Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
Dr. Ulrichsen is research fellow and deputy director of the Kuwait Programme on Development, Governance and Globalisation in the Gulf States at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Accelerating processes of globalization and cross-border flows of information, communication, militants, money and matériel are reconfiguring the geopolitics of insecurity in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Domestic and external drivers of conflict are increasingly intermeshed as problems transcend national boundaries and can no longer be contained within states. Issues have become transnationalized as supra- and sub-state networks of exchange bypass state controls and erode what little remains of Cold War-era distinctions between the internal and external domains. Previously localized conflicts have developed regional and transregional dimensions, knitting together the zones of instability, while the growth of powerful and violent non-state actors poses a profound challenge to existing security arrangements and the international order. In turn, new mechanisms of collaborative and multilateral approaches have emerged to tackle these issues. However, they have largely failed to address the underlying problems generated by the erosion of local carrying capacities, governing capabilities and a crisis of political legitimacy and authority in the two regions.
These subregional conflicts constitute an unstable zone of cross-border insecurity and informal networks that link the two largely distinct security complexes in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The growth of multibillion-dollar shadow business networks spanning the Gulf of Aden complicates conventional counterterrorism and counterpiracy strategies and defies attempts to contain the threat of the spread of radicalization at its source. This has profound implications for the future stability of the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and for the security of the commercial shipping lanes that transit the Gulf of Aden and the Bab al-Mandab. International actors' attention has, however, focused more narrowly on the threat posed by the reconstitution of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen in 2009 (and, to a lesser degree, Al-Shabaab in Somalia), and a succession of high-profile attempted attacks that have attracted global attention.
Following years of comparative neglect, the focus of the international community needs to shift to the interconnected sociopolitical, economic and transnational challenges confronting Yemen, Somalia and their regional environs. Yemen and Somalia face parallel challenges from insurgency, terrorism, economic hardship and ineffective governments that are perceived to lack legitimacy. Viewed through a narrow terror-centric prism, the region has become a dangerous node of international terrorism, as evinced in MI5 director-general Jonathan Evans' very public warning in September 2010 of the terrorist threat to the United Kingdom from militants training in Yemen and Somalia. This, he said, "shows many of the characteristics that made Afghanistan so dangerous a seedbed for terrorism in the period before the fall of the Taliban."1 Western engagement in each country has been based on a state-building framework involving diplomacy, development and defense; yet, the priority attached to security-sector intervention has undermined the balance of political and economic action needed for this approach to succeed or be sustainable in the longer term.2 Such an approach risks exacerbating a dangerous misalignment between the short-term security-centric priorities of the international community and the longer-term measures and comprehensive reforms necessary to recreate a base level of political legitimacy, social cohesion and economic sustainability.
The paper has five parts: (1) An exploration of the changing dynamics of regional security and the gradual convergence of the phenomenon of weak and failed states on each side of the Gulf of Aden. (2) An investigation of how the GCC states have responded to these new security problems astride a geostrategically critical trade route linking them to Western economies and markets. As the key regional stakeholder, the GCC states have a collective interest in addressing the root causes of human insecurity and minimizing their overspill to their own polities. Yet, Qatar apart, their record of engagement has hitherto been underwhelming, with a clear preference for a strategy of containment over serious consideration of the scale and complexity of the challenge posed by Yemen and Somalia. (3) A look at the recalibration of local and regional approaches to insecurity in the Horn of Africa that have achieved limited change in diplomatic mediation and conflict management. Much remains to be achieved, and at present the regional states remain divided; there is little prospect of an autonomous conflict-resolution capability developing. (4) An examination of the wider geopolitical implications for maritime and energy security and the internationalization of response measures. (5) A consideration of the extent to which security is being reconceptualized to encompass the emergence of increasingly non-military challenges to fragile polities in transition.
CHANGING SECURITY DYNAMICS
The unsuccessful attempt to send two bomb packets to a synagogue and Jewish community centre in Chicago once again catapulted Yemen up the global security agenda — 10 months after the failed bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. The audacity of both attempts focused the minds of policy makers in both the West and the neighboring GCC states onto the threat posed by the string of security incidents believed to have originated in Yemen since 2008. During 2010, the international community belatedly acknowledged the multiple and overlapping challenges confronting Yemen's embattled and long-serving president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and situated the challenges to security and stability in its regional and international dimensions.
This country of nearly 24 million people faces a combination of systemic challenges, each of which, on its own, would be profoundly destabilizing. These include a military rebellion in the northern province of Sadah that has flared intermittently with six rounds of fighting since 2004, a growing southern secessionist movement that challenges the post-1990 reunification settlement, and the reconstitution of AQAP following the merger of its Yemeni and Saudi wings in January 2009. No less crucial are the non-military challenges stemming from the imminent depletion of oil reserves and — critically — water resources. This stresses still further the unequal patterns of access to, and distribution of, resources and embeds perceptions that the regime of President Saleh cannot govern effectively or even fairly. These interlocking issues act as threat multipliers that feed off each other; collectively, they have pushed Yemen to the brink. The result is a failing political economy on the southwestern flank of the Arabian Peninsula that can no longer be contained within Yemen itself.
