the following year, with the third round of war against the Yemeni army, Abdul Malik al-Houthi managed to assert his leadership of the Houthi current. He surpassed AlRazami and other prominent figures in the stream, including a number of his elder brothers. 39

People - Profile It is believed that his father, who supervised the second war, managed to remove senior leaders and field commanders, who were key aides to his son in the first war and before it during the founding phase of the movement. Al-Houthi, the father, removed the leaders and commanders from the field and political leadership front and mobilized supporters of tribes and field commanders loyal to his son Abdul Malik. He could ally in particular those who belong to Hashemite families and the movement or those who have kin and marriage relationships with the family of Badr el-Din.

Yemenis from the northern Saada province walk past a motorbike at a camp set up by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Mazraq in Yemen›s Hajja region, 360 kms northwest of Sanaa. Fleeing the horrors of fighting between the army and rebels in northern Yemen, thousands of civilians who have found temporary refugee in Saudi Arabia were sent back to their war-ravaged areas. There are four camps for displaced Yemeni civilians in Saada, in addition to three others including the Marzaq camp which houses around 1,500 people in 280 tents overseen by four UN agencies and other local aid groups, according to UNICEF. Photo credit KHALED FAZAA/AFP/Getty Images

This process crowned Abdul Malik Badr al-Din as the de facto leader of the rebellion movement and gave him absolute support of the majority of movement members, its followers and supporters in Yemen. Abdul Malik Al-Houthi enjoyed choosing his representatives to the negotiating rounds with the government and mediation committees, including the Doha Agreement, which was officially signed in February 2008 under the auspices of the state of Qatar, but its regulations did not last for long. Those who are close to Abdul Malik Al-Houthi almost agree that he possesses many qualifications which have enabled him to lead an armed rebel movement with a revivalist doctrinal approach. It is said that he has a strong personality with real prudence and common sense. He has a talent for public speaking and enjoys a charisma that has gained him many supporters. They justify their views by citing what happened in March 2009 when Abdul Malik AlHouthi made use of the Celebration of the Prophet Mohammed›s birth to address thousands of his followers. He spoke in an orotund voice, condemning the alliance between Yemen and the U.S. He also accused the Yemeni authorities of betrayal because of their loyalty to foreign powers at the expense of the national interests. He warned the Yemeni authorities that they would lose if they launched a new attack on AlHouthi›s movement. Al-Houthi was aware of his movement’s capacity to muster significant support, as they had already organized demonstrations against Israel and the U.S. during Gaza War in January 2009. These demonstrations were resounding with the traditional slogans of the Believing Youth. Abdul Malik Al-Houthi realizes to what extent the media is necessary for his fight against the Yemeni authorities. As a result, he launched Almenbar, a website to communicate his movement›s views to the world. Unlike his elder brother Hussain, he manages the rebellion in a way that 10 October, 2009

manifests his ability to manoeuvre the media. Despite his skilfulness in defending the Houthi’s proposals, his media and political discourse imply a kind of flagrant populism. Consequently, his discourse is often tinged with many of contradictions that significantly underestimate these proposals. While he has stressed in many occasions that he, along with his men, are loyal to the Republic and its constitution. Further, he argues that the Houthis do not wish to replace the government in Saada, although he describes President Saleh›s regime as illegitimate. Al-Houthi has never given an explanation of his refusal to take recourse to the constitutional institutions to express his opposition to the Yemeni president. He has always repeated his favourite excuse that the Houthis are obliged to fight the government in order to defend themselves. When asked about the reason why the government waged a war against his group, he cleverly responds as if he were in public relations, repeating the Houthis› traditional excuse that the group is raising slogans which condemn America and Israel. He accused the Yemeni regime of loyalty to the Americans and the Israelis. He seemed to shut his eyes to the fact that the formal Yemeni stance has always supported the Palestinian cause and has openly backed the resistance in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. Similarly, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi does not seem to become weary of his repeated denial of not having any kind of relationships with Iran. He also frequently stresses that his movement does not get any kind

of financial aid or support from any Iranian Shiite authorities. He argues instead that the Houthis tried to imitate the Lebanese Hezbollah because they admired this party and consider it a resistance model exactly as they admire the Palestinian movement, Hamas. The justificatory discourse of the Houthis› leader disregards the fact that if the entire occupation of Palestinian and the partial occupation of Lebanon may justify their resistance and the taking up of arms beyond the control of the state or the authorities, this cannot be applied to Yemen since it is an unoccupied land, and the spread of arms and the fragile authority of the government are among its most important problems and challenges. With the continued armed confrontations with Abdul Malik Al-Houthi and his supporters, the inability of Yemen’s government to put an end to the rebellion in Saada, the mutual accusations between the two sides of the conflict, as well as the involvement of internal and external forces, it does not seem that the Houthi rebellion will settle down soon. Whatever the fate of the prominent men of the movement led by Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, the Yemeni dilemma will unfortunately persist. It is exacerbated by entrenched political, economic and security crises of the country›s north and south, and this of course is a source of relief for the forces opposing the Yemeni regime since these forces are pleased to see the regime sink into chaos, without caring about the future of the country which is slowly getting closer to the edge of the unknown. 40

