Yemen Verges On Multi-Front Civil Conflict

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Yemen on the brink. US Special Operations forces have pulled out. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are leaning in. A counter-terrorism vacuum looms. We’ll go there.

In this photo taken on Friday, March 20, 2015, militiamen loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi ride on an army vehicle on a street in Aden, Yemen. (AP)
In this photo taken on Friday, March 20, 2015, militiamen loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi ride on an army vehicle on a street in Aden, Yemen. (AP)

It’s worth pausing over the situation in Yemen to think about American strategy in the Middle East and what’s unfolding there.  The US went heavy into Iraq under George W. Bush. Big war. And that brought a big mess. Look at Iraq now. Barack Obama took a different tack. Light footprint. Diplomacy, drones and Special Forces. Last month, embassy staff pulled out of Yemen. Too dangerous. This weekend, US Special Forces pulled out. And not in glory. Yemen is in meltdown. The Obama counterterrorism model, in trouble. This hour On Point:  the lessons of Yemen.
-- Tom Ashbrook


Noah Browning, Middle East correspondent for Reuters. (@noah_browning)

Jon Alterman, senior vice president and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Tom Mockaitis, terrorism expert and professor of history at DePaul University. Editor at Small Wars and Insurgencies. Author of "Iraq and the Challenge of Counterinsurgency" and "The 'New' Terrorism."

From Tom’s Reading List

NPR News: Yemen Descends Into Chaos As Foreign Minister Seeks Help From Neighbors — "Britain reportedly has withdrawn its remaining special forces from Yemen, days after a similar U.S. move, in response to the worsening security that the U.N. envoy for Yemen described as the 'edge of civil war.' The reported development comes as Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen called on his Arab neighbors to intervene militarily to stop the inroads made by Shiite Houthi fighters in the predominantly Sunni Muslim country."

The Wall Street Journal: Chaos in Yemen Stymies U.S. Counterterror Operations -- "American officials now see Yemen teetering on the brink of a civil war involving the besieged president, a former president and a patchwork of militant groups. The leader of the Houthi militant group behind the southern offensive and a United Nations envoy both warned that Yemen is in imminent danger of becoming another Iraq, Syria or Libya—a conflict fueled by sectarian violence and warring terrorist networks."

BBC: Saudi Arabia warns of 'necessary measures' over Yemen --"The UN has warned that Yemen is on the edge of civil war, as the Shia Houthis attempt to tighten their control. The group has been pushing further south from its northern stronghold, clashing with local armed elements. This moves the Houthis closer to conflict with forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is based in the southern port city of Aden."

This program aired on March 24, 2015.


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