Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Yemen – Risk and Opportunity on the Arabian Peninsula

Today both the US and Britain closed their embassies in Yemen.  In the wake of Eunuch the Crotch Bomber’s failed attempt to blow up Delta flight 253 on Christmas Day – a journey that for him began when he went to Yemen to “learn Islam”, as he told his father – an increasing amount of attention is being paid to the almost-failed state.

A little bit of information about Yemen, from the Great God of Wiki:

Yemen is a country of children and poverty”

Between 2000 and 2006, 17.5% of the population lived on less than US$ 1.25 per day.

The population of Yemen was about 28 million according to July 2005 estimates, with 46% of the population being under 15 years old.

Yemen has one of the world’s highest birth rates; the average Yemeni woman bears six children. Although this is similar to the rate in Somalia to the south, it is roughly twice as high as that of Saudi Arabia and nearly three times as high as those in the more modernized Persian Gulf Arab states. Yemen’s population is increasing by 700,000 every year.

Having very little oil – which is expected to run out completely soon – Yemen is the poorest of Arab nations.  It is hoped that Liquified Natural Gas will soon begin bringing some stability to the economy, but stability is that last thing that those using the country as a seat of radicalization want so don’t be surprised to see attempts to disrupt that.

Yemen is dealing with a civil war in the north and an insurgency in the south at the moment, contributing to the country’s instability.  Close ties with Somali bring both the risk born of being an open port for Somali criminalism as well as the benefit of influence from relatively stable Djibouti, which is enjoying rapid economic growth.

US General Patreus met with Yemen’s President in Yemen on January 2:

(CNN) — Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, met with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Saturday in Yemen, according to a senior U.S. government source.

During the meeting with Petraeus, Saleh expressed his appreciation for the United States’ help in combating extremists, the source said.

Saleh also offered more support for U.S. counterterrorism strikes and said he would continue providing assistance for the U.S. investigation into the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight on December 25.

The official said that Petraeus carried several messages and “various items” of information from Obama to Saleh.

Yemen stands on the brink looking in both directions – towards economic and political stability on one side and failed-state status in the other.  Which way the battle of wills (and munitions) between the two sides of external and internal actors ends up flowing this year will, in the view of this observer, have a great deal of impact on matters here in the US and many other places around the region and the world.

I wish Yemen the best of luck.  

They’ll need it.


  1. As usual, we are going to support a corrupt government if they will do something that is in our interest. I wonder what we are doing for the Yemeni people? I’ve read reports of police and military training programs. I’m sure that will work out well for the Yemeni government’s political opponents.

    It’s an understatement to say this isn’t a nice government. The anti-corruption Global Integrity Report has this to say about Yemen.

    Yemen earned very weak scores across the board, from civil society and government accountability to business regulation and the rule of law. The country’s executive, judicial, and legislative accountability mechanisms are among the worst assessed in 2008. Although there are strong anti-corruption laws on the book, the anti-corruption agency is ineffective. Furthermore, political financing is generally unregulated, while civil society organizations are ineffective in fighting corruption. The media, which is subject to political interference, also receives poor ratings. Several journalists have been arrested, harassed, or imprisoned for their corruption-related investigative stories. Government control over private radio is among the most draconian in the world.

    This is bound to boost our image in the Muslim world. While we’re at it, let’s hit them with a few predator strikes launched from ships off the Yemeni coast. That should take out a few bad guys. There will be civilian casualities, including women and children, but that can’t be avoided. What was that saying Stalin liked so much? Oh yeah, “If you want to make an omelette, you have to break some eggs.”

    That’s what happened the other day at our request. A few eggs got broken. The Yemeni military mounted some attacks at our request. They said that 30 of the 60 people killed were bad guys. I wonder what the other 30 were? Donkeys, maybe?

    It takes sheer genius to come up with these innovative foreign affairs policies. Let’s kill some bad guys. Let’s strengthen a corrupt government. Let’s teach them how to be more efficient at cracking skulls. Hey, maybe we can teach them how to waterboard! Oh, wait. We’ve probably already done that a few years ago.

