U.S. Policy in Yemen

Janet Sanderson
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
Washington, DC
July 19, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Chairman:

Chairman Casey, Ranking Member Risch, distinguished members of the committee, let me first join with my colleagues to thank you for inviting us to appear before you today. We appreciate the committee's abiding interest in and attention to our nation's priorities and goals in the region.

We are pleased to present the committee with an overview of the administration's policy and our relationship with Yemen.
As you rightly know, Mr. Chairman, civil unrest in the Middle East and North Africa in the past six months has focused attention on governance across the region.

Yemen is, indeed, confronting a myriad of political, economic, social, security and governance challenges, and the current political crisis has exacerbated systemic issues such as unemployment, a rapidly growing population, weak state institutions, declining government revenues, growing natural resource scarcity, and of course, violent extremism.

Consistent with U.S. national interests, we have adopted a two-pronged strategy for Yemen: helping the government confront the immediate security threat represented by Al Qaida, and mitigating serious political, economic and governance issues that the country faces over the long terms, the drivers of instability.

The United States continues its regular engagement with the government, including with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who's currently, as you know, recovering in Saudi Arabia from his injuries following a June 3rd attack on his compound; the acting president, Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansur al-Hadi; the opposition; civil society activists and others interested in Yemen's future.

We strongly support the Gulf Cooperation Council's initiative which we believe would lead to a peaceful and orderly political transition. The GCC initiative signed by both the ruling General People's Congress Party and the opposition coalition Joint Meeting Parties. Only President Saleh is blocking the agreement moving forward and we continue to call on him to sign the initiative.

The situation on the ground remains extremely fluid, but the solution will come and must come from the Yemeni people, with the assistance and support of their international partners, namely the GCC and Saudi Arabia. Conditions in Yemen continue to deteriorate under the pressure of growing protests and increasing divisions throughout the country. Widespread inflation, including rising commodity prices, decreasing liquidity in the threat of a food shortage this summer foreshadow an economic crisis in the coming months.

While most protests in Yemen have been peaceful over the last couple of months, there have been violent clashes between pro- and anti-government demonstrators and between protesters and government security forces and irregular elements using force to break up demonstrations. The United States has strongly urged the Yemeni government to investigate and prosecute all acts of violence against protesters.

Ultimately, Mr. Chairman, the goal of the U.S. and international efforts is a stable, secure, prosperous and effectively governed Yemen. This is an ambitious, long-term goal that demands the deep and ongoing coordination with the Yemeni government and the international partners. We will be able to more effectively engage in Yemen once the Yemeni government initiates the political transition and identifies its way forward.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting us to testify before your committee today, and thank you so much on behalf of Ambassador Feierstein and his colleagues at … Sana’a for your very kind words. They certainly deserve it. My colleagues and I are very happy now to take your questions. Thank you.