Yemen, Energy Crisis, & the Nigerian Crotch Bomber: The Privatization of Security & the Militarization of Society- Part III

State-Failure & Systemic-Collapse - the US, Yemen & al-Qaeda: One Big Trojan Horse

TrojanHorseThe US and UK intelligence communities have known for decades of al-Qaeda’s presence in Yemen. The presence, however, is not simply peripheral to the question of international terrorism. US intelligence investigations into major terrorist attacks such as the 1998 US embassy bombings, the USS Cole bombing, as well as  9/11 (among others) have consistently revealed that Yemen has been used by al-Qaeda as a central communications hub for the coordination of transnational terrorist activities - with the tacit (and often not-so-tacit) complicity of the Yemen government.

In fact, abundant evidence from the History Commons shows that the National Security Agency has, and continues to, monitor al-Qaeda communications in Yemen extensively. But from 1996 all the way through to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the NSA consistently failed (in violation of mandatory security protocols) to share the detailed mountains of intercept evidence on Osama bin Laden’s activities thus obtained with the rest of the US intelligence community, despite repeated urgent requests from the CIA in the context of then ongoing terrorism investigations. After 9/11, however, much of this information became public knowledge – the US thus has extensive and intimate understanding of al-Qaeda’s activities in Yemen, and their direct connection with the execution of terrorist attacks against US and Western targets. The failures that facilitated the 25th December 2009 crotch bombing must be understood against this background – how could the same loopholes remain open now?... unless our relationship with the terrorists is a little more complicated than officials would like us to believe.

Al-Qaeda & the 1994 North-South Civil War

A US Congressional Research Service (CRS) document - Yemen: Background and US Relations (7th July 2009) - by Jeremy M. Sharp, Middle East analyst in the foreign affairs, defense and trade division, provides a few surprisingly candid snapshots of all this, and the ambiguous response of the US to it all:

“The Republic of Yemen was formed by the merger of the formerly separate states of North Yemen and South Yemen in 1990. In 1994, government forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh put down an attempt by southern-based dissidents to secede from the newly unified state... since the 1980s, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has tolerated the presence of radical Islamists in the country and has used their presence to bolster his credibility among Islamist hardliners... During the 1994 civil war, President Saleh dispatched several brigades of ‘Arab Afghans’ to fight against southern late secessionists. In the mid to 1990s, Yemeni (and many foreign) militants, many with ties to Al Qaeda, began striking targets inside the country.” (pp. 1-2)

During this period, in which bin Laden’s mujahideen networks were mobilised by the north to consolidate its control over the south, President Saleh was supported by the United States. Tufts University historian Professor Gary Leupp writes: “During the 1994 civil war in the country, the U.S. had backed the current leadership against the ‘leftist’ opposition. (So had anti-U.S. Muslim fundamentalist factions, whom the leadership cannot now afford to alienate.)

Notably, during the same period, as I and others have documented extensively, the US was busy covertly sponsoring the mobilisation of bin Laden’s networks in Azerbaijan, Dagestan and Chechnya, and the Balkans.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen in Context: the Pentagon’s Saudi-Backed ‘Redirection’ Strategy

BinLadenThe CRS report continues: “Overall, Islamist terrorist groups are not strong enough to topple President Saleh’s regime, but most analysts consider them capable of successfully striking a high value target, such as an oil installation...” (p. 5) It goes on to note that in January 2009, al-Qaeda militants in Yemen “announced that the Saudi and Yemeni ‘branches’ of Al Qaeda were merging under the banner of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which formerly had denoted militants responsible for the wave of terrorist violence that swept Saudi Arabia from 2003 through 2007.” The report also notes that many militants are coming in not only from Saudi Arabia but from Iraq. (p. 6)

But who was responsible for the expansion of Saudi militant activity? A few years back, Seymour Hersh answered that question in the New Yorker, when he reported that since around 2003, the CIA and Pentagon have ‘redirected’ US policy by funnelling millions of dollars via Saudi Arabia to al-Qaeda-affiliated Sunni extremist groups across the Middle East and Central Asia, as part of a bid to counter Iranian Shi’ite influence. Alex Cockburn was the first to report on the early US Presidential Finding - uncontested by Republican and Democratic representatives - that this funding has amounted to at least $400 million. The “black” operation aimed at isolating Iran was also confirmed by ABC News. Hersh went on to quote one of his sources, a US government consultant, explaining that Prince Bandar and other Saudi officials had assured the White House as follows:

“... they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.’”

