MENA Snapshot Update - Is Al Qaedistan Forming In Yemen?

Tyler Durden's picture

With all the recent excitement in Japan, some may have forgotten that the entire MENA region is currently experiencing a historic, and in many cases very violent, revolution. Conveniently, Emad Mostaquew of Religãre Capital Market has shared an extended overview of the current snapshot in the Middle East and North Africa region. Of particular note is the section on Yemen. As was disclosed yesterday it now appears that the US is directly funding "flickers" of Al Qaeda in Libya, and possibly will be arming such factions in the future, it now appears that Yemen's internal response to instability will also gravitate around the Al Qaeda strawman: "After several prominent defections following the death of 52 protestors at the hands of government snipers, President Saleh began negotiations to step down. This appears to have been a ruse to gauge opposition strength and once he was offered a host of concessions to leave, he withdrew his offer, using the time to solidify ties with key tribes. Saleh’s key tactic has been to emphasize the chaos that would follow his departure, with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) central to US and Saudi concerns. To  play on these fears, security forces have been pulled from key governorates, which are now no longer under government control and have been releasing rebel leaders...The end game is difficult to see as while his position appears untenable, Saleh appears determined to stick things out, looking for support from Saudi Arabia given the possibility of Al Qaedistran and sudden Shia control of northern Yemen, even though this group belongs to a different sect to those in the Eastern province of Saudi/Iran (US and Saudi officials fail to make this distinction given official comments. Yemen, as previously noted, has over 3 guns per person and while care is taken not to use these, once fighting starts it could get very messy indeed." Then again, perhaps judging by recent developments in Libya, the US may not be all that concerned about Al Qaeda after all.  Much more in the full report below.

From Emad Mostaque of Religãre Capital Markets

Regional stock markets have bounced nicely since the start of the month and look somewhat overbought at the moment, although there is plenty of medium/long-term upside for the patient investor. Key general takeaways:

1. Signs of a counter-revolution from authoritarian regimes, playing the sectarian card and dispensing largesse to quell dissension
2. Israel-Palestine violence flaring up once more, may escalate rapidly
3. Easy wins are over for democratic reform, particularly with monarchies

Things have been quiet in Algeria with protests regularly broken up by the security forces. There have been some clashes in poorer areas with lack of housing a key demand.

Bahrain : The government took the surprising decision of declaring a state of emergency and calling in the Peninsula Shield Forces (essentially the Saudis) to crush the protestors, sweeping them out of the Pearl roundabout before knocking it down. The impetus for this was the refusal of the PM to step down and the occupation of the financial district by some protestors, suspending a major portion of the economy. The situation was presented to the US and Saudi in a sectarian light with the monarchy replaced by a Shia parliament heavily influenced by Iran, who would stir up the Shia in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and push the US out of its naval base. The Shia/Sunni distinction is something that will come to the fore as Iranian influence increases and a topic we will revisit in a future note. Flights to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have been banned and Iranian diplomats expelled.

While the leading al Wefaq party has now dropped its demands that the PM resign as a precursor to negotiations and have decided not to organize any more large protests (particularly as injured protestors were unable to receive treatment at several hospitals), their support base has been diminishing and we are likely to see an increase in reactionary, extremist elements, particularly as bulldozers make their appearance at impoverished Shia villages. A number of opposition leaders (those who haven’t fled/gone into hiding) have also been arrested. It is difficult to see how Bahrain can maintain its financial sector as a result, particularly with Dubai only a short hop away and DIFC rents reasonable at last.

Egypt : As per our recent note (“An Egyptian Reopening”, 22nd March), major change is unlikely as constitutional amendments were pushed through, with another 5 elections lined up this year. The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis will not look for a majority or put forward a Presidential candidate, leaving the field open to members of the old regime as new parties will not have time to gain traction. Amr Moussa is in the lead for the top spot at the moment and doesn’t represent much of a break from the past.

We have seen some sectarian violence and protests against the army’s new ban on protests/strikes (state of emergency not yet lifted), but this is unlikely to spread as election fever grips the nation (candidates even campaigned hard for previous, fixed elections). Also, while he is under house (palace) arrest, Hosni Mubarak will almost certainly not be put on trial. In terms of foreign relations, we have seen positive comments toward Hezbollah and Iran and nothing much on Egyptian-Israeli relations.

