Journal Essay

Yemen: Prospects for State Failure - Implications and Remedies

Thomas Juneau

Fall 2010, Volume XVII, Number 3

Mr. Juneau is a doctoral candidate in political science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He studied in Sanaa, Yemen, in 2007.

There is a strong possibility that state authority in Yemen will considerably erode in the coming years under the effect of multiple pressures. This could lead to at least partial, and possibly complete, failure of the state, which would have important regional and international implications. However, a number of key initiatives, if implemented by Yemen and the international community, could in the best of cases prevent the gradual deterioration of the situation or at least limit the speed and extent of the erosion of state authority. Importantly, should preventive measures be unsuccessful, other initiatives could contain the eventual negative implications of state failure in Yemen.

In this context, this article asks three questions:

• What are these multiple pressures that could lead to the failure of the Yemeni state?

• What would be the impact of state failure for regional and international security?

• What can be done to prevent failure or, alternatively, to contain the implications of the erosion of state authority should preventive measures not succeed?

Background

The situation in Yemen has deteriorated in recent years, as witnessed by a rise in the number and intensity of street protests, tribal clashes, kidnappings and terrorist attacks, and by an insurrection in the North and growing tension in the South. In this context, an increasing number of analysts and senior U.S. government officials have been warning of the risks associated with the possible failure of the state in Yemen.1

It should be remembered, however, that central authority in what today corresponds to Yemen has never been strong, and that reports of its impending disintegration have been recurring for decades. Ever since the birth of the Yemen Arab Republic, or North Yemen, in 1962 (in the wake of the overthrow of the Zaidi Imamate, which had ruled parts of the area since 897) and the independence of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY, South Yemen) following the departure of the British colonial power in 1967, first North and South Yemen and then the unified Republic of Yemen since 1990 have been weak states that have never had a monopoly on the legitimate use of force on their territories.

Power in Yemen is concentrated in the hands of the few. The president, Ali Abdallah Saleh, rules by maintaining a precarious balance among a variety of competing forces, including the military and the security apparatus, the main tribes, political parties and factions, and key clerics. By buying loyalty through patronage and ruling through a combination of cooptation, inclusion and coercion, Saleh has painstakingly built an “administrative feudal system”2 that has evolved into a mix of “kleptocracy and plutocracy.”3 Saleh, who gained power in North Yemen in 1978 and has ruled Yemen since unification, is not committed to any ideology beyond a short-term focus on regime survival.

The central government today is indeed fragile. But even this is sometimes exaggerated in Western media, which often report that the government has little or no control beyond Sanaa, the capital. The government, in fact, imperfectly controls most of the country’s towns and cities. It has, however, nonexistent-to-partial control of large swathes of rural areas. Even this must be qualified: Some of the areas Sanaa does not control are under the partial or complete authority of tribes with which the government maintains a sort of modus vivendi.

There are some factors that help account for the resilience of the Yemeni state, though these are weak and few. Yemen is not fractured by sectarian,4 linguistic or ethnic cleavages as are other countries in the Middle East, and in past decades the idea of Yemeni unity and a sense of common descent have exerted a considerable pull on most Yemenis.5 Moreover, tribes have historically been autonomous, even when they have had good relations with central governments. Outside major cities most Yemenis have low expectations for what the government should do for them. This is a consequence of the country’s tribal culture, but also of its geography; many of Yemen’s villages are in remote desert or mountain areas. There is a strong tradition of self-sufficiency.

Three other factors help account for this resilience. The first is Saleh’s ability to build and manage a web of patronage to sustain his regime. The second has been the role of the security apparatus, the primary pillar of Saleh’s power. Finally, tribal chiefs, senior military officers, top bureaucrats, and members of the president’s inner circle have a personal stake in the perpetuation of the regime. This has traditionally pushed them towards compromise for the sake of the survival of the system from which they benefit.

Why Yemen is at Risk

If Yemen has put to the lie repeated forecasts of its impending collapse, why should the situation be different now? More so than in the past, today’s Yemen faces the convergence of multiple and intensifying pressures, including both structural challenges and protracted conflicts. Importantly, these challenges are intertwined and reinforce each other. The insurrection in the North further strains government finances, for example, while a growing youth bulge worsens water shortages and unemployment.

Economy and Natural Resources

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world with a per capita GDP of less than $900. By many socioeconomic indicators, it ranks alongside the most destitute countries in sub-Saharan Africa: 45 percent of the population lives on less than $2 per day, unemployment hovers around 35-40 percent, and child malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world.

Yemen’s water crisis may be its most fatal weakness. Freshwater availability is less than 200 cubic meters per capita per year, five times below the water-poverty line and 3 percent of the global average. Yemen has no major permanent river, and so relies on rainwater and underground water tables. But its aquifers are rapidly depleting, as extraction is about 30 percent above sustainable yields. Water management is inefficient and wasteful, with 40-50 percent of water in piped systems unaccounted for. This is especially the case in agriculture, which uses more than 90 percent of the country’s water. The situation is notably dire in cities and rural areas high in the western mountain range. Sanaa, where the population is growing at a rate of 7 percent per year, could run out of water as soon as 2017, and there is already talk of having to move it to a lower altitude.6 As a result, water prices have more than tripled in some cities since 2005. As water becomes scarcer and more expensive, agricultural yields suffer, while conflict over its possession and trade will increase.

Yemen has small oil reserves of approximately 3 billion barrels. The oil sector represents 30 percent of the country’s GDP and contributes 75 percent of the state budget and 90 percent of export earnings. Yet production has been steadily declining, from a peak of 440,000 barrels per day in 2001 to an expected 260,000 in 2010. Oil-export revenues have declined from $7.8 billion in 2008 to an expected $4.5 billion in 2010. Barring major new discoveries — unlikely at this point — export capacity will be eliminated in the coming years, and reserves could be depleted by 2020, perhaps sooner. Yemen also has 17 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. There has been considerable investment in this sector in recent years, a first liquefied-natural-gas (LNG) plant going online in 2009 and a second one expected in 2011. Revenues from this growing sector, expected to total about $30 billion through 2030, will not be sufficient to compensate for declining oil production.

Yemen is already experiencing a fiscal crisis; the combination of declining oil prices and production led the Ministry of Finance in early 2009 to direct all ministries to cut expenditures by 50 percent.7 As fiscal troubles mount, the state’s ability to distribute rents and patronage and pay civil service and military salaries, the pillars on which the balance of the feudal administrative system hinge, will gradually erode. This will result in mounting tensions as the state loses its ability to co-opt rivals and arbitrate disputes.

