Until Mishale Ashadouki – a Saudi national affiliated to al-Qaeda and wanted by the Saudi security apparatus – made his telephone call, no one could identify the kidnapper of the Deputy Consul of Saudi Arabia in the Yemeni city of Aden. Deputy Consul Abdullah al-Khaledi was kidnapped three weeks ago amidst the most dangerous circumstances Yemen has experienced in the past half century. Yemen is being torn apart because of the civil disobedience undertaken by the relatives and adherers of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Houthis’ desire to expand their areas of influence, and the Southern secessionists’ attempts to establish their own state by exploiting the difficult birth of the new regime in Sana’a. What is even more dangerous is the war being waged by al-Qaeda, whose affiliates seized the city of Lawdar before being driven away by force, only to later on seek refuge in other villages in Abyan and elsewhere.
Although the war on al-Qaeda is not being televised, it continues unabated almost on a daily basis. Nearly 200 al-Qaeda affiliates were killed last week, and prior to this three suspected terrorists were killed by a drone attack, a strike very likely launched by the US. Al-Qaeda reacted by murdering four Yemeni soldiers the next day. The terrorist organization has moved hundreds of its fighters from Afghanistan, Iran and Somalia, having suffered consecutive defeats in these countries recently, in addition to its defeat in Saudi Arabia, and deployed them in Yemen.
This information only serves to remind us that we are facing a growing danger. Yet some Yemeni observers are underestimating the problem, believing that al-Qaeda is a mere façade or just a pretext invented by the affiliates of the ousted president to spread chaos across Yemen. I agree with them that the former President, or his inner circle, is acting to create chaos in the country, although this is utter stupidity because in the end everything will be lost. As for al-Qaeda, it is not a scarecrow but a reality that is prevalent today in Yemen, exploiting the fragility of the central government, as evidenced by the kidnapping of the Saudi diplomat. This act sent an explicit message around the world under the new title of ‘Yemen’, not Afghanistan or Pakistan. The Yemeni people will not be able to eradicate such a cancer unless they acknowledge its danger and fight it as a genuine organization, capable of rapidly proliferating due to its extreme religious ideology, and its recruitment and fund-raising support offered by foreign parties including Iran. In fact, Iran has extended its activities as part of its policy to tighten the grip on its opponents such as Saudi Arabia, and as part of its endeavor to dominate Yemen.
Although we know from past experience that al-Qaeda will never succeed in establishing a state of its own, no matter how much it infiltrates and gains footholds on the ground, it can succeed in widespread sabotage and destruction, as seen with the burning of Afghanistan and decline of Pakistan, which continues to suffer complete chaos. Al-Qaeda has ignited a war involving Iran, the US and dozens of other states, a war that continues to blaze until today. This is what we dread in Yemen; we fear that this country could transform into a scene of endless wars.
Considering the weak central authority, the tribal structure in Yemen could play a key role in stabilizing the country. A tribe may function as a domestic policeman to deter and expel al-Qaeda, at a time when the Yemeni armed forces are exhausted as a result of their previous exertions. Everyone must be aware of the need to urgently consolidate and support the central government, in order to prevent Yemen from being torn apart.