Economic indicators will deteriorate this year, with observers keeping a close eye on foreign reserves (released monthly) as the central bank defends the Egyptian pound. Poor numbers this year create a low base for growth next year, which will be a fillip for the incoming administration.

Iraq has continued to see violence with dozens of deaths in the last few weeks and attacks on hydrocarbon infrastructure. A mess.

Iran has been very quiet indeed with not a smidgeon of a protest, indeed, the press there has declined to cover the Syrian protests/deaths.

Jordan has seen continued protests and fracas between government loyalists and protestors, with the first death last week. The Islamic Action Front (Muslim Brotherhood) has been organizing most of the protests and demanding that the reform process promised by King Abdullah be accelerated. The King seems secure, but the adjustment of the parliament below him will take time. Increased participation by the Islamists and Palestinian section of society is unlikely to be favorable to the Israelis.

Kuwait has not seen any resumption of protests by the stateless non-civilians, although they did sentence three Iranian spies to death today, with several MPs calling for the Iranian ambassador to be kicked out and their own ambassador in Tehran be brought back. There are also reports of thousands of other Lebanese Shia potentially being deported from Kuwait and other GCC states.

Libya : With the no-fly zone fully in place (soon to be handed over to NATO) and Qaddafi’s forces pushed by to his home town of Sirte, the exact aim of the allies will soon be clear. It is clear that recent action has been closer to a no-drive zone/aiding the rebels than the originally envisioned no-fly zone, but given the UN resolution prohibiting civilians from being attacked, we must infer that if the rebels attack Sirte, the allies would have take action against their forces (the non-armed supporters of Qaddafi are civilians too). Misrata looks about to fall, leaving us with East and West Libya fighting over the key oil terminals (Brega, Ras Lanuf) in the middle that pump oil from the Sirte basin (where most of Libya’s oil is located). 

Small protests have reemerged in Morocco as doubts over the effectiveness of the reforms announced by King Mohammad resurfaced. These have been led by the unions and may increase in size in the coming weeks.

The protests in Oman do appear to have been an abhorrence and things have become relatively calm with some small reforms going through, although the issue of succession is still a worry.

Palestine : With the Israeli-Palestine having been pushed out of the news, recent rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli air strikes on Gaza are pushing to get it back on the radar. Given its increasing isolation and fears of rapidly increasing Iranian influence, the Israelis have adopted increasingly aggressive rhetoric (such as possibly annexing the West Bank). We have seen a dozen Palestinians killed in the last week or so (the ratio in the 2008/9 conflict was 100:1, with 13 Israeli deaths versus 1,300 Palestinians), which should keep rocket attacks going particularly as Hamas is looking to boost its local popularity. The Israeli vice PM/Minister of Strategic Affairs (essentially in charge of looking after the Iranian situation) today highlighted Iran as being behind the recent attacks, reiterating that they were a “messianic, apocalyptic regime”. With nuclear weapons a year or two away, the scenario outlined in our 8th March note (“Short-term pain, Long-term gain”) of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities remains a possibility. There is also a possibility of a renewal of violence between Israel and Lebanon, particularly given the current situation destabilizing in Syria and Hezbollah gaining control of the coalition government of Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia : King Abdullah has been active in distributing more of Saudi Arabia’s wealth, with almost $100bn in packages (against  an economy of $400bn) announced. Most of these are over a number of years and aren’t necessarily transfers to the public (for example, the 500,000 houses being built for $66.7bn are unlikely to be free). Looking at the detail of the packages, we can see a key shift back toward the conservative elements of society, with additional funding for interior security (60,000 more) to quell any uprisings and significant support to the clerical class. The Saudi government has a quasi-religious status, with the foremost title of King Abdullah being as Guardian of the Two Mosques (Makkah and Medina). The government used religious institutions as a major support for their legitimacy in the 1980s and 90s (particularly after the 1979 siege of the Grand Mosque in Makkah), but this support waned in recent years, with King Abdullah pushing through reform measures that challenged judicial system.