The qat plant is widely cultivated in Yemen and parts of East Africa for the pleasant, mild stimulant effect of its leaves. Qat plays a huge role in Yemeni life as a recreational drug, but is also a pillar of social life and the rural economy. Between 50 and 75 percent of adult men and around 30 percent of women spend hours most days chewing qat with friends, family and colleagues. Most spend 10-20 percent, and sometimes more, of household income on the habit. Qat is a major drag on water supplies, agricultural efficiency, productivity, household food and economic security, and health in a country where all these are under strain.

Qat is an important cash crop; it can be harvested up to four times a year and pays farmers considerably more than most foodstuffs.8 Its production occupies more than a third of Yemen’s scarce arable land, more than double that of a decade ago. Qat cultivation is water-intensive, responsible for one-third of total consumption, exacerbating shortages. As the country’s population doubles in the next 20 to 30 years, qat demand will continue to grow, further straining water tables and reducing the amount of land available for growing food. Qat is also a drag on productivity; a recent World Bank report estimates that up to 25 percent of potential working hours are lost to qat-chewing.9 Finally, though few systematic studies have been conducted, it is believed that life-long qat-chewing is associated with a variety of negative health implications, notably an increased risk of heart and periodontal disease, various ailments of the digestive tract, insomnia, cancer and neonatal health problems.10

The Yemeni economy suffers from many critical and worsening structural weaknesses. Though real GDP growth will reach 5 percent in 2010 thanks to the new LNG project, it will slow to 2.6 percent in 2011, below the rate of population growth. Inflation fell from 19 percent to 4 percent in 2008 and 2009 but is expected to exceed 12 percent in 2010 and 2011. The gradual decline of the Yemeni riyal against the U.S. dollar has also hurt the economy. The rate of exchange fell from 4 to 1 in the early 1980s to about 200 to 1 today. Depreciation is expected to continue, perhaps reaching 240 to 1 by 2011.11 Food prices have been rapidly rising, partly as a result, and are now among the main catalysts for popular discontent.12 Another critical issue is that of fuel subsidies, which in 2008 cost Sanaa, according to the World Bank, $3.5 billion, or 12 percent of GDP. In this context, the fiscal deficit for 2010 will be above 8 percent of GDP and will probably widen to more than 10 percent in 2011. Public debt will grow from $32 billion in 2005 to more than $50 billion in 2011.13

Bribery, patronage and other forms of thievery are pervasive at every level and stage of government and private-sector activity; by some accounts, up to 30 percent of government revenues are unaccounted for. For example, a recent report for the U.S. Agency for International Development assessed that up to one-third of the army’s 100,000 soldiers exist only on paper, allowing commanders to pocket their salaries and sell their weapons on the black market.14 Among other consequences, this led the World Bank in 2005 to reduce a loan package by a third (from $420 to $280 million over three years). As will be discussed below, corruption, mismanagement and a lack of technical expertise make the implementation of reforms and the absorption of external assistance very difficult.

Another major challenge is the extreme weakness of the non-oil economy. A net food importer, Yemen was severely affected by the 2008 food crisis, as a 60 percent spike in food prices may have pushed an additional 6 percent of the population below the poverty line.15 Manufactured exports represent less than 5 percent of total exports. Financial markets are vastly underdeveloped, while non-oil foreign investment has averaged less than $25 million per year recently. The infrastructure is appalling and not keeping pace with a growing population. One of the few natural resources Yemen possesses beyond hydrocarbons is fish. Yet even here, the forecast is bleak, as there are growing signs that stocks are in decline.16 The already weak fishing industry has also been damaged by the spike in piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden, which hurt Yemen’s maritime trade in general while also impeding offshore oil exploration.

Remittances from abroad were central to the economy in the 1970s and 1980s, when hundreds of thousands of Yemenis worked in the Gulf States. In 1980, remittances constituted 40 percent of North Yemen’s GNP and 44 percent of South Yemen’s.17 In a country where unemployment was rife, the export of excess labour also served as a safety valve. The expulsion of most of these workers in 1990, therefore, dealt a severe blow to the Yemeni economy.18 Some have since returned, but in much lower numbers; remittances today represent about 5-6 percent of GDP.

Demographic Explosion

The population growth rate averaged 3.6 percent from 1975 to 2005 and now hovers around 3 percent. Yemen’s population is thus set to double in the next 20 to 30 years, from 24 million to an astonishing 50 million by 2040. The population is very young: more than two-thirds are under 25 and half are under 15. Urban population has also rapidly increased in both relative and absolute terms: in 1970, 13 percent of Yemenis lived in cities, compared to 30 percent today. Sanaa is one of the fastest-growing capitals in the world, its population having skyrocketed from 200,000 in the 1970s to more than two million today. With government services already stretched thin, these numbers paint a daunting picture of the country’s mounting challenges.

Resentment in the South

Protests have been increasing in frequency and intensity in the areas previously corresponding to South Yemen. A turning point came in 2007, when protesters started demanding higher pensions for the former officers and bureaucrats (more than 100,000 by some counts) of the South who were forced into retirement in the wake of unification. The movement has snowballed since, with other disgruntled factions joining the fray. The government has reacted with growing violence and has flooded areas of the South with northern troops. As grievances go unaddressed and the government increases its use of force to repress the protests, the situation is likely to further deteriorate.

Feelings of alienation and resentment are pervasive in the South because of northern domination of the government and economy. The South, for example, produces 80 percent of Yemen’s oil but is frustrated by the North’s monopolization of oil revenues. Among the southern elite, there is widespread resentment at having been excluded after unification from elite circles in Sanaa and from access to the spoils of power. Among the population, there is growing discontent over the lack of economic and political opportunities.19

Since unification, many southerners have sought more devolution of power and equitable revenue sharing. Even today, despite growing tension and calls for secession, most of the general population remains committed to unity, hoping for greater autonomy and improved conditions within a unified Yemen.20 But Sanaa’s harsh line contributes to growing tensions by entrenching frustrations and feeding the increasingly secessionist feelings of many protesters.

The “Southern Movement” has evolved into a broad, heterogeneous mix of marginalized PDRY-era elites, tribal sheikhs, unpaid or underpaid pensioners, students and poor southerners generally frustrated by the situation. In 2009, the movement selected as its leader Ali Salem al-Baydh, a former president of South Yemen now living in exile. But the leadership is heavily fractured, wracked by personal rivalries. It has yet to articulate clear goals, and its membership remains far from a consensus on ideology and aspirations. Most of its members still favor the use of nonviolence, but increasing repression, the prevalence of weapons and growing resentment highlight the strong likelihood for violence to escalate. In the past year, there have already been mounting reports of isolated armed clashes.

