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Yemen

Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes

VICTORIA CLARK
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npmmh
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  • Book Info
    Yemen
    Book Description:

    Yemen is the dark horse of the Middle East. Every so often it enters the headlines for one alarming reason or another-links with al-Qaeda, kidnapped Westerners, explosive population growth-then sinks into obscurity again. But, as Victoria Clark argues in this riveting book, we ignore Yemen at our peril. The poorest state in the Arab world, it is still dominated by its tribal makeup and has become a perfect breeding ground for insurgent and terrorist movements.

    Clark returns to the country where she was born to discover a perilously fragile state that deserves more of our understanding and attention. On a series of visits to Yemen between 2004 and 2009, she meets politicians, influential tribesmen, oil workers and jihadists as well as ordinary Yemenis. Untangling Yemen's history before examining the country's role in both al-Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement today, Clark presents a lively, clear, and up-to-date account of a little-known state whose chronic instability is increasingly engaging the general reader.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16734-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. PLATE SECTION
    (pp. None)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. ix-xi)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    ‘More tea?’

    The man politely refilling my cup is Nasir al-Bahri, Osama bin Laden’s former chief bodyguard, the person the world’s most wanted terrorist entrusted with the delicate tasks of procuring him a Yemeni fourth wife and shooting him if he was ever in danger of being captured alive.

    His manner is warm and lively, embellished with eloquent hand gestures and flashes of a dazzling smile. Charming, urbane and dressed in a freshly pressed shirt, expensive watch and soberly patternedfuta,* al-Bahri is far removed from any western idea of a violent jihadist. I can only assume that he has...

  7. PART ONE

    • CHAPTER ONE UNWANTED VISITORS (1538–1918)
      (pp. 11-45)

      Nothing is left of what was once the busiest and richest port on the Red Sea – just sand and a few crumbling facades, the abandoned homes and ‘factories’ (trading posts) that used to ‘display a very handsome appearance towards the sea’.¹

      No one seemed to care that these vestiges of Mocha’s heyday lie half-buried under sand and strewn with plastic refuse, or that only dogs come to this wasteland between the sprawling new town and the shore. Modern Mochans’ failure to derive any income from the fact that their town is the only Yemeni name still recognised all over...

    • CHAPTER TWO REVOLUTIONARY ROADS (1918–1967)
      (pp. 46-88)

      A search for traces of Imam Yahya, for some vestige of the man who ruled the north-western portion of Yemen for longer than anyone before or since, turned up only two reliable results in Sanaa.

      Just outside the old city, behind the national museum, at the far end of an unmarked alley leading off September 26th street, is what could be one of the capital’s biggest visitor attractions, but is not. All that remains of Yahya’s palace compound is distinguished by a tatty signboard reading ‘Government Property Office’. An old and once ornate wooden gateway, missing a few planks and...

    • CHAPTER THREE TWO YEMENI REPUBLICS (1967–1990)
      (pp. 89-129)

      In the space of only five years – between late September 1962 and late November 1967 – the two parts of Yemen rid themselves of both the imams and the British. In theory, the northern Zaydis’ old dream of unity and independence, which had become that of most Yemenis under the influence of Nasser’s Arab nationalism, was attainable at last. In practice, any chance of it had evaporated within days of the Sanaa coup.

      Contrary to popular report, Imam Badr had not perished in the botched tank assault on his palace. After withstanding a siege in his crumbling palace for...

    • CHAPTER FOUR A SHOTGUN WEDDING (1990–2000)
      (pp. 130-146)

      On 22 May 1990, after more than 150 years of separation and the sharp frost that descended on relations between the two Yemens in the wake of the PDRY’s blood-letting in 1986, the noble dream of unity at last came true. The speedy coupling took everyone by surprise. Only a few months earlier the US ambassador to Aden had confidently opined that unification was ‘at least fifty years away’.¹

      Given the swift contraction of both political and economic Soviet influence in the region after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, the YAR looked by far the sturdier of the two Yemens....

  8. PART TWO

    • CHAPTER FIVE FIRST GENERATION JIHAD
      (pp. 149-176)

      ‘Welcome back, my dear! You are home!’

      All Ahmad al-Fadhli knew when I called him from my hotel in Aden was that I was a friend of a friend, born there over forty years ago when it was still a British Crown Colony. But he had sounded as warm as if we had known each other for years so I happily accepted his kind invitation to travel a short way up the coast to spend a day with him at his banana farm.

      He would send his driver and car to collect me, he said, but I must be sure...

    • CHAPTER SIX A TRIBAL DISORDER?
      (pp. 177-206)

      Like most Yemeni offices, it was mysteriously, worryingly bare of papers and computers and empty of staff, but I had no choice except to hope and trust. Whatever this enterprise was, its boss, Mohammed Salih Muhsin, represented my best chance of visiting Yemen’s central Marib desert, home to oil fields and famously restive tribes, and haven of fugitive jihadists. To my great relief, he arrived at precisely the time he had promised he would, with a fashionable mobile phone in one hand, some prayer beads in the other and no qat cud swelling his cheek.

      The absence of that cud...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN KEEPING UP WITH THE SAUDIS
      (pp. 207-234)

      Since my first visit to Hadhramaut in 2004, a cluster of buildings with a magnificent view down into the Wadi Doan had appeared on the edge of the high plateau where nothing moved but the odd Toyota pick-up, speeding up-country with a load of fresh qat under a flapping tarpaulin. It turned out to be a brand new luxury holiday resort and closer inspection revealed matching studio cottages with iron-studded Hadhrami front doors, traditional wooden shutters with keyhole cut-outs, and even en suite western bathrooms. Two thousand feet below its airy terrace was another clear sign that the globalised age...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT AL-QAEDA, PLUS TWO INSURGENCIES
      (pp. 235-259)

      After a fine lunch in the air-conditioned sanctuary of the Aden Hotel, we were all behaving as if we were off on a jaunt to the seaside. But we were headed to Radfan, a sharp thorn in the side of the British in Aden back in the 1960s, a hotbed of the south’s renewed bid for secession from Sanaa half a century later in the spring of 2008.

      Squeezed tightly together on the back seat of the luxury Land Cruiser so that I could be decently segregated in the front passenger seat, my three male companions joked and laughed and...

    • CHAPTER NINE CAN THE CENTRE HOLD?
      (pp. 260-283)

      ‘I look at this country, and I see a plane ready to take off!’

      ‘In what direction?’

      ‘I can see you don’t believe me,’ said Faris al-Sanabani, pausing for another forkful of steak, ‘But we have everything in Yemen!’

      The president’s smart public relations supremo, who doubled up as a wealthy businessman with his own security company and English-language newspaper, knew at least as well as I did that Yemen had almost nothing, that its oil and water were running out, that jihadism was on the rise, that corruption was endemic, southern secessionism à la mode and, at the time,...

  9. AFTERWORD
    (pp. 284-288)

    A bungled attempt at a suicide bombing aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 sent Yemen straight to the top of the world’s news bulletins. The Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) soon claimed responsibility for training the failed bomber, a young Nigerian named Omar Farook Abdulmutallab, and for supplying him with the explosives he had hidden in his underpants. Notably pious, even while a schoolboy at a British boarding school in Togo and a student of mechanical engineering at London’s University College, Abdulmutallab was a loner who had broken off relations with...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 289-298)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 299-304)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 305-312)