Right. Should we add Yemen to this list of people we “want the Salafis to throw bombs” at? Or was that not part of the plan? (oops?)

Unfortunately, so far we have had no indication that President Obama has rolled-up, nor has any intention of rolling-up this covert action programme of Saudi-backed al-Qaeda sponsorship. It is also clear that the programme has accelerated terrorist activity across the region.

Harbouring al-Qaeda, Fighting the People

The consequent escalation of al-Qaeda militant activity in Yemen has revolved around oil installations and has prompted US defense officials to highlight the necessity of US intervention due to Yemen’s critical geostrategic position. The CRS report continues to note that: “In recent months, AQAP has threatened to attack Yemeni oil facilities, Western interests in Yemen, foreign tourists, and Yemeni soldiers protecting oil installations.” (p. 7) It then cites US Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus, declaring:

“Were extremist cells in Yemen to grow, Yemen’s strategic location would facilitate terrorist freedom of movement in the region and allow terrorist organizations to threaten Yemen’s neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States. In view of this, we are expanding our security cooperation efforts with Yemen to help build the nation’s security, counter- insurgency, and counter-terror capabilities.” (pp. 7-8)

But what good, really, is all this joint counter-terrorism work, in terms of actually fighting terror? And has the US government demonstrated a serious interest in crackdown down on al-Qaeda’s base in Yemen? The CRS report, of course, does not directly address this question, but the facts speak for themselves:

“Yemen continues to harbor a number of Al Qaeda operatives and has refused to extradite several known militants on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists. (Article 44 of the constitution states that a Yemeni national may not be extradited to a foreign authority) According to a report in the Washington Post, three known Al Qaeda operatives (Jamal al Badawi, Fahd al Quso, and Jaber A. Elbaneh,), sought under the FBI’s Rewards for Justice program, are in Yemen. Before his incarceration, Elbaneh was roaming freely on the streets of Sana’a despite his conviction for his involvement in the 2002 attack French tanker Limburg and other attacks against Yemeni oil installations. In 2003, U.S. prosecutors charged Elbaneh in absentia with conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. One expert, Ali H. Soufan, a former FBI supervisory special agent, argues that ‘If Yemen is truly an ally, it should act as an ally. Until it does, U.S. aid to Yemen should be reevaluated. It will be impossible to defeat Al Qaeda if our ‘allies’ are freeing the convicted murderers of U.S. citizens and terrorist masterminds while receiving direct U.S. financial aid.’” (p. 14)

The truth is that “al-Qaeda” is not the real destabilizing factor here: the limits of a system of rampant corruption, hydrocarbon energy dependency, striking poverty and inequality (40 per cent below the poverty line), and northern profiteering at the expense of the south, are being breached as Yemen’s oil exports have declined in the context of rising fresh water shortages and a growing food production crisis. “Although terrorism, provincial revolts, and unrest in the south are all serious concerns related to Yemeni stability,” the CRS report observes, reflecting on these issues, “they pale in comparison to the long term structural resource and economic challenges facing a country with a rapidly growing population.” (p. 11) Those structural and systemic “challenges” are generating a groundswell of popular discontent that neither the Yemen government, nor the US (nor US-backed institutions like the IMF and World Bank) have any interest in resolving through genuine structural and systemic reform to create a genuinely sustainable, equitable and democratic society.

The Saleh-Zawahiri Pact

SalehInstead, precisely the opposite is taking place. On the pretext of fighting an al-Qaeda presence to which both US and Yemeni authorities have variably turned a blind eye, tacitly tolerated, and actively sponsored, Obama’s military-security plan for Yemen is designed purely to facilitate the north’s capacity to exert control over an increasingly volatile south and to put down northern Shi’ite rebels – while still failing to resolve the outstanding issues underscoring the complicity of Yemeni authorities in harbouring and protecting al-Qaeda networks in the country. What mainstream media pundits and government commentators have totally ignored is that the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Yemen has occurred as a consequence of President Saleh’s attempt to re-mobilise the Islamist jihadist networks to consolidate northern control over the south in the interests of a ‘unified Yemen’, something which the Obama administration has repeatedly acknowledged to be one of the end-goals of US involvement. US journalist and Yemen specialist Jane Novak reported in February 2009 that after al-Qaeda officially declared the formation of “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (AQAP) in early 2008, President Saleh moved almost immediately to strike an agreement with the network:

“Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh recently struck a deal with Ayman Zawahiri, and Yemen is in the process of emptying its jails of known jihadists. The Yemeni government is recruiting these established jihadists to attack its domestic enemies as it refrains from serious counter-terror measures against the newly formed Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula... In the latest round of negotiations, Saleh reportedly asked the militants to engage in violence against the southern mobility movement. The southern uprising is bent on achieving the independence of South Yemen and is a substantial threat to Saleh’s grip on power.”

