Yemen, a conflict of interests between Al-Qaeda and Daesh

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By: Rasoul Goudarzi / Source: HispanTV / The Dawn News / May 4, 2016. Currently, the Yemeni people is not only suffering from the power vacuum and the Saudi invasion. There is another crucial element that threatens their life constantly: the growth of extremism and the disagreements between Al Qaeda and Daesh.

For decades, Yemen has been the main stronghold and nest of Al Qaeda; however, this group is almost irrelevant for the Arab country and was only focused on providing advice to groups active in other countries, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. After the Saudi invasion to Yemen, conditions were favorable for Al Qaeda to broaden their activities in the country. The war contributed to the Daesh expansion, too.

Over a year after the invasion to Yemen, nowadays both groups are competing against each other to control the most important areas of the country, especially of the South. But, how were the terrorist groups strengthened and what does this mean for Yemen?

Al Qaeda and its capital, Al Mukalla

The geopolitical and geostrategic situation of Yemen is extremely important for Al Qaeda. The country is located in the heart of the Islamic world and has abundant natural resources; furthermore, it’s close to the sacred places of Mecca and Medina, in Saudi Arabia. These are important elements for the Salafi, and for Al Qaeda as well. After their operation in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, the Salafis returned to the Arab country and settled in the provinces of Al Mukalla, Shabu, Abyan and Hadhramaut.

In this context, due to the chaos that reigns in the Arab country, the terrorists have established a small empire in the portuary province of Al Mukalla, where they have built a fortune of around 100 million dollars through bank-robberies and illegal taxes they collected from merchants. They have collected 1,4 million dollars from Yemen’s national oil company. If Al-Raqqah is the main base of Daesh in Syria, Al Mukalla is the capital of Al Qaeda.

When we think about the unplanned consequences of Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen, the resurgence of Al Qaeda is the most surprising one. Yemen is also fighting against the national movement Ansarollah. Saudi Arabia’s campaign, supported by the US, has helped Al Qaeda achieve more power than ever in the Arabian Peninsula.

Daesh vs. Al Qaeda

Like Al Qaeda, Daesh didn’t spare any effort to increase its influence in Yemen, and in 2015 it even transmitted a video in which it raised its flag in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.Nowadays, the group is active in the center, south and east of the Arab country, and it plans to control more areas of the province of Shabu and establish its headquarters in Southern Yemen. The main motives for the increase in the influence of Daesh in Yemen are, firstly, the chaos and instability, and the Saudi invasion. Thanks to this power vacuum. Daesh has been able to strengthen its bases in Aden, Hadramout and Shabu. Secondly, Daesh has an important ability to recruit members that carry out terrorist operations and bombings. Through their institutions, they are ahead of their rivals in terms of recruitment. The third reason is the weakness of Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Since August 2015, the takfiri group has lost between 15 and 30 percent of the controlled area in both countries. Therefore, to avoid their fall, they’re making efforts to find new places in which to carry out their goals, including North Africa (for example Libya or Tunisia) and other countries in the Middle East.

Consequences the extremism dominance in Yemen

Despite all this, the expansion of Daesh in Yemen has serious consequences for the country, the poorest country in the Arab world. The main challenge for whichever administration comes to govern the country is safety, because due to the enmity between Al Qaeda and Daesh, the situation could become even more complicated as long as they continue to try to eliminate the presence of the other in the areas under their control.

When Al Qaeda was winning ground, Daesh issued a video accusing the group of being allied to the central government of Yemen and threatened to stop their advance in the country. They even take over an important base of Al Qaeda in the South. These things motivated a bigger operation of Al Qaeda in the center and south.

The other consequence would be the US completely taking over the country. If the situation continues, Washington will find it easier to intervene, with the excuse of fighting terrorism and establishing military bases. The US could dominate the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which would affect many more countries. Therefore, the current situation in Yemen has only benefitted Al Qaeda and Daesh. To avoid feeding terrorism any longer, we must support peace in Yemen and put an end to the invasion.

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