Economics Arab Economics

International Investor


The Economics of Qat

SANAA, YEMEN: A Yemeni boy takes a whiff of his father›s newly-purchased qat, a popular narcotic drug, at a market in Sanaa 20 September 1999. More than 80 percent of Yemenis spend some 30 percent of their salaries on qat. Š RABIH MOGHRABI/AFP/Getty Images

Issue 1527


Economics - Arab Economics

The Economics of Qat Why Qat is more than just a bad habit Wessam Sherif

In a time where the calamitous economic situation in Yemen is on the spotlight, together with the country’s political problems, an old tradition might play a big role in perpetuating Yemen’s

Sanaa, YEMEN: A Yemeni soldier chews qat, a mild drug used daily by most Yemenis, while guarding an electoral ballot-counting site in Sanaa 21 September 2006. Millions of voters went to the polls for the presidential and municipal elections held 20 September. Initial reports indicate that Yemen›s veteran leader is headed for a resounding victory in his first real electoral test in 28 years in power in the impoverished Arabian peninsula nation with a massive 82 percent of the vote, while his main rival, former oil minister Faisal bin Shamlan, garnered just 16 percent, according to partial results announced by electoral commission chief Abdelwahab al-Sharif. © CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images

10 October, 2009


Economics - Arab Economics


ome years back, a 12 year old Yemeni child was accidentally hit and killed by a former German ambassador to Yemen who was taking a drive in his car around the country side. One would think that a situation such as this would manifest grave consequences incorporating a lawsuit at least, if not attempts at settling the issue through violence. Smart and experienced as he was however, the German ambassador resorted to solving the dilemma in a Yemeni fashion. The German ambassador arranged a meeting with the family of the deceased boy to settle the matter. Supported by a truckload of Qat as an apologetic gesture, the ambassador sat with the boy›s family for a few hours and announced his willingness to accept any decision taken by the family. Due to his respect to Yemeni traditions, the ambassador was declared forgiven by the father of the boy and reprisal was not necessary. Through knowing the crucial role that Qat plays as a cornerstone in the Yemeni community, the German ambassador reached the optimum resolution to the situation. Harvested from the top of Qat trees, Qat is a plant that is said to stimulate brain activity owing to a number of compounds it contains. It is stated as legal by the government of Yemen, while assigned by the World Health Organization in a drug group in which it is the sole member. Qat is enmeshed in all social strata of the Yemeni community, causing numerous social dilemmas seeing that 90% of men chew Qat, as opposed to 50% of women, not to mention its recent spread to children. Nevertheless, Qat goes far beyond being a mere Yemeni tradition or habit, since its economic influence is at least as potent as its social one. Struck by poverty, food insecurity and high unemployment, Yemen lingers as the only LDC in the Middle East. Yemen depends on agriculture as the single and most important contributor to the economy, partaking in about 17.6% of the GDP. The potential for agricultural and hence economic development is foreseen to be greatest in the Arabian Peninsula, despite that only 3% of Yemeni land is arable. This potential Issue 1527

however is severely hindered by primitive farming methods and more importantly, Qat. In an agriculture dependent country, Qat plays an immense role in resource allocation, agricultural production and trade and even goes as far as wavering agricultural imports and exports from year to year. If Yemeni agriculture was a clock, Qat would be the main gear moving the arms, or halting them thereof. Agriculture provides a source of living for about 54% of the total Yemeni workforce, and 74% of the rural inhabitants, thus becoming a lifeline to a large sector of the Yemeni population and the economy as a whole. The insidious plant is estimated to compose more than 40% of the Yemeni agriculture, by that affirming its place as the country›s number one agricultural crop, even replacing Coffee which was once Yemen›s major cash crop. Furthermore, a staggering 25% of the workforce depends on the agriculture of Qat. Qat has become the most profitable cash crop in Yemen throughout the last decade, swaying farmers to Qat agriculture instead of competing crops; coffee and grapes. According to growers, Qat is 5 times as profitable as grapes and 20 times as profitable as potatoes, since it produces leaves

year round and is always under high demand. As a result, Qat – Yemen›s primary cash crop – occupies over 145,000 hectares of land, and throws in an astonishing 9% of the GDP. Based on the previous statistics, and considering that Qat does not exceed being a non-exportable drug, Qat agriculture and production are seen as a major factor in creating ruptures that hinder progress in an already crawling economy. Qat agriculture is estimated to be growing by 12% per year, taking up more of the arable land and diminishing agriculture in necessary food products. Over the past few years, there was a 75%-92% gap between the consumption and production of wheat. According to Dr. Ismail Muharram, the director of the General Authority for Agricultural Research, Yemen could produce a 100 times more than its current wheat production if proper methods to stop Qat production are applied. Accordingly, wheat imports have doubled since 2004, whereas domestic grain production covers only about 8% of the local market needs. Vegetables have also recorded an inadequate domestic production per year despite the slight increase in production. Yemeni agriculture is heavily dependant on ground water, since 90% of irrigation depends on it.

