- By Barak BarfiBarak Barfi is a research fellow at the New America Foundation.
After more than 40 people were killed on March 18 in Sanaa, Yemen, where security forces and regime loyalists opened fire on protesters, the bonds that hold the delicate country together are increasingly fraying. For years, a combination of security and economic problems threatened the country, yet they were never able to topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government. But in recent weeks, grassroots frustrations have spurred disgruntled youth to challenge a regime that is clearly willing to use brute force to suppress their demands. And with neither side willing to back down, they are slowly inching Yemen toward the abyss.
In a society where violence is a preferred form of diplomacy, it should come as no surprise that Saleh unleashed his security forces on peaceful demonstrators. In the past, tribesmen in regions hostile to the regime killed soldiers who sought water from their wells, while clans seeking concessions from the government kidnapped foreign ambassadors to express their frustrations. In Yemen, politics is a blood sport.