Ghanem Nuseibeh, Senior Analyst at Political Capital talks about Yemen. Nuseibeh believes that Yemen will always face economic problems due to its political situation.
Last week, Yemen Celebrated 19 years of reunification of North and South Yemen; 19 years has not been trouble free. Is Yemen always going to have political issues because of its tribal system?
Ghanem Nuseibeh: In 1990, North and South Yemen united to form one country. The discussions between the North and the South have been going on for almost 30 years. North and South have been talking about reunifying the country, but it did not work out until 1990. They have two totally different political systems; North has been traditionally a tribal area with an Imam running the country. South was a British protectorate and later became a socialist country.
Lets speak about the country’s relationship with the GCC. Obviously Yemen is an extremely poor country and the GCC thinks that Yemen should get closer to the GCC…?
GN: You are totally right. Oil forms 75 percent of exports in Yemen, and with Yemen running out of oil this can be a huge economic problem. The interests are more for Yemen than the GCC, but with increasing political and economic problems, it is becoming more of GCC’s interest to ensure that Yemen remains a stable country. Yemen shares a large cross border with Saudi Arabia and there have been talks about Al-Qaeda setting in the north of the country not far from the Saudi border and they can easily infiltrate the border and cause a lot of problems for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf. So the Gulf has a lot of interests in ensuring that Yemen remains a stable and coherent society. The GCC have reaffirmed their interest to maintain a united Yemen and the European Union, a few days ago, encouraged the Gulf to ensure that they continue leading the development efforts in Yemen and to ensure that it remains a united country. Whether Yemen would join the GCC, this is another question. I think that there are a lot of difficulties. Yemen would become the most populated country in the GCC, if it joins.
You mentioned that the benefits of Yemen are greater than those of the GCC. If Yemen does join, this will of course make the country lose revenues from tariffs on imports … Do you actually see benefits for Yemen?
GN: Yemen would benefit more from GCC becasue there can be an inflow of money coming from the Gulf in terms of developing roads and infrastructure much like the accession stages for the EU for the eastern European Countries. There can be lots of money being put in. This can have greater operation in the security front.
Allowing Yemen into GCC is like allowing Turkey into Europe, because of being mostly on the Asian continent rather than the European, is it really in the political interest of GCC to have Yemen as a member and would adding stability to Yemen be the reason?
GN: I think stability would be the major factor; at least, hastening the cooperation between the GCC and Yemen. There is a lot of talk about it. It is in the interest of both parties to keep talking about that because it is an anchor that they need to work towards and I think this is what would happen between the GCC and Yemen. With increasing security difficulties in Yemen, the GCC has become more and more interested in that, mainly because of GCC interests and because of pressure from the European Union and the United States under the rise of piracy. The international community is putting a lot of pressure on greater cooperation between the GCC and Yemen.
The main threat to the government is the sort of conflict with Houthis near the Saudi border in Sa’ada and where the government accuses Iran of supporting the Shiite insurgency there, a growing threat from Al-Qaeda in the north near the Saudi border and the piracy threat, but also the worsening situation in the former South Yemen which increases the risk of internal separation, divorce between South and North once again, why is this?
GN: There has been a lot of mistrust towards the North, which is seen as the controlling party since the unification. A lot of Southern Yemenis are complaining that they have not been truly integrated into the system and there are very few Southern Yemenis in the armed forces and have government jobs, so they have become more vocal about it because, for them, it feels like they have been occupied by the North and it has just reached a point, a breaking point, where they think that they have got to do something about it. They have been calling for greater integration. Obviously with the weakening position of the government, the increasing Al-Qaeda threats and an increased threat of a sixth war in the north with Houthis – in Sa’ada region, it was an easy target for South Yemen activists to reignite the situation and perhaps reach the breaking point with former officials from South Yemen like Ali Salem Al-Beidh calling for separation.