The Huthi Rebellion

Fighting broke out in 2004 between government forces and a movement led by Husayn Badr al-Din al-Huthi. The rebels, known as the Huthis and today led by a brother of their deceased founder, hail from the area around the northern city of Saada and adhere to the Zaidi branch of Shii Islam. Even though some among the Huthis call for a return to the rule of the Zaidi Imam and regularly criticize the Saleh regime for being pro-U.S. and pro-Israel, the origins of the conflict are primarily tribal and local, not religious. The Huthis, in particular, call for greater political inclusion and a more equitable distribution of resources.21

Fighting has ebbed and flowed since 2004, with Sanaa still unable to decisively defeat the rebels. The latter maintain access to a huge weapons market, and they have bought or captured some equipment from the Yemeni army. Their knowledge of the rugged mountainous terrain of the North also provides them with a significant advantage. A ceasefire in early 2010 stopped the most recent round of fighting, but thus far there has been little sign that the Huthis’ grievances are being or will be addressed. A resumption of fighting in the near future is therefore highly likely.

What started as a local insurrection has begun to spread. In recent rounds of fighting, media reports have indicated that Saleh called in support from Salafi militias and the Hashed tribal confederation (rivals to the Bakeel, to which the Huthis belong).22 The conflict has now also become a regional one. In late 2009, Saudi Arabia intervened militarily for the first time, attacking rebel positions with artillery fire and fighter aircraft and imposing a naval blockade on the northwestern coast of Yemen to prevent weapons from reaching the Huthis.23 For Riyadh, the Huthi conflict represents not only instability on its southern border; it is also a drain on Sanaa’s scarce resources from the fight against al-Qaeda, which remains the main concern for Saudi Arabia.24

The conflict has important implications for internal Yemeni dynamics. A small number of fighters — a few thousand — have managed to resist repeated onslaughts by the better-armed Yemeni military. By highlighting Sanaa’s inability to tame a small insurrection, the protracted Huthi conflict emboldens other regime opponents to more assertively press their demands. Along with the growing military presence in the South, the conflict has also overstretched the military’s limited resources and led to crippling financial demands on the government.

Uncertain Presidential Succession

Though Saleh, who was born in 1942, is reportedly in good health, talk of succession is simmering. According to the constitution, his current mandate (2006-13) should be his last, but rumours are circulating that a proposed amendment could allow him to serve two additional terms. The possibility of a coup remains unlikely for the foreseeable future, as no figure in the regime would arguably be able to mount such an operation. The possibility of an assassination, though also unlikely, cannot be dismissed; Saleh’s two predecessors were assassinated, in 1977 and 1978. Either scenario would likely result in a power struggle and considerable instability.

In the meantime, jostling for position in anticipation of the post-Saleh era has already begun and will increasingly threaten to destabilize the regime. Three names generally dominate discussions. The frontrunner is often alleged to be the president’s son Ahmad, who heads the Republican Guard and the U.S.-trained Special Forces, among the most capable units in Yemen.25 The president is increasingly positioning Ahmad as his successor, alienating some among his power base. Few believe, however, that Ahmad has either the charisma or the ability to play his father’s traditional role as arbiter among the country’s myriad factions.

Ali Muhsen al-Ahmar, the commander of the First Armoured Division and a relative of the president, is one of Yemen’s most powerful men. He is a key intermediary between Saleh and Salafi groups and commands significant loyalty within the military. Rumors abound of his rivalry with Ahmad Saleh. Some, however, assess that he is more likely to play the role of kingmaker at the time of the next presidential succession. A third name increasingly discussed is that of Hameed al-Ahmar (no relation to Ali Muhsen al-Ahmar), a son of Sheikh Abdallah bin Husayn al-Ahmar. The latter, a longstanding ally of the president, was the founder of the Islah opposition Islamist party, the speaker of Parliament, the leader of the Hashed tribal confederation (Yemen’s largest), and a key intermediary between tribes and the government until his death in 2007. Hameed is attempting to establish himself as his father’s successor, though he has recently adopted an increasingly confrontational posture towards the president.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

Islamists have a long and ambiguous history of cooperation and confrontation with the Yemeni state. Sanaa has often supported and armed Islamist groups to balance against other factions, including the Huthis and the Southern opposition. Saleh has been able to do this in the past because of his belief that Islamists primarily targeted the Saudi regime and the United States and represented a manageable threat to his regime, certainly one lower than that posed by the Huthis or the Southern opposition.26

Islamist groups have engaged in violent acts against the government or Western interests in Yemen since the early 1990s, most famously against the USS Cole in 2000. In fact, as of early 2010, Sanaa estimated at 61 the number of al-Qaeda attacks in Yemen since 1992.27 Many of the first generation of militants from the Arabian Peninsula were killed, captured or reintegrated into society, especially between 2002 and 2005 in the wake of a successful Saudi government crackdown, forcing remaining operatives to flee to Yemen.28 Worryingly, a new generation of younger, more hard-line militants has since emerged. Many have come back from fighting in Iraq or elsewhere, where they gained significant combat experience.29

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was formed in early 2009 through the merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of al-Qaeda. AQAP’s leadership is much less willing than previous generations to follow traditional Yemeni rules of negotiating. In its statements, the group has criticized militants who engaged the Yemeni state by participating in rehabilitation programs or abiding by a “security covenant” agreed to in the 1990s, whereby the state would turn a blind-eye to their activities as long as they did not strike targets in Yemen.30

AQAP has demonstrated a growing ability to recruit and train fighters and conduct operations.31 It is unclear how many fighters it has, but with the return of many from Saudi Arabia, the alleged relocation of a few dozen from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan,32 and with its recruitment campaign presumed to be active, reasonable estimates can reliably put the number between the low and high hundreds.33

For now, AQAP poses a much smaller threat to the survival of the Yemeni state than the conflicts in the South and North. For the foreseeable future, there is no risk that AQAP could take over Yemen, as the much stronger Taliban did in Afghanistan in the 1990s or as various groups are threatening to do in Somalia. This explains in part why Sanaa is not acting against AQAP to the degree desired by Saudi Arabia and the United States, who view AQAP as their main concern in Yemen.

Tribalism

Feelings of tribal identity are very strong in Yemen, where intertribal strife and conflict between the central authority and tribes have been common for centuries.34 Today, disputes are often driven by competition for scarce resources, whether water, funds for infrastructure and basic services, or access to patronage networks. As tension in the country mounts and as the economic situation deteriorates, such competition will increase. This matters, as tribalism acts as a powerful check against state building, due to the tribes’ strong resistance, often armed, to centralization efforts. Resistance to external intervention also makes state-building assistance that much more difficult. In January 2010, for example, 150 clerics issued a fatwa rejecting military cooperation with the United States and calling for jihad in the event of foreign military intervention.

