Yemen: In a Fragile State

The poorest nation in the Arab world struggles with high population growth, 40% unemployment and a persistent flow of refugees from Somalia. In the next decade, its 22 million citizens will compete for increasingly scarce water supplies, as aquifers are drilled, pumped and drained unsustainably.

This is a hybrid regime where modern Western-style institutions are grafted onto parallel, informal patronage networks. President Saleh's divide-and-rule strategy enables him to govern by proxy through tribal sheikhs, but dwindling oil reserves will severely limit the future capacity of the state. From the northern mountains, guerrilla fighters have mounted a four-year rebellion, bringing their recent incursions to the suburbs of the capital.

In July, the government declared an end to the war but thousands of displaced residents have yet to return home. In the south, complaints of discrimination revive the fault-lines underpinning the 1990 unification between the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen). And Yemen's regime has become a target of terrorism, from a new generation of al-Qaeda inspired Salafi jihadis who oppose President Saleh's co-operation with the United States. President Saleh has now survived three decades at the top.

He will be 70 at the time of the next election - in 2013 - when his country is expected to attempt a peaceful transition of power. Ginny Hill examines the growing social and political pressures in this strategic Arabian Peninsula state that borders Saudi Arabia and controls the Bab al-Mandab strait, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Yemen: the Weakest Link

The executive order signed by President Barack Obama on 22 January 2009 commits the United States to shutting the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay within a year. It is a clear victory for civil-rights advocates - but one that throws into sharp relief the persistent dangers posed by weak and failing states, and the inadequacy of United States policy towards them.

“Abu Jandal, In the name of Jihad…”

Nasser al Bahri, 36 years old, calmly disclaims all names given to him: "terrorist" by the United States, "infidel" by Islamists, embarrassing persona for Yemeni authorities, and role model for the younger generation… "So which one would you like to talk to?" the Yemeni asks. The former bodyguard of Osama Bin Laden has come to terms with the entirety of his experiences, but taken one by one in the context of the path he's taken and the apprenticeship he's received.

Obama's Next Arab Headache

Barack Obama's foreign-policy advisers must be hoping that Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is ready to pull a rabbit out of his mashadda. If Obama is determined to close Guantanamo when he takes office, he'll have to strike a deal with Saleh over repatriation conditions for dozens of Yemeni men who are currently stuck in diplomatic limbo.

Meet Ginny Hill

Ginny Hill is a British freelance journalist, writing and broadcasting on Yemen. She has reported for the BBC and NPR. Her articles have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph and Jane's Islamic Affairs Analysis.