Yemen: Arabia Felix

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In San'a, Yemen's mud brick capital, the forces of the revolution last week passed in review. Tribesmen galloped through the streets, wearing brass-trimmed bandoleers, with curved, wide-bladed djambias thrust into their brocaded belts. They were followed by camel troops, native levies in skirts and armed with muskets dating back to Napoleon, and new army recruits in crumpled khaki uniforms. From the second-floor window of his headquarters, the architect of the revolution, Brigadier General Abdullah Sallal, cried: "The corrupt monarchy which ruled for a thousand years was a disgrace to the Arab nation and to all humanity. Anyone who tries to restore it is an enemy of God and man!"

The turbaned, gun-toting crowd shouted: ''We are with you, Sallal!"

Silent Refuge. General Sallal last week seemed firmly in control of Yemen. His coup had originally been aimed at the feudalistic regime of the Imam known as Ahmad the Devil, who, aged 71, died of natural causes in mid-September before the conspirators could kill him. Ten days after Ahmad's son, Seif el Badr, ascended the throne, General Sallal surrounded the royal palace in San'a with 4,000 troops and began blasting away with tank guns. At first, the rebels believed that the new Imam had died in the ruins, but belatedly they learned that Badr had escaped, reportedly disguised as a Bedouin woman, and made his way to the safety of Saudi Arabia, whose King Saud, together with Jordan's King Hussein, pledged men, money and munitions to the overthrow of Sallal.

As ruling monarchs, Saud and Hussein were worried that revolution in Yemen might easily spread to their own lands.* Two armies of about 1,000 men each, most raised from Yemenite tribesmen in Saudi territory, invaded Yemen, but Sallal swiftly assembled his ragtag Yemenite army and, with the help of Soviet arms and Egyptian planes, drove the royalists back across the border into Saudi Arabia and Britain's Aden Protectorate. Twenty-five nations, from Russia to Indonesia, promptly recognized Sallal's regime. The U.S. and Britain, trapped between their alliances with the remaining Arab monarchies and their concern for the oil-rich regions of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, took refuge in silence on the question of recognition, and appealed for "nonintervention" by everyone.

Meanwhile. Yemen is opening up to the outside world. TIME Correspondent George de Carvalho last week found Strongman Sallal in his San'a home, sitting shoeless on a mattress, surrounded by fellow officers, adding an occasional cigarette butt to the litter of orange peels on the mosaic floor. Sallal offered a justification of his coup, which turned mostly on reminiscences of the incredibly corrupt and backward rule imposed on Yemen by the gross, 300-lb. Ahmad the Devil.

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