Across the Gulf of Aden, state collapse in Somalia has facilitated destabilizing flows of men, money and matériel between that country and Yemen and manifested a threat to regional maritime and international energy security. This has injected the multiple drivers of conflict and insecurity in the wider Horn of Africa area onto the Gulf's regional security equation. Recent months have also seen the spread of Yemeni-based militants and arms, along with financial flows originating in the Gulf States, into Somalia. This has added a further layer of instability into the myriad conflicts and struggles for local power and influence that have unfolded across the Horn. Up to one million Somali refugees are meanwhile based in Yemen, adding to the strain on scarce local resources and constituting both a source of considerable human insecurity and a largely unregulated "migration economy" that bypasses and undermines formal controls and border security.
The reconstitution of AQAP in January 2009, following the merger of al-Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi wings, confirmed suspicions held by many security officials that the counterterrorism campaign in the GCC against the original AQAP organization had merely displaced the threat from terrorism to the undergoverned periphery of the peninsula.3 From the beginning, the organization featured a newer generation of radicals who displayed both the intent and, increasingly, the capability to operate transnationally. This built upon existing trends of terror suspects' infiltration and weapons smuggling across the Yemeni-Saudi boundary. In May 2008, for example, Yemen's vice president, Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, claimed that 16,000 suspected members of al-Qaeda had been expelled from Yemen since 2003. This figure included many "Arab Afghans" who had fled Afghanistan for Saudi Arabia following the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, and subsequently moved to Yemen to avoid capture by Saudi security forces.4 Despite these arrests, plots and cells continued to be uncovered in Yemen during 2008, including a Yemeni-led cell linked to al-Qaeda that was planning to attack oil-installation facilities in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.5 Reminiscent of al-Qaeda's failed attack in February 2006 at Abqaiq, this highlighted the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia's 1,800-kilometer border with Yemen.6
The coordinated attack on the U.S. embassy compound in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on September 17, 2008, which killed 10 people, marked the beginning of the "second generation" of transnational terrorism in the peninsula. This attack melded the threats to regional security from Iraq, al-Qaeda and the growing lawlessness in Yemen itself. Three of the six suicide bombers had recently returned from Iraq; following their arrival in Yemen, they reportedly attended al-Qaeda training camps in the southern provinces of Hadramawt and Maarib.7 Yemeni security officials already suspected these camps of training an aggressive new generation of extremist leaders and jihadi footsoldiers.8 Together with the relocation of extremists from Saudi Arabia and the growing incidence of militant flows linking Yemen to the Islamist insurgents of Al-Shabaab in Somalia, they represented a deadly new threat to internal security in Yemen and regional stability in the Arabian Peninsula.9
Synchronous with the reemergence of AQAP in Yemen was the growth of Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahidin (Mujahidin Youth Movement) in Somalia. This Islamic organization originated as the armed wing of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) that briefly came to power in Mogadishu in 2006. It subsequently devolved into an autonomous entity following the removal of the UIC. Taking advantage of the advanced collapse of the state in Somalia and the inability of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to make headway against it or any of the other challenges confronting its rule, the group took control of large areas of central and southern Somalia in 2007-08. They had been fighting an insurgency against the TFG and its Ethiopian supporters since 2006. Since 2007, it has claimed an affiliation with al-Qaeda, and it took responsibility for its first major attack outside of Somalia in July 2010, when twin bombings in Kampala killed more than 70 people watching TV coverage of the World Cup soccer final.10 In February 2010, it issued a declaratory statement of practical support for AQAP that prompted Western policy makers to worry about the prospect of enhanced cooperation among al-Qaeda affiliates in the region, although to date this remains more rhetorical than actual.
The increasing level of threat from Al-Shabaab was merely one of multiple insecurities afflicting Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa. The Ethiopian intervention in 2006 to topple the UIC accentuated the disintegration of the Somali state as competing clan groups and warlords struggled for control of local productive resources. In addition to facilitating an administrative and security vacuum, the intervention proved transformative. It allowed Al-Shabaab the space and opportunities to grow around a potent narrative that portrayed it as the figurehead of resistance against Western-backed foreign intervention. Meanwhile, economic motivations constituted potent drivers of conflict elsewhere, crossing national boundaries and contributing to the appearance of generalized zones of instability and border conflicts. These included damage to pastoralist livelihoods arising from infrastructural neglect and disruption to trade routes, uneven access to seaports, energy-related issues, the impact of drought and the pernicious effects of localized conflicts on the intraregional economy.11 Thriving shadow networks constituted a parallel economic structure that facilitated regional trade in arms and the smuggling of people and fuel. This created an enabling environment for individuals and groups that sought to utilize these illicit networks for more sinister exchanges.12 Finally, the regionalization of localized conflicts enabled the UIC to receive transfers of arms and advisers from Ethiopia's arch regional rival Eritrea and provide support to two armed insurgencies against Ethiopia (the Oromo Liberation Front and the Ogaden Liberation Front) during its period in power in 2006.13
During 2009, and accelerating after the attempted Christmas Day bombing, policy makers and security analysts in the West and the GCC began to pay greater attention to the systemic and interconnected crises in Yemen and the flows linking them to Somali-based groups. AQAP, in particular, acquired regional and international capabilities through its actions in 2009. An early indication of this transnational dimension to regional instability came in March 2009, after it emerged that a Yemeni suicide bomber who killed four South Korean tourists at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shibam had trained in Somalia before returning to Yemen to carry out his attack.14 Flows of militants and weaponry between Yemen and Somalia continued, and their accelerating frequency led the Somali defense minister, in December 2009, to publicly accuse Yemeni fighters of sending two boatloads of weapons to Somalia with the intention of "fueling the flames in a country already burning."15
