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Yemen Set to Implode as AQAP Steps Up Offensive Amid Struggle to Control Oil

Situation
Violent conflict engulfing Yemen moves to the capital city, Sana’a, with a 21 May suicide bombing that killed more than 90 people and wounded well over 200 others during a military parade rehearsal. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the parade bombing in apparent retaliation for the government’s attempt to recapture cities lost to al-Qaeda forces, particularly in Abyan province. In the meantime, attacks on the country’s main oil pipeline have generated at least $2.5 billion in oil revenue losses.

Dynamics
AQAP is stepping up attacks as the US and Saudi Arabia increase their influence in Yemen with military aid. The country is struggling with multiple conflicts, including a Shi’ite Houthi rebellion in the north, separatist activities in the south, an increasingly emboldened network of groups linked to al-AQAP, a divided military and a central government that is being undermined at every step and has no chance of exerting its authority in the near future. The real battle in Yemen is over natural resources, and controlling oil is the key to sustaining a regime through an expensive patronage system. AQAP, in this respect, is the least of Yemen’s problems and is being used as a proxy for a much larger struggle for power.

Prognosis
The situation will intensify in response to President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi’s move to fire two senior security officials, one of them a nephew of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Though Saleh was forced to step down last November, his family network has retained control of key security and military positions, and there are indications that his network has been bolstering al-Qaeda to undermine the Hadi-led government. Removing a Saleh network member from the security forces will have serious implications.

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com



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