Jan. 23, 2015
Daniel Benjamin, director of Dartmouth’s Dickey Center for International Understanding and the U.S. State Department’s former counterterrorism chief, is available to comment on Yemen’s escalating crisis and the risk that Yemen could become even more of a breeding ground for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“The events unfolding in Sana are so complex that they defy prediction, although it’s a safe bet that things are not likely to get better. We now have a bizarre situation in which the Houthis, who are the enemy of our enemy AQAP, are really not our friends and will likely inhibit our efforts to build the capacity of the Yemeni military and security forces. While more AQAP energy will go into fighting the Houthis than before, the net effect is that there will be more chaos. Terrorist groups thrive on chaos and the threat to the West could well grow. It’s conceivable that this begins a process of division between the north and south. Other fractures are possible in this barely unified country, and such developments will make it more difficult to contain and reduce the threat of terrorism and exacerbate the economic, humanitarian and governance problems that are already off-the-charts bad in Yemen. The Houthis are Zaydis, not Twelver Shia like the Iranians, and historically relations between them and the Sunnis have been quite good. But as the region has been swept by sectarian strife, the Zaydis appear to have gravitated to the only sponsor available to them — the Iranians. The Saudis next door are no doubt beside themselves over this development, and the chances for deeper conflict are considerable. There may be a hope for a negotiated solution here, but it’s hard to be optimistic.”
Benjamin is available to comment at Daniel.Benjamin@dartmouth.edu