Yemen doesn't have to be the next failed terrorist state
Not if President Obama partners with Saudi King Abdullah for an urgent rebuilding effort.
The attempted Christmas-day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner alerted everyone to the danger posed by terrorist cells training in Yemen. This country on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula needs urgent international support, because a failed state on the border of Saudi Arabia – the world’s largest oil producer – would have enormous consequences for the global economy and the war on terrorism.Skip to next paragraph
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The international conference about Yemen held in London last week reminded me of one of Saudi King Abdullah’s favorite quotes from the Koran: “Truly never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves.”
That statement sums up his approach to what we in the West call nation-building. As Yemen slides toward a failed state through a combination of bad governance, suspected Iranian support for Houthi separatists, unchecked Al Qaeda proselytizing and recruitment, a secessionist movement in the south, and 35 percent unemployment, the United States should consider asking King Abdullah to offer his vision of nation-building to save the Yemeni state.
But in seeking to contain the security threat, Washington must not repeat the errors of the Bush administration in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US focused excessively on solving immediate security problems without addressing the larger context of the terrorist threat.
The right course in Yemen is to build good governance and economic development. And the right person to lead that strategic effort is Abdullah. If President Obama wants to avoid the Afghanistanization of Yemen, he should reach out to the Saudi monarch.
Such a partnership could bring stability to Yemen on many levels.
First, Al Qaeda’s strategy of proselytizing and recruitment can be checked with a sustained, Saudi-supervised, and well-funded rehabilitation program for jihadists. Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program has been fairly successful – and it can be replicated in Yemen.
Two sons of the king – Prince Miteb and Prince Abdulaziz – say that their father is fully committed to using the Koran to pacify extremist militants. The US and Saudi Arabia can fund a program to offer financial incentives to former jihadists to help them readjust into society.