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Media reflects on Yemen crisis

Yemeni soldier standing guard in old Sanaa
The security situation in Yemen is causing concern in the region

The media in the Middle East have reacted with alarm to the growing security crisis in Yemen as the US and UK embassies in Sanaa remain closed due to fears of attack.

There was widespread concern that the US might use the presence of al-Qaeda elements in the country as a pretext for military intervention. Many commentators warned against a repetition of the "pre-emptive" action taken against Iraq and Afghanistan.

Several commentators called on Arab countries in the region to take an active role in resolving the situation, while voices in the Israeli press said that the situation demonstrated the need to combat the global reach of extremist Islam.

Is Yemen to be the next failed state?

Amid fears that the country might become a "failed state" to be exploited by terrorist organisations, Yemen's government-owned al-Thawrah urged the rest of the world not to give up on the nation. It was "deplorable", said the editorial, that people should compare Yemen to Somalia or Afghanistan.

Egypt's pro-government al-Jumhuriyah warned that the US, UK and "Western media" were trying to paint Yemen as a hotbed for terrorist activity "as an excuse to control the Arab and Islamic countries". Fearing that Yemen might suffer the same fate as other countries accused of harbouring al-Qaeda, the paper asked what Arab countries would do "to spare Yemen the destiny of Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan".

Calls for multilateral solution

The prospect of a co-ordinated international response to the situation in Yemen was welcomed elsewhere in the Middle East press. Writing in Egypt's semi-official al-Ahram, Ibrahim Nafi urged the international community to formulate a "clear plan to extend military and economic support" to Yemen in order to "empower it to destroy al-Qaeda".

The situation in the country is "far too complex to be confined to the unilateral vision of Washington", according to Saudi Arabia's privately-owned al-Watan, which noted the US' history of "unsuccessful pre-emptive wars". Any effective response to the threat would require the US to pursue a "policy of partnership and understanding with the international community".

The Arab countries must act as a "safety valve" in dealing with the situation in Yemen, according to the editorial in the United Arab Emirates' al-Bayan. There was a risk that Yemen could become an "arena for internal, regional and international confrontations" if its Arab neighbours did not adopt an effective stance in dealing with the situation.

Writing in Iran's Arabic-language al-Vefagh, Ali al-Musavi asked "has the Yemeni crisis entered the phase of internationalisation?" Noting that the UK will "seek in the coming days the support of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states", the commentator urged Yemen to reconcile its internal divisions and reassert its national unity.

UK, US seeking to "protect regional interests"

The US and UK plan to "transform Yemen into a new US-UK military base in the Gulf of Aden to safeguard US-Western interests in the region", according to the state-run Iranian Arabic-language television channel al-Alam. London's involvement was based on a need to protect its "economic future", said the report, as the Somali Islamist al-Shabab militia plans to support Al-Qaeda in targeting Western interests in the region.

A separate report on al-Alam suggested that there was a familiar pattern to the events unfolding in Yemen. There is a "recipe" for US and Western intervention in Islamic countries demonstrated by "the invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 [and] the claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq". Now, noted the station, the US and British embassies "are closing their doors under the pretext of security threats". On the morning of 4 January the station carried the caption: "Terrorism... a new/old pretext for Western presence in the region".

US "beating the drums of war"

There was much hostility in the Syrian press towards the prospect of international intervention in Yemen's affairs. The editorial in Syria's al-Thawrah attacked the "embarrassment" of a mooted "internationalisation" of the response to the conflict. It was ironic, said the paper, that the US and UK embassies should be closed on the same day that the countries sought to convince the world of their commitment to resolving the situation through dialogue. Writing in the same paper, Husayn Saqr contended that a war in Yemen would "threaten, fragment and weaken the country on political, economic and social levels".

Rather than prop up a failing state, US intervention in Yemen could "lead to the whole of the Arab peninsula becoming a failed and unstable region", cautioned Abd-al-Bari Atwan in the independent, pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi. Iran's conservative daily Siyasat-e Ruz accused the West of "beating the drums of war in Yemen".

The link between Yemen and the plot to blow up a transatlantic airliner merely provides the US with a convenient excuse to invade the country, wrote Dawud al-Shiryan in the London-based pan-Arab daily al-Hayat. The real target of a US invasion is the al-Huthi rebel movement, who "have created a security situation similar to that created by the Taleban in Afghanistan". The commentator warned that the US risks "repeating its foolish experience... in Yemeni territory".

Airline plot creates culture of fear

The failed attempt to blow up a US airliner brought the existence of al-Qaeda in Yemen to the attention of the American public, according to al-Jazeera TV. The plot had "frightened public opinion" in the US and taken the country "back to the era of ex-President Bush and the so-called War on Terror". The station's London correspondent wondered whether the UK's announcement of funding for a Yemeni counter-terrorism task-force would herald "strong British engagement in Yemen... as happened in Afghanistan and Iraq".

Israeli press calls for action

Two voices in the Israeli media urged Western leaders to adopt a consistently hardline policy towards Islamist extremism across the globe. The editorial in the English-language Jerusalem Post contended that the link to Yemen was further evidence that the "Islamist danger is not primarily rooted geographically but theologically and politically within the larger Muslim civilization". Amos Gilboa, in the centrist daily Ma'ariv, said that the failed plot was a "powerful reminder" of the reach of Islamic terrorism and urged President Obama to put the issue "high on the list of US priorities".

BBC Monitoringselects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.



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