Jemen background and U.S. involvement April 3, 01

Information here is based on a Nation article, “The Dangerous US Game in Yemen” by Jeremy Scahill.

The country’s U.S. backed president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has led the country since the north which he led was unified with the south where a Marxist government had ruled from Aden in the 79s. Known as The Boss, Saleh is a survivor having to contend with a rebellion in the north and a secessionist movement in the south as well as a U.S. bewitched by visions of Al Qaeda after 9/11.

Saleh has allowed the U.S. to conduct military operations on Jemen territory in pursuit of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). These military operations, which Saleh has claimed were conducted by Jemeni operatives, have cause a significant number of civilian deaths and created a strong backlash from the Jemeni population.

According to Retired US Army Col .Lang, a veteran Special Forces officer, Saleh is like a “captain on a Klingon battle cruiser”, in a dog eat dog country where “they’re just waiting.”

“According to Lang, Saleh proved a master of playing tribes against one another. “There’s a precarious balance all the time between the authority of the government and the authority of these massive tribal groups,” he says. “The tribes will dictate the future of Yemen, not AQAP.””

Many Jemeni were recruited into the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s conducted by the U.S. backed mujahedeen. Saleh game them safe haven when they returned home. Saleh saw Al Qaeda as allies in his struggles against the secessionists in the south and against the Houthi rebels in the north.

The Houthi, who see Saleh as a puppet of the US and the Saudis, belong to the Zaidi sect of Shiite Islam. They allege that Saleh, who is a Zaidi, has allowed radical Sunnis (Wahhabi) to bomb them on several occasions.

Saleh has used jihadis to fight the Houthli since the 90s and in turn allowed to operate freely and to travel on Jemeni documents. Consequently, Al Qaeda found fertile ground for training camps and recruitment throughout the 90s.

Al Qaeda recruiting was substantially assisted by an attack of the US Cole, then positioned in the harbor of Aden.

Following 9/11 Bush put Jemen on a list of potential early targets. Saleh travelled immediately to Washington where he received a $ 400 million aid package from the World Bank and the IMF. The deal included expanded special military training which allowed US Special Forces to deploy discretely in Jemen, permitting Saleh to save face domestically.

Also the deal permitted the US to create a “counter terrorism camp” in Jemen run by the CIA and Special Forces and the Marines and which was backed up by Camp Lemonier in the nearby African country, Djibouti, a secretive base that would soon serve as command center for covert US action.

Along with the military trainers, members of the clandestine military intelligence unit, JSOC, Joint Special Operations Command, were inserted into Jemen.

The rest of the article is chock full of counter terror operations in which many civilians are killed by an assortment of Hellfire missiles, unmanned flying vehicles, various supposed and real Al Qaeda operatives are enlisted in the narrative, American and otherwise born, Wolfowitz outing a political assassination of an Al Qaeda operative who was linked to a supposed terrorist group in Buffalo. And on and on.

Many interesting details here. Obama has not only followed but expanded and solidified the Bush justification for expanding covert wars. Scahill writes:

“During the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain and other Republicans attempted to portray Barack Obama as too caught up in the niceties of civil liberties and international law to deal with the threat of global terrorism. But in fact, from the first days of his administration, the president was hyper-focused on escalating the covert war against Al Qaeda and expanding it far beyond Bush-era levels, particularly in Yemen.

In April 2009 Gen. David Petraeus, then head of Centcom, approved a plan developed with the US Embassy in Sana, the CIA and other intelligence agencies to expand US military action in Yemen. The plan not only involved special-ops training for Yemeni forces but unilateral US strikes against AQAP. Though Petraeus paid lip service to the cooperation between the United States and Yemen, he was clear that the United States would strike whenever it pleased. In fact, he issued a seven-page secret order authorizing small teams of US special-ops forces to conduct clandestine operations off the stated battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. It was marked “LIMDIS,” short for “limited distribution.” The directive, known as a Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force (JUWTF) Execute Order, served as a permission slip of sorts for special-ops teams. “Unlike covert actions undertaken by the C.I.A., such clandestine activity does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress,” reported Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, who was allowed to read the order.”

What emerges in this article is a picture in which the US and Jemen are playing military footsy with each other, engaging in military actions in which people are killed and whose justification is the war on terror that Scahill elsewhere calls the war on the world.

Tit for tat teror counter-terror actions that almost seem to be designed to give support to the ‘enemy’ in order to continue with the charade of terror counter-terror dance. One might hope that the popular uprisings presently taking place in Jemen make removed Saleh from office and disrupt the military agreements made with the US. But Scahill notes that this possibility is being accounted for in Washington

Scahill concludes the article with this:

“It was the Bush administration that declared the world a battlefield where any country would be fair game for targeted killings. But it was President Obama, with Yemen as the laboratory, who put a bipartisan stamp on this paradigm—which will almost certainly endure well beyond his time in office. “The global war on terror has acquired a life of its own,” says Colonel Lang. “It’s a self-licking ice cream cone. And the fact that this counterterrorism/counterinsurgency industry evolved into this kind of thing, involving all these people—the foundations and the journalists and the book writers and the generals and the guys doing the shooting—all of that together has a great, tremendous amount of inertia that tends to keep it going in the same direction.” He adds, “It continues to roll. It will take a conscious decision on the part of civilian policy-makers, somebody like the president, for example, to decide that, ‘OK, boys, the show’s over.’” But Obama, he says, is far from deciding the show’s over. “It seems that this is going to go on for a long time.”

No hope in sight. One might have hoped that a more intelligent rational man than Bush would attempt to pry the US out such outlaw Neanderthal actions that only serve to replenish the ‘enemy’ with new recruits but Obama is not that man.

This material has been placed on the LSW Jemen page.

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