The war in Yemen is suddenly not so quiet anymore after an Islamic terrorist who was trained in the country tried to blow up an American airliner headed for Detroit this Christmas. Some forward-looking analysts recently identified the Yemen problem as probably President Obama’s greatest challenge ahead. Considering the regional dynamics involved, that assessment may well turn out to be correct.
The Al Qaeda-affiliated extremists stirring trouble in North Yemen are not just a problem for the country itself — they also threaten nearby Saudi Arabia. With the Saudi kingdom a traditional US ally and a Yemeni terrorist recently crossing the Atlantic, it makes only sense for the United States to get involved now. There are two surprise guests an the conflict however: Iran, and the United Kingdom which used to rule the southern part of the country as Aden until 1967 and currently participates in the anti-piracy operations off its coast.
The Yemeni Goverment accuses Iran of financing the rebels and the United States is not the only power dreadful of an evermore aggressive Iranian foreign policy. The different states of the Arabian Peninsula are fastly moving toward increasing economic and military cooperation in part out of fear for Iran.
US intelligence indicating that Al Qaeda is planning an attack on the Yemeni capital prompted Washington to close its embassy there over the weekend with Britain following suit. Prime Minister Gordon Brown even suggested to host an international conference next January 28, in concert with the long-scheduled Afghanistan summit, to talk about how to counter extremism in Yemen. Seeing as how the US is already set to spend more than $70 million in Yemen over the next year and a half with CIA and Special Forces training and equipping the Yemeni armed forces, what more exactly Mr Brown wants to do remains to be seen.