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Scheherazade On January - 3 - 2010

YEMEN – The United States and the United Kingdom have both decided to close their embassies given current intelligence regarding al-Qaida’s activity in the area.

The Sunday morning programs seem to indicate that Yemen will become a stronger focus of the President Obama’s efforts to fight terrorism. In what ways this will manifest are as yet unknown.

Deputy Assistan and Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan appeared on FOX News Sunday and on Meet the Press. He explained that the embassies were closed to protect the staff from a “security threat,” and Brennan confirmed there was intelligence that indicated such a danger was a distinct possibility.

“There are indications that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is targeting our embassy and targeting our personnel and we are not going to take any chances with the lives of our diplomats and others who are at that embassy,” Brennan said.

Brennan also stressed that the United States is working closely with the Yemeni government to deal with any threats posed by al-Qaida.

Categories: News & Politics, Terrorism

93 Responses so far.

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  1. FeloniousMonk says:

    No matter what the reason for the closure of the embassies of the United States and the United Kingdom in Yemen, we should remember that historically the closing and reopening of embassies for various reasons, whether war, or enmity, or other reasons, has and will continue to be a tool of foreign policy for countries.

    Examples: United States Embassies in: Uganda in the 1970s, Cambodia in the 1960s, etc. For a more clear knowledge of when and why these closures occured, go to http://history.state.gov/countries/ and go through each country to see the embassy history.

    The right wishes to treat this as an event of major historical significance, in reality it is closer to a more cyclical and normal event. We all need to understand these facts in order to counter the wild claims from the right regarding this episode in American history.

    More significantly, the DOS needs to be proactive in having this information available for press releases. It is a war of words out there, and the administration should be always prepared to have historical support for their actions readily available.

  2. bitohistory says:

    Update on the Yemen embassy:
    Yemen kills militants it says threatened embassies

    Yemen says they kill 2 behind the embassy threats. That’s convenient--“dead men don’t talk”

    • Khirad says:

      Sorry, but the ‘dead men tell no tales’ required me to add an ‘aaargh’ here for good measure. Thar be pirates in nearby waters, after all.

    • javaz says:

      Whoa, that site took forever to download for me.
      I wonder if they killed the right people or just said they did so the embassies wouldn’t all close.
      I don’t trust the report about the missing trucks with explosives, either.
      What do you think?

  3. nellie says:

    I don’t know how much coverage this information is getting, so I thought I would post it here:

    Al-Qaeda benefits from a decade of missteps to become a threat in Yemen

    • Khirad says:

      Are you sure that’s the right link?

      I just saw Richard Engel talking about Yemen and the recent action in Sana’a. I tend to trust him more than others.

  4. abby4ever says:

    Well, I’ve got to go feed the birds now, hoover the carpet, and then do some more work on my argument in defence of nuclear weapons. The one that shows that not only is it not morally wrong to have nukes, it is morally wrong not to have them.

    “Omg,” says Nellie, clutching her head.

    LOL !!!

  5. Khirad says:

    In light that this is Wikipedia, I would simple say, ‘beware’ and take to the referenced articles, to which, I would still say ‘beware the source’ --

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sa%27dah_insurgency

    This is also in addition to a Southern insurgency.

    As I said earlier, Yemen is not exactly a forte, I know about as much as anyone with the Google machine and from its spotty history of past inner turmoil. I’m still working on it. I don’t know of many sources to turn to for Yemen. Anyone have an article from a progressive site or ‘straight’ news they would recommend?

    • Bernard Marx says:

      I could recommend ‘A History of Modern Yemen’ by Paul Dresch for a detailed academic text.

      Al Jazeera seems to have some good articles about what’s been happening more recently.

      • Khirad says:

        Yeah, I’ve caught some of the al-Jazeera coverage, as well as al-Arabiya -- but admit to skimming them *blush*. I’ll write that book down (and yes I do add to an actual lengthy list of books) to get to ‘someday’ for future reference. I do prefer those nerdy Cambridge and Princeton published type books when I can get them. 😉

        This is a tad old, but I was reading this:

        http://www.alarabiya.net/views/2009/11/17/91532.html

        And here’s this from al-Jazeera, Yemen: New frontline for US wars?. A tad sensationalist, but I know they do better stuff, too.