Small-Arms Proliferation

Yemen is awash with small arms; they are easily available in both open and clandestine markets throughout the country. The oft-heard figure of 50-60 million is exaggerated; the Small Arms Survey estimates rather that there are 6-17 million civilian firearms in circulation. There are also many heavier weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades, but their numbers are unknown.35 Regular government efforts aimed at curbing proliferation have mostly been unsuccessful because of corruption, mismanagement and a tribal culture in which the bearing of arms is a longstanding tradition. There have been some limited successes, for example, with recent efforts to ban the open carrying and selling of weapons in large cities and occasional seizures by security forces.36 The proliferation of small arms contributes to insecurity by making weapons readily available to terrorist and criminal organizations. As state authority further erodes, moreover, the availability of weapons will contribute to entrenching the position of tribes or factions and to making state-building even more difficult.

Implications of Failure

The convergence of multiple and intensifying challenges raises the strong possibility that Yemen will continue its slide towards failure. Under such a scenario, as the central government’s authority further erodes, it will exert less and less control over increasing swaths of the countryside and smaller cities, and eventually over larger cities and certain neighborhoods of cities it will still control. Those areas will fall under the partial or complete control of a wide array of well-armed tribes, warlords and, to a much smaller extent, AQAP.

Terrorism

The possibility of AQAP’s increasingly using its safe haven as a launching pad for terrorist operations is the most worrying potential implication of a failed Yemen. Low and decreasing government authority provides a base for the group to organize itself, recruit and train operatives, and launch operations. The country is strategically located, bordering on Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer and host of Islam’s two holiest sites, and in close proximity to Somalia, a failed state and terrorist haven. Yemen’s tribal culture, plentiful access to weapons and criminal networks, and large recruiting pool of young men also converge to make it an ideal base.

A key question concerns AQAP’s ambitions: does the group intend to focus on Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula, or the United States? Evidence suggests that, having consolidated the organization in 2008 and 2009 by merging its Saudi and Yemeni branches and by establishing a more durable foundation, AQAP rapidly leapt from targeting governmental and foreign interests in Yemen, to having regional and global ambitions.

At the local level, AQAP has shown a keen strategic and tactical sense with a dual strategy of choosing mostly foreign (embassies and tourists) and government targets (security services and oil installations), while avoiding civilian casualties and improving its relations with tribes that either host it or could eventually do so (especially in the southern and central governorates of Abyan, Marib, Shabwa and al-Jawf).37 This gradually entrenches AQAP in Yemen and makes future efforts to tackle it more difficult, as this would imply also taking on its tribal allies. AQAP has learned lessons from al-Qaeda’s mistakes in Iraq and Somalia and its successes in Pakistan and Afghanistan: terrorist groups are best served not by Hobbesian anarchy but by making deals with hosts in areas of tribal self-government.38 As part of this approach, AQAP has adopted a narrative integrating traditional Yemeni grievances against corruption and poverty.39

Despite recent successes, it is not a given that AQAP will succeed in establishing long-term mutually beneficial relationships with tribes. Both do share some common interests: tribes can offer AQAP shelter and an operational base, while AQAP can offer money and fighters. Potential conflicts, however, are numerous. Tribes, above all, prize local autonomy, which could conflict with al-Qaeda’s objectives of establishing an Islamic caliphate and launching operations against distant enemies. Repeated attacks by central forces against AQAP could, on the one hand, inflame local feelings against Sanaa and drive tribes closer to AQAP. At the same time, it is not inconceivable that, as happened in Iraq, some tribes could eventually assess that they have more to lose from hosting AQAP. Whether AQAP succeeds in avoiding the latter scenario is key to its future in Yemen. It should be remembered, however, that this has little or no bearing on the inexorable erosion of state authority in Yemen, though it will considerably influence the implications.

AQAP demonstrated its regional ambitions with two failed attacks on Saudi Arabia in 2009, including an aborted assassination attempt against a deputy minister of the interior. AQAP, which has been vociferous in its opposition to the Saudi regime, is highly likely to continue targeting the kingdom, chiefly its oil installations and members of the royal family. That said, though a successful attack on a member of the royal family would undoubtedly have an important psychological impact, it would be unlikely to cause major instability. There have been no reported attacks thus far in 2010, but in March, Riyadh announced the arrest of over 100 suspected AQAP militants, who were allegedly planning suicide attacks on oil installations.40 Finally, an important unknown in AQAP’s regional ambitions is whether it intends to strike other states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC);41 though this is plausible, there is no hard evidence of the group’s plans.

The failed December 25, 2009, attack against an airliner near Detroit, rapidly claimed by AQAP, spectacularly brought to the world’s attention the group’s growing international ambitions — and the fact that it has the capabilities and will to act. The group’s trajectory and statements in past months suggest that more attacks on U.S. soil or against U.S. interests in Yemen or the Middle East are likely. One potential vector for AQAP’s global ambitions could be the three dozen or so American former convicts who converted to Islam in U.S. prisons and reportedly joined extremist groups in Yemen after their release.42

The possibility of a nexus forming between AQAP and al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked group in Somalia, has attracted some attention.43 Though there has been little evidence so far of cooperation beyond rhetorical promises of support,44 there is potential for future association on the basis of proximity (at its narrowest, the Gulf of Aden is only 150 km wide), existing personal ties,45 and the strong criminal and smuggling networks linking the two countries. AQAP’s growing presence in the southern governorate of Abyan, giving it access to the waters of the Gulf of Aden, could eventually facilitate such contacts. The large presence of Somali refugees in Yemen also provides a tool for networking and a potential recruiting basin. There were, for example, media reports in early 2010 of Yemeni security forces raiding Somali refugee communities and detaining al-Shabab loyalists.46

Humanitarian Consequences

State failure in Yemen would have dire humanitarian consequences. The combination of insecurity and difficult geography would render the delivery of assistance to some regions impossible. The result could well include a significant refugee crisis, with hundreds of thousands trying to cross the Saudi or (in smaller numbers) Omani borders. Some might also try to cross the Red Sea to Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, or even Egypt. As areas of the country suffer from insecurity and growing water and food scarcity and lose what little government services they have, hundreds of thousands and possibly millions are also at risk of becoming internally displaced. The current humanitarian situation in the North, where around 200,000 live in dire conditions in makeshift camps, could provide a foretaste of things to come.

