US foreign policy challenges: Yemen
SANAA // Washington lost a close ally when the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was finally forced aside in February after 33 years in power. So far, however, Yemen’s new president, Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, has proved capable of safeguarding US interests.
Mr Hadi has maintained the fight against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqim). Critically, he continues to back a US drone campaign that has weakened the group. Yemen’s military also carries out operations against suspected Aqim strongholds.
Still, with the economy in tatters and the government trying to find its way after years of merely doing Mr Saleh’s bidding, Mr Hadi’s position remains precarious.
The two most influential political forces in the country are Islamist – the Sunni Islah party, and the Houthi group, followers of the Zaidi offshoot of Shia Islam.
The former, once seen as a threat to western interests, now controls key posts in government. It is viewed as accommodating, even friendly, to Washington.
That is not the case with the Houthis. They consider the US the biggest threat to Yemen and are strengthening their alliance with Iran. Tehran’s expanding influence here will be a major headache to both Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s main ally, and to whoever is occupying the White House for the next four years.
Updated: November 4, 2012 04:00 AM