While it appears tensions in Yemen have lessened since President Ali Abdullah Saleh was nearly killed in an attack on his presidential compound on June 3, the United States cannot take this relative quiet for granted. Having already lost regional partners this year - notably Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon -- the loss of a working relationship with Yemen would be a severe blow to regional security and to American interests.
Countering AQAP in Yemen is an obvious goal of the Obama administration, which has made the war against Al-Qaeda a top priority. Unlike the Houthi rebellion, however, Saleh does not view AQAP as a major threat. If anything, the presence of AQAP - one of the most successful branches of the Al-Qaeda franchise - within Yemen’s borders gives Saleh leverage over Washington. At this time, America’s ability to conduct or assist operations against Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in Yemen depends largely on Washington’s support for President Saleh’s regime and its principal security needs.
-This commentary was published in The Yemen Times on 29/08/2011
-Zach Paikin is a research associate at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs