Brian Downing

The most effective response to Yemen will likely come from regional powers with local knowledge, not distant ones without it. (Image)

Yemen is close to oil fields and shipping lanes. Iran is backing the Huthi rebellion that straddles the Saudi-Yemeni frontier, which is part of a Shia revival that threatens to destabilize the Middle East from Lebanon to Iraq, especially in oil-producing countries with oppressed Shia minorities. Islamist tribes in Yemen have kith and kin in Saudi Arabia who see the House of Saud and its Wahabbist clerics as western puppets and defilers of Islam. Prompt action, then, is seen vital to US national security

American idealists see Yemenis in desperate political and economic straits. Their economy is weak; oil revenue (never strong) is diminishing; the state is unable to deliver services; and drought hangs over the country. This will strengthen American humanitarian concerns and lead to different but no less important calls for intervention. Over the last century or more, geopolitics and humanitarianism have been the yin and yang of American interventionism in many parts of the world, from Cuba to Afghanistan. Yemen offers another dual justification.

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