While new municipal elections have been called, the promise that women would be allowed to vote made in the last elections (2005, also the first in Saudi) has been scrapped and we may see a regression in social freedom (hopefully not back to the days of the stick-wielding virtue police on every corner). Saudi Arabia is in a difficult transition period thanks to youthful demographics and an authoritarian, paternalistic government. However, progress may be slower than many think as many societal elements support the structure of the current government and the desire for increased political participation is not as fervent as in other, less hydrocarbonally-blessed countries.

While the announced packages help assuage some of the key concerns of the young Sunni population (employment and housing), this section was never likely to revolt violently or in numbers. The requests of the Shia population, particularly those in the Eastern province (those in the South and West are similar to Sunnis) in terms of release of political prisoners and more freedom to practice their religion have not been addressed and with increased funding to the religious establishment and the Saudi action in Bahrain (predicated on fears of increased Iranian influence), we may see some of their recent freedoms rolled back and any further protests forcibly extinguished (indeed, 1.5m fatwa’s banning protests have just been printed).

Economic reform is likely to continue with mega-projects accelerated and a new mortgage law stimulating lending and asset prices within the kingdom and a renewed focus on nuclear power has been announced to address the chronic power shortage, with $100bn earmarked for conventional power plants.

Syria : We have seen curious actions by the government as they have called for peace and reform before attacking protestors with deadly results. Bashar Al-Assad retains mass public support (10,000 protesting for him today), but the rule of his predominantly Alawite (offshoot of mainstream Shia) Baath party is predicated on maintaining the support of the elite families of the Sunni population and the security forces. We have just seen the government resign and indications that the harsh state of emergency laws will be repealed, but it remains to be seen what new proposals will be bought in (possibly harsh anti-terrorism laws to replace them). Syria is a key regional player as an effective transmission mechanism between a number of different groups and external support for the regime is likely to remain strong. It is unlikely that we will see significant power-sharing in the absence of a significant pickup in protests across the region. Worth keeping a close eye on.

Qatar has been nice and stable, concentrating on designing artificial clouds for the World Cup and bringing down the Qaddafi regime (the Colonel made fun of Shaykh Al Thani’s weight last year). The outlook for their natural gas output in the wake of a global backlash against nuclear power will also be positive.

The UAE has been quiet, with the only news of note an acceleration of Abu Dhabi’s nuclear program. This should be the main beneficiary of regional unrest as a safe haven for expats with critical mass and excellent transport links.

Yemen :  After several prominent defections following the death of 52 protestors at the hands of government snipers, President Saleh began negotiations to step down. This appears to have been a ruse to gauge opposition strength and once he was offered a host of concessions to leave, he withdrew his offer, using the time to solidify ties with key tribes. Saleh’s key tactic has been to emphasize the chaos that would follow his departure, with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) central to US and Saudi concerns. To  play on these fears, security forces have been pulled from key governorates, which are now no longer under government control and have been releasing rebel leaders.

Al Jawf (area 7, 500k of Yemen’s 24m population) and Saada (18, 750k) are now under the control of Shia Houthi rebels, who will be difficult to shift given the nature of the terrain. This will concern Saudi Arabia as these areas are on their Southern border, leading them to bomb rebel installations there in recent years.

AQAP are now reported to control almost all of Abyan (3, 450k) and Shabwa (20, 500k), as well as significant portions of Mareb (16, 250k). The recent explosion at an ammunitions factory that killed 150 people was in Abyan. Air strikes and security force attacks have helped build AQAP support in these areas and with the current unrest they provide a stable organizational framework that many villages might look to for leadership.

The capital city, Sana, is in region 10, Amanat Al-Asemah (2m people) and AQAP have also been increasing activity in region 19, also called Sana (1m people). As a note, while areas 12 (Hadramat ) and 8 (Al Mahrah) look large, they hold 1m and 100k people respectively out of 24m.

The army is split in two, but the faction led by General Mohsin has indicated they will stop attacks on peaceful protestors as opposed to militarily overthrowing the current regime. Many of the elite wish to retain the status quo with perhaps Saleh and his family making way for them, particularly the other army generals and members of the Hashid tribal confederation (Saleh is from a small tribe within the Hashid, the Sanhan).

