The New Front


SANAA/WASHINGTON/BERLIN (Own report) - Germany is taking part in the US government's intensification of the so-called "war on terror" in Yemen. As Washington dispatches detachments of Special Forces to the country and directs bombing raids carried out by the Yemeni military, Berlin is engaged in building up Yemen's coast guard and training its police. This cooperation with Yemen's repressive institutions is of strategic significance and was intensified last year, when the USA began to step up its "anti-terror" measures in this country located at the southern most corner of the Arabic Peninsular. The German Bundeswehr maintains a "group of advisors" with the Yemeni military. The Yemeni armed forces are alleged to have committed a massacre of civilians last December. The German Navy, in operation off the Yemeni coast, is also implicated in these "war on terror" intensification measures. Somali militias, just across the narrow Gulf of Aden from this new front, have announced their intention to enter this conflict. Berlin's local partner in the war is the Yemeni government - known for decades for its use of torture.


The intensification of the so-called "war on terror" in Yemen, which, over the past few days, has led to speculation as to whether a US invasion of this Arab country is imminent, had in fact begun about a year ago. Following the September 2008 car bomb attack on the US Embassy in Sanaa, Washington placed the Yemeni government under pressure to vengefully track down the suspected culprits and their organizational structures. Therefore, the US government had allocated around US $70 million for 2009 - earmarked to also include the training of the country's military, police and coast guard. Simultaneously Washington has dispatched some of its CIA's top field operatives as well as some of the most secretive Special Operations commandos to the country.[1] The targeting for several of the Yemeni military's aerial attacks carried out in late 2009 were allegedly made on the basis of US espionage information. According to US government spokespersons, American "firepower" is also in operation - probably meaning US missiles and drones. This year allocations for the "war on terror" in Yemen are to be more than doubled, announced General David Petraeus, US Centcom commander.

"Anti-Terror Struggle"

Germany has been engaged in Yemen in the "war on terror" for years. This has not only been in the capacity of controlling the neighboring waters at the Horn of Africa, as the German Navy has been helping to do since 2002, but also through the buildup of the Yemeni coast guard. Since a US warship was severely damaged by a bomb attack in 2000 in the harbor of Aden, the US has been insisting that the country create a specialized coast guard, to prevent a recurrence of such attacks. In 2002 Sanaa gave in to the demands and in return, received significant US aid, including 14 patrol boats. In 2005, the German Navy began carrying out maneuvers with the Yemeni coast guard, which was in the process of being formed. It was in early 2006, that the first German warship sailed into the port of Aden - where the US warship had previously been attacked - for joint maneuvers with the Yemeni coast guard. At the time the Bundeswehr declared that "cooperation with Yemen should be reinforced also in the future, to gain a dependable and strong partner in the struggle against terrorism."[2]

New Agreements

The cooperation with the Yemeni coast guard has endured since. It was recently reinforced, simultaneous with Washington's intensification of the "war on terror" in Yemen. In November 2009, Germany agreed to take over the creation and the equipping of three of the coast guards medical stations.[3] In the beginning of 2005, the incumbent German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder even induced Sanaa to sign a contract of purchase with the Luerssen Dockyards in Bremen - for ten patrol boats. The contract has yet to be implemented. It can be gleaned from recent statements from Somali militiamen that the significance of the Yemeni coast guard is not only because of its protection of the harbor, but also because of its patrolling the coastal waters around Yemen. The Somalis announced their intention to wage combat against the West also on this new front, from which they are only separated by the sea.

Strategic Presence

In addition, an EU strategy paper, covering the period from 2007 - 2013, enumerates the "training of police forces and the coast guard" as among its Yemen policy "priorities."[4] Brussels is therefore supporting not only the current "war on terror" but also Berlin's strategic objectives. Since the 1970s, West Germany has supported Yemen's police and military with equipment as well as training programs,[5] thereby insuring for itself a certain presence in the south of the Arabian Peninsular adjacent to the approach routes to the Red Sea. Since 1992 the Bundeswehr has had a "group of advisors" stationed in the country, who, officially, are mainly engaged in setting up the medical infrastructure for Yemen's military. Their unofficial agenda is a bit more extensive. October 30, 2009, the Naval Medical Commander, Dr. Wolfgang Titius, who earlier had actively participated in the Bundeswehr "group of advisers" was granted the Federal Cross of Merit with Ribbon of the Order or Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. The reason given was that it was thanks to him "not least of all, his exemplary demeanor" that it was possible for the Bundeswehr to "obtain access to the highest decision makers in Yemen."[6]

Regime of Torture

For years German training programs for Yemen's forces of repression, as well as Berlin's permits issued for arms exports [7] have been subjects of protests. In early 1996, a parliamentary minor interpellation of the German government pointed out that in Yemen human rights organizations report "arbitrary arrests (...) even of youth and children" as well as "torture being practiced in secret prisons or jails of Sanaa's political security service" and "of government assassinations."[8] These reports have yet to impede a German government from continuing its strategic cooperation with Yemen, also with the police and military sectors. It has been amply documented that the state has engaged in violent assaults in Yemen, also in the course of the so-called "war on terror". There is "widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment in Yemen," confirmed Amnesty International once again at the end of last November.[9] That the bombing raids of Berlin's US-Yemeni partners had cost the lives of dozens of civilians December 17 and 24 has been widely reported. The intensification of the "war on terror" in Yemen, which has been initiated with these bombing raids, points to further barbarization - with German support.

[1] U.S. Widens Terror War to Yemen, a Qaeda Bastion; The New York Times 27.12.2009
[2] Deutsche Fregatte besucht Aden; 24.01.2006
[3] Germany supports Yemen Coast Guard with 750.000 Euro; Pressemitteilung der Deutschen Botschaft in Sanaa, 10.11.2009
[4] Jemen - Europäische Gemeinschaft. Strategiepapier für den Zeitraum 2007-2013
[5] Initially Germany supported the Yemen Arab Republic (Northern Yemen), then beginning in 1990, the combined nation which now included the territory of the Democratic People's Republic of Southern Yemen. See also Off the Coast of Yemen
[6] Soldat, Chirurg und Humanist - Bundesverdienstkreuz verliehen; 30.10.2009
[7] From 2000 to 2001, the German government issued permits allowing the supply of firearms, ammunition and parachutes valued at around seven million DM. From 2004 - 2007 the supply of parachutes, cross-country vehicles and armored personnel carriers, valued at 6.5 million Euros, was licensed.
[8] "Reports are of beatings with electric cables, electric shocks, rapes and a form of torture known as 'grilled chicken', in which the victim is hung from a metal rod passed through his/her bound wrists and knees." Response of the German Government to a minor interpellation from the parliamentarian Steffen Tippach and the caucus of the Party for Democratic Socialism: "Cooperation of the German Government with the Republic of Yemen with Special Consideration for the Human Rights Situation in Yemen. Deutscher Bundestag Drucksache 13/3360, 30.01.1996
[9] Yemen: Government should announce commitment to tackle "widespread" torture; 27.11.2009