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March 26, 2015

Yemen’s president flees country


The collapse of Yemen’s government has raised concerns about the possible effects of a power vacuum in the country and ripples throughout the world.

Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the pro-American president of Yemen, left the country by boat after rebels offered a bounty for his capture, local officials said. The rebels, called the Houthi, are members of Yemen’s Shiite minority. They now control Sana’a, the capital city.

The group has ties to Iran and received support from people loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted from office in 2011. Saleh is trying to regain power, according to Leslie Campbell, the Middle East and North Africa director at the National Democratic Institute.

But the fighting has also created a power vacuum that threatens to turn into a civil war, he said. Several different groups could make a play for dominance in the country, including al-Qaeda, which already operates in the country.

Al-Qaeda opposes the Houthi group and the Islamic State, who claimed responsibility for several attacks in the capital this month.

Yemen is located on the Bab al-Mandab, a strait that is strategically important for oil transportation. It also shares a border with Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s major oil producers, which has stationed troops along that border.

Yemen’s stability affects the security of nations beyond the Middle East, Campbell said. “The whole world has a stake in making sure it goes well and that it doesn’t become a sectarian war or a civil war. It’s not that yet, but it is teetering on the brink,” he said.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is the Middle East? What do you know about the region?
  2. Why is peace or stability important in the Middle East?
  3. Where is Yemen?
  4. What are some countries and waterways that border Yemen?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why would certain groups want to control Yemen?
  2. How could events in Yemen affect other countries in the region? What about countries outside the region?
  3. The Houthi group, which currently controls Yemen’s capital, has ties to Iran. What is the current relationship between Iran and other nations in the area? How could these events affect those relationships?
  4. How does the U.S. decide whether to intervene in another country? What are some of the options for diplomatic or military involvement?
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