IF the Iraq and Afghanistan imbroglios have served any positive purpose it will be as a warning to President Obama to think long. hard and deep about starting any comparable involvement in Yemen, regardless of the temptations to do so and the urging of those who have hardly thought at all about the likely consequences. Currently Yemen provides a text book example of a failed state. Its president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has survived in office for thirty years by cleverly playing off opposition factions against each other.
The government's writ does not run far beyond the capital, Sanaa, there are minor civil wars taking place in both the North and South of the country and, most worrying perhaps, it is now clear that Al-Qaeda has established itself in the country. All this would be bad enough but Yemen is on the brink of an economic meltdown as its oil reserves, the country's only significant resource, are running out. Inevitably, a country is such parlous situation attracts trouble-makers of all kinds and the Yemen is no exception. It is easier to see what is wrong than to suggest how it can be put right. However, it is very likely that any precipitate action by the West would make matters worse, in the whole region as well as in Yemen itself, and render long-term satisfactory outcomes in Afghanistan and Iraq even more difficult.