Gulf states are at risk from terror group if Yemen falls, says Ghanem Nuseibeh
The possible fall of Yemen’s government after months of bloody clashes between protesters and security forces would see the threat of Al Qaeda spill out into the Gulf, an analyst has warned.
“Their area of operation will not be restricted or limited to Yemen and they would happily operate in the rest of the Gulf, whether it is Saudi or other states,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh, head of GCC and Yemen at think tank Political Capital Policy. “Yemen will no longer contain them.”
President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Monday that Yemen will fall into civil war if calls by protesters, lawmakers and military offices for him to end his 32-year rule are successful.
“Yemen is a time bomb,” Saleh said in an interview with Al Arabiya television. “Everyone will side with his tribe, and we will then end up with a destructive civil war.”
The county has been a key ally in US-led attempts to contain terrorist group Al Qaeda (AQAP), which has utilised the Arab state as a training ground. The Yemen arm of the group was responsible for sending two parcel bombs to US synagogues in October and the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane in December.
Dubai police last week foiled an attempt to smuggle 16,000 pistols from Turkey to Yemen, a sign that two months of anti-government protests are set to escalate, Nuseibeh said.
“Although the Dubai authorities managed to intercept one shipment, we cannot tell how many shipments successfully reached Yemen and what they carried. This all indicates an ever speedier deterioration of the security situation in Yemen, and AQAP stands to gain the most, threatening the whole of the Arabian Peninsula,” he said.
The possible fall of Saleh would create fertile ground for Al Qaeda to expand its operations, specifically if the government lost control of key areas.
“[Al Qaeda] has this breathing space [that] the conflict is creating for them,” Nuseibeh said.
Yemen’s protesters, inspired by revolutions that toppled the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, have gained momentum since March 18 when police and snipers killed 46 protesters in the worst violence since the unrest began two months ago.
Saleh said he is willing to step down “respectably” and a transfer of power should come peacefully and not through mayhem.
“I have been in power for 32 years and I want to transfer it to people peacefully, not with chaos,” Saleh told Al- Arabiya. “Protesters are the minority and they don’t consist of two percent of the people.”