From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|ولاية اليمن (Wilayah al-Yaman)
Participant in the Yemeni Civil War
The Black Standard.
|Active||13 November 2014–present|
|Leaders||Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Leader of ISIL)
Abu Bilal al-Harbi
|Area of operations||Yemen|
|Part of||Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
|Battles and wars||Yemeni Civil War|
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Yemen Province (Arabic: الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام – ولاية اليَمَن, ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī ‘l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām – Wilayah al-Yaman), or ISIL-YP, is a branch of the militant Islamist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), active in Yemen. ISIL announced the group’s formation on 13 November 2014.
Yemen Province’s organizational structure is divided into geographical based sub-units. There are at least eight known sub-provinces active in Yemen as of 2015, many named after existing administrative divisions of Yemen:
- Wilayah Sana’a – around Yemen’s capital of the same name
- Wilayah Aden – around the Aden Governorate
- Wilayah Lahij – in the Lahij Governorate
- Wilayah Green Brigade – in the southwestern governorate of Ibb and Taiz
- Wilayah al-Bayda – in the central Al Bayda Governorate
- Wilayah Shabwah – in the eastern Shabwah Governorate
- Wilayah Ataq – around the city of Ataq
- Wilayah Hadramawt – in the large eastern Hadhramaut Governorate
On 13 November 2014, ISIL announced that a branch of the group had been established in Yemen, following pledges of allegiance made by unidentified militants in the country. al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the strongest militant group in the country, rejected this establishment. By December of that year, ISIL had begun to build an active presence inside Yemen, and its recruitment drive brought it into direct competition with AQAP. The branch’s first attack occurred in March 2015, when it carried out suicide bombings on 2 Shia Mosques in the Yemeni capital. In the following months it continued to carry out attacks aimed largely at civilian targets associated with the Shia Houthi movement.
The group has been able to attract recruits by appealing to heightened sectarianism in the country following the outbreak of the Yemeni Civil War in 2015. It has received a number of defectors from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who are drawn by the group’s money and its ability to carry out regular attacks against the Houthis. This has led to increased tensions with AQAP, although the two sides had avoided clashes as of late 2015.
On 6 October 2015, ISIL militants conducted a series of suicide bombings in Aden that killed 15 soldiers affiliated with the Hadi government and the Saudi-led coalition. The attacks were directed against the al-Qasr hotel, which had been a headquarters for pro-Hadi officials, and also military facilities. The group carried out further attacks against pro-Hadi forces, including the December 2015 assassination of Aden’s governor. The group experienced a major split in the same month, when dozens of its members, including military and religious leaders, publicly rejected ISIL’s leader in Yemen for perceived violations of Sharia. ISIL’s central command condemned the dissenters, accusing them of violating their pledge to al-Baghdadi. A member of AQAP claimed in early 2016 that about 30 members of ISIL in Yemen had recently defected to his organisation, unhappy with the group’s tactics and targeting of mosques and Muslim civilians. On 15 May 2016, ISIL militants claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 25 police recruits in the city of Mukalla in southern Yemen. AQAP was forced out of the city in April by the Saudi-led coalition.
Designation as a terrorist organization[edit source]
|United States||19 May 2016|||
As conflict swirls over the recent U.S. bombing in Syria, more than 50 bipartisan lawmakers have demanded President Donald Trump seek approval from Congress before expanding U.S. military action in another Middle East theater: Yemen.
The letter sent this week came in response to reports that the Trump administration is considering a proposal to directly engage the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia’s war against the Houthis in Yemen, including a planned United Arab Emirates-led attack on the Yemeni port of Hodeida, currently held by Houthi rebels.
“Such an attack could push the country into full-blown famine, where nearly half a million children in Yemen are facing starvation,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), who led the letter campaign along with Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).
As Common Dreams reported in March, the U.S.-supported war in Yemen has already led the country to what one journalist described as “the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world.”
Furthermore, “Direct U.S. hostilities against Yemen’s Houthis would run counter to your pledge to pursue a ‘disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy’ that protects American families in ‘every decision’,” reads the letter to Trump. “Indeed, according to U.S. defense officials, the U.S.-backed Saudi war against Houthis in Yemen has already ‘strengthened al Qaeda there’ and poses ‘a serious threat to U.S. security’.”
The lawmakers, who garnered 50 additional signatures for their missive, note that “Congress has never authorized the actions under consideration.”
In turn, they write:
Engaging our military against Yemen’s Houthis when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers clearly delineated in the Constitution. For this reason, we write to request that the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) provide, without delay, any legal justification that it would cite if the administration intends to engage in direct hostilities against Yemen’s Houthis without seeking congressional authorization.
As U.S. Representatives, we take seriously the right and responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of force, or to refuse to do so, as mandated by the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Resolution. We expect that any direct military actions pursued by the administration against the Yemeni Houthis be brought before Congress for consideration and authorization for approval before they are executed.
“President Trump does not have the authority to send U.S. forces to battle the Houthis in Yemen, period,” said Lieu. “Once again, the administration appears ready to ramp up U.S. involvement in a complicated civil war without a clear strategy in place or the necessary authorization from Congress. A unilateral decision for direct U.S. involvement in Yemen would be met by swift, bipartisan opposition.”
The letter, and a full list of signatories, is here (pdf).
