Briefing Paper

Ginny Hill and Gerd Nonneman
  • Yemen's power structures are under great strain as the political elite struggles to adapt to nationwide grassroots demands for a more legitimate, responsive and inclusive government.

  • Dramatic political change in Yemen could lead to violent upheaval and a humanitarian crisis, against the backdrop of the country's deteriorating economic and security conditions. It might also result in a new, more legitimate political configuration.

  • In 2010, Western governments initiated a partnership with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to address the security risks posed by the situation in Yemen. This was based on the recognition that these states have significant financial resources, strong cultural ties to Yemen and important connections within its informal power networks.

  • Ambivalence and limited bureaucratic capacity initially constrained the Gulf states' potential to respond strategically to instability in Yemen. However, growing domestic opposition to Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, coupled with his diminishing international support, triggered a collective GCC response in 2011 aimed at mediating a political transition.

  • Saudi Arabia maintains extensive transnational patronage networks in Yemen. Many Yemenis believe it is trying to influence the outcome of political change and that succession dynamics within the Saudi royal family are affecting the calculations of Yemeni political actors.

  • The 'Arab Spring' has generated reformist pressures and divergent regime responses within the Gulf monarchies themselves. This increases the complexity of the policy landscape regarding Yemen.

Yemen Forum