Armies of Liberation

Jane Novak's blog about Yemen

Yemen at Risk Of Imminent Political Collapse

Filed under: GPC, Presidency, Yemen, guest posts — by Jane Novak at 8:02 am on Thursday, January 31, 2008

A good article by Professor Burrowes in the Yemen Times. It has an excellent explanation of the structure of the regime as a pyramid of corruption, and its conclusions are spot on: As it is currently formulated, the ruling regime will shortly bring Yemen to state failure. It needs to be reoriented or replaced.

Therefore, this is me now, US policy should not be geared toward strengthening Saleh, but at a minimum should move to weaken the current configuration with the inclusion of authentic opposition. Burrowes suggests purging the more die hard anti-reformists.

I’ve read suggestions that the way to ensure Yemen’s cooperation in the GWOT is to secure Saleh’s dominance of his current opposition. However if he is steadily leading the nation toward collapse, this is a short term, counter-productive fix, which in the long term will bring about the jihadization of Yemen. And if all the US really cares about is terrorism, its still a good idea to demand real democracy and stop pretending this diabolical regime posturing is anything close to it.

Yemen is a dictatorship. Pluralism will secure both economic growth and counter-terror cooperation. It is the only way out. Its time to say something, anything, about the Southern protests, the Sa’ada war, and the journalists on trial for treason.

Restructuring the regime

Given these salient features of Yemeni politics and the Yemeni state, it seems that the coalition of groups that comprises the regime has to be quickly reoriented, reconstituted or replaced in order to increase its will and capacity to effect the socioeconomic reforms that were so urgently needed. The goal has to be a ruling coalition more able, if only for the sake of survival, to act in terms of its enlightened self-interest. Perhaps the regime as currently constituted could not be reoriented or replaced by one means or another. If so, then regime elements resolutely opposed to the needed reforms would have to be deleted somehow from the coalition and opposition elements that are credible partners would have to be added to the regime in order to broaden its base and maintain its political viability.

It seems that if the regime was not quickly reoriented, reconstituted or replaced, then Yemen is at risk of imminent political collapse. Unable to deliver on the wants and needs of most of the people, support and legitimacy are already declining steeply. Underway for nearly a decade, this process had accelerated over the past few years. As a result, the fragile Yemeni state is already a failing state—and it risked becoming a failed state in the next several years. If the state did fail, then the country could quickly slide into anarchy (Somalia) or civil war (Lebanon). Under these circumstances, Yemen could become an arena in which transnational revolutionary Islam becomes a serious contender for power, as was the Taliban in Afghanistan beginning in 1994.

Dr. Burrowes is adjunct professor (retired) at the Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington. He is the author of “Yemen: Political Economy and the Effort against Terrorism,” in Robert I. Rotberg, (ed.), Battling Terrorism in the Horn of Africa (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press/World Peace Foundation, 2005); “The Famous Forty and Their Companions: North Yemen’s First-generation Modernists and Educational Emigrants,” The Middle East Journal (Winter 2005); Historical Dictionary of Yemen, the Scarecrow Press, Inc (September 1995); “The Other Side of the Red Sea and a Little More: The Horn of Africa and the Two Yemens,” in David A. Korn, Steven R. Dorr and Neysa M. Slater, (eds.), The Horn of Africa and Arabia (Washington, DC: Defense Academic Research Support Program, December 1990), and; The Yemen Arab Republic: The Politics of Development, 1962-1986 (Boulder, CO., 1987).

Jihadization, what a good word. I should write an article just to put that in the title.

1 Comment


Comment by Ali Alyemeni

2/3/2008 @ 7:44 am

Anybody familiar with Yemen would know that the regime had never been one that is running after public interest. Since 1990, when the two Yemens became one, the two political regimes splitted power to keep the interest of those in power. This situation did not continue for a long time. The 1994 civil war was struggle for power between those who made the new state.
When Saleh’s party won the war, it became the sole power, and worked over 15 years to strengthen its position. Democracy is just used for good presentation of the regime.
Yemen is totally different from Somalia and Lebanon. It has strong tribal rules that keeps it from collapsing. In addition, the state has never bee strong enough to hold the country together at any point of time, except with the balance of powers between the different interests.

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