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Guest Thinkers

The Other Kidnapping

Yesterday we talked about the kidnapping of Tawakul Karman (the government has wisely decided to release her today), but I didn’t mention the kidnapping of Taha Husayn Ali Muhsin (Ar.), the son of a commander in Yemen’s Special Forces from the Sanhan tribe.

For those who follow Yemen closely his name should suggest that he may be a relative of some very important people, or rather one very important person.  (I don’t know this for sure, but the name suggests it).  President Salih comes from the Sanhan tribe and many members of the tribe have risen to top position in the security and military structures. 

The kidnapping was reportedly carried out by individuals under the command of Mubarak al-Mashan, the former head of security in al-Jawf.  Al-Mashan, who is currently an adviser to the Ministry of the Interior, is upset that his salary was cut after a meeting with Abd al-Malik al-Huthi. 

There are a couple of interesting things here.  First, whether or not the government likes it, the Huthis are now a part of the political landscape in Yemen and they can’t be ignored.  Levying fines or withdrawing favors from those who meet or interact with them is not a workable strategy.

The second and broader point is that this kidnapping is, I fear, a template of what is likely to happen more and more in the future as the government is increasingly unable to make good on deals in the same way it has in the past.  Yemen’s government is in a cash crisis and as it loses money its influence will shrink.  Many who find their accustomed salaries and favors no longer met will react like al-Mashan.  That is, they will target the regime in an effort to force it to live up to past practices. 

This is dangerous in the sense that these attacks will likely happen in the near future at a tune when the regime is least able to withstand them.  They will come at the same time other, diverse strands of resistance are coalescing against the regime.  At that point the regime will need as many allies as it can get, and its lack of money and short-sighted actions like the al-Mashan case, will make this an incredibly difficult trick to pull off. 


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