Following the visit of Yemeni President 'Ali 'Abdallah 'Salih to Russia last week, the two countries have signed a deal worth an estimated $1 billion that would see some very sophisticated Russian weaponry exported to Yemen, the official Yemen news agency SABA reported.
Among the weaponry are a number of MiG-29 fighter jets, attack and transport helicopters, T-80 and T72 tanks and armored vehicles, in addition to modern telecommunications equipment, the news agency reported.
In exchange, the Russian government-owned gas giant Gazprom announced that it intended to invest in gas and oil projects in Yemen.
Among the plans is the construction of a plant that would be able to handle 6.7 million tons of gas yearly. It is estimated that Yemen has a 16,951-billion cubic feet gas reserve.
The new plant would convert the gas into liquid known as liquefied natural gas or LNG, which is then exported by ship. While exporting the gas as LNG requires extensive infrastructure investment at both the exporting and importing harbors, it does not include the construction of pipelines which are vulnerable to sabotage. This happened twice in 10 days just last month.
During the last couple of years, the focus of the government has shifted from Al-Qa’ida toward a rebellion being launched in the northwestern region of the country against members of the Al-Houthi tribe.
Al-Qa’ida has deep roots in Yemen, Osama Bin Laden’s ancestral home. The country was also a key source for recruitment during the early years of the network’s fight against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan.
It is estimated that a third of all inmates at Guantanamo Bay are Yemenites.