        Another recent article added this:

        Newton said the greater challenge will be to stabilise the country, which has seen a failing economy, severe water shortages, and a ballooning population in recent years.

  6. escribacat says:

    OT — Dems saying they will bypass committee according to The New Republic.

    http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-treatment/exclusive-dems-almost-certain-bypass-conference

    • nellie says:

      They’re finally acting like the majority.

    • Khirad says:

      It’s such a refreshingly simple idea, to work it out informally.

      You think it can work?

      • KevenSeven says:

        How do you mean. “work”?

        I am sure that the two caucuses can come up with a bill this way. Probably not including the PO, mind you, or even better, extended Medicare.

        What you want to ask yourself is: will it be politically disadvantageous?

        Probably not as disadvantageous as having the process strung out any further.

      • escribacat says:

        LOL. I’m already suffering from PTSD over the whole damn thing so who knows? I seriously like the idea of flipping the bird at the republicans though! Hehe.

  7. KQuark says:

    I just heard a clip form Tom Kaine from the 911 commission saying the Obama administration has been distracted from fighting terror because of efforts like healthcare reform. It’s just fucking amazing to me. 20,000 to 40,000 people die EACH year because they don’t have proper access to healthcare.

    Now how is that less of a problem than terrorism?

    • nellie says:

      Excellent point. Too bad no one thinks to answer Kaine in that way.

    • abby4ever says:

      It depends on what kind of terrorism, perhaps. On whether it’s the kind that just kills…or does what they call ‘spectaculars’ (big powerful attacks as happened on 9-11)…or if it’s the kind that both kills and tries to take over a country…and succeeds. One day one of these groups will do that and they will have their ‘Islamic State’. As they say the Taliban wants, in Afghanistan.

      In that case, you not only get as many or more dead people as you do because of poor health care, but you get the ones that are left alive, millions more, so bending the knee to some zealot dictator that they might as well be dead anyway.

      The second one seems the bigger problem when it comes to prevention. With the first, you need prevent only deaths; but with the second, you must prevent (the) death of a country . The death of its freedom and democracy as it goes under to the iron-fisted dictates of the Taliban or some other equally repressive group.

      That is how I’d explain it being the bigger problem, anyway.

      • KQuark says:

        Good point. I know what you are talking about.

        Thousands of individuals who die without access to healthcare quietly in their homes or on the streets is not “spectacular” enough to garner political attention.

        But then again the reason terrorists keep on attacking civilians is because they get all the attention intended.

        • abby4ever says:

          KQ: You have hit the nail on the head. I get so angry when I see the kind of coverage terrorists get in the media. They thrive on it, it is their oxygen. SKY, and to some extent even the BBC, does specials about bomb-making factories in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan, it interviews the leaders as if they were honorable, democratically-elected politicians. They may have just come from blowing our troops to bits; Sky doesn’t care: they want the story.

          But there is no story other than watching a bunch of radicals make bombs packed with nails and showing Sky how they do that. As if they were showing SKY how they do something that is quite innocent: like weave a rug or plant corn.

          I get so mad I could spit. Why do we give them a platform? WHY???

    • escribacat says:

      That’s something about the right wing — they are so focused on boogeymen around the world they don’t have time to improve our own society.

    • Khirad says:

      Actually he was sympathetic in comparison to Sen. ThinMint that was the opportunist, and thank goodness for Claire McCaskill shutting him down and calling him on his schei

    • KevenSeven says:

      I think it was BushCo that could not walk and chew gum….

  8. Khirad says:

    I often find ethno-religious themed maps among the most helpful in understanding conflicts:

    Sorry, that quote below, from Juan Cole’s blog is from “Col. Pat Lang, former Defense Intelligence Agency head for the Middle East”

    This is still on topic, sorta: remember when?

    http://www.juancole.com/2010/01/bush-rumsfeld-responses-to-shoe-bomber.html

  9. abby4ever says:

    It’s spreading like a disease, almost a pandemic. I mean terrorism. It’s here, it’s there, it’s in Afghanistan, it’s in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, you can picture in your mind one of those images of the planet Earth, and more and more parts colored in. It’s eerie.