Incidence of Qat Use by Age of Household Head *

* Milanovic, Branko. “Qat Expenditures in Yemen and Djibouti: An Empircal Analysis”. Journal of African Economies, Vol 17, No. 5 Pp 661-687


Economics - Arab Economics

Yemeni Development Indices Human Poverty Index

38% (HPI-1)

GDP per capita

930 (ppp US$)

Population living below $1 a day


Life Expectancy at Birth

61.5 years Human Development Report (2007)

This is where another serious problem caused by Qat agriculture appears. Qat alone uses up to 30% of the country›s ground water due to farmers› traditional methods of irrigation, by that gravely threatening the country›s water resources. San›aa basin is expected to dry up by 2025 if no swift action is taken, since the water table is dropping up to six meters per year in some areas. This has placed Yemen›s per capita use of water among the lowest in the world. The severe decrease in water resources is not giving room for agricultural growth, seeing that the extraction of water is becoming more difficult by the day. The dependence on ground water and depletion of water resources are also highlighting another major issue, which is state subsidized diesel. The process of water extraction requires ground pumps that work by diesel to bring water to the surface. Diesel subsidies, are on one hand making Qat agriculture and market prices cheaper, and 10 October, 2009

are on the other hand considered a waste of the state›s limited financial resources. Since diesel subsidies have become a way of indirectly subsidiszing Qat, most government ministers agree that removing subsidies on diesel would be the most efficient way in curbing Qat production. Aside from hindering economic productivity and draining water resources, Qat is also a direct reason in the massive downfall of work productivity in Yemen. It is estimated that about 22 million working hours are wasted daily on Qat consumption. Disposable income for household needs is also slashed by the daily spending on Qat which ranges from 3005000YR. This of course further worsens the state of food insecurity and malnutrition experienced by the people, since money is spent on Qat rather than food that is already experiencing a rise in prices. A World Bank regional development expert, Julie ViloriaWilliams, noted that “Qat use in

Yemen is a national emergency.” In a country stricken by poverty, the fact that the average Qat chewer spends about YR 600 ( $3 approximately) per day on Qat, in addition to beverages and cigarettes, is alarming and clearly detrimental to Yemen’s prospect of development. Yemen currently has serious development issues, reflected in its economic indicators. For example, Only 54% of the population is literate, and approximately 15% of the population lives under $1 a day, yet the average household spends on average $3 a day on Qat. The problem that Qat poses has been clear for some time now. In the 1970’s the former Prime Minister, Muhsen Al-Aini, went as far as to issue directives to uproot Qat trees. Unfortunately for Yemen, the public was not ready to support these measures, and very little has been done to change the status quo. Qat production has created a ripple in the Yemeni economy, affecting agricultural production, exports and imports fluctuations, household economies, government subsidies and public health. That is all topped by the eminent threat posed by water scarcity to the Agricultural sector as a whole. Whether the answer to Qat control is taxation, removal of diesel subsidies or planting other cash crops instead, the government has to overcome social and political pressures to control Qat production and trade to save the economy from further demise. 44

Economics - International Investor

Investing in Reality

The GCC’s disconnect with the energy revolution By trying to play it safe, many GCC investors and sovereign funds paid dearly for their Western investment and should be wary of doing so again. So while diversifying local economies and building much-needed infrastructure should remain the governments’ priorities, investors should in tandem target new frontiers and renewable energy ventures.


