November 20, 2009
On the Knife's Edge: Yemen's Instability and the Threat to American Interests
U.S. foreign policies of neglect and disengagement rarely accomplish their objectives. Yemen’s current state of affairs highlights this point. Despite facing a multitude of global crises, the Obama Administration must seek to mitigate instability on the Arabian Peninsula. In this policy brief, CNAS Fellow Andrew Exum and Senior Fellow Richard Fontaine outline the severity of Yemen’s internal security challenges and offer several policy recommendations to improve regional stability and reduce the threat to U.S. national interests.
The deteriorating situation in Yemen demands immediate U.S. attention. Faced by a growing al-Qaeda presence, a separatist movement in the South, and an active insurgency in the North, Yemen must regain control over its sovereignty. Furthermore, Yemen will face three additional national disasters of consequence in the coming decades: a youth population explosion, a water shortage, and a precipitous decline in petroleum output and therefore revenue. This confluence of political, ideological, economic, and environment forces will only increase the likelihood of Yemen becoming a failed state and a more lethal breeding ground for Islamic militant groups.
By committing to a comprehensive engagement plan, the authors argue that the United States can deny al-Qaeda a sanctuary, prevent regional instability, and secure vital U.S. interests. This will require a whole-of-government approach including economic incentives, diplomatic pressure, military assistance, and efforts to encourage political reconciliation. The United States should also engage its regional partners in a dialogue which will benefit both Yemen and its neighbors and work to remove Yemen from the knife's edge.
More from CNAS
The greatest obstacle to returning to the Iran deal isn’t Iran—it’s Congress
Leaving the JCPOA may have cost us the most precious commodity: time. And now, out of time, out of options, it’s hard to see how we’re better off. Let Congress consider that....
By Jonathan Lord
A New Nuclear Deal With Iran Shouldn’t Be Accompanied By Terrorist Legitimization
Removing the label of terrorism should take effort on behalf of the offending party, something the Islamic Republic is unwilling to provide....
By John O'Malley
Iran Deal Return Increasingly Uncertain
Elisa Catalano Ewers joins The Warcast to discuss the series of strikes exchanged in Iraq and Syria and their diplomatic ramifications. Listen to the full episode from The Wa...
By Elisa Catalano Ewers
Returning To The Iran Nuclear Deal Is Essential For Biden's Foreign Policy Agenda
Ilan Goldenberg speaks with Franco Ordoñez about the importance of returning to the Iran nuclear deal for President Biden's foreign policy agenda. Listen to the full conversa...
By Ilan Goldenberg