The old confrontation between the revolutionary and the traditional in the Arab world is entering a new round. This time the field of operations is larger than the Yemen Republic. The departure of the British from South Yemen and the stepping up of the Cairo-inspired revolution in the Gulf has extended the battlefield to cover all Arabia.
That the August agreement would not in itself end the civil war was predictable. It is, after all, a Yemeni civil war. It was natural that the Royalists would try to gain a military advantage from the Egyptian withdrawal. Equally predictably, they have failed to crush the regime – though last week they seemed for a time to be surrounding Sana’a. Whatever the final outcome, the 1962 revolution – which brought republican Yemen within sight of the 20th century – cannot be undone. The departure of the Egyptians, and of Sallal, has had its advantages for the republicans. It has put the revolution into the hands of “real” Yemenis. Under the new Premier, Dr Al Aini, it can recoup the losses in popularity it suffered as a result of the Egyptian presence. Nor is it friendless. The Russians have supplied Yemen jet fighters and bombers – admittedly not the most useful weapons in this type of war – with technicians and, apparently, pilots as well.
The Royalists are not friendless either. The presence of foreign mercenaries, including Europeans, seems well established and underlines the availability of substantial funds. Cairo Radio has suggested CIA funds might be supplementing Saudi ones. Nor are the mercenaries all foreign. In vain does Sana’a Radio appeal “to our brothers who have been deceived by shining gold?’ Money has been a principal weapon of war all along.