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Revolutionary Reality In Yemen

The Consequences For The West

Lymington--July 7, 2011--The injuries that President Saleh of the Yemen sustained recently in a bomb blast would appear to have effectively ended his presidency. The power vacuum that exists in the country whilst the opposing factions battle for ascendancy and control is a concern. Less than 50 km away from the Yemeni coastline lies Djibouti, in Africa. Little is heard in the news about this small, independent republic and former French colony.

Djibouti and Yemen between them control Bab el Mandeb - the ‘Gate of Tears’ - which is a strategic Strait, and a major conduit for Middle Eastern oil and the Far East-Europe cargo trade via the Suez Canal. Those who control the Gate of Tears effectively control the Suez Canal.

It is also the route by which the Israeli navy has access to the Indian Ocean. As such, that access is guaranteed by a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel, underwritten diplomatically in 1975, and still current.

Djibouti has a permanent French military presence - there is usually at least one French warship in port or nearby and the French Foreign Legion have a training base there. It still has strong diplomatic and trade links with France. Perhaps more significantly, Camp Lemonnier near Djibouti City (the capital) is the only (publicly known) US military base in Africa, and was heavily used during the Rendition program after 9/11.

Saudi Arabian oil exports have four ways to go: from the Persian Gulf via the Straits of Hormuz, via the Suez Canal from ports on the west coast of Saudi Arabia, via the Sumed oil pipeline, which runs from Saudi Arabia to Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea, and via the Gate of Tears. So, Djibouti enjoys (if that is the word) a powerful geographical position - power that it can leverage to obtain economic support from the ‘West’. Likewise the Yemen, but it is an entirely different scenario there.

The Gate of Tears, and the Straits of Hormuz between them carry probably fifty percent of Saudi Arabian oil. Iran overlooks one, and the Yemen overlooks the other. Therefore, the future of Yemen is critically important to the West, and the stability of Djibouti is essential. However, we should not forget that Djibouti also borders the failed state of Somalia, which is a haven for pirates, and reportedly a training ground for Al Quaeda. The whole region is a patchwork of stable and unstable regimes and governments, of major strategic concern to the West.

Well, what of the Yemen itself? It has been subject to internal unrest for many years, and in the year 2000, the USS Cole was attacked by suicide bombers whilst refuelling near Aden (its main port). Seventeen US sailors died. The US has had special forces deployed in the Yemen almost continuously for the past decade, but with a prospective new government, that could change. Yemen’s population is riven by tribal factions and Al Quaeda is believed to have an effective presence there, being heavily involved in the unrest and just this week killing a dozen Yemeni soldiers at a fake checkpoint.

In summary, fifty percent (give or take) of Saudi Arabian oil moves through two narrow straits - Hormuz and the Gate of Tears, each bordered by unstable countries. The wrong government in the Yemen could be a disaster for the West and open another front with Al Quaeda.

About James Marinero

James Marinero explores a potential superpower clash in this volatile region, in 'Gate of Tears', his latest novel. Bang up to the minute, it reflects very recent changes in Britain’s defence strategy, regime change in North Africa and the Middle East, and the rapidly increasing influence of China - its industry, naval power and intelligence gathering. ‘Gate of Tears’ projects naval and aerial technology, and developments in genetics, into the next decade, with a plot to destabilise the international gold market at its core, and a clash at the Gate of Tears.

James worked in many countries - from Russia to the Middle East - and many industries - from government to banking. With a marine, science and IT background, he brings a unique and detailed, fact-based perspective to his fast-paced fiction.

Contact: The Editor at wavecrest UK

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