The regionalization of formerly local drivers of instability thus introduces the problem of state collapse in Somalia and the multiple drivers of conflict and insecurity in the wider Horn of Africa firmly into the Arabian Peninsula security equation. It also emphasizes the gravity of the new threat to regional, particularly Saudi Arabian, stability from the spillover of violence from Yemen. This became clear in AQAP's official pronouncements and choice of targets, including a new plot to attack oil facilities in Saudi Arabia by a cell consisting of 47 Saudis and 51 Yemenis, uncovered in March 2010.16 Earlier, in August 2009, the organization came close to assassinating the Saudi Arabian deputy minister of the interior, Mohammed bin Nayef. This audacious plot penetrated the heart of the Saudi security establishment and demonstrated the linkages between the security gaps in Yemen and insecurity elsewhere in the peninsula. The would-be assassin, 23-year-old Saudi national Abdullah Asiri, was featured on a list of 85 "most-wanted terror suspects issued by Saudi security forces in February 2009. After receiving training in Yemen, he returned to the kingdom and gained access to the prince, the architect of Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism strategy, by claiming he wished to personally renounce his links to terrorism.17
Such a brazen attack on a senior member of the Saudi ruling family was unprecedented in the recent history of transnational terrorism in the peninsula. It underscored the direct linkages between the contraction of state power and legitimacy in Yemen and the security and stability of neighboring states. The situation then became militarized in November 2009 after Huthi fighters crossed the Yemeni boundary and attacked a Saudi border position.18 The air and ground operations that followed constituted the largest Saudi mobilization of force since the 1991 Gulf War. Saudi forces took relatively heavy casualties — 82 dead and more than 470 injured — but failed to end the fighting, in spite of repeated assertions that they had dislodged the fighters from Saudi territory, until a unilateral declaration of victory in late January 2010.19
The failed Christmas Day bombing surprised American intelligence and security agencies, as they had expected any terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland to originate in Afghanistan or Pakistan rather than Yemen.20 AQAP's demonstration of both its intent and its capability to target the United States internationalized the issue and led to its rapid perception as a threat to global security. The London meeting on Yemen that occurred on January 27, 2010, and the follow-up in Riyadh a month later, thus marked the beginning of a new phase of international engagement with Yemen and its regional partners in the GCC.21 Yet, regional and international engagement with Yemen remains limited by capacity constraints, while increasing military assistance to Yemen carries its own set of difficulties. This is apparent from U.S. Congressional disquiet at reports that U.S.-supplied personnel carriers, ammunition, weapons and night-vision devices intended for use in the anti-terror fight against AQAP were diverted for use against the Huthi in northern Yemen.22
Regional awareness of the extent and implications of the systemic crises facing Yemen grew throughout 2009 and into 2010. The regionalization and internationalization of Yemen-based instability set in motion a strategic reassessment of the range of responses from GCC members.23 This conversation gathered pace with their participation in the London meeting and the decision to host the follow-up meeting at the GCC headquarters in Riyadh. Simultaneously, GCC Secretary-General Abdulrahman al-Attiyah emphasized that the issues of security, stability and development in Yemen were vital to GCC interests.24 GCC aid already represented some 60 percent of total assistance provided to Yemen before 2010, but its effectiveness was diluted by capacity and oversight constraints on both sides. Only 7 percent of a $4 billion aid package promised at a donor meeting in November 2006 had been forthcoming by the January 2010 London meeting, although this figure was not atypical for aid-delivery figures from other regions.25
It is in the GCC states' interest that Yemen not collapse. Were it to become a failed state, this would present a multifaceted danger to GCC internal security and external stability, and expose the GCC to the multiple sources of human insecurity emanating from the Horn of Africa-Yemen nexus. The extreme difficulty of sealing borders and containing problems in an era of global processes and flows means that containment is neither a sustainable nor a long-term strategy. Yet, this is precisely what individual Gulf states initially attempted to do, with Saudi security officials commissioning an elaborate system of border-security installations as part of a broader strategy to contain the spillover of instability from Yemen.26 This reflected the dominant view among Gulf officials that the region was "an island of stability in a sea of instability" that needed protection from multiple sources of external insecurity. There was the sense that the scale and complexity of Yemeni problems were such that keeping them at a distance was preferable to getting too closely involved.27
The new international spotlight on Yemen signals an opportunity for the Gulf states to take the lead in any fresh approach to tackling its interconnected problems. This requires them, both individually and collectively, to better conceptualize the systemic nature of the crisis facing Yemen and formulate nuanced and targeted responses. From their perspective, the primary difficulty is how to balance the need to extend substantive political and economic assistance without linking it to Yemeni admission to the GCC. This remains unrealistic for the foreseeable future for political, economic and historical reasons. Also unfeasible in the short to medium term is the issue of opening up GCC labor markets to Yemeni migrant workers. Such a move would run counter to three decades of Gulf-state measures to depoliticize and thoroughly control their labor forces. It would expose GCC labor markets and their societies at large to highly politicized migrants and reawaken memories of the 1950s and 1960s, when Yemeni, Palestinian and Egyptian workers acted as transmission belts of political opposition to the Gulf monarchies.28
Both Saudi Arabia and the United States responded to the emergence of AQAP with strong expressions of support for the regime of President Saleh. Together they demonstrated the regional and international securitization of the threat from AQAP and the emerging consensus that Saleh was fighting a common foe in its own "fight against terrorism." According to Agence-France Presse, President Obama stated that "Yemen's security is vital to the security of the United States and pledged that the US would 'stand beside Yemen, its unity, security and stability.'"29 Visits to Yemen by CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus carried similar messages of support, as well as a doubling of U.S. security assistance from $70 million to $150 million in the aftermath of the attempted Christmas Day attack.30 Moreover, the high-level meetings in London in January 2010 and Riyadh in February brought the GCC states into the center of the international policy response toward countering the security threat from Yemen.
