By Nikhil Kumar
January 22, 2015

U.S. Fears That Chaos in Yemen Could Fuel al-Qaeda’s Resurgence

Shi’ite rebels stormed the presidential palace in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, on Jan. 20, leaving President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi clinging to power by a thread and threatening one of the U.S.’s most important alliances in the fight against al-Qaeda.

The militants, members of a group of Shi’ite Muslims known as the Houthis, first swept into the city in September, when they overran military forces and demanded to share power with Hadi’s government. When negotiations broke down in January, the Houthis decided to act. The day after the palace was seized, Hadi announced that he had reached a tentative agreement with the rebels to bring violence to a temporary halt. But it’s clear who is pulling the strings now in Sana’a.

The instability in Yemen’s capital is of great concern to the U.S. as it continues to fight al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen-based terrorist group that is among al-Qaeda’s most powerful affiliates. AQAP claimed responsibility for the Jan. 7 terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and has been linked to three failed attempts to take down U.S.-bound airplanes.

The U.S. has repeatedly struck at AQAP in Yemen with drones and has supplied and trained Yemeni forces to attack the group. Since 2011, Washington has provided Sana’a with almost $1 billion in economic and military aid. That strategy has been hailed as a success by President Barack Obama and was used as a blueprint for the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). But as the government has focused on the Houthi rebellion, AQAP has regained a foothold in southern Yemen. U.S. officials now fear that a prolonged power vacuum in Sana’a could give AQAP free rein to grow–and to pose new threats to the West.

The Houthis, though, are no friends of the Sunni al-Qaeda militants. The group, which some suspect is backed by the Shi’ite leadership of Iran, has clashed with al-Qaeda in Yemen and criticized Hadi’s failure to quash Sunni extremism. But it has no interest in an alliance with the U.S.; the motto on its flag reads death to israel, death to America.

Washington now faces a dilemma in Yemen. If a weakened Hadi stays in power, the U.S. must assess how it can leverage its influence against that of his new partners. But if he is removed, the U.S. will either have to compete with Iran for the support of a Houthi-dominated government or make do without a key counterterrorism ally in the region.

FRANCE

‘I really wanted to come here and share a hug with all of Paris.’

JOHN KERRY, U.S. Secretary of State, speaking in Paris on Jan. 16, a week after terrorist attacks there killed 17 people. Kerry met with French President François Hollande and laid wreaths at the sites of two of the attacks. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced on Jan. 21 that the country would hire 2,600 new counterterrorism officers by 2018.

DATA

WORDS ON THE WORLD

President Barack Obama has spent more time talking about foreign policy during his second-term State of the Union addresses than he did during his first-term ones. Here’s a breakdown:

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

10 minutes

2015

16 minutes

2014

10 minutes

2013

6 minutes

2012

7 minutes

2011

9 minutes

2010

SOURCE: WASHINGTON POST

Playing With Fire

KENYA Students at a Nairobi primary school protest plans by a developer to pave over their playground. The Jan. 19 demonstrations by about 100 students and activists drew global attention after images of armed officers using tear gas on children as young as 8 were published in the media, prompting some on social media to express their outrage via the hashtag #OccupyPlayGround. Kenyan officials condemned the use of the gas against children.

THE EXPLAINER

The Next Step in U.S.-India Relations

President Barack Obama will travel to New Delhi to attend the country’s Republic Day parade on Jan. 26 and hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the U.S. seeks to reaffirm its ties with the world’s largest democracy. Here are the key issues facing the two countries as their leaders meet:

[This article consists of 3 illustrations. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

Trade

With the IMF predicting that India will be the world’s fastest-growing large economy in 2016, the leaders will build on an agreement to boost bilateral trade from around $100 billion to $500 billion over several years by discussing how U.S. companies might more easily invest in India.

Climate change

Obama is likely to seek Modi’s backing for a new global climate-change treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol at an international summit in Paris that is set to begin in November. The approval of India, the world’s third largest carbon polluter, is seen as key to securing a new accord.

Defense

The U.S. recently replaced Russia as India’s biggest supplier of arms, with exports totaling nearly $2 billion in 2013. The two countries are expected to formally renew a 10-year defense-cooperation pact, firming up a key strategic alliance in South Asia to counter China’s influence.

WORLD

50%

Share of the world’s wealth that will be held by the richest 1% across the globe by 2016, according to a report from the antipoverty charity Oxfam

Trending In

VIOLENCE

Renewed clashes in Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russia rebels threatened chances for long-term peace as Russian, Ukrainian, German and French Foreign Ministers gathered for talks on Jan. 21.

CONTROVERSY

Saly Greige (second from left), winner of the Miss Lebanon pageant, was criticized by Lebanese media after a photo of her with Miss Israel Doron Matalon was posted on social media. Greige said Matalon unexpectedly “jumped in” the shot, taken at the Miss Universe pageant in Miami.

DIPLOMACY

Cuba told the U.S. that it wants to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism as a condition for restoring bilateral relations, as face-to-face talks aimed at normalizing trade and diplomatic ties began in Havana on Jan. 21.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

This appears in the February 02, 2015 issue of TIME.

Read More From TIME

EDIT POST