Date Written: 2018-05-01
Publisher: Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières
Year Published: 2018
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX22949
The Arab Spring, numerically strong but politically weak, failed to break this destructive dynamic. With the corpse of Arab nationalism in a state of advanced decay and the principal opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, desperate for a deal with Washington, the 2011 uprisings were easily confiscated by the US to further its own aims in the region. Despite its many national peculiarities, the ruinous war in Yemen has to be viewed in this context.
It’s been a long journey for Lackner from the hopes and struggles of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in the seventies to the neoliberal wreckage that is today's Republic of Yemen. A research associate at SOAS's Middle East Institute and an independent consultant on rural development, Lackner has lived and studied in Yemen for long periods beginning with her arrival in Aden, capital of the PDRY, as a young SOAS-trained anthropologist and linguist, to practise her Arabic and conduct fieldwork in the only socialist state in the Arab world. Her supportive but not uncritical assessment, PDR Yemen: Outpost of Socialist Development in Arabia, appeared in 1985. She also produced a careful study of Yemen's powerful neighbour, A House Built on Sand: A Political Economy of Saudi Arabia (1978)--written, as she puts it, ‘from the point of view of the welfare of the Saudi Arabian population, not that of Western capitalism'. All of this accumulated experience lies behind the matchless geopolitical profile of contemporary Yemen--its political conflicts, its economic structures, and, above all, its people--that she has now provided. She knows the country at least as well, and in some respects better than the gangs in Foggy Bottom and Whitehall, not to mention Mossad operatives or the other spooks of the 'international community' based in Riyadh. Yemen in Crisis patiently traces the complex network of influences and rivalries which intertwine on the branching rope that constitutes Yemeni national consciousness--a rope that outside military intervention has now severed.
On a peninsula teeming with petty emirates and the pampered scions of the House of Saud, Yemen has always stood out. It has been under republican rule for half a century, divided into two states until 1990. In the North, Nasserite nationalists triumphed over the Saudi-backed Imamate in 1970 after a tragic conflict. In the South, communists and socialists ejected the British from the port-city of Aden, which commands the entrance to the Red Sea through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Cold War competition resulted in massive inflows of aid from the West and the Soviet Union, helping to build a strong social infrastructure in both territories. Remittances from the more than one million Yemenis working abroad, mainly in Saudi Arabia, were also vitally important.