The Gulf states also led the way in creating the Friends of Yemen informal network, and the United Arab Emirates took the lead in one of its two working groups, focusing on the economy and governance.31 This emphasis on regional engagement and leadership made clear to GCC stakeholders their interest in stabilizing Yemen to avoid the overspill of insecurity and cross-border tension. The Gulf states; developmental assistance to Yemen dwarfs the amounts pledged by Western donors, with Saudi Arabia pledging $1.25 billion in 2009, as compared to America's $63 million. Their largesse reflected Saudi policy makers' concerns that Yemen's interconnected crises may spill over into Saudi Arabia's own southern provinces. These areas share close tribal, familial and sociocultural ties that translate into strong support for President Saleh and his maintenance of centralized authority and control. Hence the kingdom also channeled additional and undisclosed sums of money into co-opting support and buying political influence among key tribal figures.32 Saudi Arabia thus concentrated on strengthening the military and security capabilities of the Saleh regime in order to better protect itself from Yemeni instability. This came at the expense of a more nuanced approach focusing on Yemeni political and socioeconomic issues or encouraging mediation in the several internal conflicts taking place within Yemen.33
Nevertheless, the portrayal of Yemen as a counterterrorism issue in Western and GCC policymaking circles is troublesome on two counts. Framing the issue of the contraction of regime power and legitimacy in these terms marginalizes the root sociopolitical and economic causes of the contestation of governmental authority by the Southern Movement and the Huthi, as well as the immense socioeconomic upheaval occasioned by the imminent depletion of oil and water resources. Neither does it offer practical solutions to these indices of human insecurity through humanitarian initiatives designed to combat the high incidence of poverty, unemployment and malnutrition. It instead raises a conceptual issue of great practical significance identified by Ken Menkhaus: "Policies designed to address failed and fragile states generally operate on the assumption that the problem of state failure is low capacity." Should adequate means be given to address this perceived shortcoming, "they would naturally put those resources to use to strengthen the state."34
The primary difficulty facing the international community in Yemen (and in Somalia, where this strategy has already been tried and failed) is that this supposition does not necessarily hold true. Instead, it risks creating a widening gap between the technocratic-based motivations of international donors and partners and the domestic interests of the regime they intended to strengthen. In Sadah, for example, the Huthi rebellion originated in frustration at a combination of historical grievances, perceived socioeconomic inequalities, competing sectarian identities (exacerbated by the spread of fundamentalist Salafism from Saudi Arabia), and regional underdevelopment.35 Abdul-Malik Al-Huthi has described the conflict as a fight for rights, but the government has responded militarily, in part to send a message to other opposition movements, particularly the southern secessionist movement, that dissent will not be tolerated.36 This is matched in southern Yemen by the regime's unwillingness to address the underlying causes of alienation from, and disaffection with, the Yemeni polity in its present guise. In both cases, the government's uncompromising position has exacerbated local grievances, accelerated the underlying political and economic crises, and made less likely the possibility of a negotiated and consensual solution.
Increasing support for the Saleh regime through the prism of counterterrorism is at best a short-term and ad hoc solution to Yemeni insecurity. It notably does not address deep-rooted socioeconomic problems. Nor does it realistically consider the possibility that President Saleh's government may actually constitute a part of Yemen's interconnected problems, rather than an impartial participant in any solution. However, the wave of protests that began to sweep through the Arab world and shake longstanding regimes in January 2011 demonstrated the depth of popular anger at their entrenched leaderships. The central security paradox in Yemen is the misalignment between the priority of the Saleh regime — the existential challenges to the survival of the Yemeni polity posed by the Huthi and the Southern Movement, both of which reject his continued rule — and the international community's focus on the threat from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. When it comes to placating U.S.-led demands for the capture or killing of individuals such as Anwar Al-Awlaqi (added to the U.S. government's list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in July 2010), any such moves by the Yemeni government would necessarily involve it in conflict against the powerful and heavily-armed Al-Awaliq tribe in Shabwa. This would deprive the regime of one of its pillars of control and undermine the balancing of interests that has kept it in power for 32 years.