    Eerie and, in my view, unstoppable. At least for the immediate future.

    • KQuark says:

      We also need to put the threat of terrorism in perspective. Depending on where you live the imminent threat of terrorism is quite different. In the US for example you are much much more likely to be harmed in a violent crime or even a car accident than by a terror attack.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        The problem is that it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to put the threat of terrorism in perspective. And the reason for that can be summed up in two words, “dirty bombs”. None has ever been exploded, and I don’t think anyone knows for sure just how far any group has progressed in terms of actually carrying such an attack out. Still, with one dirty bomb attack, a group could do more damage than has been done by pretty much all terrorists ever, in history. This is what keeps people up at night, from law enforcement officials to moms and dads.
        It skews the equation, dramatically, and as long as that threat exists, nobody will ever be able to think of terrorism as less threatening, or even less likely, than lightning or car accidents.

        • KQuark says:

          Even the threat of so called dirty bombs is overblown (no pun intended). It’s not like a true nuclear weapon where other matter is made radioactive from the explosion. The point is you would need relatively large amounts of radioactive material to make the bomb a true WMD. The whole dirty bomb in a suitcase scenario is vastly overstated.

          If you are really worried this site will tell you how to survive a dirty bomb attack.

          http://www.secretsofsurvival.com/survival/dirty_bomb_nuclear_suitcase_bomb.html

          • whatsthatsound says:

            This misses the point, KQ. The fact is that terrorists will continue to seek greater and greater ways to cause damage. The threat of being struck by lightning, being hit by a car, or being a victim of violent crime, don’t change much from year to year. Terror technology has the potential (and that’s the key word) to increase exponentially. If it’s not a dirty bomb, it will be a virus (potentially far more deadly) or something else. My point is that with terrorists, the will to do violence far exceeds the capacity, and that is a gap they would love to close. That’s what people sense, and that’s what they are afraid of.

            • KQuark says:

              I do understand what you are saying. Even considering the advances terrorists may be able to make I just don’t think they are that big of a threat. I could be wrong. It could be just terrorism threat fatigue. Who knows. But then again that’s the problem with threats that cannot be fully known or expected they just need to exist on some level to scare people.

            • whatsthatsound says:

              Yeah, that’s my meaning too. The psychological impact is the greatest victory they achieve. Media is the most effective technological “weapon” in their arsenal now, because it enables acts that involve even a small number of victims to impact hundreds of millions, and just as importantly, government policies.I’m with you; I wish individuals could consider that they have very little chance of being a victim of terrorism. But, as you write, “threats that cannot be fully known or expected” are the scariest of all, and that works to the terrorist’s advantage.

          • Khirad says:

            I’ve heard it discounted outright. I wouldn’t go that far though, and was hoping you’d have something to say on the matter.

            • KQuark says:

              I mean sure if you could deliver and Oklahoma City type bomb with a few 55 gallon drums of radioactive waste I can see the threat. But a few grams of radioactive material in a suitcase would only be dissipated with a bomb.

              How come I feel like the NSA is looking over my shoulder on this thread.

            • Khirad says:

              Yeah, it was the dissipation factor I always heard and the logistics of a McVeigh type deal would be kinda hard to go unnoticed -- not impossible, mind you.

              *boo*

              Yeah, I asked AdLib for the spook stats regarding visits to this site, don’t know if he ever got back on that.

      • escribacat says:

        I agree. I am much more worried about the local nitwits driving while texting than I am about being nailed by a terrorist.

      • Khirad says:

        There was a guy who wrote a book or something on that. Had the probability of even being struck by lightning compared to being caught in a terrorist attack.

        I would say, communications technology is what makes the spread different, now. In many cases, they are local grievances now broadly affiliating under the umbrella of ‘global jihad’ -- on that not much has changed -- and it is important to keep that in perspective.

