I’m deeply concerned about #Yemen, whose government is in dire need of assistance. Southern separatists are attempting to thrust the country into civil war and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are waging an insurgency in the north. The government is also battling extreme poverty affecting 45.2 per cent of its population, many of whom lack clean water, electricity and job opportunities. Unfortunately, the future looks far from rosy on the economic front because #Yemen’s oil resources that currently fund 80 per cent of government revenue, are fast running out and, according to some analysts, may be entirely depleted by 2017.
Exploiting unrest are Al Qaeda franchises said to have trained and equipped the Nigerian national, who, on December 25, tried to blow-up a US airplane. This failed attempt has hurtled #Yemen under the international spotlight, prompting the US and Britain to close their embassies and issue no-fly advisories.
Amid Western fears that #Yemen is in danger of becoming a failed state, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hosted a two-hour long international conference in London, last week, attended by the Yemeni Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Majawar and 20 foreign ministers, including those from six GCC countries.
Delegates from the UN, the EU and the World Bank were also in attendance but an invitation to the Arab League had #not been extended. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa referred to this omission as “a strange” and “very unusual sign”. I beg to differ. Western powers usually keep Arabs out of the loop when it comes to making decisions concerning their own neighbourhood.
#Yemen’s Prime Minister and its Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi have been open about their nation’s problems and have requested the support of the international community “to build infrastructure, combat poverty, create jobs” and assist in “combating terrorism”.
Rather than lending support to the Yemeni government’s efforts, during the summit, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - who earlier referred to #Yemen as “an incubator of extremism - chose to undermine it. Indeed, she reminded me of Shakespeare’s Anthony in Julius Caesar, who famously said: “I come to bury Caesar, #not to praise him.”
“#Yemen must take ownership of the challenges it faces, and of its internal affairs,” Clinton said. She warned the Yemeni government that international aid would #not be forthcoming unless it could demonstrate improved security, a clampdown on corruption and show that foreign aid would be “used effectively”. She even made excuses for donor countries that had failed to make good on US$5.2 billion pledges made during a 2006 donor conference, saying their reluctance to pay up was due to worries their cash would be misspent.
Her disparaging tone must have been music to the ears of opposition leaders, insurgents, extremists and would-be secessionists #not to mention those of her own all-important constituents; 53 per cent of which have admitted to some level of anti-Muslim bias according to a recently-released Religious Perceptions in America Report. Clinton recently told PBS that she would #not serve as Secretary-of-State in a second Obama administration, fuelling suspicions that she plans to stand against her boss in 2012.
Whether her tough stance against the Yemeni authorities is exclusively her own or reflects a White House agenda is impossible to tell. There is no doubt, however, that #Yemen is concerned about America’s long-term policy. #Yemen’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have both stressed that the idea of US bases on Yemeni soil “is inconceivable”.
That may be so, in principle, but as reported by the Washington Post, it’s an open secret that US intelligence and military personnel from US Joint Special Operations Command have been in #Yemen for more than six weeks where they are working with Yemeni troops to eliminate Al Qaeda affiliates. This is a sensitive issue, and as Saudi Arabia has warned, if US soldiers become visible on Yemeni soil their presence will be viewed as a propaganda gift to extremists and insurgents.
Rather than watch passively, allowing #Yemen to go the way of occupied Iraq or an ungovernable pirates’ paradise like Somalia, the Arab world must stand with the Yemeni leadership before it’s too late. We must ask ourselves why we have allowed the Land of Sheba – some say the historic homeland of our ancestors - to descend into such poverty and why the American military is working alongside #Yemen’s instead of our own.
Saudi Arabia should be commended for successfully battling Houthi tribesmen who crossed its borders but, instead of declaring victory, it should offer military support to #Yemen to prevent this Iranian-spawned infection from contaminating the entire region. Likewise, every GCC army should be at #Yemen’s disposal together with allocated funds to bring #Yemen to prosperity.
It is well known that the US and its Western allies have no friends, only interests. This is why they must #not be allowed to decide #Yemen’s fate. During the GCC hosted donor conference, set to take place in Riyadh on February 22 – 23, we should do much more than talk. If we believe that the Yemeni people are our brothers, we must prove it with much-needed military assistance and hard cash. Anything less is tantamount to an open invitation to Tehran, Washington and Al Qaeda to turn #Yemen into a blood-stained and ideological battlefield for the foreseeable future.