RESPONSE IN THE HORN
In the Horn of Africa, the multiple cross-border flows of violence and instability have undermined state-based approaches to conflict resolution and management and rendered them increasingly obsolete. The disintegration of state and society in Somalia after 1991 was the most prominent, but by no means the only, manifestation of the unraveling of boundaries and postcolonial polities. Conflicts transcended national boundaries — in Somalia and Somaliland, and in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The dynamics of conflict in Sudan accelerated its division into separate political entities. These exacerbated the fluidity (and artificiality) of national boundaries drawn and redrawn to suit centralized bureaucracies rather than as a reflection of established sociocultural and economic realities on the ground.37 Notions of statehood were further challenged by the advancement of interventionist foreign policies and the sponsoring of proxy forces in neighboring countries, as external forces regularly intervened in ostensibly domestic contests for a variety of ends.38 Moreover, cross-cutting economic themes, including the regional impact of localized conflict, drought, land rights and remittances, differential levels of access to the sea and trading routes, inequitable sharing of natural resources, and interstate tensions over the management of water and river flows (particularly in the White and Blue Niles), have long been constants in regional politics and international relations in the Horn. Recognition of their significance has come in efforts to promote regional and multilateral frameworks of policy making in response.39
Patterns of civil war and interrelated conflict in the 1980s led to the first creation of a multilateral policy-making framework in 1986. This was the Inter-Governmental Authority against Drought and Desertification (IGADD), which was limited to coordinating approaches to environmental protection, food security and the management of natural resources. It had six members — Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda — and did not exhibit any desire for political action or greater regional integration in policy making. However, in 1995, its mandate was significantly expanded to include a specific security-cooperation role, particularly with regard to "increasing the capacity of countries of the sub-region in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, both inter- and intra-state through dialogue." Its six member-states also established a secretariat and a specific division with responsibility for addressing issues of peace and security. However, at the time of its creation, two of its members (Ethiopia and Uganda, in addition to Eritrea) were intervening in the military conflict in Sudan, thereby complicating the new organization;s mandate.40
The renamed and restructured Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) took part in two sustained efforts at regional conflict resolution. Between 1993 and 2005, it participated in the process leading up to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that settled the long civil war between north and south Sudan. Rather less successful was its role in the Somali peace process in the 1990s and 2000s, in part because of Ethiopian and Eritrean mobilization of Somali proxies as part of a conflict that started in 1998. In 2000, IGAD recognised the Transitional National Government (TNG). Once again, though, its institutional effectiveness in supporting a Somali peace process and political reconciliation was undermined when two member states (Ethiopia and Djibouti) continued to support opposing factions within Somalia itself.41 The IGAD role in Somalia ended with the October 2004 creation of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). As the previous section made clear, however, peace and security remained bitterly and violently contested in Somalia and among regional neighbors.42
Elsewhere in the Horn, in 2009-10, a stalled electoral process and escalating political crisis in Somaliland, hitherto considered a model of regional peace and stability, produced new conflict. In common with past experiences, regional and transnational characteristics meshed with domestic processes of contestation. This occurred as groups such as the Northern Somali Unionist Movement (NSUM) supported the creation of a Greater Somaliland that would include parts of western Ethiopia in addition to southern Somalia. This led to clashes between NSUM militias and Ethiopian forces on the Somaliland-Ethiopian border in May 2010. Moreover, regional countries remain divided on the desirability of Somali territorial integrity, with Djibouti and Kenya being particularly insistent that a unified Somalia can best achieve their geopolitical interests by balancing against a strong Ethiopia and destabilizing Eritrea.43
Multiple fault lines have thus opened up, facilitated by (and accelerating) processes of state weakness and the relative empowerment of non-state actors. The result is more political violence and endemic criminality in and off the coast of Somalia and the Horn. Nevertheless, the new dimension to this nexus of terrorism, piracy, gun-running and people-smuggling is its growing transregional dimension. This defines the core challenge facing the regional and global security agenda, in addition to attempts at diplomatic mediation and conflict resolution throughout the area. Intensifying illicit networks and rent-seeking criminality are part of a broader pressure on fragile state structures. They are already struggling to control and adapt to pressures arising from the accelerated flows of information, communication and migration in a rapidly globalizing environment. The coincidence of these processes in Somalia and Yemen is changing the geopolitics of insecurity in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, as the following sections detail.
MARITIME AND ENERGY SECURITY
The problem of fragile and collapsed states on both sides of the Bab al-Mandab introduces potent new elements of maritime and energy security into the regional — and global — equation. The incidence of maritime piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea more than doubled in 2008-09, and their operational reach steadily increased. Much of the piracy was launched from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, on Somalia's tip of the Horn, where patterns of rent-seeking and gangsterism converge with the absence of effective state authority and licit sources of income. Moreover, at least one of the seven different groups of pirates operating off the Somali coast is believed to be based in the Socotra archipelago in Yemen, while at least some of the financial proceeds are believed to pass through money-laundering channels in Dubai and Kenya.44 This underlines the growing regional and international risk from both maritime piracy and maritime terrorism. Incidents such as the seizure of the Sirius Star by Somali-based pirates in November 2008 and the attack on the Japanese supertanker M Star in the Strait of Hormuz in July 2010 illustrate both phenomena.
Maritime commerce and international shipping that link the oil-exporting Gulf states to Western economies must navigate two regional chokepoints, the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandab, in addition to the hazardous waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Pirates' growing aggressiveness has centered on this geostrategically and commercially vital region. It reflects the interlocking dangers stemming from a crisis of governance and spreading conflicts. In 2009, the International Maritime Board recorded a total of 406 actual and attempted attacks, the majority of which occurred in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast.45 However, due to underreporting, often for fear of higher insurance premiums, the figures may be much higher.
Numerous factors underlie the rise in maritime piracy off the Somali coast. These include opportunistic motivations, which are among the principal drivers of pirate groups, as well as the ready availability of targets (through high volumes of trade passing by) and means (including inadequate law enforcement and ready access to weaponry). It is contextualized by the impact of conflict, poverty and weak state capacity.46 Indeed, in the Somali case, state collapse is a major determinant of piracy. Piracy declined sharply during the short-lived projection of power and authority by the UIC in 2006 and subsequently resurged following their removal through the reappearance of pirate groups operating under warlord protection.47 With the TFG unable to control its territory, let alone its coastline and territorial waters, increased naval patrolling activity by external actors (including the EU, NATO, China, Russia, India and Iran) may offer a degree of protection to shipping but leaves untouched the root causes of piracy as a symptom of state collapse and lack of legitimate economic opportunities.