ow that the global economy has apparently bottomed out, governments and private investors alike can shift away from emergency to forward-looking decisions that will better capture the profits of the world to be. This is particularly true for oil producers in the Gulf Co-Operation Council. With prices ranging around $70 a barrel, every country in the region can conservatively start plotting a course to recovery. Even OPEC and the International Energy Agency agree that crude oil will remain around this level for months to come, with most analysts forecasting an upside risk. But what to do with all that cash that will no doubt filter down to industries, banks and eventually consumers? GCC sovereign wealth funds alone still hold at least $1.5 trillion, according to the SWF Institute. Private equity funds domiciled in the GCC too have registered double digit gains this year. Surely previous oil shocks taught the GCC the need to diversify their economies. Non-oil economies across the region grew around 7 percent in 2007 and 2008, while governments significantly reduced public debt. That and a series of sound policies explain why the region is faring a lot better than the rest of the world in this crisis. But one valuable lesson that can also be extracted is that too much money went into Western economies, especially in sectors considered solid. That is, by trying to play it safe, many GCC investors and sovereign funds paid dearly and should be wary of doing so again, especially since recent data shows that GCC funds have undertaken a purchasing spree, as evidenced by recent big-ticket purchases in Western countries. So while diversifying local economies and building much-needed infrastructure should remain the governments’ priorities, GCC investors should in tandem target new frontiers and renewable energy ventures. African, Asian and emerging markets have been outperforming most Western, and certainly Gulf, markets. But within that, the GCC should not only look at profit, but geopolitical influence and long term goals as well. North Africa, eastern Africa, Central Asian and Arab countries make economic and political sense. Business ties have a domino effect in terms of influence. Iran’s sway in 10 October, 2009

Andres Cala the region has grown on the back of its willingness to expand business ties, as the Iraqi and Syrian experience shows. Another example is Lebanon, where more than 60 percent of foreign direct investment in the last five years has originated in the GCC, especially in the real-estate market. While surging in recent years though, investment is still discreet. A recent report of the Kuwait-based Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation concluded that less than 5 percent of all Arab investment abroad between 1995 and 2007 went to other Arab countries. North African economies are also more exposed to Europe, so GCC money will help stabilize their economies. With profit in mind though, the returns are also attractive. The Egyptian economy is faring better than its own government’s expectations and will grow more than 5 percent in the 20092010- fiscal year, after a 4.7 percent growth in the cycle ending July 31. Several Central Asian and North African economies are expected to recover faster than those in Western and GCC countries, especially in their infrastructure, agrifood, healthcare and commodities sectors. For some industries, like construction, it is also a good way to hedge the downturn at home. The same applies for other nonArab African countries, like Senegal, Botswana and Burkina Faso, all of which improved their business practices, according to a World Bank report. Geographic proximity, huge population, and abundance of natural resources and arable land makes some African countries ideal targets for GCC foreign expansions, whether its Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa, and eventually the Horn of Africa. Naturally it is riskier, but some

African nations are also rapidly moving into emerging economy status. There’s a reason why Chinese investment has been pouring there in the past few years and the GCC should not fall behind. Investors should also target the local market to have a multiplier job creation effect. The future energy revolution is a shoe-in venue for that. Regardless of the ability of the world to agree on specific climate-change measures in Copenhagen, it is clear that every industrialized nation as well as leading nations amongst the emerging economies will usher a cleaner world. That means renewable sources, but also technologies that can burn fossil fuels in a “cleaner” way. In either case, it makes perfect sense for GCC countries to take the lead in researching this future goldmine. The energy revolution will require hundreds of billions of dollars in the next decades. Creating companies or financing research in this field is a perfect way to hedge stalling oil output. If the world is trying to decrease fossil fuels, why not become a world leader in the alternatives? A clear example is carbon capture and storage technology. Western nations are struggling to find money to test promising processes that will allow carbon dioxide to be pumped underground for safe storage. Some $50 billion will de required worldwide ahead of the 2020 target to start deploying CCS globally. Why, I wonder, is the GCC not focusing on this technology? It has abundant underground storage sites in the form of depleted oil deposits and pumping CO2 can even replace the natural gas that is used to increase oil recovery rates. And why, with all the power shortages expected, would GCC countries not employ solar energy massively or invest in new technologies to make it more efficient? Algae-sourced biofuel, clean coal, and hydrogen fuel all offer similar benefits, as do many other experimental sources that require capital. Indeed, a recent European report says almost 2.7 million more jobs will be created in renewable energy sector than in fossil fuels. It is in this sector where future investments should be directed. Andres Cala Madrid-based freelance journalist and political scientist 46

Economics - Markets

First Sharia Compliant Longevity Linked Investment

Five of the world’s 10 biggest economies are on the rebound with signs of recovery in Asia and Europe. However, the United States, Britain, Italy, Russia and Spain are still in decline Out of recession GDP growth, latest quarter compared to previous quarter

An innovative new platform allows Islamic investors to diversify holdings using an uncorrelated asset class. Stone Cross capital was approved as the first American based asset management company that deals with Shariacompliant insurance. This institution will allow the Islamic community to diversify their asset and satisfy future product demands by applying an alternative asst class that is not correlated to any other asset class in the market.

