x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Unified policy on Yemen will reduce threat

The problems of the Peninsula's most populous country require a comprehensive solution from the GCC states

A kidnap attempt last month in the Yemeni capital Sanaa resulted in the two would-be kidnappers being killed. The two attackers, the country’s interior ministry said at the time, were linked to Al Qaeda. This week, the Yemeni government confirmed that the two men who were attacked were Americans working for the US embassy. That attack did not occur in isolation: last week, the European Union mission was attacked in the capital and the day after the US embassy closed its doors for the day because of a threat.

The background to all this is not hard to fathom. Al Qaeda, which has a strong presence in the south, had vowed to hit the capital after a series of drone strikes targeted its leadership. Its targets are both the US, which carries out the drone strikes, and the Yemeni government, which provides the intelligence. Yet the danger of Al Qaeda striking at the heart of the capital should not be underestimated. The group is fighting an insurgency in Yemen; that should be of profound concern to every member of the GCC.

Without a comprehensive programme to solve many of the deep-rooted issues the country has, the problems of Yemen will inevitably spread to other GCC countries. The collapsing state on the doorstep of the GCC requires a policy every bit as coordinated as the one on Iran.

What might that policy look like? It will require a three-pronged approach. The first is security, to assist Yemen’s police and army. The second is economic: there are ample opportunities for investment in Yemen, including developing the port in Aden, basing manufacturing in the country and expanding tourism.

The third is political. Yemen is the most populous country on the peninsula, with more people than all the citizens of the GCC put together. That makes it unlikely that an open-border policy would work, but easy access for workers to the GCC labour market would provide the brains and brawn that the GCC needs, as well as reduce the need for foreign labour. The long-standing ties of family, language, culture and religion would also ease some of the difficulties of having such large expatriate communities that some GCC nations face.

Only a comprehensive approach from the GCC towards Yemen will reduce the threat of Al Qaeda. The group is playing a long game in Yemen; the GCC should respond with an equally complex policy.