Maritime terrorism presents the second major threat to international security at sea. It has similar causal facilitators to maritime piracy; the erosion of governance in littoral regions creates security gaps that may be exploited by terrorist organizations. The threat from maritime terrorism is low-level yet potentially high-impact. It encompasses subthreats ranging from maritime criminality to better-organized groupings of insurgents or militants who take advantage of the pressure on littoral states to exploit their maritime resources and the fuzzy margins between domestic and international governance of international waterways and shipping lanes. Although the number of maritime terrorist incidents has been relatively small, it does present a challenge to a global supply chain and logistical system increasingly predicated on "just-in-time" deliveries. It also encompasses the role of non-state actors with access to sophisticated weaponry operating in international waters where jurisdiction is unclear and the "seams of globalization" become vulnerable to exploitation.48
International reactions to the burgeoning incidence of piracy in the Gulf of Aden that accelerated sharply from 2008 may prove a harbinger of future policy trends. The EU launched its first-ever naval mission (Operation Atalanta) in November 2008 with a mandate to protect deliveries of food aid by the World Food Program to Somalia, as well as other vulnerable vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden, within the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy.49 Significantly, many other countries, including China, India, Russia and Iran, also deployed their own warships to protect energy-security interests in the Gulf of Aden. The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) dispatched two destroyers and a supply ship in order to protect the 1,200 Chinese ships that pass through the region each year. As with the EU, this marked a first — in this instance, the first operational mission undertaken by Chinese naval forces outside of East Asia.50
It also coincided with a major reassessment of China's energy security, brought about by its ever-increasing reliance on imported energy supplies. An integral part of this domestic debate concerned the level of naval capability and force projection that might be necessary to ensure the security of China's maritime access to overseas energy sources. Particularly in the PLAN, high-ranking officials have emerged as advocates of an enhanced "Far Sea Defense" (yuanhai fangwei) policy built around a powerful navy to defend Chinese strategic interests. This emerging vision was first articulated as early as December 2007 by PLAN's deputy political commissar, Yao Wenhuai, who stated, "For oil and other key strategic supplies, our dependence on sea transport is very great, and ensuring the security of strategic seaways is extremely important."51 A similar process of reassessing existing concepts of energy security is underway in India, reflecting policy makers' concern for the security of oil imports that meet 75 percent of its total requirements, 80 percent of which come from the Gulf. In 2007-08, the sharp rise in oil prices caused deep alarm and contributed to a decision to move beyond reliance on imported oil to seek "equity access to foreign oil and gas reserves and achieve strategic energy security." This decision, important in itself, enhanced the importance of maritime security in ensuring stable and uninterrupted access to oil and gas supplies from the Gulf region.52
In addition to more traditional approaches that encompass the security of supplies to energy-importing countries, the rising incidence of maritime threats and littoral-state breakdown have highlighted another critical dimension of energy security: the safety of export flows of hydrocarbons, and hence revenues, to international markets. This is based upon the realization that any prolonged disruption to these revenue flows would jeopardize the smooth redistribution of wealth that underpins the social contract and "ruling bargain" in the Gulf states. Traditionally, energy security has been understood in geopolitical terms as a competition by individual nations to control the sources and transportation of energy. However, the rise of transnational and non-state threats operating across often-porous boundaries like the Horn of Africa and Yemen, and the greater geographical reach of maritime piracy deep into the Indian Ocean and on occasion as far as Indian territorial waters, has necessitated a rethinking of both the concept of energy security and the means required to address its challenges. In the oil-exporting GCC states, Qatar has led the way in combining hard — and soft — response measures. These have ranged from the construction of security and surveillance towers for monitoring offshore oil and gas fields to concerted diplomatic efforts and mediation in several conflicts in the region, including that between the Huthi and the government in Yemen and the boundary dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.53
Regional and international responses to the emergence of transnational threats and, increasingly, global threats to security in the Horn of Africa and Yemen thus demonstrate the difficulties of formulating a constructive approach that simultaneously addresses causes as well as symptoms and balances short- and long-term needs. In addition, the appearance and strengthening of a range of violent and nonviolent non-state actors challenges the state-centric focus of regimes' security considerations that have long held sway in the region, as well as conceptual approaches to international relations and world politics.54 They involve a rethinking of the concept of security that integrates issues of domestic and international governance and sustainable development while taking care not to securitize them in the way that U.S. officials have done with regard to countering terrorism in Yemen.
A broader approach to regional security should be based on maintaining social cohesion, the intangible bond that holds members of any society together and facilitates coexistence among diverse groups and communities. This foundation stone of the sustainability of any polity has been frayed by the legacies of conflict that have sharpened the politics of identity and notions of inclusion and exclusion throughout the region. It would also encompass long-term and non-military threats to the security of communities and individuals arising from the intersection of natural-resource depletion with unequal patterns of development and distribution, demographic and generational change, and the corrosive long-term impact of climate change and environmental degradation.