Japan 0.9%





3.0* 4.0


United States -0.3%

Still in recession

Austria Belgium Cyprus Netherlands* Ireland** Hungary Czech Rep.** Slovenia** Lithuania


6.3 7.1 7.8





United States


Portugal Euro Zone France Latvia








South Africa *June 2009


Sources: Eurostat, national figures



Picture: Getty Images


Russia -10.9%



23.6 25%


Price of a barrel of oil Adjusted for inflation $140

Spain** -1.9%

As economic recovery appears to become more certain, the top official of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry expects to see a v-shaped recovery in the UAE next year. He argued that “The impact on Dubai was not as severe as it was expected. In the long-term outlook has improved and expectations of liquidity and access to financing also looks promising.” However, on a world wide scale experts are quick to caution that the worst of the recession is not over. Yet, the specific dynamics of the UAE indicate that although it is linked to the global market through a number of channels, such as oil, it appears to be more buoyant and thus capable of dealing with what may bring the economies of other countries down further.



Italy -0.5%




UK -0.8%

An improvement in US corporate earnings in conjunction with a decrease in Australian unemployment improved expectations across Asia pushing stocks up further. The increase was led by Australia, where unemployment fell to 5.7 percent from 5.8, indicating that the country was overcoming the recession. Similarly Hong Kong and Tokyo’s markets have risen as a result of these developments.








-0.4% -0.4% -0.5% -0.9% -1.5% -2.1% -3.4% -6.4% -12.3%

20.7% 4.7% 3.3% 2.3% 2.3% 2.2% 0.4% 0.3% 0.3%

*Compared to same quarter of previous year. **Q1 data, no Q2 data available Sources: Eurostat, Federal Statistics Service (Russia), National Bureau of Statistics (China), © GRAPHIC NEWS Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates (fiscal year 2009-10)

JOBLESS U.S.: 15.1 million, EU: 21.9 million, China: 9m registered unemployed, but 30m migrants believed to have lost their jobs




Singapore India Hong Kong Indonesia South Korea Slovakia* Poland Greece Portugal

Germany 0.3% France 0.3%

The world economy is recovering but unemployment continues to rise amid fears of a double-dip recession. The jobless rate in the U.S. has reached its highest level in a quarter century while in South Africa almost one in four of the workforce is now redundant Unemployment rate September 2008 August 2009 Netherlands

Brazil 1.5%

China 7.9%

Top 10 economies

Boost In Asian Markets



Asian meltdown: With Japan in deep financial gloom, economies of Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia see share values fall by more than 50%

Iran-Iraq War: Oil hits $39.50 a barrel, equal to $103.76 in today’s prices

Black Monday: Global stock market crash of Oct 19 wipes 22.6% off value of New York Stock Exchange

Nixon Shock: U.S. President Nixon $100 cancels Bretton Woods fixed exchange rates system and suspends $80 convertibility of dollar to gold in response to escalating cost $60 of Vietnam War

Jul 11, 2008: Oil hits all-time record $147.27 a barrel

Dotcom bubble: Shares in hi-tech and internet companies plummet

Gulf War

$40 $20 $0 1970

Iranian Revolution: Second Oil Shock




Sources: Federal Reserve, U.S. Energy Information Administration

Issue 1527

Russia devalues rouble

Oil Shock: Arab oil embargo during Yom Kippur War causes panic buying 90



Jan: Oil falls to $34.33 as global economy shrinks 05




Reviews Books

Issue 1527




Reviews - Books

Understanding Hezbollah From Hassan Nasrallah to Michel Aoun A Political Reading of Hezbollah Author Fayez Qazzi Published by: Riad El-Rayyes, January 2009

In his book, Fayez Qazzi provides an account of the history of Hezbollah since its establishment and helps the reader to better understand Hezbollah through explaining its power structure


ayez Qazzi provides in his book «From Hassan Nasrallah to Michel Aoun a Political Reading of Hezbollah» a critique of the book written by Shaikh Na›im Qassem, the deputy of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. The author examines the ideas present in Na›im Qassem›s book while questioning them along the way. Qazzi guides the readers through the history of Hezbollah since its establishment until now, assessing the important issues that have shaped the organization. The book also presents the philosophy behind the establishment of Hezbollah and the ideas that govern its policies, as well as a thorough explanation of its power structure that enables the readers to better understand Hezbollah.

opinions of prominent politicians. The book equally succeeds in leading the reader to a better understanding of Hezbollah, its history, philosophy and ideas, structure and external affiliation. The author covers every aspect and position that Hezbollah has - from where its stands on resistance to how it defines the «enemy,” as well as its understanding of its affiliation with Syria and, most importantly, Iran. It is thus able to explain Hezbollah›s position on most of the major issues, such as the Palestinian occupation and participation in the Lebanese political life. Qazzi highlights in several chapters the importance of understanding the relationship between Iran for the implications this has on the lengths that Hezbollah will go to to follow Iran›s lead.

