Any discussion of Yemen has to start with the first Gulf War. It was then that the Yemeni economy cracked. Dexter Filkins reports:In 1990, when the United Nations Security Council voted to expel Saddam’s forces from Kuwait, Yemen was the only Arab state to vote no. In retaliation, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states kicked out a million Yemenis, depriving the country of remittances—one of its primary sources of money. Yemen’s economy collapsed, and it never fully recovered.
Today, Yemen itself is months, perhaps weeks, away from collapse. The regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh has lost the support of its people, the support of the few allies it had in the region and, most important, the support of the United States.
What happens next is almost anyone’s guess. Yemen is a country entirely comprised of haves and have nots. There is no middle class. There is no real industry. There is no real economy. It’s a failed state, ruled by a failed leader, made poisonous by Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula.
There is one ray of hope: a dissident leader named Tawakkol Karman, who has emerged as the voice of the democratic opposition. It is widely assumed that she will be assassinated by Muslim Brotherhood-like Islamists at the moment she is no longer useful to them.
The New Yorker has a long reported essay (by Mr. Filkins) on the situation in Yemen and the role Ms. Karman is playing in the upheaval. It is worth reading in full.
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