America's Yemen Crisis Is Bigger than Just Yemen

Villagers scour rubble for belongings scattered during the bombing of Hajar Aukaish, Yemen, in April 2015. Wikimedia Commons/Voice of America

Broken alliances and competing political factions are emperiling America’s goals.

With all this chaos in the background, America’s war against Al Qaeda and ISIS is under threat. On the one hand, Washington wants to preserve its alliance with the Gulf states, who are fighting to save their irretrievably lost transition agreement. As a former U.S. Defense Department official pointed out in the Atlantic recently, when Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed visited the United States last month, the red carpet was well and truly rolled out.

Yet, on the other hand, Washington can’t afford to let Yemen’s chaos prolong indefinitely, lest ISIS militants cash in on the instability and lawlessness, just as they lose territory in Syria. In August of last year, a UN report said that both Al Qaeda and ISIS have already begun to gain a foothold in the southern and eastern parts of the country.

The challenge for Trump would be in reconciling his Saudi alliance with the fact that the Saudi-backed Hadi government is no longer in a position to rule. Backing the aimless Saudi operation—whether verbally or militarily—will only make Iranian interests in the country more deeply entrenched, and the conflict unending. If Trump wants to get rid of militants in Yemen, he’s going to have to find a way to bring the Middle East’s Cold War rivals to agree on a government.

Mohamed Zeeshan is a scholar of international affairs at Columbia University and online editor of the Columbia Journal of International Affairs. He has written for The Diplomat, India Today and HuffPost India.

Image: Villagers scour rubble for belongings scattered during the bombing of Hajar Aukaish, Yemen, in April 2015. Wikimedia Commons/Voice of America

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