|About the Book|
The political situation within Yemen has catapulted to the top tier of U.S. national security concerns over the last several years as it has become more directly linked to both the problem of international terrorism and the need for future stabilityMoreThe political situation within Yemen has catapulted to the top tier of U.S. national security concerns over the last several years as it has become more directly linked to both the problem of international terrorism and the need for future stability in the Arabian Peninsula. On the terrorism front, the December 25, 2009, attempted bombing of a U.S. passenger aircraft in Detroit, Michigan, by an individual trained by Yemeni terrorists was a particularly clear warning to the United States about the dangers of neglecting this geopolitically important country. Yet, this near catastrophe also underscored the need for a careful consideration of U.S. policies regarding Yemen. This requirement may be especially clear when one considers the chain of events that might have been set off had there been a successful terrorist strike in Detroit in which hundreds of Americans were killed. Apart from the human cost of such a tragedy, the U.S. leadership would have been under enormous pressure to respond in a way consistent with the level of public outrage associated with the event. Public pressure might well have existed for military intervention in Yemen with U.S. ground combat troops. Such an intervention is something that the present work insists would infuriate virtually the entire Yemeni population, regardless of the objective merits of the U.S. case for the offensive use of U.S. ground combat forces.Yemen is not currently a failed state, but it is experiencing huge political and economic problems that can have a direct impact on U.S. interests in the region. It has a rapidly expanding population with a resource base that is limited and already leaves much of the current population in poverty. The government obtains around a third of its budget revenue from sales of its limited and declining oil stocks, which most economists state will be exhausted by 2017. Yemen has critical water shortages aggravated by the use of extensive amounts of water and agricultural land for production of the shrub qat, which is chewed for stimulant and other effects but has no nutritional value. All of these problems are especially difficult to address because the central government has only limited capacity to extend its influence into tribal areas beyond the capital and major cities. Adding to these difficulties, Yemen is also facing a variety of interrelated national security problems that have strained the limited resources of the government, military, and security forces. In Saada province in Yemens northern mountainous region, there has been an intermittent rebellion by Houthi tribesmen who accuse the government of discrimination and other actions against their Zaydi Shiite religious sect. In southern Yemen, a powerful independence movement has developed which is mostly nonviolent but is also deeply angry and increasingly confrontational.Yemen is also an especially distrustful and wary nation in its relationship with Western nations, and particularly the United States. Most Yemenis are fiercely protective of their countrys independence from outside influence, especially from countries that they believe do not always have the best interests of the Arab World in mind. While Yemens government is coming to understand the dangers it faces from al-Qaeda, the struggle against this organization is not always popular among the Yemeni public, and any large-scale U.S. military presence in the country could easily ignite these passions and destabilize the regime. Under such circumstances, it is important to help Yemen, but to do so in ways that are not viewed as intrusive or dominating by a population that does not always identify with U.S. concerns about international terrorism. In recent years, U.S. policymakers have managed to maintain this balance, but the complexities of Yemeni domestic politics will continue to require subtlety and nimbleness in U.S.-Yemeni security relations.