The Arab Spring has now taken over Yemen. President Saleh’s opposing tribe known as the Al-Ahmar attacked the presidential palace and injured President Saleh. Saleh has now escaped to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. Yemeni’s are now celebrating in the streets and are hoping he does not return. However, his family is still in Yemen, which means they still have great influence in the country.
Why does this matter? The average age in Yemen according to the CIA fact book is between the ages of 15-64. Also, Yemen is the 32nd biggest oil exporter and 16th largest seller of natural gas. Since the fighting has started the oil economy has crippled Yemen’s governmental revenues. According to Wikileaks, in December 2009, Saleh claimed responsibility for two air strikes when in fact he allowed the US to do this. Mr. Saleh also rejected an offer to deploy ground troops in Yemen. If there is a new leader, would they allow the US to bomb high profile targets? Now Yemen is on the brink of civil war. US foreign aid has increased over the past few years because Al- Qa’ida is finding a safe haven in Yemen. A few examples are:
- Most of bin Laden’s bodyguards were from Yemen.
- Many terror plots originate in Yemen
- The infamous English-speaking cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki and several other American radicals have similar goals to Al- Qa’ida and other extremist organizations live in Yemen.
In terms of political influence in Yemen, the US does not have much influence, but Saudi Arabia does. If we can use our biggest ally in the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia, then the pendulum could swing in favor of the US and its foreign policy interests in terms of fighting Al-Qa’ida and extremism. Al-Qa’ida and the Taliban are anti-democratic and have a rather tortuous government that uses an incorrect form of Shari’ah law on its people. The best option right now to make sure there is not a power vacuum is by creating some sort of transitional council with a number of people representing different interests or tribes. This will help Yemen elect a president democratically and will allow a democracy that all Arabs can enjoy no matter what religion they may be.