The end game is difficult to see as while his position appears untenable, Saleh appears determined to stick things out, looking for support from Saudi Arabia given the possibility of Al Qaedistran and sudden Shia control of northern Yemen, even though this group belongs to a different sect to those in the Eastern province of Saudi/Iran (US and Saudi officials fail to make this distinction given official comments. Yemen, as previously noted, has over 3 guns per person and while care is taken not to use these, once fighting starts it could get very messy indeed.

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Alcoholic Native American's picture

Iran needs a central bank now too.

zaknick's picture

Central banksters, bitchez!

Gotta say, this is much better than the ridiculous Stratfor Kool-Aid!

Vergeltung's picture

this article, and those like it, are why I come here first everyday. thank you.

Head for the Hills's picture

There is no Al Qaeda. 

The US is a target of radical islamic Jihad.  New "Al Qaeda" members crawl from under every stone when they have the opportunity to hit the infidel and secure their passage to paradise.  It is more troubling when wealthy ones like Bin Ladin chose to use their resources in this aim.



TruthInSunshine's picture

One of the intriguing questions all Americans (and others) should be asking is whether Al-Qaeda even exists.

I do not know what the truth is. I only have questions at this point.

But I think it's worth revisiting some of the things Americans (and many others) may not presume to be true, just because, as Goebbels would have said, we've been told this so many times, for so long now, most of us probably 'just believe.'

Thus, a starting point (BBC documentary alleging Al-Qaeda is a fiction; I do not know if BBC is right or wrong or biased or crazy or what have you, but it's interesting):

  Video BBC Reports that Al Qaeda Does Not Exist


Jason Burke is a Jewish reporter (the one who does much of the explanation in the video). He is not saying radical islamic group and militant ones at that don't exist. He (and others, inside and outside of governments) are saying Al-Qaeda is a fiction created by U.S. law enforcement in order to use certain laws to go after Bin Laden.

In other words, they lacked the appropriate tools to deal with someone they viewed as a desirable target for law enforcement purposes, so they had to create the context, backdrop and details to allow them to use the tools on hand in a more effective way.

Like I said, I have no answers; just questions.

But think about what was housed in WTC Building 7, think about the gold that was stored in vaults under the entire WTC complex and the very strange events the day of 9/11 (I won't list them all, but even the former head of the FBI concedes things happened that 'appeared strange,' but he went on to try and explain them away), think about foreign policy objectives endorsed by a group named PNAC (Project for New American Century) that got its start in the 1990s, with many political players that would find their way into George W. Bush's cabinet and administration in 2000, and look at what's happening in the world today.

Taken together, much of the evidence that they haven't bothered to scrub casts, at the very least, a bad light on their claims.

Ethics Gradient's picture

It rather depends on how you class exist.

Do they submit accounts, have an AGM, HR department and defined management structure? Not likely.

Are there groups of extremists who aren't aware of each other who call themselves Al Qaeda because they rather like what the banner has become? More likely.

oogs66's picture

What exactly does 'flicker' mean?  Seems like another made up word to make things seem better than they are.

TaxEstate's picture

Positive for stocks. Al Qaedistan will want to blow up shit, and blowing up shit means reconstruction projects that will be good for stocks... Weeeeeeeee....

Oh regional Indian's picture

Soemo reports say the Ark of the Covenent is in Yemen. That would make a Holy War there worth a lot more than oil eh?

But still, the key nation to keep an eye on is Syria. As Libya burns, Syria is on a simmer. Assad has too much geo-political fire all around, it's the target. All the rest is watch my right while my left get's you.


the mad hatter's picture

what a bullshit war.

the spokesman for the rebels, ali tarhouni, was a lecturer at the university of washington a month ago.

how the hell does he suddenly gain the title of "rebel spokesman?"

fucking military jackals. the US is getting so arrogant that they don't even bother hiding their hubris anymore.

pazmaker's picture

that is funny even though it's not

oogs66's picture

No Drive Zone isn't as catchy as No Fly Zone but seems closer to the truth.  War is probably the actual truth.

Hedgetard55's picture

No sweat, just Barry's homies taking control in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya. Al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, call them whatever you like.