The deal has reportedly included the supply of arms and ammunition to al-Qaeda paramilitary forces by the Yemen military. Novak continues to note that the Saleh-Zawahiri agreement was re-confirmed in late 2008:

“AQAP issued a communiqué explaining the unique configuration to its local members and legitimized fighting for the state by referencing the 1994 war. A copy of the letter was obtained by News Yemen. Echoing the earlier agreement by Saleh and Zawahiri late in 2008, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula explained to its followers that President Saleh wants jihadists to fight on behalf of the state, especially those who did already in 1994, against the enemies of unity- southern oppositionists. AQAP in return will gain prison releases and unimpeded travel to external theatres of jihad, the letter explained.”

It is therefore clear that US military activities in Yemen will have little meaningful impact on fighting al-Qaeda. They do have a great deal to do with shoring up a corrupt, illegitimate regime which itself is a state-sponsor of al-Qaeda, and continues to have a fraught, ambiguous relationship with the terrorist network.

Meanwhile, the victims of US ‘counter-terror’ support for Yemen, prior to the failed Christmas Day crotch bombing, have not been al-Qaeda networks – but overwhelmingly innocent civilians. For more than five years, reports Human Rights Watch, Yemen military forces “have been battling Huthi rebels in the mountainous north of the country, with successive ceasefires punctuated by new rounds of fighting.” Over 175,000 people have been displaced according to the UN, “with reports of extreme scarcity of water and malnutrition.” In October 2009, eyewitness testimony gathered by HRW confirmed “aerial bombing and artillery shelling by the Yemeni armed forces that resulted in high civilian casualties.” Since 2007, “a growing wave of protests has rocked the south, with the loosely-knit Southern Movement now demanding secession.” HRW documents “six occasions during 2008 and 2009 in which security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters, often without warning and aiming at them from short range.” As for the Yemeni bombing raids on the 17th and 24th December backed by Washington, “Human rights groups in Yemen have claimed the attacks killed dozens of women and children, in addition to al Qaeda members.”

Increasingly, the Yemen government is playing the terrorist card to conflate various rebel groups with al-Qaeda. Referring to the kidnapping of five German and one British nationals for the last six months, Rashad al-Aleemi - Yemeni deputy prime minister for defense and security affairs - claimed: “Alleged information confirm that there is coordination between the (northern Shiite rebels) Huthis and the Al-Qaeda in this matter”

The outcome of the US strategy - based as usual on trying to bolster a hopelessly corrupt and inequitable self-imploding system - will not be less, but more al-Qaeda recruitees: and more cannon fodder for US military expansion in Eurasia.

# # # #

AhmedDr. Nafeez Ahmed is a bestselling author and political analyst. He is the Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, and has taught courses in contemporary history and international relations theory at the University of Sussex. His Doctoral thesis investigated the radicalization processes and dynamics of violent conflict in the context of hierarchical social systems in the modern world. Dr. Ahmed has also published extensively on international security issues, including The London Bombings; The War on Truth; Behind the War on Terror; and The War on Freedom. He has been an expert commentator for BBC News 24, BBC World Today, Al-Jazeera English, among others. He is currently advising the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on engaging British Muslim communities. Visit Dr. Nafeez’ website.

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  1. I emailed the White House. Let our politicians know we are an informed citizenry. Thanks for these three excellent reports.

  2. Kingfisher says:

    “It is therefore clear that US military activities in Yemen will have little meaningful impact on fighting al-Qaeda. They do have a great deal to do with shoring up a corrupt, illegitimate regime which itself is a state-sponsor of al-Qaeda, and continues to have a fraught, ambiguous relationship with the terrorist network.”

    Dr. Ahmed,

    Do you know what denial of sanctuary means? Yes, Yemen’s regime probably has or still does provide sanctuary to AQ. And as you describe there is reason as to why they do so: “to re-mobilise the Islamist jihadist networks to consolidate northern control over the south”. The jihadi’s are force multipliers for government forces.

    Yemen’s government needs help and gets it from the Jihadi’s. The US needs to deny sanctuary and kill AQ. It is evident that the US is seeking to meet the Yemeni government’s needs by supplying security assistance and force multipliers so it can achieve its goals, in order for the US to deny sanctuary and kill AQ.

