Yemen and Afghanistan peace conference opens in London as US lead secret ops in Yemen; North and South Korea exchange fire; signs of recovery in Japanese economy; State of the Union priorities: spending freeze and education; and more
Top of the Agenda: World Leaders Meet on Yemen
The United States and twenty other countries are gathering (NYT) today at a conference in London to address Yemen's growing instability, as reports surface about heavy US involvement in Yemeni strikes against al-Qaeda. The conference's aim is to address the poverty, inequities, and domestic tensions that help breed radicalism in Yemen. But participants at the conference--which comes a month after the failed Christmas Day airplane bomb plot that highlighted Yemen's al-Qaeda problem--are likely to face social, political, and logistical constraints in expanding the fight against al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Some analysts and diplomats say a rush of aid and attention could worsen the system of patronage that fuels extremism in Yemen and that there is plenty of unspent aid money there already. The conference will also seek support from Yemen's immediate neighbors such as Saudi Arabia to open their labor markets and make future aid conditional on political and economic reforms.
Al-Qaeda may welcome (CSM) a big international commitment in Yemen, since it would open another front to a diffused Western antiterrorism effort.
The Washington Post reports that US military teams and intelligence are deeply involved in a secret joint operation with Yemeni troops, which has killed six of fifteen top leaders in a regional al-Qaeda affiliate in recent weeks. The far-reaching US role in Yemen could be politically challenging for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who must balance American support against backlash by local groups that resent US interference.
In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Marisa Porges says, "the attempted Christmas attack has inadvertently helped the United States on multiple national security fronts."
In this CFR Expert Brief, Stewart Patrick says the Christmas bomb attempt raised new concerns about "ungoverned spaces." But the term fails to address the real security concerns presented by nations like Yemen.
PACIFIC RIM: North-South Korea Relations
South Korea returned fire (Yonhap) after North Korea fired shells near the countries' disputed inter-Korean sea border, reportedly as part of an annual military drill.
Japan: Japanese exports in December grew (FT) 12.1 percent compared to a year ago, fueled by a 43 percent increase in exports to China. Analysts say the increase indicates that economic recovery led by exports to Asia is on track.