Monday, August 27, 2007

The Eight-Hundred-Pound Gorilla

There's a recent article in The Jamestown Foundation's Global Terrorism Analysis that helps serve to describe the threat we are facing, and the consequences of not "taking the bull by the horns" to deal with it.

The article appeared earlier this month, and provides background to a terrorist attack that occurred in Yemen early in July. The article is entitled Yemen Faces Second Generation of Islamist Militants, by Gregory D. Johnsen. I reproduce it here in its entirety, with my comments (as usual - heh):

The July 2 suicide attack in Marib, which killed eight Spanish tourists and two Yemeni drivers, painfully illustrated the degree to which Al-Qaeda in Yemen has reorganized itself into an effective force (Terrorism Focus, July 10). The Yemeni government was caught largely unaware by the attack, as it believed the al-Qaeda threat had been neutralized. Yet, while the government managed to deter one generation of militants, it neglected to maintain the initiative through the second generation. This second generation of fighters, many of whom have spent time in Iraq, coalesced around the leadership of some of the 23 men who escaped from a political security prison in Sanaa in February 2006 (Terrorism Focus, February 7, 2006). The government attempted to negotiate for the surrender of many of these escapees, 10 of whom have turned themselves in, but much of its resources over the past few years have been devoted to ending the al-Houthi revolt in the north, which it determined was a more immediate threat (Terrorism Focus, July 31).

There is some background here that needs to be addressed.

A discussion of the July 2 terrorist attack itself can be found here. Basically, however, in that article the analysts argue that there is a schism among Al Qaeda in Yemen between the "old guard" who feel that a de facto truce is appropriate, and young radicals, a "second generation" who seek to prosecute the jihad more rigorously. These younger mujahideen have received experience and radicalization in Iraq; here's the key quote from that article:

The new generation of militants, many of whom were radicalized in Iraq, is determined to carry out attacks in Yemen. This represents a sharp break from the old guard, who have advised their younger members to have patience and allow for negotiations with the Yemeni government to continue. The old guard is also concerned that any attacks within Yemen will lead to a government crackdown on its leadership, much like what happened in the aftermath of the USS Cole attack in 2000 and the September 11 attacks in 2001 (al-Ghad, July 4).

Readers of my blog know that a major source of the problems in Iraq is Saudi Arabia: Saudi volunteers, Saudi know-how and Saudi funding. Since no one will deal with this source of terrorism at the source, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the war in Iraq drags on.

Understanding that militant Saudi Wahhabism is a threat to them, both because of their Shiite Islam, which the Wahhabis hate with a passion, and because of old power politics between Saudi Arabia and their own country, I cannot help but wonder if the Iranians are merely acting out of self-preservation when they support terrorists in Iraq. They are not only tying up American forces, but they are offsetting Saudi influence. The situation is so dire, that I characterize non-Wahhabi Muslims and US and allied military forces as Riders on the Storm, having a common enemy: Saudi-funded hatred.

Continuing now with Yemen Faces Second Generation of Islamist Militants:

Yemen did, however, react quickly in the aftermath of the suicide attack. It arrested a handful of suspects in the days following the attack and, on July 4, it killed Ahmad Baysawani Duwaydar, an Egyptian it claimed masterminded the strike (Terrorism Focus, July 10). Yet, after a more thorough investigation, the government modified its claims, and released the details of the 11-man cell it said was behind the attack (26th of September, August 2). Duwaydar's role in the report was reduced to providing material support to the other members of the cell. Among the suspects were three of the 23 escapees, including the head of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Nasir al-Wuhayshi. Yemen also identified the suicide bomber as Abdu Muhammad Said Ruhayqah, a 21-year-old who was living in the Sanaa neighborhood of Musayk, which has become known over the past few years as a haven for Islamic militants.

Yemen responded to the most recent threat from al-Qaeda by renewing tribal alliances it had established in 2001 and 2002 to counter the militants. On August 5, three days after Yemen revealed the make-up of the cell, President Ali Abdullah Saleh traveled to Marib and al-Jawf to meet with tribal leaders and ask for their assistance in combating al-Qaeda (al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 6). This was reminiscent of a similar trip Saleh made in late 2001, after more than a dozen soldiers were captured during a failed attempt to arrest two suspects in Marib. The early morning raid Yemen launched on an al-Qaeda hideout three days later demonstrates the success of the negotiations.

Getting the local people to "buy in" to the government's program is important. Generally, people do need to feel they have some power to influence their government's course of action; in the absence of that, there is more support for terror.

Notice what I am saying here: "in the absence of that, there is more support for terror." The terrorism will still be there, regardless; these fanatics hate us, and, according to their ideology, they will go to heaven for trying to kill us. And, this "us" is all-inclusive, since the radical terrorists don't discriminate: they hate anyone who doesn't agree with them.

But, I am trying to draw attention to the surrounding people: they have the options of 1) assisting the government against the terrorists, 2) passively looking on and doing nothing, or 3) assisting and covering for the terrorists. The government's program is aimed at getting them away from the second two options, and toward the first.

