Yemen and Stability in the Persian Gulf: Confronting the Threat from Within

  • May 01, 1996
  • Dr Stephen C Pelletiere

Yemen is one of the oldest societies in the Middle East. It sits athwart one of the world's most strategic waterways, and hence, throughout the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union contended for influence over it. With the end of the Cold War, Yemen's fortunes sank. Soviet support vanished, and the United States saw little need to cultivate Sana'a, particularly in light of Yemen's actions preceding the Gulf War. This study argues that Yemen should not be abandoned. It is part of the vital Persian Gulf system, which the United States has pledged to uphold. That whole system could be destabilized by conflicts that currently simmer on Yemen's borders. The study suggests ways in which Yemen could be assisted economically, and also how tensions between it and its most important neighbor, Saudi Arabia, could be attenuated. The study focuses attention on a problem of growing importance for U.S. policymakers--that of the so-called failed state. It rarely happens, the author declares, that states can be allowed to fail without undermining regional stability. And sometimes--as looms in the case with Yemen--the damage could be considerable.