Getting to the Bottom of Yemen, "The Always Almost Failing State"

By Begley, Alex | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 2012 | Go to article overview

Getting to the Bottom of Yemen, "The Always Almost Failing State"


Begley, Alex, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) gathered experts to discuss the roots of Yemen's problems and offer some solutions in a June 26 panel discussion entitled "Crisis Yemen: Going Where?" at the City Club of Washington, DC.

Dr. John Duke Anthony, founding president and CEO of NCUSAR and former Fulbright fellow in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, painted a grim picture of a country whose prospects are "next to hopeless." Emphasizing the magnitude of Yemen's problems, Dr. Anthony noted that country of 27 million people has an unemployment rate of at least 35 percent and comprises "130,000 villages of fewer than 200 people." The lack of basic infrastructure and a young population with no job prospects has led to a state of frustration on many levels, he said.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine offered a brief history of the U.S. relationship with Yemen, describing the U.S. as "newcomers" to the scene. "It's been a relationship that's been driven by the shifting fads of the foreign policy in Washington and the shifting focus of our Cold War politics," she explained. Bodine enumerated several hardships that modern Yemen has weathered amid wavering U.S. support, including the assassination of two heads of state in one year and a growth spurt that more than doubled" its geographic size. Somehow Yemen, which Bodine said "began an indigenous experiment with democracy long before it was fashionable in the Middle East," has avoided complete state failure. Ambassador Bodine concluded by emphasizing the need for a U.S. focus on long-term stability in Yemen, not short-term security, to meet the needs of both countries.

Gregory Johnsen, author of the blog Waq al-waq, , discussed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), specifically U. …

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