March 24, 2015
With the intense Sunni verses Shia sectarian violence reaching a fever pitch over the weekend, the US pulled up stakes in Yemen and left zero personal. According to Department of State spokesperson Marie Harf, all Americans in an official capacity have departed the country, leaving the US counterterrorism business shuttered.
Watch Kimberly’s San Diego 6 News TV segment here
The continued absence of a comprehensive Middle East strategy to eradicate terror groups and restore national governance in the region only ensures more countries will be plagued with jihadi violence and eventual breakdown i.e., Jordan or Oman.
Once hailed as a success story by President Obama, Yemen’s failure to install a suitable West-leaning government provided the latest power vacuum. The warring Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS), Houthis (backed by Iran) and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) will eventually be filled by one of these Islamic groups. Until that day arrives the bad news will only get worse.
The problems in Yemen didn’t happen overnight. According to Foreign Policy magazine, the weekend “fighting has gripped Yemen, as special forces troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is allied with Houthi rebels, on Thursday tried to seize control of the airport in the port city of Aden. Forces loyal to the current president (installed by the US), Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has fled to Aden after being ousted from Sanaa by the Houthis, repelled the assault. Later the same day, rebel airstrikes targeted Hadi’s presidential compound (in Aden).”
Nevertheless, the most disconcerting development may be the US announcement that Special Forces were evacuated from the latest warn-torn country, something that could prelude another more relevant battle on the horizon.
Also Yemen was the operational center used in President Obama’s drone program and a large source for collection agents of jihadi intelligence. US officials said years of human Intel collection and hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment is lost. The US will continue to fly surveillance drones, but special operators acknowledged that it is very difficult to obtain accurate real time data from 8,000 feet.
“Because we are withdrawing completely, we will have no intelligence footprint or capabilities to monitor what AQAP and ISIS and the Shiite militants are doing in the region,” House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) told ABC’s This Week.
Brushing off the disastrous news, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the a daily press briefing; “Ultimately, our goal here is to build up the capacity of local countries so that they can assume responsibility for their own security situation.”
The United Nations Security Council was not quite as optimistic and continued to hold round the clock emergency meetings. But senior diplomats of Western nations have all conceded their failure in brokering any kind of cease-fire deal.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power appealed for all parties in Yemen to agree to a U.N.-backed negotiation process and “refrain from any further unilateral and offensive military actions.”
But yesterday, United Nations Special Adviser Jamal Benomar, briefing from the Security Council via video conference in a rare Sunday session, told the UN body that Yemen was on a “rapid downward spiral… worrying sectarian tones and deepening north-south divisions. Emotions are running extremely high and, unless solutions can be found, the country will fall into further violent confrontations,” he declared. “Events in Yemen are leading the country away from political settlement and to the edge of civil war.”
Jihad is alive and well in 2015 despite U.S. claims
“Thanks to the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform the war in Iraq is over and the war in Afghanistan is winding down. Al-Qaeda has been decimated,” President Obama made that statement just two years ago.
However, three terrorist attacks this week are a sharp reminder that hitting soft targets in the Middle East and North Africa requires little effort, but commands worldwide attention. At least three separate terrorist attacks killed 165 and injured hundreds.
First, in Pakistan, the re-emerging Taliban targeted a pair of Christian churches during Sunday Mass and killed at least 15 parishioners. That attack was followed on Tuesday by a Tunisian museum massacre that left 20 tourists dead. (Tunisia gave birth to the Arab Spring and remains the only nation to emerge as a secular democracy.) The week ended on Friday when two Mosques in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa were hit by a pair of suicide bombers killing more than 130 Muslim worshippers and injuring hundreds more.
The brutal tactics employed by ISIS included two bombers for each attack, the first to create chaos at the venue and the second waits in the street where survivors flee the scene and first responders deploy. The method all but assures a higher casualty count (and incidentally the Geneva Convention that prohibits attacks against first responders is of little consequence to terrorists).
The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) quickly claimed responsibility for the latter two attacks. A statement from ISIS on Twitter read; “Let the polytheist Houthis (Yemenis) know that the soldiers of the Islamic State will not rest and will not stay still until they extirpate them… God willing, this operation is only a part of the coming flood.”
More than 14 years after 9/11 the Middle East narrative has become even more dangerous and destructive, prompting foreign policy critics to craft another regional strategy.