The uniqueness of this book is found in its ability to present many different points of view. The book does not provide a direct conclusion; nevertheless it guides the reader through presenting facts, and

Despite these aforementioned strengths, the book lacks an objective perspective. Through the questions he proposes and the criticism he puts forth, Qazzi›s opposition towards Hezbollah is clear. In addition, the

10 October, 2009

book can be overly informative, although it could be argued that this is a way of presenting the audience with all they need to know to have a clear understanding of Hezbollah. Additionally, the author presents information with an underlying assumption that the reader is well read in regards of Lebanese politics with all its complicated particularities. Finally, the author suggests that the only resolution for Lebanon to truly benefit from Hezbollah and the only way that Hezbollah could truly become integrated in Lebanese political life is through reform from within the party itself. Fayez Qazzi believes that the party should question its complete and absolute affiliation to Iran and should change its ambition from creating a «Hezbollah state» or a theocratic state that is only an extension of the Iranian regime. Rather, he believes they should aim to being a constructive force in strengthening the state of Lebanon thus promoting its development.


Reviews - Readings

Readings Books


The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election Author: Haynes Johnson, Dan Balz Published by:Viking Adult 2009 This book is an account of the 2008 election and how it marked a new era in American politics and altered the future of the United States.

Blackwater: The Rise of the World›s Most Powerful Mercenary Army


Author: Jeremy Scahill Published by: Nation Books; Rev Upd edition 2008

Scahill latest book discuses the company that has infamously deployed private contractors to assist the U.S. military in Iraq. Black Water has been described as the modern version of a mercenary, and has developed a reputation for instigating death and disorder.

Think Tank Reports


Lessons of the Financial Crisis Author: Benn Steil, Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics Published by: Council on Foreign Relations - March 2009 This report shows that explains how the financial crisis was triggered by home ownership promotion policy which combined with other features of the financial system fueled an unsustainable buildup in debt. Benn Steil recommends significant reforms to make the system more resilient.


Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations One School at a Time


Author: Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin Read by Patrick Girard Lawlor - 2007 Three cups of tea is an autobiographical account of a man’s odyssey to build schools, especially for girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Issue 1527


10 October, 2009


Reviews -Reports

Dealing with Hamas Hamas: Ideological Rigidity and Political Flexibility Paul Scham and Osama Abu-Irshaid United States Institute of Peace Special Report 224 - June 2009 Dealing with Hamas International Crisis Group Middle East Report N 21 - 26 January 2004 Hamas Council on Foreign Relations 27 August 2009 There is a consensus among Think Tanks that in order to bring an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Hamas will have to be incorporated into any solution proposed. The question these Think Tanks address differently is what approach is best for dealing with Hamas?

Issue 1527


Reviews -Reports


he question of how to deal with Hamas is at the forefront of discussions regarding possibilities for peace in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The prospects of a successful negotiation continually faces challenges, as was evidenced by Mashel Khaled’s most recent rejection of normalizing relations with Israel. He told leaders of Arab nations to “save their humble cards” - arguing against the call President Obama has made of the Middle East to grant Israel gestures of normalization. Khaled vehemently insisted that freezing settlements was not sufficient for the normalization of relations to begin. As the leader of Hamas’s political arm, Khaled’s statement is indicative of the complex relationships that Hamas creates in the Middle East conflict and thus highlights the importance of developing a coherent approach towards this organization. This aim is reflected in recent reports by the United States Institute for Peace, the International Crisis Group, and the Council on Foreign Relations. While all highlight the necessity of coming to terms with the weight that Hamas has in negotiations, each Think Tank emphasizes different aspects about the organization’s behaviour and consequently each report develops a different set of recommendations for pursuing a viable agreement with Hamas. Beginning with what is perhaps the most original of the three, the report by The United States Institute for Peace takes an unprecedented look at the philosophy behind Hamas, and presents a positive outlook, albeit in the distant future, on the possibility of an agreement between Israel and Palestine. Interestingly, the report argues 10 October, 2009

Hamas Timeline 1987




The creation of Hamas movement in Palestine. The covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement is published. The group presents itself as an alternative to the PLO.


An Israeli court convicts Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.


Hamas orchestrates its first suicide bombing.


The Palestinian Authority cracks down on Hamas, after a series of Hamasorchestrated suicide bombings in Israel.

Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is released from prison. King Abdullah of Jordan closes down Hamas headquarters in Jordan.

2003 – 2009

A series of attacks begin to take place in Israel and in Palestinian territory. Hamas claims responsibility.


On march 22, Hamas leader Yassin is killed by Israeli air strikes.


