The Crisis in Yemen: What You Need to Know

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from The New York Times,

Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, is embroiled in a struggle for power that has serious implications for the region and the security of the United States. The expanding conflict took an ominous step on Wednesday when Saudi Arabia said it launched airstrikes against Houthi fighters who have tightened their grip on Yemen.

Here are some concerns raised by the crisis in Yemen.

A Blow to U.S. Counterterrorism Operations

Until the growing chaos forced the evacuation of 125 United States Special Operations advisers last week, Yemen served as a partner in American counterterrorism operations, mainly against Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.

Internal Chaos Verging on Civil War

Yemen’s security situation has drastically deteriorated since Shiite fighters from northern Yemen known as Houthis seized the capital, Sana, in January. For years until 2010, the Houthis had waged an insurgency against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who agreed to step down in 2011 in the wake of popular protests inspired by the Arab Spring. But less than four years later, the Houthis are now collaborating with security forces still loyal to Mr. Saleh, a reflection of the shifting alliances at work in Yemen.

Fears of a Wider Conflict

The leaders of Saudi Arabia, which shares a border with Yemen, are especially worried by the Houthis because they are backed by Iran.

An Opening for Extremists

American officials fear that the emerging security vacuum could attract even more jihadists to lawless regions of Yemen. Last week a group calling itself an affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for bombing Shiite mosques, increasing fears that it will try to ignite the sectarian tensions already roiling Yemen. The examples of Syria, Iraq and Libya have shown how extremists can take advantage of chaos.

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