Monday, January 04, 2010

Al-Qaida alert forces US and UK to close Yemeni Embassies.

After the thwarted Christmas Day terrorist attack, it was inevitable that there would be some reaction towards Yemen:

Britain and the US closed their embassies in Yemen because of fears of an imminent terror attack by the local wing of al-Qaida blamed for the failed attempt to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day.

Officials in London and Washington said the decision to close the missions was a result of specific intelligence. John Brennan, the US counterterrorism chief, said the American embassy, which was attacked twice in 2008, was shut because of "indications al-Qaida is planning to carry out an attack against a target inside of Sana'a [the capital] – possibly our embassy.We're not going to take any chances with the lives of embassy personnel," he said.

Referring to al-Qaida, he said the US would do "everything to hold these individuals accountable". Asked whether that meant possible military action in Yemen, he replied: "Everything is possible."

I think it's quite right that both the US and UK should not take any unnecessary risks with their staff at a time when al Qaeda in Yemen appear to be so prominent and looking for attention, but what do we mean when we say that "everything is possible" when it comes to "possible military action" in Yemen?

I seriously doubt that we are considering opening a third front in the war on terror.

Gordon Brown told the BBC today that "we've got to do more" to combat terrorism in Yemen, and called for a conference in London at the end of the month to discuss what more the international community could do to contain the growing al-Qaida threat from there.

Brown also said Britain would step up its own support for counter-terrorist units and Yemeni coastguard operations, but Downing Street later said the money would be allocated from within the existing Yemen aid budget.

The US has been training Yemeni counterterrorist forces for several years, and Petraeus said that support would be doubled.

I'm presuming that we are going to increase aid for the Yemeni authorities to do what they can to control al Qaeda within their territory, as the last thing we need surely is to invade yet another failed state and set about "creating a democracy."

We have witnessed how well Bush's plan to "spread democracy" worked out in both Afghanistan and Iraq, so I am sure that the Obama administration will avoid such obvious pitfalls, despite the fact that a threat does exist from Yemen.

Joe Lieberman, that most hawkish of US senators, has already had daydreams about a possible future US invasion of Yemen:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) Sunday said that Yemen could be the ground of America's next overseas war if Washington does not take preemptive action to root out al-Qaeda interests there.

Lieberman, who helms the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" that the U.S. will have to take an active approach in Yemen after multiple recent terrorist attacks on the U.S. were linked back to the Middle Eastern nation.

The Connecticut senator said that a government official in the Yemeni capital told him that "Iraq was yesterday's war, Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war."

But even some right wingers are championing restraint:
Direct American military intervention in Yemen is so obviously ludicrous that it shouldn't even need to be said. Even the hyper-interventionist conservatives at the Washington Post op-ed page allow that "U.S. ground troops are not needed, for now." They never should be. The U.S. is already struggling to fully resource and equip a mission in Afghanistan which has been defined -- rightly or wrongly -- as vital to American security and interests. The U.S. simply does not have the resources to embark on a military mission in Yemen. If you think Afghanistan is a sinkhole, you will love Yemen. The yawning gap between the extent of U.S. interests and the resources necessary to make a difference is even greater in Yemen than in Afghanistan. And the optics of yet another American military intervention in the Arab world -- under Obama, no less -- would be devastating to the wider Obama outreach strategy.
It boggles my brain that this is even being seriously floated as a possibility. Our forces are already ridiculously overstretched, the last thing we need is another unwinnable Hell hole to dispatch them to.

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