On March 2,3 Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi is named as Yassin›s successor.

that there is an overwhelming and contradictory perception of Hamas in the West, and that this inherent contradiction in the perception towards the organization has undermined previous efforts in negotiating with Hamas. More specifically, its writers, Scham and AbuIrshaid, point out that while Hamas is considered unwavering in its efforts to deny Israel the right to exit, most political and military efforts towards the organization have relied on a heavy hand in order to alter their position. The authors argue instead that three important aspects about Hamas have gone largely understudied by those involved in the peace process. The first, they note, is that Hamas is not against Israel because it is the state for Jewish people.


On January 25, Hamas, running as the «Change and Reform Party,» participates for the first time in Palestinian parliamentary elections. The group is fielding 62 candidates.


On January 26, Hamas wins a landslide victory in the Palestinian legislative elections. Hamas wins 76 seats, and Fatah 43 seats in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council, giving Hamas a majority.


On March 29 , the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya, and his cabinet are sworn in. The governments of

According to them, Hamas is against the existence of Israel because of the implication this has on what they argue are sacred Palestinian areas. Furthermore, the ethics and aims behind the organization, are founded on the Islamic doctrine of Sharia. As a result, if Sharia could be used to frame the peace process, in the long term, a potential agreement could be reached. The two authors recognize that the possibility of peace depends highly on a serious involvement of Hamas. They argue that because Hamas is against Israel on policies based on the Sharia, that the Sharia itself could provide solutions to the corner that the peace process has backed itself into. Amongst the propositions they presented was the implementation of 54

Reviews -Reports the United States and Canada say they will have no contact with the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

dismisses Ismail Haniya as Prime Minister. Haniya rejects this and remains the de facto leader in Gaza.



On June 25, hamas militants attack an Israeli military post and kill two soldiers. A third, Gilad Shalit, is kidnapped. The Palestinian government denies any knowledge of the attack.


In early June, after a week of battles between Hamas and Fatah, Hamas seizes control of Gaza.


On June 14 , Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dissolves the government and

On April 18,19, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter meets with exiled Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal, in Damascus, Syria.


In June, Cease-fire truce between Hamas and Israel negotiated by Egypt goes into effect. Hamas agrees to stop firing rockets at Israeli border communities and Israel will allow limited trade into and out of Gaza. The cease-fire has a six-month deadline.


On December 19,

tahadiya, hudna, and Hamas’s own concept of Palestinian legitimacy. Of these perhaps the most promising is that of Palestinian legitimacy. “This is a term employed by Hamas to describe its willingness to consider accepting a binding peace treaty… so long as the treaty is ratified by the Palestinian people.” The authors’ aim here is to demonstrate that even within Hamas’s ideology, there is room to maneuver for a peace treaty, so much so that they have grounded the concept of their legitimacy in relation to their willingness to promote such goals. However, the authors also note that a peace process under such circumstances may be doubted by many. They nonetheless insist that it is important to consider this possibility because it is the only way to viably incorporate 10 October, 2009، 1527

Hamas formally ends cease-fire with Israel. Attacks between the two had continued the entire time to some degree, escalating more in November.


On December 24, the rocket attacks from Hamas increase and so do the retaliation air strikes from Israel.


In May, rounds of talks continue between Hamas and Fatah, mediated by Egypt.


In September, a UN fact finding mission released a report detailing war crimes violations on the part of both Israeli and Palestinian military forces, including Hamas.

Hamas into a negotiation. “Understanding the Islamic bases of Hamas’s policies and worldview will be essential for the success of any process in which it is engaged”. Taking a different perspective, the International Crisis Group highlights that the consensus on Hamas is that dealing with it requires confrontation. However, they argue that harsh military and economic measures have strengthened its influence in the occupied territories, thus undermining many peace efforts. Instead, dealing with Hamas requires understanding not only its philosophy, as the previous report indicated, but more importantly its position in the Palestinian scene. While Hamas is publicly defined in relation to the conflict with Israel it has a very important domestic

agenda. This was reflected during recent ceasefire talks as it demanded political stature commensurate with its popular support. ICG thus argues that should Hamas takes steps to end violence a more formalized political role should be granted to the organization. Similarly, the Council on Foreign Relations highlights the importance that the domestic scene plays on Hamas’s approach towards Israel. CFR highlights instead the internal rivalry between Fatah and Hamas, and how this might impact the peace process. Although the argument is overly implicit, the report should be merited for highlight the state of Palestinian politics. They argue that since its victory in 2006, Hamas has failed to unify around a coherent program, thus exacerbating tension within the Palestinian authority. “The result has been a de facto geographic division of Palestinian held territory, with Hamas holding sway in Gaza and Fatah maintaining internationally recognized Palestinian authority in the West Bank town of Ramallah”. It could therefore be understood that a consensus amongst the Palestinian people is largely undermined by the division in government. Although the three reports highlighted different factors that should be taken into account when addressing Hamas’s role in the peace process, the underlying thread between them was the ubiquitous role of Hamas. That is, any peace process will have to deal with Hamas if it aims to establish a lasting truce. To read the full reports see: 55