Oil and Shipping

Yemen currently accounts for less than 0.5 percent of global oil production, and this number will decline further, perhaps to zero, before it becomes a failed state. Failure, therefore, would have no direct impact on global oil markets. AQAP could, nonetheless, target oil or gas installations in Yemen such as the 320 km pipeline linking gas fields to the new liquefaction plant. This would hurt Yemen’s fragile economy, perhaps accelerating its decline. More important, Yemen’s neighbours are the world’s largest oil producers, and in its statements AQAP regularly and openly threatens their oil infrastructure. That said, it should be remembered that the latter is very well-guarded and thus difficult to successfully target. Furthermore, though a terrorist strike on oil installations in Saudi Arabia or its Gulf neighbours would certainly result in a rise in oil prices, in all likelihood, it would only be temporary.

The Bab al-Mandab, the strait linking the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden at the southwestern corner of Yemen, is one of the world’s most strategic maritime chokepoints. It is 30 km wide at its narrowest, and about 3.5 million barrels of oil transit through it daily (4 percent of global production). In March 2010, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence released a statement warning that AQAP posed a threat to vessels in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandab and the Gulf of Aden, specifically raising the possibility of attacks using missiles or explosive-laden small boats.47 Should waters around Yemen become too dangerous, some oil could be rerouted through pipelines in Saudi Arabia (from the Persian Gulf region to the Red Sea), while ships could take the longer route around the southern tip of Africa, adding 10,000 km to the journey. This would lead to considerable increases in insurance premiums and transit times and costs.

Piracy

Maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia has skyrocketed since 2006, with over 150 attempted attacks in 2009 alone. There is only circumstantial evidence linking Somali pirates with individuals or groups in Yemen, but there is potential for further association. According to the UN group tasked with monitoring the 1992 arms embargo on Somalia, five Yemeni ports have been used by Somali pirates as resupply stations. The report also argues that some of the arms and fuel used by Somali pirates come from Yemen.48 Moreover, in a failed Yemen, despondent fishermen — partly motivated by declining fish stocks — could imitate their Somali counterparts and engage in piracy, increasing the threat in the Gulf of Aden. Along with the threat of terrorist attacks, this could further pressure shipping companies to avoid the route through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden, pushing them southwards around the Cape of Good Hope.

Small Arms Proliferation

Yemen is an important source and transit point for the smuggling of small weapons towards both the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. This would undoubtedly intensify in a failed Yemen, making small weapons (and to a lesser extent heavier ones) more available in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa for terrorist groups, criminal networks and pirates. Assault rifles used in a 2004 assault on the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for example, bore serial numbers traced back to the Yemeni Ministry of Defense.49

What Can Be Done?

Yemen is on a dangerous course, and failure, as seen in the previous section, carries a number of negative implications for regional and international security. That said, it is not too late for Sanaa and the international community, especially Saudi Arabia and the United States, to work together towards the implementation of a number of initiatives to attempt to stabilize the country. At a minimum, specific actions could retard the ongoing erosion of state authority and mitigate the negative implications of instability. In the best of scenarios, a serious and prolonged commitment could grind to a halt the slow decay of the situation and eventually work towards the stabilization of the country. The creation of the Friends of Yemen group at a donor conference in London in January 2010, regrouping GCC states, the United States, Britain, Germany and a number of international organizations, is an important first step in this direction. If not enough is done, however, state failure is the most likely outcome. In this eventuality, another set of initiatives could gradually be implemented to seek to contain the implications of a failed Yemen. This section first discusses measures that could be adopted to prevent the further erosion of state authority in Yemen and, second, other actions that could be taken to contain both the current and potential implications of instability.

Prevention

A failed Yemen would pose a serious threat to the Arabian Peninsula, primarily but not exclusively to Saudi Arabia. Historically, Riyadh has aimed to prevent the development of a strong, unified Yemen, assessing that this would weaken its dominant position on the peninsula. Today, Saudi Arabia’s traditional concern has been reversed as it is increasingly anxious about the actual and potential implications of instability in Yemen. Riyadh became especially nervous in 2009 when AQAP started targeting it while the Huthi conflict was escalating. This matters. Saudi Arabia is by far the external actor with the greatest potential influence in Yemen. Other GCC states have yet to initiate more than token action. An important exception was the Qatari mediation effort in 2007 between the Huthis and Sanaa. Though this effort did show a rare willingness to engage, the breakdown of the ceasefire led to a Qatari withdrawal. Illustrating the difficulties of future GCC involvement, Riyadh provided limited support to Doha, as it has traditionally seen Yemen as its own backyard.

Relations between the United States and Yemen have centred on counterterrorism since the USS Cole attack in 2000. Washington’s pressure to crack down on terrorist networks forces Yemen to engage in a perilous balancing act. On the one hand, perceptions of alignment with the United States are highly unpopular with the Yemeni population, putting the government at risk of stoking an already volatile climate. On the other hand, the government does wish for greater assistance and support, especially in capacity-building for the army and security forces. Yemen’s difficult relations with Saudi Arabia and the United States matter. Because mistrust and suspicion of external involvement are extremely high in Yemen, overt intervention by either the United States or Saudi Arabia is highly unpopular.

Overall, the international community should increase its current efforts to support Yemen and ensure that existing and new pledges are respected and better coordinated. Those efforts should be comprehensive: structural economic weaknesses, the depletion of natural resources, and internal conflicts are causing the erosion of state authority in Yemen, not terrorism. Initiatives seeking to shore up state authority in Yemen could therefore focus on five main areas: development assistance, institution-building, economic reform, decentralisation and reconciliation, and counterterrorism and security.

To begin, Yemen is in crucial need of more development assistance. The country has traditionally been low on the priority list of donors. In 2005, it received $335 million in assistance, which corresponded to 2.2 percent of GDP or $16 per capita. The Palestinian Territories by contrast received $303 per capita.50 In the wake of the failed December 2009 attack, a number of countries, including the United States, announced increases in assistance.51 GCC states had promised over $4 billion at a donor conference in 2006, but as of early 2010 had disbursed less than 15 percent of this sum. They committed again to respect those pledges in January 2010.

Second, a major effort should be undertaken in the realm of institution-building, in particular with the development of a more professional and competent bureaucracy better able to deliver services. Much energy should be geared towards the health and education sectors, to try to buttress the legitimacy of the central government. To achieve this, Yemen would require both financial and technical support from donors. Despite numerous challenges, donors should take a tough line in the fight against corruption, while also supporting the development of civil society.

Economic reform is a third priority area. In particular, a huge effort could be undertaken to improve water management and to reduce consumption, for example through investments in rainwater collection and irrigation systems. Programs such as those by German Technical Cooperation, supporting the decentralization of water management, could be expanded.52 GCC states could also support investments in desalination plants. This is a hugely expensive solution that would not be of much use for the worst-affected mountain cities, including Sanaa (to which it would be prohibitively expensive to pump water). It could nonetheless alleviate problems in lower-altitude areas.