Many believe that “new” path begins in Egypt. During the tense Gaza/Israel showdown last year, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi proved instrumental when it came to peace negotiations. The newly elected Egyptian leader went around the Obama administration to broker a cease-fire deal between the Jewish State and the Palestinians after weeks of on and off warring and Secretary of State’s John Kerry’s inability to reach a suitable solution for both sides.
The strong leader, who orchestrated a military coup d’état in Egypt by wrestling leadership from the Islamist-leaning Muslim Brotherhood, followed the military takeover by holding a general election that saw twice as many Egyptians vote for him than his predecessor, Mohammed Morsi.
So why has the US shutout Cairo’s new leader? Former Army Lt. Col. and DIA agent Anthony Shaffer said, “Obama and his administration continue to support the Muslim Brotherhood – and it has been banned by al-Sisi and the Egyptian government.”
The Middle East Forum, confirms Shaffer’s assessment. “That is why Cairo twice refused to host US Secretary of State John Kerry, who had wanted to insert Qatar and Turkey, each of which has damaged relations with Egypt through their attempts to restore Morsi – into the crisis (al-Sisi shunned President Obama’s “White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism” last month). For their part, in order to drive Egypt out of the game, both Doha and Ankara are cynically urging Hamas to stick to its guns over the blockade before agreeing to a lasting halt to the fighting.”
The pragmatic leader also did something few Middle East dictators do—he returned at least $2 billion to Qatar because of their alleged ties to ISIS and known ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. After the Arab Spring, Egypt was forced to rely on Gulf nations to subsidize its troubled economy. Once the 2011 violence broke out in Cairo, tourist dollars dried up and forced Egypt to seek assistance from others in the region, primarily Qatar. “But as relations between Egypt and Qatar deteriorated after Mr. Morsi’s removal, Doha asked Cairo to return the deposits it placed at the Central Bank of Egypt. The country has now repaid $6 billion to Qatar, with $500 million of outstanding debt to be paid in the second half of 2015,” a Wall Street Journal story reported.
Then al-Sisi went to work with the leaders of Kuwait, UAE and Saudi Arabia who quickly promised Egypt more than $10 billion of direct financial support. All of these countries are supposed US allies. Again, where’s the US support?
Last year the Operation Inherent Resolve coalition allies decided to eradicate ISIS from Iraq and Syria. Shortly after the “new war” began Egyptian President al-Sisi said; “We have also to admit that it is not only ISIS that is threatening Iraq and Syria but there are a lot of other similar terrorist organizations and, by the way, they all work under the same umbrella. They all come from the same parent ideology and work under different names… We can also say that the map of terrorism extremism is expanding. Egyptians feel that they are fighting terrorism and they would like to feel that the United States is standing by them in their fight against terrorism.”
President Obama’s new strategy includes a weekly address dedicated to hardliners in Iran. (Watch here)
Taking his commitment a few steps further, the outspoken al-Sisi had harsh words for Egypt’s Muslim clerics that caught the attention of western nations. The authoritarian leader implored moderates to “revolutionize” its religion in an effort to slow the growth of radical Islam, like ISIS, that’s responsible for murder and terrorism.
That acknowledgment ought to come as welcome news to the West seeking suitable partners in its quest to defeat radical terrorism. Yet the Obama administration remains flat-footed when responding to the growing, not waning jihadi wonderland.
This, despite early 2014 warnings by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper and then Director of Defense Intelligence Agency Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn who testified before Congress that ISIS was not new and the movement was simply al-Qaeda morphing! Clapper explained to lawmakers that “core al Qaeda — the central leadership — picks and chooses who is among the wannabes are actually knighted, if you will, (further) designated them as an al-Qaeda organization.”
It’s also been widely reported that President Obama has skipped half of the daily in person Intel briefings where he could question his intelligence team, purportedly choosing to read about the daily threats on his iPad.
Instead of creating stability, US adventurism, under the guise of “exporting democracy” and bolstered by its number one status as weapons trafficker, has created a power vacuum in the Middle East that has to be filled, and like it or not, dictators have traditionally ruled in that region.
Unfortunately, for those 137 souls who perished in Yemen, the U.S. rolled-out its template diplomatic response; “The United States strongly condemns today’s suicide bombings that killed over 130 individuals and left hundreds wounded. We express our condolences to the families of the victims. We deplore the brutality of the terrorists who perpetrated today’s unprovoked attack on Yemeni citizens who were peacefully engaging in Friday prayers in their places of worship.”
To read more: Obama trained insurgents launch killing spree against Iraq then turn to Syria
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