The World’s Brewing Conflicts of 2011

There’s only one problem with the International Crisis Group’s list: Yemen isn’t included.

One foreign-policy think tank among dozens that has attracted my attention over the past year is the infamous IGC, otherwise known as the International Crisis Group. The organization has been around for quite some time. In fact, many of its members are former diplomats who understand the deepest complexities of international politics. That ability is no more important than in today’s strategic environment, which is composed of a whole range of confusing scenarios: raging insurgencies, nuclear proliferation, the expansion of the drug market and the free flow of ideas otherwise referred to as globalization.

In addition to the quality of the research that the IGC publishes on a near daily basis, I have immense respect for the types of projects that its members choose to take (most of which are extraordinarily dangerous and time consuming). Indeed, the IRG is notorious for placing its best and brightest analysts in the world’s most troubled regions, including Burma, Chad, Columbia and Nigeria. This, of course, should not be shocking, given the Crisis Group’s official mission statement: “prevent and resolve deadly conflicts around the world.”

All of this notwithstanding, the ICG is a great pack of scholars for another reason — they boil down the globe’s pressing issues into a rhetoric that the ordinary human being can comprehend.

Such is the case with its latest article in Foreign Policy magazine, which dissects what they label as the world’s 33 active and “raging” wars. This time, they seek to predict where the world’s next hotspots will be. If the United States were smart, it would read some of these predictions.

The list is about fifteen countries long, with the usual suspects highlighted first and foremost. Columbia is mentioned early on due to its everlasting internal battle with FARC rebels. Zimbabwe is described as country that is ready to explode politically. Haiti is listed as a result of the horrible earthquake nearly a year ago. And Somalia once again made the cut for all the obvious reasons.

There is just one problem: the list shortchanges one country that has been making the news consistently over the past year. It’s a country that I have personally blogged about at some length in the past yet one that continues to get overlooked.

That country is Yemen, the poorest and most resource depleted state in the Arab world. For the sake of time, there is no need to hash out all of Yemen’s internal problems in detail.  Merely mentioning them does the job relatively well.

Here is what is occurring inside Yemen today: A violent Shia Houthi rebellion in the northern provinces; an increasingly restive population in the south, where the bulk of Yemen’s dwindling oil reserves are located; a primary source of national income projected to run out by 2017; a capital city that is facing a water shortage; the most active Al Qaeda affiliate in the world; 35 percent unemployment; a large and growing youth population unable to find work

All of these indicators are pretty horrific when assessed individually. No work, for example, is a tough experience to go through, even if the rest of somebody’s life is on a straight track. But taken together, the cumulative affect could have enormously negative consequences for the future of Yemen as a sovereign and functioning state. And unlike many of the conflicts listed in the ICG brief, Yemen would be far more detrimental to Americans interests than state collapse in Zimbabwe or a new outbreak of violence in Venezuela.

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