The Current

Fears grow over Yemen teetering on brink of civil war

It was midday on Friday. Whoever sent the suicide bombers knew the mosques in Sanaa would be full of worshippers. That attack in the Yemeni capital underlined what the people who live there already know - their country is teetering on the edge of something very bad. Is Yemen heading into civil war?
People carry the injured out of a mosque which was attacked by a suicide bomber in Sanaa March 20, 2015. The mosque is known to be used mainly by supporters of the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi group which has seized control of the government. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

"I urge all sides in this time of rising tensions and inflammatory rhetoric to appreciate the gravity of the situation and to deescalate by exercising maximum restraint, ceasing all hostilities and refraining from provocation. Unless a solution can be found in the coming days, the country will slide into further violent conflict and fragmentation."  - Jamal Benomar, U.N.'s special advisor on Yemen

Yemen, on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, was once held up as one of the Arab Spring's great hopes ...But today it's teetering on the edge of all-out civil war. The rebels, known as the Houthi's, have taken the capital, Sanaa, and reduced the country's president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to holing up in a smaller city on the southern coast, Aden.

As those two sides dig in for more battle, many see the hands of Iran and Saudi Arabia — two regional rivals — working behind the scenes to stoke the flames. Into this cauldron arrived ghastly suicide attacks Friday, at two packed Shia mosques in the capital, killing at least 137 people. ISIS has claimed responsibility.

And then there's al Qaeda, lurking in the wings, ready to capitalize on the chaos. Adding to the sense of Yemen's free fall on Sunday, after already withdrawing its diplomatic corps, the United States pulled out its remaining personnel, including special forces.

To help shed some light on how Yemen got to this point, and if it's even possible to pull it back from the brink, we were joined by three guests: 

Adam Baron is a Visiting Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and he was in London, England.

Barbara Bodine is a former US Ambassador to Yemen. She's now the Director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. She was in Washington.

Abdul Ghani Iryani is a Yemeni political analyst and the founder of the Democratic Awakening Movement, a civil-society organization trying to bridge sectarian divides in Yemen. He was in Sanaa. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino and Gord Westmacott. 


♦ Yemen mosque bombings 'could only be done by the enemies of life' – president - The Guardian

♦ Rebels Seize Key Parts of Yemen's Third-Largest City, Taiz - The New York Times