Jess east. AQAP has claimed responsibility for
Jess HeplerFailed States and the Yemen CrisisFailed states are an important national security threat to the United States because they can be a destabilizing force in the Middle East thus threatening oil stability, provide havens for terrorist groups, and incite interstate conflict. Specifically, Yemen exemplifies the various risks that failed states can pose to U.S. national security. The crisis in Yemen threatens oil stability in the Arabian Peninsula, allows terrorists groups thrive, and allows Iran to partake in threatening actions against the U.S. and its allies. Failed states allow extremist groups locations in which to operate and expand their influence throughout the rest of the world. For example, the most active branch of Al-Queda outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, Al-Queda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), operates within Yemen. Though operating outside the US, AQAP is a threat to U.S. national security and contributes to instability in the Middle East which threatens U.S. economic interests. AQAP has exploited the instability in Yemen to form strongholds in the country’s south and east. AQAP has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in Yemen, in which hundreds of people have been killed, as well as a number of sophisticated airline bomb plots targeting the U.S. that were narrowly prevented. Therefore, failed states threaten U.S. national security because the instability within such nations permits extremist groups such as AQAP to gain territory and become a much bigger threat to U.S. interests and national security.Additionally, instability caused by failed states can threaten U.S. economic interests in the Middle East by interrupting the oil supply. Yemen is located at the convergence point of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, overlooking the Bab el Mandab Strait which is an important trade route, especially for oil. Every day about 4.7 million barrels of oil are transported through the strait, and disruptions in this route would restrict the flow of Persian Gulf oil to Europe and the western hemisphere and raise world oil prices. Due to the lack of functional government in Yemen, various groups are fighting for control of Yemen and threaten to disrupt U.S. access to oil transported through the strait, which includes the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Recent Houthi rebel attacks against U.S. and other ships off Yemen coast have raised concerns about security in the Red Sea. As Iranian influence grows in Yemen, Iran may attempt to expand its authority by escalating the potential threat to ships passing through the strait. Therefore, conflict in failed states can result in an interrupted oil supply which threatens U.S. oil interests abroad.Further, clashes within failed states can lead to the greater problem of interstate conflict, which threatens U.S. economic interests and allies. In Yemen, the Hadi government supported by an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia is currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi and Saleh-aligned rebels. This conflict is representative of the larger struggle of Iran attempting to undermine Saudi influence in the Middle East and increase its own. Iran’s actions in Yemen has led to the introduction of anti-ship weaponry that endangers oil shipment through the Bab al-Mandeb strait, which threatens to internationalize the conflict in Yemen. In the past, Iran has taken advantage of conflicts to introduce weapons to threaten its enemies, such as the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon in which Iran developed Hezbollah. Additionally, interstate conflict due to failed states can threaten the security of U.S. allies. Recently, the al Houthi-Saleh bloc launched a missile at U.S. ally Saudi Arabia after Saudi-supported Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in protest of Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon. Thus, the interstate conflict that arises due to failed states can threaten U.S. allies and oil interests.In the past, the U.S. policy of intervention in failed states has not been very successful. In Yemen, the U.S. has intervened to a certain extent, but has failed to restore stability to the country. The U.S. has focused on two main threats in Yemen: eradicating Al-Queda and ensuring that the Bab el Mandab Strait remains open to transport oil. In order to accomplish these goals, the U.S. has not backed the Saudi and Emirati efforts to fight the Houthi rebels in fear of escalating the conflict, but has offered support its allies in combating AQAP. In 2016, the U.S. joined forces with the Emiratis in a successful attempt to seize the port city of Mukalla. The U.S. then began to develop a plan to continue on this success, but the decision to support these plans was deferred to the incoming Trump administration. Going forward in evaluating the U.S. response to failed states, the risks of military action must be carefully weighed with the risks of not acting. U.S. intervention in Yemen has the potential to escalate tensions with Iran and further destabilize the Middle East. However, the successful operation in Mukalla suggests that military intervention has the potential to secure vital U.S. interests in the short term. Recapturing the port is only a temporary solution to a small portion of the conflict in Yemen. In order to restore lasting stability to Yemen and other failed states, the U.S. must use an international approach. In Yemen, the U.S. and its allies with commercial interests in the Arabian Peninsula should first condemn Iran’s actions and deter it from moving anti-ship missiles into Yemen. Then, the U.S. should use strategic military action to ensure the security of the port. In the future, U.S. response to failed states should only include military action in order to directly protect specific interests, such as protecting ports. Past U.S. attempts to restore order to failed states through military intervention and state building have failed and even escalated the conflict, such as in Afghanistan. In Yemen, as a long-term solution the U.S. should continue backing Saudi and Emirati efforts to combat extremist groups in the area, and continue to keep the port in friendly hands. Any attempts outside of these goals to influence the political situation in Yemen could be met with Iranian hostility, which is not a risk worth taking. This approach is partially liberalist because it recognizes the necessity of a multilateral approach. It is also realist because it recognizes that other nations will use failed states in the Middle East in an attempt to gain power. However, this policy directly contrasts with the neoconservative goal of setting up democracies and regime changes, because it acknowledges that U.S. intervention can often further destabilize the countries that it tries to stabilize and incite retaliation. Instead, the U.S. should use a multilateral approach to secure vital interests without directly engaging in regime changes in order to minimize the national security threats of terrorism, oil supply interruption, and interstate conflict posed by failed states.