Yemen’s feared descent into chaos

Yemen’s rugged topography and fiercely tribal society have traditionally made central authority weak. However never before has the country been facing so many troubles at once, fuelling concerns over its stability and its possible side-effects in the region.

An impoverished country with a population of 23 million, Yemen was not bestowed with the resources as its neighbors and is the poorest country in the Middle-East. Its oil reserves (little though they were) are dwindling, and plummeting in 2009 and 2010 according to World Bank reports. The same source expects oil revenues to reach 0 in 2017. Most of these oil resources are found in (the once-separate) Southern Yemen, where unrest is growing as the population feels it is being marginalized and discriminated against.

A conflict in the North has intensified in the past few months, where Yemeni forces are battling a powerful clan (Houthi) which brands itself as mujahideen and whose followers belong to the Zaydi (Shia) sect. This civil war, which started in 2004 and has displaced over 250,000 people, has recently spilled over into the border region within Saudi Arabia, and raised concerns and speculation over a possible involvement of Iran with the Houthi’s.

President Saleh thus finds himself juggling with increasingly volatile situations: a Houthi rebellion in the north, a resurgence of Al-Qaeda in the east, and a brewing independence movement in the south. Saudi Arabian cooperation to stabilize the rebellion in the north, an end to the regional power struggles concerning this rebellion, a crackdown on Al-Qaeda (affiliated-) movements, and further economic diversification to cushion depleting oil revenues are all needed to prevent Yemen from slipping into becoming the world’s next failed state.

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