    This is not to say that this is the right course of action the US should take; that is another discussion. Rather, I consider it a more accurate description of the situation.


  3. Let’s see, we’re supposed to believe that someone with NO passport and NO luggage and flying on a one-way ticket breezed thru customs w/o any questions being asked?

    And that he was going to blow up an airliner without using a detonator?

    I guess it’s just a coincidence that ICTS, the Israeli owned company that provided security at the Dutch airport is also the same company that provided ‘security’ at the US airports that let the 9/11 al-CIA-duh types board… actually, it was a subsidiary of ICTS, Huntleigh Corp that let the 9/11 hijackers thru.

    ICTS also handled security for London’s bus system during their 7-7 “Muslim bombing,” while doing the same at Charles de Gaulle Airport when “shoe bomber” Richard Reid boarded a plane in Paris on Dec. 22, 2001.

    And who was the stranger that filmed the Christmas Crotch Bomber all the way thru the incident?

    One day, Americans might wake up, but by then, it’s going to be too late. We’ll all be living under the iron boot of tyranny, but only on a ‘temporary’ basis for ‘security.’
    Which won’t bother most Americans, since by then, we’ll have been turned into a carbon-copy of Israel, a nation of psychotic, violently out of control mass murderers who kill with impunity.

    After all, who will stop us?

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  4. camusrebel says:

    Mr. Ahmed is in danger of going the way of 2 other heroes of mine: Pete Rose and Gnome Chumpsky.

    Al-CIA-duh is not a real thing. It is pretend. It does not exist in reality outside Langley Virginia.

    Nafeez, you used to be much more clear. At least that is how I remember it. If the CIA, ISI, Mossad, the Saudis created a list of merceneries under their control, that group could never morph into an indiginous, autonomous radical bunch of renegade jihadists. The only Al-CIA-duh in Yemen are pissed off poor people out to undo all the damage done by the world bank, IMF, big oil etc. and THEY have never called themselves that. We conveniently label any group interested in toppling one of our favored dictators, or squatting to close to resources we covet, as AL-CIA-duh. Lets try to cut through all the bull. Keep it as simple as possible please.

  5. Kingfisher says:

    “Mr. Ahmed is in danger of going the way of 2 other heroes of mine…
    Nafeez, you used to be much more clear.
    Lets try to cut through all the bull. Keep it as simple as possible please.”

    Keep it simple and validate their worldview, Nafeez!

    I am sorry, but you two are beyond help. Mr. Bacon your ramblings are just not kosher with reason and reality. Camus, why don’t you make yourself a Stranger around here.

  6. camusrebel says:

    punk fisher you spineless coward, how good of you to crawl out of your hole and visit. What are you now, selling artwork? Working for Urban Moving Systems? Still celebrating Rachel Corrie’s despicable death. Yuk it up fishstein, the protocols only seem to be working like clockwork.

    “Then they’ll raise their hands
    Saying ‘we’ll meet all your demands’
    But we’ll shout from the bow, ‘your days are numbered’
    And like Pharaohs tribe
    They’ll be drownded in the tide
    And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered”

  7. camusrebel

    Massive applause here!

    About time Kingfisher was put in his place. He needs to start his own website so he can play ruler of the universe. More than one poster has left here due to his rudeness.

    Go eat some frogs somewhere else prick.

  8. theepitbull says:

    A little dates, but, related:

    The Merchants of Fear: Israel’s Profiting from Homeland Insecurity

    n the wake of the weird Christmas Day “underwear bomber” incident on Northwest Flight 253, former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, as if on cue, was all over the mainstream media touting whole-body scanners as the answer to America’s airline security problems. Since leaving public office in 2009, Chertoff had co-founded the Chertoff Group, a security and risk-management firm whose clients include a manufacturer of body-imaging screening machines. While some in the media noted this rather commonplace conflict of interest, ignored by all was a far more significant abuse of the American public’s trust.

    In a CNN interview, Chertoff cited the Detroit incident as “a very vivid lesson in the value of that machinery.” One lesson that he hasn’t drawn, however, was about the unreliability of the security firm which allowed the young Nigerian Muslim without a passport to “slip through” Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

    ICTS International N.V., the Dutch-based security firm, was established in 1982 by former members of Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet, and El Al security. Menachem Atzmon, who holds the controlling shares in the firm, was convicted in 1996 for campaign finance fraud while co-treasurer of the Likud party. The other co-treasurer Ehud Olmert, who was acquitted of those charges, resigned as Israeli Prime Minister in 2008 amid multiple corruption charges.


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