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Friday, January 13, 2012

Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations

Jeremy M. Sharp
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

This report provides an overview and analysis of U.S.-Yemeni relations amidst evolving political change in Yemeni leadership, ongoing U.S. counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives at large in Yemen’s hinterlands, and international efforts to bolster the country’s stability despite an array of daunting socio-economic problems. Congress and U.S. policymakers may be concerned with prospects for stabilizing Yemen and establishing strong bilateral relations with future Yemeni leaders.

On November 23, 2011, after eleven months of protests, violence, and uncertainty, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen signed on to a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-brokered transition plan that will, if adhered to, lead to his formal resignation from the presidency in February 2012. However, as described below, the GCC plan provides the President and his family with immunity from prosecution and does not exclude them from future participation in the political process, possibly leaving the door open for continued Saleh family rule.

Many Administration officials have declared that AQAP, the Yemeni-based terrorist organization that has attempted on several occasions to attack the U.S. homeland, is the most lethal of the Al Qaeda affiliates. In recent years, the Administration and Congress have supported an increased U.S. commitment of resources to counterterrorism and stabilization efforts there. Many analysts assert that Yemen is becoming a failed state and safe haven for Al Qaeda operatives and as such should be considered an active theater for U.S. counterterrorism operations. Given Yemen’s contentious political climate and its myriad development challenges, most long-time Yemen watchers suggest that security problems emanating from Yemen may persist in spite of increased U.S. or international efforts to combat them.

For FY2012, the Obama Administration requested $120.16 million in State Department- Administered foreign aid to Yemen. Section 7041 of H.R. 2055, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, states that “None of the funds appropriated by this Act may be made available for the Armed Forces of Yemen if such forces are controlled by a foreign terrorist organization, as defined by section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The bill does not specify exact funding levels for Yemen. S. 1601, the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2012, would have provided (if passed) $115 million in total aid for Yemen which is $5.16 million below the President’s request.

Date of Report: December 2
8, 2011
Number of Pages:
Order Number: RL3
Price: $29.95

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