        In Europe, Muslims are being radicalized, and that is different, but I do appreciate the British response more than the US handling was for the longest time. Thing is that they had more experience in this regard, and had already learned from mistakes which we insisted, it seemed, learning on our own.

  10. Khirad says:

    I was tempted to muster up an article on Yemen, even though the Gulf States and Yemen are outside my general purview, to put it mildly.

    I saw Brennan on CNN. Almighty Allah, someone from the NSC who can pronounce al-Qa’ida correctly! After the Bush years (with the exception of Crocker), that is in itself mildly reassuring, past mere efforts of affectation.

    For more on the situation in the land of Sheba, Juan Cole:

    I have been to Yemen three times, before and after unification, and have traveled outside Sanaa. I’ve spoken publicly in Arabic in front of big audiences and interacted with Zaidis, Salafis, Sufis. It is an extremely complicated society with multiple ecological zones. It is an arid, tribal (segmentary-lineage) system. Most of the scholars I know who work on Yemen have been kidnapped by tribes or thrown in jail by the government at least once. People are either Arab nationalists or Muslim ones. They have very little use for outsiders. If the US tried to establish a big presence there, they would make the Iraqi resistance look half-hearted and weak-kneed.

    http://www.juancole.com/2009/12/top-republican-myths-about-crotch.html

    This is a bit of Kipling’s Mandalay from my Rimbaud biography (which I have yet to read, but knew might have some good quotes on Yemen) --

    ‘Ship me somewhere east of Suez, where the best is / like the worst,
    Where there aren’t no Ten commandments, an’ a man / can raise a thirst.’

    It was my early gut-feeling that they were probably evacuating non-essential personnel.

    Oh, some historical perspective on Yemeni rebels:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Yemen_Civil_War

    • Bernard Marx says:

      Juan Cole is right in saying that Yemen “is an extremely complicated society”. Although I would in no way pretend to be an expert on Yemen I’ve spent enough time there to know that nothing is simple there, and anyone who presents it as such is likely to be very wrong.

      My concern is that now Yemen is suddenly in the spotlight we are getting a whole load of overnight ‘experts’ on Yemen. There was an article on HP penned by the former ambassador to Morocco which was stunningly naive, simplistic and in a number of instances completely wrong.

      It’s easy to see how the American public -- many of whom probably can’t locate Yemen on the map let alone tell you anything about it, will be mobilized into thinking about it in certain ways. I can see Yemen being discursively constructed as an object of Western (imperial?) knowledge before my very eyes.

      • escribacat says:

        One thing I am sure about with Obama — he won’t be coming up with any “axis of evil” nonsense over this.

      • Khirad says:

        Me too. Just a cursory geography lesson might give some perspective to others. Though it and Oman look small under Saudi Arabia, Yemen is a little bigger than California.

        What are your thoughts on the Houthis, by the way? I know they’re indigenous, but I’m trying to sort through if there’s any truth in the (transparently) politically motivated accusations of the Arab media against Tehran.

        • Bernard Marx says:

          The truth is that information from that area is very difficult to come by, and any information that is avaiable is quickly distorted for political reasons. However, I have it on what I consider to be as good an authority as any that there is no evidence of Iranian involvement with the Houthis (although supporting groups like this would be consistent with Iran’s modus operandi).

          Regardless, I’m sure we will hear a lot more about their supposed support of the Houthis in the future.

          • Khirad says:

            I have it on what I consider to be as good an authority as any that there is no evidence of Iranian involvement with the Houthis (although supporting groups like this would be consistent with Iran

            • Bernard Marx says:

              Yes, I agree. Either way, it’s certain that even if they are funding the Houthis, they are not a major factor in the conflict.

              This is not (as some people have suggested) a proxy war between the US and Iran.