Efforts aimed at reducing qat production and consumption would undoubtedly be controversial. Qat is embedded in social life and provides employment for one in seven workers. An outright ban is unrealistic, but some measures, if implemented, could mitigate the growing negative implications associated with qat. Existing programs encouraging the cultivation of substitute crops could be increased, while the ban on qat imports from East Africa could be lifted, freeing land for food crops. Even though most Yemenis are aware of the deleterious effects of qat, more sustained and comprehensive education campaigns could help mitigate the implementation of unpopular measures. Qat consumption or production could be taxed, providing the government with new revenues. Sanaa could also support measures to improve the efficiency of qat production, as inefficiencies lead to the wasting of at least 30 percent of the water used for qat crops; by some measures, this is equivalent to the water consumption in Sanaa.

Efforts have been underway for a number of years to spur non-oil economic growth, with limited success; much more could be done, both by Yemen and by donors. The issue of oil subsidies is also crucial to any reform effort. When Sanaa tried to reduce diesel subsidies in 2001 and 2005, it rapidly backed down in the face of widespread riots. Yet, as oil resources and government revenues dwindle, the issue will rapidly gain prominence again. GCC states could well be called to provide Yemen with oil or gasoline to compensate.

Perhaps the single greatest boost to the Yemeni economy would result if GCC states increased their intake of Yemeni migrant workers, something Sanaa has been requesting for years. This, however, would have to overcome the resentment caused by the feud of 1990 and lingering prejudice in the Gulf states towards Yemenis. Moreover, the Yemeni work force suffers from a crippling lack of skilled and semi-skilled workers. Saudi Arabia and others have in recent years launched a number of training programs, including the financing of technical-training institutes.53 These, along with Sanaa’s current efforts to encourage the return of expatriates, could be expanded with international support. Another potential source of income for the country is the strategic location and deep-water facilities of the port of Aden. But irregular and unconvincing promotional efforts have not succeeded in bringing in badly needed investments, while insecurity has deterred maritime traffic and increased insurance costs.

Fourth, an extensive strategy of decentralization and reconciliation would strengthen local authorities while respecting traditional tribal and local power structures. This, in fact, is a longstanding demand of many opposition groups. Saleh has supported the idea on a number of occasions, but has rarely followed through. The international community could press Yemen to move forward and provide political, financial and technical support. Such efforts could include the convening of a grand council bringing together the country’s main power figures.

In a blueprint for a strategy of decentralization and reconciliation, Longley and al-Iryani call for the election of local officials instead of their appointment by Sanaa, the devolution of power and resources to local authorities, a revenue-sharing agreement between the center and the provinces and municipalities, the strengthening of local police and courts, and the establishment of an upper house of parliament with equal regional representation.54 Addressing local and tribal grievances could, as an additional benefit, contribute to driving wedges between AQAP and tribes that host it.

As part of a program of devolution, a number of measures should be specifically geared towards addressing grievances in the South and North. Authorities in the South could be empowered to resolve the land-expropriation disputes that are perceived as symbols of northern “colonization,” while the different levels of government could agree to reinstate in the military and civil service officials from the former PDRY or to provide them with adequate pensions. In the North, it would be essential for mediation efforts to ensure that Zaidi religious rights are respected and that devolution agreements support economic development.

Finally, it is crucial to intensify efforts to strengthen Yemen’s counterterrorism (CT) capacities. Such support has already increased since September 2001. Washington has helped train and equip the Counter-Terrorism Unit, a 150-person unit within the Central Security Organization and one of Yemen’s most efficient fighting forces. The United States further announced in early 2010 that its CT support would increase from $70 million in 2009 to $190 million in 2010. Washington also recently announced that its special forces will increase their assistance, which as of late 2009 was provided by about 200 personnel who provide training while also relaying U.S. intelligence to support operations. The same individuals will now be rotated and deployed for longer tours, allowing them to build closer relationships. The United States also recently expanded the number of surveillance drone flights over Yemen.55 Such programs should be sustained and expanded where possible.

While maintaining the smallest footprint possible, the United States should continue targeted killings of AQAP leaders, either directly through drone attacks or indirectly through intelligence and logistics support to Yemeni forces. This implies sharing intelligence, building local assets among tribes, keeping civilian casualties to an absolute minimum, and continuing to provide equipment and training. The Yemeni military is able to execute such operations, albeit imperfectly. Among other equipment, it possesses functional Russian-built MiG-29 fighter bombers and Mil-24 Hind attack helicopters.56

Riyadh could also support Yemen in establishing a deradicalization and rehabilitation program of the relatively successful type that Saudi Arabia has been operating for a number of years. Yemen’s previous iteration, which ran from 2002 to 2005 and from which 364 prisoners graduated, suffered from corruption and a chronic shortage of resources. Furthermore, it only asked from participants that they refrain from attacks on Yemeni soil, and not elsewhere in the Middle East. Three of its graduates are thought to have been among the attackers of the U.S. embassy in Sanaa in 2008.57

The United States has already provided considerable support to Yemen’s underfunded coast guard,58 and should continue doing so; Yemen’s coast guard still needs larger vessels, better port facilities and better weapons, training and communications equipment. The international community could also do more to support Yemen in protecting its oil and gas installations, since successful attacks on them could cripple the government. An 11 km wire fence, for example, has been built around the new LNG plant and naval patrols around it have been increased.

The United States started funding a buy-back program for small arms in 2003. Even though such initiatives inevitably face problems of implementation and corruption, some did meet with limited success;59 more could be done. In addition, Yemen could use considerable assistance in reforming its corrupt and underfunded correctional services. Its prisons are a breeding ground for radicalism from which terrorists and criminals regularly escape. Finally, because Saleh has created an alphabet soup of agencies competing with each other for political favour and access to resources, efforts to improve coordination and cooperation within the security apparatus could be launched.

Containment

All these ongoing and proposed initiatives face serious challenges, chief among them insecurity, a shortage of skilled personnel, the weak application of the rule of law, and corruption. The adoption and implementation of serious reforms, in addition, would in many cases cause a loss of power for the elite, leading to considerable internal resistance. This partly explains why numerous reforms mooted in recent years did not go beyond the early stages of implementation.60 Moreover, external intervention is highly unpopular, while the long-term commitment of donors remains to be guaranteed. As such, it is far from certain that many of the preventive measures recommended above will be both adopted and implemented successfully. This, in the context of the cumulative effect of the multiple and intensifying pressures discussed above, raises the prospect that state failure in Yemen — even though it is not yet unavoidable — is clearly possible.

