Rescuing Yemen

LONDON – Yemen has suddenly joined Afghanistan and Pakistan as a risk to global security. Indeed, it is increasingly seen as a nascent failed state and potential replacement host for Al Qaeda.

The attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day by a young Nigerian man trained by Al Qaeda in Yemen appeared to open the West’s eyes to the country’s problems. Following that failed attack, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown jointly pushed a conference in London to propose solutions for the previously overlooked crises in Yemen.

But if the conference focuses too narrowly on Al Qaeda’s presence in Yemen, it will do more harm than good. Instead, the conference must aim to address broader issues of political and social stability within Yemen.

Al Qaeda is not the primary danger to Yemen’s security and stability, but Yemen’s geography and political problems are well suited to its activities. A particularly attractive feature is the prevalence of the severe Wahhabi religious dogma, which was exported to Yemen by Saudi Arabia but now provides fertile ground for recruiting disaffected young Yemeni men for assaults on Saudi Arabia.