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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


News Analysis: The Situation in Yemen

To generalize all the unrest in the Middle East during these past few months would be a mistake. Each situation is unique to its own country. There is one country that has gotten its share of news over the past few weeks, but perhaps not enough people are focused on it: Yemen.

Why Yemen, you ask? The current situation in Yemen bears many of the cryptic hallmarks of countries that have fallen into chaos and continual warfare over the past few years.  It has an generally impoverished population. The central government is constantly competing with tribal governance and militant religious groups use the country as a base for carrying out attacks both in and outside its borders.

Sound familiar to anyone? If it doesn’t, the next time you look at a map, Yemen is the little country directly southwest of Saudi Arabia. Go north a few countries and then east a few more. You’ve found Afghanistan.

If anyone is wondering why the United States is having such a difficult time in Afghanistan, here’s the reason: many parts of the country that still adhere to the leaders of their local tribes have little confidence in the government of Hamid Karzai. Though many do not wish to support the Taliban, they feel no love for Karzai or for the Americans either.

No two countries are the same, obviously, but Yemen is similar to Afghanistan in many ways. The country is still a hotbed of tribal governance, and when those tribal leaders do not like who is in power, problems start popping up.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been the president of Yemen since the unification of North Yemen and South Yemen at the end of the Cold War. Until recently, he has maintained the loyalty of the local tribal leaders. However, in the recent unrest, he has lost them to the protesters now that they know that backing him isn’t the only option.

And then there’s terrorism. Yemen has become the latest country to come under the watchful eye of the American Department of Homeland Security. The almost Christmas-day bomber from 2009 was trained in Yemen, and a package that would have been delivered to a Jewish center in Chicago was originally sent from Yemen.

Not all Yemenis are like this by any means. Most people have no desire to attack another country. However, the situation in that country is not good, and the conditions are set up for a potential disaster.

Should Saleh fall from power, there are multiple potential outcomes. One outcome is that no strong leader replaces him, in which case Yemen would be tribally divided to the worst extreme. Another option is that a strong leader would take his place. Given that the list of potentials has many tribal elders and radical clerics, there isn’t much reason for optimism. Another option is that Saudi Arabia, being Yemen’s neighbor, will make a quick bid for stability and put their own puppet in. Someone else (i.e. the US) may do the same thing for the same reason.

Overall, the situation in this country isn’t positive. There are many things that we don’t know about, but those things unfortunately might not make the situation look any better. The world’s leaders must tread carefully when it comes to Yemen.


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