Yemen’s Association of Islamic Clerics warned they would call for jihad in the case of foreign military intervention amid growing concern that the United States might carry out direct strikes against Al Qaeda militants in the country. “If any party insists on aggression, or invading the country or carrying out military or security intervention, then jihad becomes obligatory according to Islam,” said a statement signed by 150 clerics, announced at a meeting of dozens of prominent religious leaders.

The clerics, led by Sheikh Abdulmajeed al Zindani, a hardliner labelled by the US as a “wanted terrorist, met amid heavy security at the historic al Mashhad mosque in Sana’a. The statement read that the clerics “reject any security or military agreement or co-operation [between Yemen and] any foreign party if it violates sharia law or damages the country’s interests … [we also reject] setting up any military bases in Yemen, or in its territorial waters.”

The clerics’ statement, copies of which were widely distributed in the streets of the capital, also voiced “strong rejection to any foreign intervention in Yemeni affairs, whether political or military”.

In the statement however, the clerics welcomed Barack Obama’s comments that the US will not send troops to Yemen and said, “this stand by the US administration is appreciated and it [Washington] is required to be committed to such policy”.

January 14, 2010


Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

The failed Detroit plane bomber has made Yemen front-line news around the world, with widespread calls for direct and indirect military assistance to Yemen to fight Al Qaeda.

There is widespread acknowledgement that foreign assistance is needed if the Yemeni government is to succeed in its fight against Al Qaeda. However, there has been growing support for Al Qaeda in Yemen, which suffers from unemployment of over 35%. Support for Al Qaeda has been also consolidated in an army strike against alleged Al Qaeda fighters last month in which a number of civilians were also killed.

Although direct foreign troops are unlikely going to go to Yemen, indirect support and more targeted assistance to the Yemeni security forces may be perceived as a foreign intervention and hence result in a mobilization of the local population towards foreign intervention in general as well as the government in favour of Al Qaeda.

The call by the powerful clerics will therefore make it more difficult for the government to fight the growing Al Qaeda threat and receive the essential foreign assistance it needs, including security help.