Tuesday, November 10, 2015


photo courtesy thetimes.co.uk

Arabia Felix to the Romans - a rather ironic name; it means "Happy Arabia", a term that most definitely does not apply today. 

The land of the Queen of Sheba, at least according to some theologians and historians, though they are probably wrong. 

Unlike most of the Arabian lands, which tend towards barren desert and therefore encourage nomadic lifestyles, Yemen sits at the point where the Arabian Sea narrows into the Gulf of Aden, and then turns north and narrows again into the Red Sea, making it a key point for trading ships out of Asia Minor, but also extremely fertile. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the country was for decades divided, an inversion of Korea and Vietnam, into a Communist south and a tribally governed north; the two merged into one in 1990, then fought a war in 1994 when the south tried to secede, then warred again in 2009 when a radical Shia Islamic group calling itself the Houthis, or the Ansar Allah (the Partisans of Allah) took on the government, leaving about a quarter of a million refugees in the north. All that, before al-Qaida chose Yemen as one of its targets, and then the Arab Spring drove President Ali Abdullah Saleh from office in 2011. The new government agreed a truce with the Houthis, a convenience for both sides, as both sides are equally threatened by al-Qaida, and Yemen is now the primary base of operations for al-Qaida in the Middle East, with the US deploying drones to attack them.

Then, early in 2014, the Houthis broke the truce, and seized control of Sanaa, the capital, where they are still sitting with their guns loaded and not much sign that the new partnership government, arranged by the UN, will ever take office. The war gets more brutal by the day.

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