In this context, it would be wise for the international community to start laying the groundwork for containing the implications of an increasingly fragile and perhaps soon-to-be failed Yemen. Such policies and initiatives can be separated into four categories: border security, maritime security, counterterrorism, and outreach to post-collapse actors.

Unlike in Afghanistan, where a porous and mountainous border with the ungoverned areas of Pakistan provides a funnel to the outside world, Yemen shares land borders with functioning states. Saudi Arabia has already improved border security in recent years, yet more could be done. Riyadh should continue increasing its ability to guard the border, including with mobile patrols, UAVs, and other surveillance and enforcement capabilities. It has also begun building a high-tech electronic barrier, though it is not clear if it will be completed. There is much less concern with the Omani border, as the eastern half of Yemen is sparsely populated. Moreover, the tribes in al-Mahra province, which borders Oman, have hardly ever been touched by any kind of central authority and are largely self-sufficient.

To prevent the growing links between Somalia and Yemen from intensifying, the maritime dimension is an important aspect of a containment strategy. This should focus on supporting the navies and coast guards of neighbouring states, including Red Sea states. U.S., NATO, EU, and other counterterrorism and counterpiracy missions in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean should be maintained, and their mandates broadened to include countersmuggling and, in general, containment of a failed Yemen.

The third aspect should be an increase in the ongoing focus on counterterrorism. This could include continued strikes through drones and special forces, both to decapitate AQAP’s leadership and to disrupt its facilities. This would involve improved intelligence collection, analysis and sharing. Outreach and engagement with key actors in a failed Yemen is the final aspect of a containment strategy. This would imply a delicate balancing act between immediate security needs and longer-term state-building goals. The former would involve linking with tribes or factions in the fight against AQAP and, in Saudi Arabia’s case, in protecting its border. The latter would call for refraining from overly strengthening those actors opposed to rebuilding a central authority.

Conclusion

For decades, Yemen and its predecessors have been fragile states repeatedly labeled as candidates for failure. Despite this decades-long resilience, however, the convergence of an array of growing pressures, ranging from unrest in the South and the Huthi conflict in the North to the rapid depletion of natural resources and booming demographics, leads to the assessment that state failure is highly likely in the coming years. Such an outcome would have serious implications for regional and international security. It could provide AQAP with a freer hand to use the country as a launching pad for regional and international operations, while maritime security around Yemen and the regional proliferation of small arms would be negatively affected.

That said, failure can still be averted. The international community, led by Washington and Riyadh, is already working with Sanaa to prevent the failure of Yemen from becoming reality. The failed December 2009 terrorist strike on an airliner near Detroit, however, served as a reminder that the situation is deteriorating, not improving. Much more can be done to slow down and hopefully reverse the gradual erosion of the Yemeni state’s authority, and therefore mitigate or avoid some of the consequences of a failed Yemen. If, unfortunately, such measures prove insufficient or if the will to adopt and implement them proves to be lacking, another, parallel set of initiatives would be needed to contain the instability seeping out of a soon-to-be failed Yemen.

1 U.S. government officials who recently sounded the alarm include the director of the CIA, the Director of National Intelligence and the commander of Central Command; quoted in Jeremy M. Sharp, “Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations,” CRS Report for Congress RL 34170 (Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, updated January 13, 2010), p. 14. Recent analyses include Christopher Boucek, “Yemen: Avoiding a Downward Spiral,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Middle East Program paper No. 102 (September 2009); Gregory D. Johnsen, “Al-Qaida in Yemen’s 2008 Campaign,” CTC Sentinel, Vol. 1, No. 5, April 2008, pp. 1-4; “Yemen Politics: A Growing Worry for the West,” The Economist, January 2, 2010.

 

2 Paul Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen (Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 164.

3 Robert D. Burrowes and Catherine M. Kasper, “The Salih Regime and the Need for a Credible Opposition,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 61, No. 2, Spring 2007, fn. 8.

4 Virtually all Yemenis are Muslim. Roughly 35 percent, mostly in the northwestern highlands, adhere to the Zaidi branch of Shii Islam, while the rest are Sunnis from the Shafii school. With the important exception of regular clashes between Salafis and Zaidis, the Shii-Sunni divide is not currently a major source of tension in Yemen, as some argue that it is elsewhere in the Middle East. Instead, domestic conflict in Yemen is more often driven by local, usually tribal or economic, factors. See Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen; Stephen Day, “Barriers to Federal Democracy in Iraq: Lessons from Yemen,” Middle East Policy, Vol. 13, No. 3, Fall 2006, p. 122.

5 F. Gregory Gause III, “The Idea of Yemeni Unity,” Journal of Arab Affairs, Vol. 6, No. 1, Winter 1988, pp. 55-81.

6 “Rapid Urbanization Threatening Capital’s Water Supplies,” Yemen Times, August 20, 2007. Despite such talk, others argue that such a move is simply unfeasible for political, economic, and social reasons.

7 Robert F. Worth, “Violence in Yemen Shows Growing Power of Insurgency,” The New York Times, May 5, 2009.

8 Leonard Milich and Mohammed Al-Sabbry, “The ‘Rational Peasant’ vs. Sustainable Livelihoods: The Case of Qat in Yemen,” Development, Vol. 38, No. 3, September 1995, pp. 43-46.

9 “Yemen: Towards Qat Demand Reduction,” World Bank, Report No. 39738-YE, June 2007.

10 J.G. Kennedy, J. Teague, W. Rokaw, and E. Cooney, “A Medical Evaluation of the Use of Qat in North Yemen,” Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 17, No. 12, June 1983, pp. 783-793.

11 “Country Report: Yemen,” Economist Intelligence Unit, March 2010.

12 Abdul-Aziz Oudah, “Demonstrations across Yemen Protest Price Increases, Poor Economy,” Yemen Ob server, August 18, 2007.

13 “Yemen Politics: Neighbourhood Watch,” Economist Intelligence Unit, January 21, 2010.

14 Quoted in Jeffrey Fleishman and Haley Sweetland Edwards, “Ruling Yemen Gets Even More Complicated,” The Los Angeles Times, February 4, 2010.

15 “Yemen Economic Update,” World Bank, Spring 2009.

16 Ibid., p. 6.

17 Gwenn Okruhlik and Patrick Conge, “National Autonomy, Labor Migration and Political Crisis: Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 51, No. 4, Autumn 1997, p. 556.

18 When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Yemen was the only Arab state on the UN Security Council. For a variety of reasons, it decided to abstain from condemning the invasion, the only state on the Council to do so. Angered by this move, Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent other Arab Gulf states expelled about one million Yemeni migrant workers. The Gulf States also cancelled or decreased their foreign aid, which had totaled about $200 million per year — all this as North and South Yemen were in the midst of the difficult process of unification.