The raid, which took place in the border region between Marib and al-Jawf governorates, resulted in the deaths of all four al-Qaeda suspects. Three of the suspects—Ali Ali Nasir Doha, Naji Ali Salih Jaradan and Abd al-Aziz Said Jaradan—were wanted in the March assassination of Ali Mahmud Qasaylah, the chief criminal investigator in Marib, as well as for their role in the July 2 attack (Terrorism Focus, May 22). The fourth suspect was Amar Hasan Salih Haryadan, an 18-year-old from the Mahashimah tribe in al-Jawf. According to Yemen's Interior Ministry, Haraydan had been recruited to be another suicide bomber in an upcoming attack that Al-Qaeda in Yemen was planning (, August 9).

And, success! However...

Attacks on army checkpoints, government buildings and an electrical sub-station the following day in Marib appear to be retaliatory strikes by the suspects' relatives and not a response from al-Qaeda. The attacks did little damage, but they do illustrate some of the problems the Yemeni government must navigate as it attempts to dismember al-Qaeda. This is not simply a two-sided battle between the government and Al-Qaeda in Yemen, but rather one of multiple and shifting alliances among a variety of different actors. The murky world of tribal loyalties and militant Islamism in the region has led Arafat Madabish, a Yemeni journalist, to label it "Maribistan" in an unflattering comparison to Pakistan's Waziristan (, August 9).

Consistent with the theory that the people need to buy in to the government's policy, those who disagree with it fought back as they could, but these seemed to be amateurs, and their attacks somewhat ineffective. With a little work, the government might be able to get those same people to prevent radicalist terror attacks to begin with, or at least to not react violently when an attack occurs and the government has to respond.

That's all nice in theory. But, what are we not talking about here?

If Yemen is to succeed in dismantling this second generation of al-Qaeda-like militants, it must have significant tribal assistance. Saleh's August 5 meeting was an important step, but a consistent and ongoing effort is necessary if Yemen does not want to face a third generation of militants.

Geographically, Yemen is on one side, and Iraq is on the other; what we are not talking about here is the eight-hundred-pound gorilla that sits in the middle of the peninsula fomenting all of this by spreading its hateful version of Islam, by spreading terrorist know-how, by supplying jihadi volunteers, and by funding the whole show with petrodollars.

This gorilla is a best friend of President Bush, and until somebody in the White House has the honesty and integrity to deal appropriately with Saudzilla, Yemen will be just another Rider on the Storm.


WomanHonorThyself said...

youre right on target my friend.........but sigh..seems like our Pres is either trying to perform a miraculous balancing act or has succumbed to ...........follow the money!

anticant said...

For anyone with the slightest knowledge of Middle Eastern history and the Arab temperament, there is nothing new in any of this. It is wearisomely familiar. Tribal infighting and religious schism are endemic in the region. When it was under Turkish rule, the Ottomans suppressed their unruly subjects with customary brutality. When the Turks mistakenly sided with Germany in the 1914-18 war, the British seized the opportunity to extend their influence eastward and northward from Egypt by arming the tribesmen ["Lawrence of Arabia's" romanticised lithe young sheiks galloping across the desert on beautiful white horses] and then, having installed their own puppet regimes, brutally suppressed the rebellious tribes in their turn - Winston Churchill being the first to use air power against them.

No-one has clean hands in this story. Now the United States is foolish enough to concern itself with this ever-turbulent region, for whatever 'moral' or economic motives, the least it could do would be to acquaint itself with some history before wading into the hornet's nest in such a cack-handed fashion. But that, apparently, is too much to ask.

Debbie said...

I have never understood our unwillingness to confront the Saudis. Most folks will say it's "oil", but I don't guy that, not completely.

Right Truth

pela68 said...


Get out of my head...


pela68 said...

By the way YD:

It seems that you are atracting a lot of traffic nowdays. Good for you!

I might not be your "best costumer" any more; but be shure. I'm allways lurking in the shadows!
I'm there.



Yankee Doodle said...

Thanks, everyone!

Special thanks to you, Pela. You might be interested to know that for numbers of visitors to this blog, Sweden is in third place behind the US and the UK, and right ahead of Australia!

Debbie, it's about money. The average American recognizes that we need oil, so the oil issue makes it palatable, if distasteful, and we don't ask too many questions. But oil is the camouflage for the corrupton; the fuel is money, just like Angel says.

Anticant, the US isn't now concerned; we have been for decades, as anyone should be.

anticant said...

Well, since the 1950s, when Eisenhower pulled the plug on the Suez debacle and seized the opportunity to replace discredited British imperialism with the shiny new American variety.

Aurora said...

Yes, it's time to confront the Saudis but no-one will because the mighty dollar just screams too loud.

anticant said...

The dollar isn't mighty any more. It's you who will be screaming when the Chinese call in this profligate administration's IOUs.

Yankee Doodle said...

Anticant, it's not just this administration that has been mortgaging America.

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Anum Hameed said...

You are wright buddy!!!

Due to heavey monsoon rains in Pakistan, about half of the Pakistan is under flood. Millions

of people need help. They have no food and shelter. Please create awareness and try to help

these needy people. your

little help can save a life many of peoples.

The message from , we request all the charity organization in the

world to come in Pakistan and help in this hour of need.