The examples of Yemen and Somalia demonstrate the intractability of the reformulation of governance and the basis of state-society relations in periods of transition or near-total state collapse. They highlight the tensions between the reconstruction of failing institutions and the reconstitution of social relations when these begin to break down under the strain of internal and external stresses. Renewing state legitimacy in Yemen, for example, by channeling regional and international support to the Saleh regime may paradoxically complicate the social reconstruction of the Yemeni polity. Without changes to the structures and distribution of power, it is likely that moves to empower an already-contested governing structure will only sharpen the centrifugal forces fragmenting state-society relations, further weakening what little social cohesion currently exists.55 Meanwhile, the experience of foreign intervention in Somalia provides a deeply negative example of how the internationalization of a conflict directly changed the internal dynamics and narratives of resistance and — in this instance — greatly empowered, even in some quarters legitimized, the growth of Al-Shabaab.56
More problematic for officials in the GCC states is the worrying portent that Yemen holds for the breakdown of social cohesion under the pressure of the interlocking challenges to security at their most basic human level. Should it occur, regime failure in Yemen would indicate that the magnitude of these internal and external problems had become unmanageable in their cumulative and corrosive effects. It is this security dilemma that cuts to the heart of the sociopolitical and economic trajectories of the Gulf states and redistributive polities elsewhere as they seek to construct productive non-resource-dependent economies to buttress the eventual depletion of natural resources. The domestic contestation occuring in Yemen and Somalia provides a worrying indication of how relations between and within communities and individuals can break down when food, water and physical protection from violence can no longer be assured.57
The cases of Yemen and Somalia thus provide prescient case studies of how dwindling resources and the comparative absence of productive alternatives may complicate socioeconomic transitions and interact with the erosion of political legitimacy in states that can no longer redistribute resources to co-opt political support. They suggest that meeting the needs of individuals and communities for fair and regular access to essential commodities must become an integral building block of any sustainable security architecture. Rebalancing state-society relations and reformulating the nature of the social contract and redistributive frameworks of governance are vital to securing the transition to post-oil and sustainable political economies. Only then can these societies address the tensions between the need for incremental reforms of governing structures and hierarchies of power relations, on the one hand, and the deeper systemic problems and market distortions that must gradually be stripped away, on the other.
States in transition are more vulnerable than most to outbreaks of political violence and ideational and other substate challenges to legitimacy. Yemen illustrates this troubling point and carries a warning to policy makers in the GCC states of the difficulties involved in stripping away the layers of vested interests and reconstructing the basis of political economy. It underscores how redistributive and patronage-based states are especially vulnerable to economic insecurity and the breakdown of mechanisms for spreading wealth and co-opting support. From the perspective of policy makers in the GCC states, Yemen's enduring significance will become apparent in the medium to longer term, when the Gulf states undergo their own transition to a post-oil era. The key question then will be whether they can manage the processes of change in a more orderly and consensual manner than Yemen has. Yet, the inconvenient truth is that the Gulf states face similar systemic and structural obstacles to reform. They enjoy greater material resources to buttress the transition, but their dependence on oil has been both longer lasting and more deeply rooted.
Systemic challenges to governance and crises of political legitimacy and authority in Yemen and Somalia highlight the interlocking and transnational challenges to regional and global security in the twenty-first century. The multiple causes of human insecurity in each region act as threat multipliers that feed off each other at the domestic level and have significant spillover effects that add to destabilizing flows within neighboring polities. Although originating domestically in response to local factors, Somali- and Yemeni-based networks of militants have demonstrated a capability to organize and undertake attacks beyond their boundaries. This changes the regional security dynamic by linking the localized conflicts in the Horn of Africa with the Arabian Peninsula. It holds important implications for the stability of the Gulf states and for international energy and maritime security. Above all, it requires policy makers to formulate holistic approaches to conflict-affected regions that address the totality of governance and development issues, rather than focusing merely on countering the symptoms of malaise caused by acts of terrorism or militant attacks.
1 "MI5 Chief Warns of Terror Threat from Britons Trained in Somalia," The Guardian, September 17, 2010.
2 Sally Healey and Ginny Hill, "Yemen and Somalia: Terrorism: Shadow Networks and the Limitations of State-Building," Chatham House (London) MENAP/AFP Briefing Paper 2010/01, p. 1.
3 Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, "Gulf Security: Challenges and Responses," Proceedings of a Conference at the Royal College of Defence Studies, Seaford House, London, July 10, 2008," p.5.
4 "Yemen Expelled 16,000 Foreign Al-Qaeda Suspects: Vice President," Qatar News Agency, June 16, 2008.
5 "Saleh Informs Sultan of Al-Qaeda Plots Uncovered in Yemen," Arab News, August 14, 2008.
6 "Saudi Arabia to Try 1,200 More Terror Suspects," Saudi Gazette, October 26, 2008.
7 "Yemen Identifies U.S. Embassy Attackers," Gulf Today, November 2, 2008.
8 Jeremy Sharp, "Yemen: Where Is the Stability Tipping Point?" Arab Reform Bulletin, July 6, 2008.
9 Anthony Cordesman, "Gulf Threats, Risks and Vulnerabilities," Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC, August 2009.
10 Stephanie Hanson, "Backgrounder: Al-Shabaab," Council on Foreign Relations, http://www.cfr.org/publication/18650/alshabaab.html, July 28, 2010 (accessed October 11, 2010).
11 Roy Love, "Economic Drivers of Conflict and Cooperation in the Horn of Africa: A Regional Perspective and Overview," Chatham House (London) Africa Programme Briefing Paper, 2009, p. 1.
12 Healey and Hill, "Yemen and Somalia," op. cit., pp. 8-9.
13 Ken Menkhaus, "Governance without Government in Somalia: Spoilers, State Building, and the Politics of Coping," International Security, Vol. 31, 2006/07, p. 89.
14 "Bomber behind Yemen Attack Trained in Somalia," Reuters, March 18, 2009.
15 "Yemeni Rebels Sent Arms to Shabab: Somalia," Reuters, January 3, 2010.
