Mountainous and dry, with a tendency to anarchy in the ample spaces between its cities, Yemen has long been hospitable to insurgency. Yet in ancient times it was home to the Sabaeans and had claims to be the biblical land of the Queen of Sheba. Its fertility and beauty were such that the Romans called it Arabia Felix, ‘happy Arabia’. The people there are mostly Arabs and like much of the rest of Arabia, became subject to the distant domain of the Ottoman sultan. The fate of the peninsula was influenced significantly by Britain, which in 1937 took the port city of Aden as the centre of its colony (on independence in 1967, it became South Yemen). Britain exercised significant influence over who ruled Muscat and Oman; assisted succession to the monarchy and imamate of North Yemen; and together with the US confirmed the al Saud family as hereditary rulers of what became Saudi Arabia. Now combined, the former North and South Yemen are together Sunni by bare majority, but the Zaidi Shia remain a large, mainly northern minority.
The coronavirus, which originated in China late last year, has begun its definite spread across the globe. Each day brings news of new infections, and new countries in which symptoms of the virus have been observed. But one surprising locus for the diffusing virus is now Iran, far from China. Continue reading →
Once again, Tony Blair is in the news. A merry-go-round of stories swirls around the former British prime minister. Many of them are luridly drawn, some nonsensical. A new story concerns the perpetual question of Blair being prosecuted for the Iraq war. Continue reading →