            • Khirad says:

              The main objective would be a proxy war with Saudi Arabia, if anything (which has undertones of America, of course). Nevertheless, it, if true, would be more about Gulf hegemony. And, Iran has largely moved past such provocations, but it is the new internal situation and revived “Roots of the Revolution” IRGC-types, whom through the Quds Force, can act relatively independently that leaves this an open question to me. Even among this crowd though, the calculus has changed and they’re more astute in balancing the power of the region and have been more reticent in instigating the Saudis. It still strikes me as slightly anachronistic policy in post Khatami Riyadh-Tehran d

    • KQuark says:

      Please muster at will. Your article will be better than 99% of the disinformation we hear about Yemen and the rest of the Mideast written by the so called “experts”.

  11. Emerald1943 says:

    Is this a cheap shot…or what? Anything to make it appear that the President is doing nothing in the fight against radical Islamists.

    My first thought, when I saw the headline, was that this is the first step before troops are sent. Usually, embassies are closed and diplomats are recalled.

    • boomer1949 says:

      Of course. He could say it’s a beautiful, blue sky, cloudless day, and ooops, the critics would say he was wrong.

      It’d make no difference. The President could be 150% positive and spot on, yet the GOP would denounce him for being so optimistic. Anything, anything at all to disagree.

    • Khirad says:

      We had the same first thought. We’d be wise to be cautious in how we implement force, though.

  12. Bernard Marx says:

    I’ve been to both embassies, and although they are pretty secure from people trying to get in (especially the US one) it would be simple to lob a grenade over the fence or to mortar them from a distance.

    I think they’ll eventually have to move the US embassy so that they can control the surrounding area better. The British embassy is better placed in this regard.

    As far as what the US government will do in Yemen, I think it’s pretty clear that they will continue to support the government of Yemen. The biggest fear is that Yemen will become a ‘failed state’ which would make it far harder to control what goes on in the territory.

    So this will mean supporting the government in their fight against al Houthis in the north (nothing to do with al Qaeda) and helping to curb the separatist movements in the south (nothing to do with al Qaeda) and the separatist movements in the east (perhaps some links to al Qaeda like groups).

    Unfortunately this strategy risks continuing the type of policies that make the US so unpopular in the region -- that is, propping up illegitimate regimes. For all the rhetoric about democracy, the truth is the US is scared of it and will stand in the way of self-determination if they don’t like what it may bring.

    The biggest opposition party in Yemen -- Islah -- is an Islamic party, which would appear to be far less supportive of US policies.

    • Khirad says:

      Gee, what makes me think the UK called dibs on theirs earlier? (btw, on a British side note, I’ve got C-Span’s 20 years of Commons coverage on and lord was Thatcher irritating)

      I heard Yemen described not as a failed state yet, but a ‘collapsed state’ as it stands.

      I tried to bring this up during the domestic fracas, that the attention on Yemen, not the bomber should have been the news focus earlier. This didn’t just happen out of nowhere magically on Christmas.

      • moongal6 says:

        I always thought Thatcher looked just like Reagan in drag. I don’t ever recall seeing them together in the same room. And yes, she was irritating.
        In a serious vein, IMHO, doesn’t Yemen fall into the PNAC umbrella? I am basically ignorant about this, but I remember reading something a while back about this on Truthout. Kristol, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and all the usual suspects still have the Middle East in their sights.

      • abby4ever says:

        It’s odd. I recall a story at hp just after that failed terror incident, about Lieberman going on and on, on a talk show, about how Yemen was a problem. I recall how much heat he took for that and not just at hp. But I guess he was right. (He’d know, chairing the committee that he chairs…would he not?)

        • Bernard Marx says:

          I think much of the heat Lieberman attracted (on HP at least) was for calling for ‘preemptive action’ in Yemen. I think a lot of people saw this as a euphemism for an invasion because they didn’t understand that any action in Yemen would be designed to support the government.

          I also saw a lot of posters there saying it must be about getting their hands on Yemen’s oil, which is laughable. Yemen is not in an enviable situation regarding natural resources (good fisheries notwithstanding).

          • Khirad says:

            Oh, the oil people and we’re gonna attack X -- Obama’s just like Bush! people were out again? I’ve heard some of the wildest theories (pieced together from scraps of facts, mind you), why not add a few more?