16 See, for example, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's magazine, Sada al-Malahim, particularly Issue 11 released on October 29, 2009. See also "113 Terror Suspects Arrested in Kingdom," Arab News, March 25, 2010.
17 "Al Qa'eda Spreads its Terror Web," The National, September 21, 2009.
18 "Yemeni Insurgents Hit Hard," Arab News, November 6, 2009.
19 "Saudis Struggle against Yemeni Rebels," Khaleej Times, January 14, 2010.
20 Fawaz Gerges, "What Next for Yemen?" Presentation at the London School of Economics and Political Science, February 9, 2010.
21 "Gulf States Key to Resolving Yemen's Ills," Agence France-Presse, January 29, 2010.
22 "Centcom Looks to the Long-Term As It Plans Security Assistance to Yemen," Gulf States Newsletter, Vol. 34, September 6, 2010, pp. 6-7.
23 "Act Locally: Why the GCC Needs to Help Save Yemen," The National, January 7, 2010.
24 "Yemen's Issues Responsibilities of its People "“ Attiyah," Kuwait News Agency, January 28, 2010.
25 "Gulf States Key to Resolving Yemen's Ills," Agence France-Presse, January 29, 2010.
26 "Riyadh Awards $900m Border Fence Deal," Middle East Economic Digest 52, June 20, 2008.
27 Personal interviews, Kuwait, December 2008 and October 2009, Qatar and Dubai, October 2009.
28 John Chalcraft, "Monarchy, Migration and Hegemony in the Arabian Peninsula," LSE Kuwait Programme Working Paper, No. 12, 2010, p. 3.
29 "U.S. Offers Yemen Help in Fight against Terrorism," Agence France-Presse, September 8, 2009.
30 "Top U.S. Military Commander Meets with Yemeni President," CNN, January 3, 2010; and "Petraeus: More Security Funds Heading to Yemen, But Not Troops," CNN, January 10, 2010.
31 Ginny Hill, "What Is Happening in Yemen?" Survival, Vol. 52, 2010, p. 106.
32 "Yemen: Why It's a Bigger Problem for Saudi Than the U.S." Christian Science Monitor, January 21, 2010.
33 Neil Partrick, "Riyadh's Yemen Policy Muddle," Middle East International, Vol. 2, 2010, p. 29.
34 Ken Menkhaus, "State Failure and Ungoverned Space," in Ending Wars, Consolidating Peace: Economic Perspectives, Mats Berdal and Achim Wennmann, ed. (London: Routledge, 2010), p. 176.
35 Christopher Boucek, "War in Saada: From Local Insurrection to National Challenge," Carnegie Middle East Paper, No. 110 (2010), p. 2.
36 "Yemen Rebel Leader Denies Seeking Shia State in North," The Peninsula, September 30, 2009.
37 Gunther Schlee and Elizabeth E. Watson, eds., Changing Identities and Alliances in North-East Africa, (New York: Berghahn Books, 2009), p. 15.
38 Peter Woodward, Horn of Africa: Politics and International Relations, (London: I.B. Tauris, 2003), pp. 132-33.
39 Love, Economic Drivers of Conflict, op. cit., pp. 8-11.
40 Sally Healy, "Seeking Peace and Security in the Horn of Africa: The Contribution of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development," International Affairs, Vol. 87, 2011, p. 106.
41 John G. Nyuot Yoh, "Peace Processes and Conflict Resolution in the Horn of Africa," African Security Review, Vol. 12, 2003, pp. 83-93.
42 Healy, "Seeking Peace and Security in the Horn of Africa," op. cit., pp. 112-14.
43 "Strategic Survey 2010: The Annual Review of World Affairs," International Institute for Strategic Studies London, 2010, pp. 191-92.
44 International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), Strategic Survey 2009: The Annual Review of World Affairs, 2009, pp. 277-78; and "Pirates: the $80m Gulf Connection," The Independent, April 21, 2009.
45 International Maritime Bureau, Annual Report 2009.
46 Peter Chalk, "The Maritime Dimension of International Security. Terrorism, Puracy and Challenges for the United States," RAND Project Air Force Report (2008).
47 Martin Murphy, "Contemporary Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: The Threat to International Security," International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), Adelphi Paper, Vol. 388, 2007, p. 30.
48 James Kraska and Brian Wilson, "The Co-operative Strategy and the Pirates of the Gulf of Aden," RUSI Journal 154 (2009), p. 74-5.
49 "EU NavFor EU Operation Atalanta," Maritime Security Centre, http://www.mschoa.org/ForceInfo.aspx#EUNavfor (accessed October 14, 2010).
50 Kraska and Wilson, "Co-Operative Strategy," op. cit., p. 76.
51 Andrew Kennedy, "China's New Energy-Security Debate," Survival, Vol. 52, 2010, p. 142.
52 Qamar Agha, "Indo-Gulf Ties: Post-Cold War Era," in India and the Gulf, I.P. Khosla, ed., (Association of Indian Diplomats: New Delhi, 2009), p. 152.
53 "Qatar Mediating in Eritrea-Djibouti Row," The Peninsula, June 8, 2010.
54 Cf. Klejda Mulaj, Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics, (Hurst & Co., 2010).
55 "Yemen Needs Aid and Tough Love from Its Friends," The National, March 1, 2010.
56 Healey and Hill, Yemen and Somalia, op. cit., p. 5.
57 "Social Cohesion Consultation Report," West Asia North Africa Forum (2009), p. 5.