Sporadic fighting and unrest persist in Yemen although former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh bowed to protestors’ demands and ended his 32-year rule earlier this year. Is Yemen the forgotten child of the Arab Spring? Why doesn’t it garner as much interest in the international community as other nations? For answers, VOA’s Susan Yackee spoke with Robert Powell, a senior editor with the Economist Intelligence Unit in New York.
‘What happens in Yemen, stays in Yemen’
“What happens there typically doesn’t have a hugely significant impact on its neighbors. It doesn’t get the attention that, say, Syria does. In the case of Syria, it is surrounded by Iraq, Israel, and Lebanon, and what happens in Syria can very quickly spill over the borders, where what happens in Yemen tends to stay in Yemen. It’s rather isolated to that extent. In terms of driving policy forward with Yemen, at least on an international front, it is the Saudis who take the lead. So you do hear a lot less about Yemen in the West because it’s a Saudi interest. As you say, Yemen has found itself rather forgotten.”
“It is a deeply complicated country beset by all kinds of internal economic problems. Its most urgent issue is probably economic. It’s running out of oil, and it’s running out of water as well. At the moment, about a third of the Yemeni population is food insecure, meaning they’re not getting enough food. It’s important to avoid any sort of humanitarian crisis. That has to be the most urgent thing at the moment. Aid is probably the key priority.”
Balance of power
“Things are moving slowly forward. There are some issues with residual members of what you would call the former regime, although in reality the former ruling party still has a 50 percent presence in the Cabinet. There’s a bit of infighting between the opposition, who have now come into the government as well. It’s tricky because you have various egos, and neither side is used to sharing power. It’s understandable that there’s slow progress, but progress there is. In many ways, it’s going better than many had expected.”
Listen to more of Robert Powell’s insights on the situation in Yemen (3:46):
Susan Yackee is anchor and producer of VOA's audio podcast, Middle East Monitor. She has been a reporter in the Washington area for more than 35 years and regularly interviews newsmakers and analysts in DC and around the world. Susan works in television, radio and social media.