Yemen is ripe for exploitation by al Qaeda. A five-year-old rebellion in northern Yemen risks escalating into an Iranian-Saudi Arabian proxy contest. In the south, political discrimination and economic neglect have fueled secessionist gripes. An ossified economy plagued by rampant corruption and a dysfunctional regime have alienated a large portion of the population. At the same time, al Qaeda has sought to exploit Yemenis' grievances and the unstable environment there to establish a regional jihadist hub. The troubles plaguing the country, along with the fertile Islamist extremist environment there, have allowed the organization to carve out a small but lethal niche in society. It has succeeded in establishing a solid, geographically dispersed and decentralized organization. In response to growing concerns, Sana'a launched U.S.-supported strikes in December 2009, even before the failed Christmas Day attack. The State Department has also just classified al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as a foreign terrorist organization in a bid to cut support for the Yemen based-group.
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