[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/OPINION/12/30/boucek.yemen.terror.threat/t1larg.yemen.demo.afpgi.jpg caption="Yemenis demonstrate against a government raid that killed suspected al Qaeda members in Yemen's Shabwa province."]
Editor's note: Christopher Boucek is an associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Special to CNN
In recent days, international attention has refocused on the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Yemen. The claim of responsibility for the attack on Northwest flight 253 on December 25 by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has underscored the fact that Yemen's problems will not stay in Yemen.
In the absence of immediate and sustained attention by the international community, Yemen may be overwhelmed by a unique convergence of crises. While some observers feared this would come in several years, it is increasingly apparent that failure may come sooner than previously expected.
Yemen has frequently been described as a failing state - and with good reason. Civil war, terrorism, a deepening secessionist movement and economic and demographic trends threaten to overpower the Yemeni government, provide a breeding ground for terrorists and destabilize the region. Yemen has often teetered on the brink of collapse, but it has never faced so many interconnected challenges at one time.
At the heart of the country's problems is a looming economic crisis. Oil is the source of nearly 80 percent of government revenue, and it is quickly running out. There are few viable options for a sustainable post-oil economy, and Yemen is already the poorest country in the Arab world with an unemployment rate conservatively estimated at 35 percent.
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