Thursday, May 04, 2006

Yemenis in Abu Ghrayb and no Arabic

Al-Jazeera has report on Yemeni nationals being held in Abu Ghrayb prison in Iraq. The report credits 26th of September weekly with breaking the story, which really isn't that much of a suprise. There have been rumors and quite a bit of evidence about Yemenis fighting in Iraq, and most analysts in the know believed at least some of them had been caught and imprisoned. How long it took US forces to realize they had foreign nationals instead of Iraqis is anybody's guess, or at least anybody who believes that the US has a number of well-trained linguists that can tell the difference between different dialects of Arabic.

In what is surely one of the first looks at the 16th anniversary of unification in Yemen, al-Quds al-Arabi has an op-ed by Abdullah Musaid al-Sh'aybi, who is currently residing in Britain, or so the tag-line says. I have yet to read the piece, but I'll link to it here for those interested.

Andrew McGregor has a piece for Jamestown on Yemen and prosecuting the war on terror. I was fairly disappointed with the piece, as it seems to use only English-language sources. Sure the Yemen Observer and the Yemen Times are nice, in that they are in English (although some of their copy editors have been less than amazing), but they aren't really that authoritative, nor do they do their own reporting - kind of like us here at al-Nawadir, they tend to crib from the Arabic press.

Also who starts a piece with the line: "Any observer of Yemen's politcal scene cannot help but notice that Yemen appears to be awash with al-Qaeda suspects." Who, I ask you, who?

I would hazard to bet that McGregor has never been to Yemen, as this is the type of reporting/analysis that one gets if, and only if, one relies almost entirely on the international press as one's guide. This is the same type of laziness that leads to the cliches: Yemen is Osama bin Laden's ancesteral homeland, or In Yemen guns outnumber people 3 to 1.

McGregor also makes the mistake of attributing too much importance to Salih's position as a member of the Hashid tribal confederation, which is led by al-Ahmar. Any observer of Yemen's political scene cannot help but know that this matters much less than numerous other factors - the tribes do not always speak with one voice - nor does all of Hashid take marching orders from al-Ahmar.

And tragically (although this is more the fault of the editors than McGregor) the piece was published after al-Ahdal was given 37 months for supporting al-Qaeda - McGregor has him up for the death penalty.

One final point/question: In his conclusion McGregor says that the number of Yemenis fighting in Iraq is probably not large. (my emphasis) How does he know this? What would constitute a large presence? No sources and no explanation make for a frustrating conclusion.

Despite my harsh, and probably too lengthy discussion of the article (I'm bored and the Lakers are down), the piece wasn't as bad as it could have been. And that my friends is as generous as al-Zabaniya feels like being tonight.

The White Sox win again - they are playing Seattle after all - but there is always hope for tomorrow. I realize this is a bit belated, but after wasting two days watching the entire draft, or most of it that I didn't nap through I have three observations: 1. My Clevland Browns will not be any better this year (they just traded Dilfer to the 49ers) 2. The Texans will mourn their idiotic move for years to come 3. The Bears will have a good defense, but no offense (read no Super Bowl again this year) - my hatred of Chicago sports teams has nothing to do with a bitterly cold winter I spent there in 2003.

Baseball and Babes

So much to say. I could be writing about the Hitchens and Cole spat, or about the new issue of Granta, which finally showed up, but instead I've been working on a number of other things and time has gotten away from me.

It has been brought to my attention that I've laid off the White Sox now that they seem to be winning some games (19-8, and again tonight with an extra innings win), but rest assured the might al-Zabaniya has only put its powers on hold, they will soon rear their ugly heads again as the Sox go on the skids.

But for tonight, only a bit of news cribbed from the Arabic press. First, Muhammad Hamdi al-Ahdal was sentenced to only 37 months in prison, a pitifully small amount of time for the highest ranking al-Qaeda member Yemen has ever captured. (He was captured in November 2003 after the US killed his boss in the famous Hellfire missile instance.) Here is the al-Jazeera report, and the one from al-Sharq al-Awsat.

I also wanted to point out what looks to be a very good article from al-Hayat's Yemen correspondent, Faysal Mukrim, in the paper's special section, where it features in-depth reporting. Given the end of the academic year I haven't had a chance to read any more than the title, but that struck me as spot-on (my rather loose translation): Ali Abdullah Salih waits for his party's request to stand (for re-election) despite his (earlier) announcement of disinterest. Yes, it is early in the morning and my powers of simultaneous translation seem to be failing me.

One final thing, which all of us here at al-Nawadir have been paying a lot of attention to this past month is the case of Hasan al-Turabi in Sudan and his fatwa about allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim (Christian and Jewish) men. I plan on having a lot more of this over the weekend, although not all of it will make it onto the site here, but for now we will have to be satisfied with a column from today's al-Sharq al-Awsat.