Just Foreign Policy, which supported the signature campaign along with other anti-war organizations, is now urging constituents to demand their lawmakers invoke the War Powers Resolution when they return from recess on April 25, “to explicitly prohibit military escalation in Syria and Yemen.”
“I can’t promise you that we can stop this catastrophe,” wrote Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy last month.
“But we used this exact same mechanism less than four years ago and were successful in stopping U.S. military action,” he continued, referring to the 2013 effort to stop then-President Barack Obama from bombing the Syrian government. “Given that the lives of hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children hang in the balance, isn’t it worth a try?”
Trying to reduce the carefully choreographed drama to one stage and one audience risks misunderstanding the signal.
It seems many media observers are confused by events in Syria and the swirl of competing narratives. Did the Swamp drain Trump? Did the Neocons succeed in forcing Trump to follow their lead? Is the U.S. ramping up yet another endless war?
Consider the possibility that none of these narratives actually get to the heart of what’s going on. To make sense of all this, we’re going to have to delve into topics far below today’s headlines.
I think Ilargi (The Automatic Earth) got it right in his recent essay Symbols of Strength, in which he proposed that the entire cruise-missile exercise had little to do with Syria and everything to do with signaling Trump’s willingness to use force to China’s President Xi jinping.
Signaling is a term that is currently much in vogue. I used it in my recent essays Virtue-Signaling the Decline of the Empire (February 28, 2017) and It’s What’s Happening Beneath the Surface That Matters.
The original idea of signaling, drawn from economist Michael Spence’s job-market signaling model, has become confused with communication.
Spence proposed the notion that a college degree bridges the asymmetrical information gap between employer and employee: the employer has a tough time obtaining useful information on the qualifications and intelligence of job applicants. A college degree signals employers that the applicant is perseverent enough to get through 4+ years of college, and has enough intelligence (and work ethic) to earn the diploma.
Here is Bloomberg writer Noah Smith’s description of the difference between signaling and communicating: “Spence’s signaling model was about proving yourself by doing something difficult — something so difficult that someone who didn’t have what it takes wouldn’t even bother.”
In other words, communication isn’t a signal. A quizzical raised eyebrow, a scoffing chuckle, a wry comment–all of these telegraph emotional content as well as information. But these are not signals.
A signal is a form of communication, but its cost must be high to be persuasive. A signal can provide information on intent, depth of commitment, willingness to accept risk and much more.
A signal is often intended to communicate different things to different audiences.
To understand signaling, we need to understand the difference between force and power. Edward Luttwak ably described the difference in his book The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: force is a mechanical input (expense) that doesn’t scale: it takes a lot of people, effort and treasure to force others to comply with Imperial edicts.
Power, on the other hand, is ultimately the sum total output of the Empire: its productive capacity, resources, human and social capital–everything. Power influences others without direct coercion. This allows the Empire to extend its influence without having to bear the enormous costs of applying force.
Luttwak explains that power results from positioning military assets to serve political-power objectives. That is, the assets must be positioned to credibly threaten the use of force anywhere in the Empire, but the job of maintaining influence/control is done more by signaling the readiness and ability to use force rather than having to put the force in the field (a very costly and risky venture that often turns out badly).
In other words, the perception of power and the willingness and ability to apply force is what matters in terms of political influence. If we look through this lens, we discern a much different picture of what may be going on with the cruise missile attack on Syria.
(I also recommend Luttwak’s companion volume, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.)
The “Secret Sauce” of the Byzantine Empire: Stable Currency, Social Mobility (September 1, 2016)
Here is some essential context for the signaling of the U.S., Russia and China. The U.S. spends roughly $700 billion annually on its Armed Forces and another $100 billion on intelligence agencies and defense-related expenditures. So round it up to $800 billion.
That is roughly 15% of total federal spending, and a bit over 3% of America’s GDP. Historically, these are very low numbers. In other words, the U.S. isn’t even spending much of its total available output on its military.
Every great power aims its signals at both the international audience and the domestic audience. Rather than being a poker game, signaling is more 3-D chess, with three boards in play at all times: client states and allies; potential adversaries, and the domestic audience.
China, Russia and the U.S. are all signaling to these three different audiences with every pronouncement and every action.
We must be careful not to misread a signal primarily intended for a domestic audience as being more than a symbolic act. All the analysts who see the cruise-missile attack as “proof” that the Swamp has drained Trump, or the U.S. intends to raamp up its involvement in Syria are looking at only one board–or they’ve misread the game entirely, and are glued to a PR sideshow.
A successful signal performs on multiple levels, leveraging the effect at a low cost. No Great Power can afford to use only brute force to maintain influence. Signals may be directed at multiple audiences, and trying to reduce the carefully choreographed drama to one stage and one audience risks misunderstanding the signal.
The entire cruise-missile drama hints at the possibility that U.S. Neocons are being played. It’s all too pat for my taste. But that’s a topic for another essay.
* * *
For those interested in Imperial strategies, force and power, I recommend these books as worthy starting places. I am not an authority, I am only an avid amateur, so please let me know which other books you’ve found to be especially insightful.
How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower (Adrian Goldsworthy)
War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires (Peter Turchin)
The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire (Anthony Everitt)
428 AD: An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire (Giusto Traina)
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (Jack Weatherford)
Venice: A New History (Thomas F. Madden)
Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire (Judith Herrin)
This essay was drawn from Musings Report 14. The Reports are emailed weekly to major contributors and patrons ($50 annually or $5/month or higher).