Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Crisis Yemen: Going where?


On June 26, 2012, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, the U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee, and the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies (U.S. Department of Defense/National Defense University) hosted "Crisis Yemen: Going Where?" at the City Club in Washington, DC. Participating specialists were: Ambassador Barbara Bodine, Mr. Gregory Johnsen, Dr. Charles Schmitz, and Mr. Robert Sharp. National Council Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony served as moderator.

Each one of these experts knew that Yemen's economic situation is on the verge of being catastrophic unless certain steps are taken to save the nation. Ambassador Barbara Bodine discussed how Yemen is facing many problems; the economy is weak, there is famine, there are multiple wars, AQAP captured cities there, etc. However, she seemed optimistic that the country is capable of getting back on its feet if the port of Aden is utilized correctly by the government. She also emphasized the need for an improved US policy towards Yemen. The following expert was Gregory Johnsen of big think waq-al-waq blog about terrorism in Yemen. Johnsen expressed that AQAP is growing stronger in the past 2 decades and that the US policy (using drones and missiles) is only effective at disorienting the organization but not at eliminating it. 

Dr. Charles Schmitz seemed oddly optimistic as he thinks that the situation in Yemen is not as bad as many experts make it out to be and seriously advocated that the US pressure the Gulf and Saudi Arabia into accepting Yemeni immigrants back in. This is only way that Yemen is capable of improving its economy; it will provide remittances for families and relieve the pressure of Yemen's every growing economy. Finally, Mr. Robert Sharp spoke frankly about the role of the US and the GCC in Yemen. In his opinion, the US is facing its own economic challenges and thinks that the country will mainly provide counterterrorism aid.  He believes that most of the development efforts will be directly the responsibility of the GCC, first because of their proximity and understanding of the region and second because of their financial capabilities. All of these speakers emphasized the improtant role that the current and following Yemeni government will play in facilitating these development plans. 

Simply put, if we are to answer where is Yemen going, then their collective answer will be that the Yemeni government needs to organize itself and begin functioning as an effective government. Yemen should look towards the GCC for development aid and programs, while it should look towards the US as a partner in defeating terrorists. Where is Yemen going? the experts can only provide suggestions and Yemen's future remains unknown.

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