            • KQuark says:

              The hypocrisy of these people is what amazes me. People complain we are just in the Mideast because they have oil. Or Afghanistan is just about maintaining a gas pipeline. Well duh because we still rely on burning fossil fuels. 90% of what makes up your computer is directly made from oil. Yet you rarely see these progressives vehemently support solutions to get us off of oil. Obama is the first president since Carter that gets it in this regard. If we don’t do something about our reliance on fossil fuels Mideast policy will always be just about oil for another three decades.

            • abby4ever says:

              When you don’t understand why, just say ‘Oil’ .

            • Bernard Marx says:

              Yep, those are the people.

        • Khirad says:

          He was partially right, but for the wrong reasons, and offering the wrong solutions (yay! another Mogadishu incident). Lieberman has a different foreign policy neocon axe to grind.

          • Bernard Marx says:

            Yes, that’s true.

          • abby4ever says:

            I agree. I meant he was right about there being a problem there. I should have made that clear. As for his ideas about solutions, well… God help us!

            Which would be the worst of these two possible worlds, do you think: Lieberman dictating our Yemen policy, or Cheney?

            You have five seconds…

            LOL !!!

            • Khirad says:

              Don’t worry, I got your point, but I just had to vent on the Liebster. I hope you understand.

              I agree with Bernard Marx, though Cheney is more driven by profit than mimicking Right-wing Israeli policy. If ever the two were not in concert, Cheney would go for the $. Still hard to call which is worse…

            • Bernard Marx says:

              I think they’d be remarkably similar.

            • abby4ever says:

              Me too. That’s what makes the question so hard to answer…because you still have to say, in five seconds and DESPITE the similarities, which world would be the worst. I like asking Khirad hard questions.

              :]

      • Bernard Marx says:

        Actually the British embassy in Sana’a only moved to its current location relatively recently -- I think for security reasons. It was previously in quite a built up area. Now it’s perched up on the side of a hill surrounded by other embassies.

        Yes, Yemen may not be a ‘failed’ or ‘collapsed’ state, but it’s certainly facing some severe challanges. Many people I know (who are far more up with the play in Yemen than me) have predicted Yemen will fall into full-scale civil war within the next decade or so. It will be interesting to see how US involvement may influence this.

        • Khirad says:

          Ah, that was a poor way of mine to allude to the greater history the British (Empire) have in the region (and knowingly poor, given that Sana’a is not Aden).

          Nevertheless, it elicited some very useful information more valuable in content than the the original post. 😉

          And, yeah, I think the Irish betting odds on another civil war in Yemen would be predictable, sadly.

    • KQuark says:

      Great contribution Bernard M.

      In the modern era it seems like power vacuums have created the most dangerous security threats to the rest of the world from WWII to today. Hell even the French “reign of terror” and subsequent Napoleonic dictatorship was created because of a power vacuum. Even when a security vacuum is contained within the borders of a country they have created humanitarian disasters like Cambodia and Darfur.

      I hate to say it but the nation building models seem to be the only strategies that work after conflicts. But nation building is what has lead to American imperialism. I guess it’s a double damned situation.

    • Emerald1943 says:

      Thanks, Bernard, for your perspective. I expect that I am like a lot of other people who know very little about Yemen.

  13. Scheherazade says:

    This FNC headline makes my shake my head in revulsion.

    Despite Al Qaeda Threat, U.S. Not Planning to Expand Terror Fight in Yemen

  14. javaz says:

    I bookmarked it!

  15. bitohistory says:

    j’avaz, That quiz is fun. :-) The home page there is a good site for world news. Somethings not covered normally.

  16. javaz says:

    OMG!
    This is embarrassing, but I got 7 right!
    :)
    That was fun!

  17. Khirad says:

    Thank goodness for the Indian questions and the ones about beer and Scotch, else I wouldn’t have gotten half of those right! The Thai Anim

  18. bitohistory says:

    Khirad, I didn’t get the one one the beer. Some of them I had to guess on and some tested my ability of knowing useless facts. It was fun.
    What is that commercial? a take off of “let them eat cake” to let them drink beer?


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