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Yemen - Oil War to Intensify

Incident: Just east of the capital Sana’a at least five people have been killed in fighting near an oil pipeline that began the last week of December. Tribes in the oil-rich Marib province are suspected of sabotaging pipelines, and on 25 December, the Yemeni army launched a ground offensive in the area. The key target for sabotage is a 320-kilometer pipeline that carries around 180,000 barrels of oil per day to an export terminal on the Red Sea. Again, on 10 January, a bomb attack on the main crude export pipeline halted flows. Oil had only resumed pumping on 31 December after being repaired from the earlier attacks. 

Bottom Line: Pipeline sabotage by tribes and Islamist groups with complicated loyalties will increase in intensity as a shaky new government attempts to assert control over the country’s only form of political currency—oil. Right now, we’re looking at major attacks on the export pipeline every 10-15 days.

Analysis: We can expect more sabotage in the coming weeks and months, both by tribes in the area and by Islamist fighters. Oil has long been the main currency of patronage in Yemen. Since the ouster of President Saleh in an Arab Spring-like turn of events, the country has been embroiled in a struggle to re-assert control over oil resources in order to return the system of patronage that keeps various tribes loyal to the government. The tribes are sabotaging the pipelines in order to maintain control over power-sharing…

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