Concerned about the “regional and global threat” from terrorists in Yemen, Gordon Brown is to host an emergency summit in London later this month. Yemen, at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, is a country that tends to be off the radar except when something untoward happens affecting foreigners – when it gets a brief period of attention before it’s forgotten again.
The current wave of attention results from the attempt to blow up flight 253 last month, the Fort Hood shootings in November and, to a lesser extent, the attempted assassination of the Saudi deputy interior minister last August – all of which had a Yemeni connection.
Though the fears these incidents arouse internationally are very real, they are not fears that Yemenis themselves necessarily share. Alongside the country’s other problems, al-Qaida and like-minded types are little more than a persistent nuisance. In the meantime, there’s a war in the north with the Shia Houthi rebels that has cost thousands of lives and, in the last few months, has made well over 100,000 homeless. There is also agitation and occasional violence by secessionists in the south, plus widespread disaffection with the government in other parts. The economy is in dire straits and corruption is rampant.
Looming on the horizon is drought and overpopulation. Yemen has the highest birth rate in the Middle East – at any given time 16% of Yemeni women are pregnant – along with a steady and growing influx of refugees from the Horn of Africa. It’s also running out of water as wells are drilled deeper and deeper. [continued…]