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Will the GCC embrace Yemen? Part I

Will the GCC embrace Yemen? Part I

Yemen's political and home security issues have isolated the nation in the past; but GCC nations are beginning to invite Yemen into their political fold. Part I

July 16, 2009 1:03 by

The remote, mountainous stretch of desert between Yemen and Saudi Arabia seems an unlikely place for a political tug-of-war. But for years now, the Saudi government has been trying, in fits and starts, to fortify the 1,300 kilometers of barren land where the two countries meet.

In 2003, Riyadh began building a 10-foot high security barrier there, as part of a drive to crack down on terrorist attacks at home (after Saudi authorities traced explosives from recent attacks back to its southern neighbor).

But Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh argued the fence violated a three-year-old border agreement, so construction stopped. When building resumed briefly in 2008, it reportedly sparked a standoff between Yemeni border guards and Saudi troops.

The border-security issue is still far from settled. Last month, Riyadh was said to be in talks with the German-based aerospace and defense company EADS about a multibillion-dollar plan to make its southern boundary less porous. Details of the plan remain scarce, but Saudi Arabia has clearly become very worried about security threats arising from the tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

“Border security on the Yemeni frontier is one of the kingdom’s greatest concerns,” says Christopher Boucek, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

He believes that Yemen has become infamous in the region, “as a pathway for bad things; if it’s guns, if it’s drugs, if it’s illegal migration, if it’s cash or bombs – everything.”

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