On Christmas Day 2009, Nigerian citizen Umar Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a plane en route from the Netherlands to Detroit, Michigan, with a bomb concealed in his underpants; the attack was thwarted by passengers and crew on the plane.
Shortly afterward, it was discovered that Abdulmutallab had recently met in Yemen with leaders of the Al Qaeda terrorist group.
Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East; its economy has been decimated by decades of civil war and depends on dwindling oil exports.
Journalist Abigail Hauslohner describes Yemen for Time as a troubled nation that is "apparently on the verge of becoming the world's next failed state and a regional base for al-Qaeda."
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh faces two insurgencies—a rebellion in the north and a separatist movement in the south. Prior to 1990, the northern and southern regions of Yemen were separate countries.
The Soviet Union's support for the PDRS led to years of tense relations with the YAR, which had close ties to the U.S. Indeed, the struggle between Yemen's north and south became a proxy war for the U.S. and the Soviet Union; such conflicts were common during the Cold War —an ideological conflict between the two superpowers that lasted throughout most of the second half of the 20th century.
After decades of fighting, Yemen's northern and southern regions unified in 1990 under Saleh.
The Yemeni government also faces a rebellion from Islamic Shiite rebels, known as the Houthis, in the nation's northwest.
How big of a threat is Al Qaeda in Yemen? What consequences might result from the group having free rein in the country?
Frederick Kagan and Christopher Harnisch of the conservative think tanks the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, respectively, write for the Wall Street Journal that Saleh is "the only partner we have in Yemen. If we want him to take our side in the fight against al Qaeda, we have to take his side in the fight against the Houthis."
Should the U.S. assist the Yemeni government of President Saleh against insurgent forces? Why would such a move be wise or unwise?
Kagan, Frederick, and Christopher Harnisch. "How to Apply 'Smart Power' in Yemen." Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2010, online.wsj.com.
"Why It's Wrong to Rule Out Nation-Building in Yemen." Washington Post, January 10, 2010, www.washingtonpost.com.
Worth, Robert. "Violence in Yemen Shows Growing Power of Insurgency." New York Times, May 5, 2009, www.nytimes.com.