    BTW, this wasn’t intended for you, Chris. Don’t mind me. I’m just in a sour mood. I went off on a rant. Now, I’m going to preview it before I decide to post it.

  2. things aren’t as simple as I imply in my first comment. This article in the Times Online is quite interesting.

    The Yemeni Government faces many challenges. It is fighting a Shia Houthi rebellion in the north, which has taken most of its attention in recent years, and a secessionist movement in the oil-rich south.

    This has taken place against the backdrop of the failed Somali state across the Gulf of Aden. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali militia, known as al-Shabaab, has pledged to send hundreds of fighters to Yemen to counter the US and British involvement.

  3. …from both left and right, to beat Obama with.

    The right deploy the same old tired arsenal of ‘Obama doesn’t protect America/He’s not tough enough/Fallen asleep on his watch’ with the crazies saying he’s a secret Muslim anyway. They imply that he’s too soft on terror.

    The left use Yemen as a way of getting traction over Afghanistan. He’s a hypocrite because, as a source of terror, he should invade and occupy Yemen too. If he doesn’t do that, he shouldn’t be in Afghanistan.

    Excepting the terrible fiasco of Iraq, the Crotch Bomber’s attack, inept but scary, and sourced from Al Qaeda sympathisers in Yemen, is a by product of the Afghanistan campaign. When was the last time an international attack was sourced from Afghanistan? Local suicide bombers to be sure, but Al Qaeda’s Afghani base has been knocked out for several years, and the pressure on North West Frontiers of Pakistan is now too intense for salafist extremists to operate with impunity.

    Yemen (Bin Laden’s home country) has been a potential source of terror for a long time. Several British tourists were killed there in the 90s by extremists, and the Crotch bomber’s attack is hardly surprising, though an important wake up call for some increasingly lax airport security.

    If it also means more attention will be paid to the stability of Yemen, and eventually Somalia, this scary Christmas squib might have done more good than ill…

  4. creamer

    It sure looks like it would suck to live there. I think it would be great if there government evolved into somthing more liberal and was truly interested in its people.

    I’m also reluctant to do more than provide some inteligence and preadtors to take out Al Queda. The current arrangement seems to fit our needs. We have neither the resources or ability to make that a stable westernized state. Mr Liberman seems to imply we need boots on the ground. Sending troops we don’t have to a country on Saudi Arabia’s southern border strikes me as ignorant.

     I’ve accepted the rational behind Afghanistan, I’m not sure I could do it again for Yemen. I think a holding action using predators and the Yemeni fingers pulling the triggers may be our only option. As terrible as it to grow up poor in Yemen, we simply do not have the resources to try and build another country in our image.

    In my mind its a bit of a catch-22. We are fighting a war on terrorist because of our reliance on oil. We are spending so much fighting this war that we might not be putting enough money into research for alternative energy.  

  5. HappyinVT

    Also, FWIW, remember just in 2008:

    SANAA, Yemen, Sept. 17 [2008] — Attackers used vehicle bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons to mount a coordinated assault on the U.S. Embassy here Wednesday, leaving 10 guards and civilians dead outside the main gate but failing to breach the walled compound. No Americans were killed.

    Yemeni officials and experts on al-Qaeda said an aggressive new generation of the group’s leaders in Yemen was responsible for the assault, the deadliest attack on a U.S. target in this country since the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Yemeni security forces have begun to pursue al-Qaeda fighters more vigorously this summer, following years of complaints by U.S. officials that the government was not fulfilling promises to counter the group.


  6. at least not with guns.

    It is a far worse tar baby than Afghanistan, and it butts up against the interests of the Chinese and a few others to boot. Going in there would make the mission to Somalia look like a cake walk.

    It is a nation that is poised to asplode, and for once, perhaps we need to let Arabs take care of their own for a change.  I can wish them luck, but we need to avoid this particular briar patch entirely–no matter what Battlin’ Joe Lieberman says.  

Comments are closed.