Press Release

RELEASE: The Last Best Chance to Save Yemen

By Ken Gude, Ken Sofer | June 10, 2011

Download the full brief (pdf)

Washington, D.C.—Yemeni President Ali Adbullah Saleh’s forced departure to Saudi Arabia to receive urgent medical care provides the United States and its allies with an unexpected opportunity to end the multisided fighting, and the Center for American Progress has released “The Last Best Chance to Save Yemen,” recommending that the United States utilize a package of incentives and punitive actions to head off violence and improve conditions within Yemen.

Even though Saleh is out of the country, his family and supporters remain in control of what is left of his government and Saleh has pledged to return in a matter of days. The window will soon close on preventing an all-out civil war in a country that poses the most direct concerns to the security of the United States and the region. The fighting between powerful tribes and the remaining elements of President Saleh’s government have created an opening for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to gain territory and safe areas to train and plan attacks.

Yemen’s geographic location near major shipping lanes and close to Somalia also raises the potential for a new base of operations for pirates should Yemen collapse entirely. Fighting in Yemen in 2010 unrelated to the current crisis briefly crossed the Saudi border and any new conflict poses significant risks for regional stability.

The United States must move beyond mere calls for Saleh to relinquish power and put in place a package of punitive actions and incentives that should include:

  • Urging all parties to abide by the cease-fire while Saleh is out of the country and pressing Saudi Arabia to delay or prevent him from returning to Yemen
  • Proposing a revised transition plan based on Gulf Cooperation Council framework but transferring authority over security services away from the Saleh family and maintaining right of peaceful protest
  • Suspending military assistance and weapons transfers while the Yemeni government shoots its own people
  • Imposing targeted travel, financial, and other economic sanctions on Saleh, his family, and other senior figures that remain in his government in an effort to further isolate them
  • Capitalize on the lull in fighting to announce an immediate humanitarian relief effort to help the Yemeni people, who were already suffering from a dire humanitarian situation before the recent crisis has accelerated Yemen’s economic spiral
  • Announcing a package of economic and development assistance for a post-Saleh Yemen

The United States should be under no illusions that these or other actions would magically end the current crisis. However, general frustration and limited capacity to bring about a complete solution is no excuse to stop pushing the parties towards a resolution, and importantly, to help shape the post-Saleh Yemen and the standing of the United States with Yemenis.

Download the full brief (pdf)

To speak with Ken Gude on the situation in Yemen and the U.S. response, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202-481-8181 or [email protected].