Joe Lieberman and Arlen Specter are calling for a preemptive strike on Yemen in response to the attempted detonation of an explosive device on a U.S. bound jet on December 25th. The corporate media is chasing right along "debating" whether we should be going after Yemen. The reality is that WE ALREADY ARE.
We have been attacking Yemen both directly and indirectly. Most notably, we have been attacking indirectly via the Saudis, and directly with our own drone operations. The United States has also been providing support to the Yemeni government to fight alleged terrorists.
According to a NY Times report on December 18, 2009:
The United States provided firepower, intelligence and other support to the government of Yemen as it carried out raids this week to strike at suspected hide-outs of Al Qaeda within its borders, according to officials familiar with the operations.
The officials said that the American support was approved by President Obama and came at the request of the Yemeni government.
It is important to know that more than al Qaeda is happening inside of Yemen.
Internally, southern Yemen has been trying to secede. Southern Yemen is the location of what oil Yemen has, and primary sea access. However, the unification with northern Yemen has not brought an improvement in life for the south. Meanwhile, the primary ethnic group - Houthi - in the north have also been engaged in active fighting that has both sectarian and historical roots. The short story is that Yemen is one of the poorest nations in the world and internal conflicts are ripping it apart.
While the U.S. wants the Yemeni government to focus its efforts on al Qaeda, it is more concerned with its own internal struggles. Its poverty, and the conflicts, have made it a primary area for a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran - which tangentially means the United States and Iran. This is particularly true given the oil-arms relationship between the Saudis and the United States.
However, undiscussed but central to Yemen's internal problems is not oil, or even poverty, but lack of another resource - water:
Yemen is running out of water - fast.
But the water crisis and the rise of militancy are not unrelated perils said Abdulrahman Al Eryani, Yemen's minister of Water and Environment, in an interview. Much of the country's rising militancy, he argues, is a conflict over resources.
"They manifest themselves in very different ways: tribal conflicts, sectarian conflicts, political conflicts. Really they are all about sharing and participating in the resources of the country, either oil, or water and land," said Minister Eryani. "Some researchers from Sanaa University had very alarming figures. They said that between 70-80 percent of all rural conflicts in Yemen are related to water."
A big part of the water problem is tied to the cultivation of one plant - qat. Yemen is in a drought (dare we say an impact of global warming?). However, the only money making crop is qat - a mildly narcotic plant which is chewed (endlessly) by the Yemeni population. This is similar to the farmers in Afghanistan focusing on their (narcotic) cash crop - poppies. However, the lack of water, and water deliveries, across Yemen have led to water wars, illegal wells (draining the aquifers), and conflicts which frame themselves through various lenses.
Poverty, hardship, and failed government coordination (failed state) make Yemen a primary recruiting area for all comers who can demonstrably ease the hardship - namely Iran, sectarian interests, and al Qaeda. And the U.S. takes the now familiar militaristic path to decimate the reputed enemy. Silly us as al Qaeda (and other forces of "insurgency") are providing goods and money to the people. This is exactly the same (successful) strategy of the Iraq insurgency, and the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. No number of bombs or high tech (hackable) drones, or arms sales is going to "win" such a conflict. They make more desperation - not less - and drive more people into the conflict de jure.