With warrior King Abdallah II beating the drums of war following news that the Islamic State burned to death Jordanian pilot Muath Kasasbeh, the Iraqi military on the verge of confronting IS in Mosul, and the UAE rejoining the fight, it seems the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters will have the added support they have long needed to subdue the terrorist organization inside Iraq and Syria.
Given the campaign being mustered to take on the Islamic State, the war will likely help address other terrorist threats in the region and, perhaps, weaken Assad’s grip on Syria. It is, however, important to remember Nigeria has its own weaker version of the Islamic State, i.e. 6,000 Boko Haram fighters. There is also the largely neglected chaos in Yemen.
Like Libya, civil unrest is tearing Yemen apart. Unlike Libya, Yemen borders regional power Saudi Arabia while Al Qaeda has long used the country as a safe haven. Consequently, efforts by Houthi rebels to seize control of Yemen affect the national security of Saudi Arabia as well as the security of the region. If Yemen collapses into a failed, or a near-failed, state, Al Qaeda would gain a much stronger foothold in the region.
On the other hand, it is important to recognize there are very real reasons why groups like the Houthi rebels have declared war on their government. In many respects, Yemen is a textbook example of how social welfare can be used to suppress people and what happens when that system fails.
For decades, the country’s leadership has gone so far as to encourage the use of the drug Qat in order to pacify growing anger over the failure of government to provide for the needs of the People, i.e. build a sustainable, broad base economy.
With Middle Easterners calling for increased international intervention in Yemen, it is important for outsiders to avoid simply targeting those fighting for their legitimate interests. Doing so would only further suppress the Yemeni People while making the long-term situation worse and turning the outside world into the enemy, thus feeding the Al Qaeda propaganda machine.
In other words, Saudi Arabia and international players must seek to help stabilize the situation in Yemen by finding ways to address the interests of those their government has failed to serve. Given the Islamic State crisis, the best option is to avoid escalating and prolonging the conflict in Yemen by attempting to prop up a preferred regime.
Instead, it is best to leave the internal politics of Yemen to the Yemeni People and focus on fostering improved governance through broad base consensus.
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