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Yemen, the next failed state?

Jeremy M. Sharp, a Middle East specialist at the Congressional Research Service, sounds the alarm in the July Arab Reform Bulletin: Over the past six months, the tone in international media coverage of Yemen has become increasingly apocalyptic. On the security front, the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Yemen has been well documented via a spate ...

Jeremy M. Sharp, a Middle East specialist at the Congressional Research Service, sounds the alarm in the July Arab Reform Bulletin:

Over the past six months, the tone in international media coverage of Yemen has become increasingly apocalyptic. On the security front, the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Yemen has been well documented via a spate of brazen attacks, leading security experts to warn that the new generation of Yemeni militants will be more lethal than its predecessors. The failed state narrative, in which Yemen devolves into something resembling Somalia or Afghanistan, has also spread. Yemeni ministers, foreign aid workers, and journalists routinely predict an imminent demise, as food prices skyrocket, drought hurts harvests, the long-running al-Houthi rebellion in the north drags on, and riots erupt in the south over unresolved grievances stemming from the 1990 reunification of the country.

Sharp, who notes that scholars "reflexively repudiate" the apocalyptic scenario, isn’t quite sure what to make of Yemen’s increasingly dire plight. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has long ruled in a milieu of "controlled chaos," so maybe we’re seeing a manufactured crisis aimed at securing more foreign aid. It’s possible the country could "muddle through" its crisis.

Whatever the truth, Sharp argues, it’s high time the international community, and Saudi Arabia and the United States in particular, developed a strategy for insuring that Yemen doesn’t go the way of Somalia or Afghanistan. Ranked 21st in this year’s Failed States Index, Yemen may not be blinking red just yet. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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