Libya and Yemen until recently were led by the longest-ruling dictators in the Arab world. Muammar Qadhafi’s death marks the official end of his 42-year rule in Libya. While the overthrow of his regime enables Libya to embark on the challenging path to democratic governance, Yemen’s president, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, can’t take a hint.
Libya. According to the Transitional National Council (TNC), which now controls Libya, an inclusive transitional government will be formed when all of Libya is liberated. With Qadhafi’s death and the civil war winding down, that time is now. While the TNC has won strong international support and enjoys widespread domestic political legitimacy, it will require substantial support to consolidate its authority in chaotic areas, restore the rule of law, and prepare for an unfettered transition to democracy.
According to The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano, “Libya‘s new government has a long to-do list. It can only be hoped that disarmament and reintegration goes quickly and the new government focuses on civil society, economic growth, and keeping out extremist influences.”
To achieve this, the TNC should continue to work with the United States in restoring the rule of law and prepare the way for an orderly transition to a new representative government. Furthermore, the war has left Libya’s population divided according to political, tribal, and local factions. The U.S. should work with the TNC to ensure that Islamist extremists seeking to hijack the democratic process are not successful.
Libya’s economy must also be addressed. In 2010, Libya produced 1.8 million barrels of oil a day, and the oil industry produced 95 percent of the country’s export earnings. Today, oil production is at a near standstill, with only 60,000 barrels a day being produced.
The TNC will have the resources to rebuild the country, but it needs help repairing Libya’s once-vibrant oil industry. The U.S. should assist in restoring full oil production by helping Libyans to repair the damaged oil infrastructure and encouraging oil companies to return to the country.
Where fighting ends, government reconstruction begins. The TNC must quickly establish an interim government that will make way for Libya’s first free and fair elections. The U.S. should be prepared to assist Libya on its journey to democratic transformation.
Yemen. Yemen is on the brink of civil war. The capital city of Sana’a is divided amongst opposition tribesmen, members of the First Armored Division led by General Ali Moshen (who defected from the regime), and loyalists of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh has mobilized his tribal connections and intricate patronage network to wage violent attacks against the opposition movement. While tribal tensions are often the source of Yemen’s instability, Saleh has attempted to exploit tribal tensions and undermine the pro-democracy movement by playing tribes off against each other.
While recovering in Saudi Arabia from an assassination attempt last June, Saleh was expected to sign an agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to transfer presidential power to Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi. However, as he’s done repeatedly, Saleh refused to relinquish power and instead returned to Sana’a.
Upon his return, the opposition movement, which lost momentum during Saleh’s absence, revived its demonstrations. In an attempt to appease protestors, Saleh promised elections and a peaceful transfer of power. However, despite these proclamations, his security forces once again opened fire on protestors, killing dozens.
This week, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is expected to vote on a resolution (crafted by the GCC) that calls on Saleh to resign. Saleh has adamantly defended his regime’s tactics, shifting responsibility to demonstrators for their alleged violent attacks on government forces. Last week, the regime stated that it holds little regard for the UNSC resolution and requested the UNSC back a “political solution.” However, past attempts to remove Saleh via “political solutions” have proven unsuccessful.
Yemen’s instability has major security implications for the United States and the region. Yemen’s government has been a useful partner in tackling al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The targeted killing one of AQAP’s leaders, Anwar al-Awlaki, last month was a long-term project, done with the assistance with of Yemen’s military. However, as the country disintegrates further into chaos, the growing political power vacuum is being filled by Islamist extremists.
Last month, in an attempt to carve out strategic areas of influence, Ansar al Sharia, an al-Qaeda-linked group, occupied Zinjibar, the capital city of Abayan province. Zinjibar is located east of the Bab al-Mandab strait, through which 3 million barrels of oil day is exported. Yemen’s security services have yet to retake Zinjibar, imperiling Yemen’s security and potentially oil exports through the strait.