19 For background, see “In the Name of Unity: The Yemeni Government’s Brutal Response to Southern Movement Protests,” Human Rights Watch, December 2009.

20 See for example April Longley and Abdul Ghani al-Iryani, “Fighting Brushfires with Batons: An Analysis of the Political Crisis in South Yemen,” Middle East Institute, Policy Brief No. 7, February 2008.

21 For background, see “Yemen: Defusing the Saada Time Bomb,” International Crisis Group, Middle East Report No. 86, May 27, 2009.

22 “Yemen Politics: Rising Stakes,” Economist Intelligence Unit, November 16, 2009.

23 “Saudi Arabia Politics: Yemen Risk,” Economist Intelligence Unit, November 11, 2009.

24 Yemen has often accused Libya and elements within Iran of supporting the Huthi rebels (Gregory D. Johnsen, “Yemen Accuses Iran of Meddling in its Internal Affairs,” Terrorism Focus, Vol. 4, No. 2, February 21, 2007). The United States, however, said in late 2009 that it had no proof of such support (“U.S. Says Has No Evidence Iran Backs Yemen Rebels,” Reuters, December 11, 2009). Whatever the truth, Yemen may be making such accusations in the hopes of gaining regional — especially Saudi — and U.S. support in its struggle against the insurgents.

25 Michael Knights, “Jihadist Paradise — Yemen’s Terrorist Threat Re-emerges,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, May 15, 2008.

26 Laurent Bonnefoy, “Varieties of Islamism in Yemen: The Logic of Integration under Pressure,” Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 13, No. 1, March 2009, pp. 26-36.

27 “Yemen Politics: The World’s Next Failed State?”

28 See Christopher M. Blanchard, “Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations,” CRS Report for Congress RL 33533 (Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, updated December 16, 2009).

29 Knights, “Jihadist Paradise.,” op. cit.

30 Ibid.

31 Brian O’Neill, “AQAP a Rising Threat in Yemen,” CTC Sentinel, Vol. 2, No. 4, April 2009, pp. 17-19.

32 Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger, “Some in Qaeda Leave Pakistan for Somalia and Yemen,” The New York Times, June 12, 2009.

33 For varying estimates, see Steven Erlanger, “Yemen’s Chaos Aids the Evolution of a Qaeda Cell,” The New York Times, January 3, 2010; Sharp, “Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations,” p. 15; Brian Glyn Williams, “U.S. Urges Yemen to take on Al-Qaeda,” Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, January 25, 2010.

34 Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen., op. cit.

35 Small Arms Survey (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

36 “Yemen: Small Arms Heaven,” Jane’s Intelligence Digest, September 21, 2007; Abdul-Aziz Oudah, “Thousands of Weapons Seized and Destroyed,” Yemen Observer, July 14, 2007; Small Arms Survey, pp. 45-46.

37 AQAP launched a number of attacks in 2009 against government targets; in November, for example, it killed several security officials in Hadhramawt province. AQAP and its predecessors also regularly targeted oil installations, and recent statements have made clear that these, as well as the more recent gas infrastructure, remain prime targets; Gregory D. Johnsen, “Attacks on Oil Industry Are First Priority for al-Qaeda in Yemen,” Terrorism Focus, Vol. 5, No. 15, February 5, 2008. Sharp, “Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations” includes a list of al-Qaeda attacks inside Yemen.

38 Sarah Phillips and Rodger Shanahan, “Al-Qa’ida, Tribes and Instability in Yemen,” Lowy Institute for International Policy, November 2009.

39 “Al-Qaeda Hides in Yemen,” Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor, June 30, 2009.

40 “Saudi Arabia Arrests More Than 100 with Suspected Links to Al-Qaeda,” Jane’s Intelligence Weekly, March 25, 2010.

41 The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, and Oman.

42 Scott Shane, “Ex-Convicts from U.S. Said to Join Yemen Radicals,” The New York Times, January 20, 2010.

43 Scott Baldauf, “Is Al Qaeda in Yemen Connected to Al Qaeda in Somalia?” Christian Science Monitor, January 7, 2010.

44 “Al-Qaeda’s Grip on Yemen,” Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor, January 6, 2009.

45 AQAP’s second-in command, Qaseem al-Raymee, has reportedly fought in Somalia in the past (“Somali-Yemen Militant Ties in the Spotlight,” Reuters, January 6, 2010). Furthermore, there are longstanding ties between Somali and Arab jihadists; the ranks of al-Shabab’s foreign battalion reportedly also include many Yemenis (“Somalia’s Foreign Fighters,” Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor, June 4, 2009).

46 Sudarsan Raghavan, “Somalis Fleeing to Yemen Prompt New Worries in Fight Against Al-Qaeda,” The Washington Post, January 12, 2010.

47 “U.S. Government Office Warns of Possible AQAP Maritime Attacks Off Yemeni Coast,” Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, March 23, 2010.

48 “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia,” S/2010/91, March 10, 2010.

49 “Yemen: Small Arms Heaven,” op. cit.

50 “Arab Human Development Report,” p. 244.

51 To be fair, the Obama Administration singled out Yemen as a country of concern and announced a number of aid increases upon taking power, for example with a three-year, $120 million stabilization program focusing on jobs and social services. Washington has also been pushing for years for greater involvement from international organizations, especially the IMF and the World Bank. See Jeffrey D. Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C., January 20, 2010.

52 Gerhard Lichtenthaeler, “Water Conflict and Cooperation in Yemen,” Middle East Report, Vol. 254, Spring 2010, http://www.merip.org/mer/mer254/lichtenthaeler.html (accessed April 2, 2010).

53 Boucek, “Yemen: Avoiding a Downward Spiral,” p. 11.

54 Longley and al-Iryani, “Fighting Brushfires with Batons,” p. 10-11.

55 Yochi J. Dreazen, “Pentagon to Send More Special Forces Troops to Yemen,” The Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2010.

56 “Yemen,” Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment, March 30, 2010.

57 “Al-Qaeda’s Grip on Yemen,” op. cit.

58 Gordon Lubold, “U.S. Won’t send Troops to Yemen. How Will It Defeat Al Qaeda There?” Christian Sci ence Monitor, January 12, 2010.

59 “Yemen: Small Arms Heaven,” op. cit.

60 Examples include plans to fight corruption such as the establishment of the Supreme National Anti-Corruption Committee, civil-service reforms, governance reforms such as plans to implement the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, and economic reforms. See “Yemen Economic Update,” pp. 11-17.