The Political Essay

Soldiers, Militants or Mercenaries? Old rivalries in the way of counterinsurgency

The old rivalry and climate of suspicion between Pakistan and India has been the main obstacle for a full range fight by the Pakistani army and the ISI against the Taliban and militant groups. Historically seen as an asset against India, these radical and militant groups have only recently been regarded as an existential threat by Pakistani authorities.


strategy in counterbalancing the superior military strength of Pakistan’s enemies. Today, plenty of evidence suggests that extremist groups are still seen as a potential ally in a conflict with India.

nternational frustration about the fight against terrorists and insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan has placed the role of the Pakistani army and the ISI in the spotlight. The general critique towards both institutions is centred on their allegedly ambivalent stance towards the Taliban and militant groups. Specific accusations range from their minimal goal of containment, which settles with leaving part of the Pakistani territory to extremists and militants, to their active support of the Taliban. There are several plausible explanations, with roots in 20th century history, for why the Pakistani army and the ISI contradict international expectations by avoiding an ultimate war against these groups. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the United States made extensive use of militant groups against the Soviets, with the close collaboration of the ISI. As Steve Coll wrote in Ghost Wars, “CIA’s leadership continued to regard Pakistan’s intelligence as the Jihad’s main implementing agency”. This close cooperation between CIA, the ISI and the militant groups was decisive for expelling the Soviets from Afghanistan. After Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, ISI and Pakistani military officials saw an opportunity to extend Pakistan’s control in Afghanistan. With this aim in mind, the ISI sponsored the Islamic students led by Mullah Omar, and explored the rivalry between the ruling tribal coalition in Afghanistan through extensive briberies. These actions led to the establishment of the Taliban regime in 1996. The consequent promotion of radicalization in Afghanistan was seen as an important strategic step in reinforcing Pakistan’s influence over its neighbour. The Taliban regime became alQaeda’s safe haven with the dismal outcome known to everybody. Ever since 9 / 11, the perception of these groups in the eyes of US and other Western officials is quite straightforward: the Taliban and extremist groups are a very serious threat, one to be fought ruthlessly. 10 October, 2009

Manuel Almeida However, the history of cooperation between the ISI, the Taliban and other militants, has created sympathies and long-lasting ties. In many cases, intelligence officers are recruited from the tribal areas, and these tribal ties jeopardize their loyalty to the Pakistani state. It has been reported that the extent of this problem led to a recent purge within the ISI. This purge ultimately failed to reach the lower ranks of the intelligence agency, where support for the Islamists and the Taliban is deemed to be more deeply rooted. Some voices strongly disagree with the existence of such complicity. As Pervez Musharraf explained in a recent interview with Der Spiegel, it is not an issue of lack of commitment to tackle the Taliban threat. In Musharraf’s view, in the fight against Taliban commanders, “it is better to tackle them one by one than making them all enemies”. In spite of all this, the main obstacle for the ISI and the Pakistani army to willingly engage in a full battle against the Taliban and other radicals is very likely to be an older one, i.e. Pakistan’s long rivalry with India. In fact, ISI’s original reason for being was the threat posed by India. The Pakistani secret service was established in 1948 in order to coordinate the intelligence activities of the army when the two countries fought their first war over Kashmir. The ISI recurred to militant groups to conduct guerrilla operations, and found this to be a very effective

India has repeatedly accused Pakistan, and especially the ISI, of involvement in Kashmir and in attacks elsewhere in India. An episode, among others, that adds legitimacy to these accusations is the inadequate response on the part of Pakistani authorities to tackle the Pakistani-based Lashkar-eTaiba, the terrorist group responsible for the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008. Whether India has ties to jihadist elements is a possibility less often noted. Pakistani officials strongly believe that India, through RAW– India’s external intelligence services – has been playing a very active role in supporting insurgencies against the Pakistani state. In particular, they claim India uses its consulates in Afghanistan to supply insurgents with weapons and money, in Balochistan and even in Swat. Also, the words of a US intelligence official who served in the region recently confirm the possibility that “the Indians are up to their necks in supporting the Taliban against the Pakistani government in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. As with Pakistan, there are fears that the Indian government does not have full control over its intelligence services, which might contain rogue elements which are helping and using the militants against Pakistan. Militant groups have not ceased to be tools in power politics between states in the region. Pakistan in particular still regards them as an asset in a potential conflict with India. However, judging by recent developments, there is reasonable ground to believe that the Taliban and other militants are finally starting to be perceived in Pakistan as the state’s existential threat. This, together with a slow normalization of relations with India, might be the crucial aspect for the success of counterinsurgency in the region.


The Mjajalla, 1527, English ,Yemen  

The Mjajalla, 1527, English ,Yemen