Chuck Walla's picture

Al qaeda has been in Yemen for a long time trying to destabilize Yemen and the Saudis. Yemen sits on the Bab-el-Mandeb, the Gate of Tears approach to the Suez. They are subsiderary of Iran and Iran's strategy looks pretty obvious considering Egypt's geogrphic position..

spanish inquisition's picture

To always be on the right side of history, you need to be both sides.

I will define history in this instance not as the defense and control of oil in the middle east as strategic asset of the US, but as the defense of BP corporate interests to have access to the oil so they can charge $4 a gallon completing the campaign contribution circle of life.

Sometimes you need to play the freedom and democracy card or sometimes you need to play the al queda card.

LibertyIn2010's picture

On 3/28 the veil on our war on terror was lifted and the USA switched from a war against Al Qaeda to a war against another dictator.  With the same integrity that is "professional" wrestling we switched sides in the middle of the match and now we're looking to arm Al Qaeda the rebels instead of waging war against them.  Sometime soon I expect our special forces to sneak up behind Qaddafi and hit him with a metal folding chair.

No principles.

No integrity.

No moral standing.

No problem.

We've got the OIL fields, baby!  And, the rest of the world is stuck holding worthless pieces of paper $$$.

I wonder how this is playing over in Germany, Russia, China, etc???

They don't strike me as the types to take this lying down much longer.  My hope is they take it out on the parts of our corrupt system that deserves it (see D.C. and Wall Street) and spare the rest of us innocent civilians.  Then again, I've seen some horrific photos that show how much our troops are sparing the innocents over in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.

I pray for our country.

Hamsterfist's picture

WWIII will be awesome! This time the U.S. will be the 'bad guy', kill a bunch of Russians, Chinese and other non-human types. (I mean non-white-U.S. banker types) Sure people in the U.S. and western Europe will die in the millions, but so what? Obviously they are poor, stupid schmucks. Let the world burn!

/not funny, instead sad, sarcasm

stuartbushcraftblog's picture

Every totalitarian state needs a Goldstein.







Hamsterfist's picture

Wait, I always thought Al Qaeda was Sunni. Now they are Shia? Or is it more likely the U.S. continues to not want to piss the Sauds off for some reason, and than back the wrong side. All because of some 30 year old grudge towards Iran. Who knew the Middle East was a confusing mess? Clusterfuckistan.

SmittyinLA's picture

It appears Al Qaeda is now back on America's facebook "friends" list and are now eligible for cash & prizes including the coveted Stinger missiles (again).



JR's picture

Our beloved homeland is in a tragic struggle to regain the moorings of its freedom destiny. There are liars and Shylocks among us who would use our might for their private purposes.  Spend half an hour with Sean Hannity and you can find the words that define the shadow enemy that will dash all of our hopes and dreams against the rocks: al Qaeda, Sharia law, Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas…

The War on Terror is a war against an idea, an idea defined by the organizers of the American Empire - a worldwide struggle that can last forever and ever because the enemy is forever redefined.

The Middle East’s revolutions are bringing Americans face to face with their enemies within: the Socialist left, the war mongering neo-cons and neo-libs, and the private central bank that buys Tomahawk missiles and 2000-pound bombs dropped not by Marines on the shores of Tripoli but by aviators more than 6 miles above the city.  Obama’s speech was very troubling by the stated fact that we will use the military anywhere and everywhere; his speech sets the stage for another quagmire.

He said specifically that in addition to the use of our military power to defend the homeland, he would not hesitate to use it to defend our “allies” and “interests” and “values."

For a central bank with a printing press and values considerably different from American values, this is the support for an Empire war forever on terror.  On whose core values?  As former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres:

“Every time we do something, you tell me Americans will do this and will do that.  I want to tell you something very clear: don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America.  And the Americans know it.”  (October 3, 2001, IAP News) .”

Pathetically, Obama doesn’t even know what he’s saying; he’s one of the most accomplished readers we’ve ever had; he can read anything they write.

PulauHantu29's picture

BVut...but...but, what about the NFL lockout?

...The Royal Wedding...?

...Justin Bieber's latest song....?

hey, it's a madder of priorities.

Element's picture
Is Al Qaedistan Forming In Yemen?

Answer depends on whether you;

1) work for the US state dept

2) work for weapon manufacturers looby

3) are a duel national