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Capsule Review

Yemen in Crisis: Autocracy, Neoliberalism, and the Disintegration of a State

In This Review

Yemen in Crisis: Autocracy, Neoliberalism and the Disintegration of a State
Yemen in Crisis: Autocracy, Neoliberalism and the Disintegration of a State
By Helen Lackner
Saqi, 2017, 342 pp. Purchase

This useful survey reflects Lackner’s 40 years of experience studying Yemen. She examines the country’s descent into chaos, from the golden period of the 1980s, when oil rents and out-migration were high, through the growing kleptocracy under President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the 1990s and early years of this century, to the civil war that began in 2015 and the resulting humanitarian catastrophe. Along the way, she analyzes Yemen’s tribes, its varieties of Islam, its economy, and the mismanagement of its water resources. She dismisses the claim that Iran is supporting the Houthis in the civil war, but she fails to provide sufficient evidence to support her skepticism. She also blames neoliberal policies promoted by the International Monetary Fund for Yemen’s growing inequality. Her account ends before the assassination of Saleh at the hands of the Houthis in 2017. Since then, no one of his Machiavellian caliber has emerged to replace him. Four years of a Saudi-led, U.S.-backed assault by pro-government forces have devastated Yemen’s infrastructure and people, but Lackner is clear that the Houthis do not offer an attractive alternative government and doubts that the current UN-led negotiations can bring a sustainable peace.

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