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Yemen after Saleh

25 March 2011
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The potential for things going badly in Yemen after Saleh’s departure is great. There are already many conflicts and problems there. In the South a strong movement has arisen in favor of restoring its independence. In the far north of the country, there has been armed rebellion by the Houthis. In addition, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has a strong presence in Yemen. Finally, the authority of the Yemeni government is weak outside the major cities where the tribes are well-armed. Add all these factors together, and the potential not just for conflict, but for long-lasting conflict appears great.

External powers can play a positive role if they focus on supporting not just what is good for themselves, but for the nation in question. With the U.S. government fixated on Al Qaeda and the War on Terror and not on democracy and human rights in Yemen, it risks pursuing a counter-productive policy that alienates Yemenis and results in the new regime there being hostile to Western interests. America, though, is preoccupied with Afghanistan, Iraq, and its own domestic concerns. These two factors together have created both the need and the opportunity for Europe to take the lead in formulating a policy toward Yemen that furthers the long-term interests both of the people of that country as well as the West as a whole.