Weekly News Update 9 August 2013

Highlights:
Yemen Steps Back From Terror-Plot Claims, Highlighting U.S.’s Challenge
Wall Street Journal — 7 August 2013
Yemeni officials said Wednesday that the country’s security forces had broken up several plots by al Qaeda militants but the government distanced itself from those reports later in the day, illustrating Washington’s challenges as it tries to work with Yemen’s government to combat al Qaeda’s branch there. Local sensitivities about the bilateral counterterrorism cooperation have spiked in recent years due to high-profile civilian deaths by U.S. missiles, prompting tight limitations on any visible American role in the fight against al Qaeda. For example, U.S. Special Forces aren’t allowed to accompany Yemeni units on patrols through the rugged mountains where al Qaeda cells have found safe haven, say military officials familiar with the situation. But Yemeni units have neither the skill nor political will to take on these sorts of quick-strike operations, the officials said. During meetings in Washington, D.C. last week, U.S. officials complained to Mr. Hadi that Yemeni forces weren’t taking the al Qaeda threat seriously and needed to stop pulling back from military offensives, people familiar with the meetings said. Yemeni officials say they have spared no effort battling al Qaeda and its affiliates but that the threat remains too large for their ill-equipped military.

How We Lost Yemen
Foreign Policy — 6 August 2013
Faulty assumptions and a mistaken focus paired with a resilient, adaptive enemy have created a serious problem for the United States.  Part of the U.S. approach to fighting AQAP is based on what worked for the United States in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where drone strikes have decimated what is often called al Qaeda’s core (though as al Qaeda’s strength moves back toward the Arab world, analysts will need to start rethinking old categories). Unfortunately, not all lessons are transportable. This means that the United States is fighting the al Qaeda that was, instead of the al Qaeda that is. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, al Qaeda was largely a group of Arabs in nonArab countries. In Yemen, al Qaeda is made up mostly of Yemenis living in Yemen.

Is Yemen Ready for a Social Market Economy?
CIPE Development Blog — 6 August 2013
Yemeni policymakers must also understand that a social welfare system is built steadily over time. The new Yemeni state should not bear the full responsibility of lifting the economy from the brink of collapse. Once a successful free market economy is established, the public sector will have the means and tools to follow in Scandinavia’s footsteps. Not unlike the political dialogue currently taking place, the Yemeni economic minister’s vision of a social market system in Yemen will take time.

Security:
12 in Yemen Die in Strikes by U.S. Drones
AP via New York Times — 8 August 2013
Three American drone strikes in Yemen on Thursday killed a total of 12 people suspected of being members of Al Qaeda, a Yemeni military official said, raising to eight the number of attacks in less than two weeks.

Inside Yemen’s Shadow War Arsenal
Foreign Policy — 7 August 2013
Only a portion of the $600 million committed since late 2011 goes directly to fight terrorism — about $250 million, according to State Department officials. The rest goes towards “helping to strengthen governance and institutions on which Yemen’s long-term progress depends,” as then-White House counterterrorism czar (and unofficial envoy to Yemen) John Brennan explained last year. That includes cash to “empower women,” “combat corruption,” and provide “food vouchers, safe drinking water, and basic health services,” Brennan added.  But even that non-military aid can sometimes come with a hard edge. Last year, the State Department paid out $2.2 million to Griffin Security, a Yemeni contractor specializing in “close protection,” “surveillance systems,” and “maritime security services,” according to the company’s website. On June 26, Foggy Bottom sent another $3.1 million to Advanced C4 Solutions, a Tampa-based business with strong military and intelligence community ties, for an unspecified “administrative management” contract. Six days later, the State Department executed a second, $1.3 million deal with the same firm — which publicly declares itself a specialist in computer network attacks — for “translation and interpretation services.” “We need to remember that we have done at least as badly in planning and managing aid as the worst recipient country has done in using it,” said Tony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Yemen’s anxious residents shop for Eid festivities amid buzz of US planes
The Guardian — 7 August 2013
The foreign planes in the skies may clearly be for the purposes of surveillance, but they come in the midst of a sustained spurt of direct American intervention in Yemen that’s seen five drone strikes in less than two weeks. According to a report by the Washington Post, US officials have said the strikes are directly aimed at disrupting AQAP’s allegedly imminent plot, targeting militant operatives before they strike. But many here have cast aspersions at the idea, noting the reported deaths of two civilians in a strike last week and stressing that the bodies of those killed in the latest strikes have yet to be definitively identified.

With AQAP’s strategy unclear, Yemen struggles to respond
Christian Science Monitor — 7 August 2013
Sanaa has remained largely calm, with capital residents seemingly more concerned about preparations for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan than the threat of the attack. Despite reports of an unprecedented security presence, the streets of the city appear almost normal, even if the site of spy planes for two mornings straight has had many here nervously scanning the sky.

Yemen drone strike and US evacuation: Signs of drone war intensification?
Christian Science Monitor — 6 August 2013
The travel warning was issued in Washington as the US carried out a drone strike targeting a vehicle traveling north of the capital of Sana’a and reportedly carrying four Al Qaeda militants, all of whom were killed. Tuesday’s strike was at least the fourth in the last two weeks – part of an intensification of the US drone war in Yemen over the past 18 months. The British government on Tuesday also ordered a drawdown of its diplomatic presence in Yemen. The Yemeni government lamented the US and British actions in a statement Tuesday afternoon, asserting that “The evacuation of embassy staff serves the interests of the extremists and undermines the exceptional cooperation between Yemen and the international alliance against terrorism.”

Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch eyes a new haven
Washington Post — 8 August 2013
In recent months, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, as the affiliate is known, has bolstered its presence in Hadramaut, the country’s largest province. Hadramaut — which some scholars say roughly translates as “Death is among us” — abuts Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally. “After the ousting of al-Qaeda from Abyan and the fleeing of the armed militants to different areas, it seems that al-Qaeda has shifted its attention toward Hadramaut,” said Ali Alsarari, a political adviser to Yemen’s prime minister, Mohammed Basindwa. “They control some areas and are trying to do what they did in Abyan.”

Yemen says it foiled al Qaeda plot
CNN — 7 August 2013
Yemen foiled an al Qaeda plot to capture oil and gas facilities and seize two key southern ports early this week, a spokesman for the prime minister said Wednesday. However, another Yemeni government official said it did not appear that the plot was the terror threat that prompted the United States on Tuesday to urge Americans to leave the country. That official, who was not authorized to speak to the media, downplayed the report of the plot disruption, saying that “these are ongoing threats to oil and gas installations in Yemen.”

Even Yemeni Government Spokesman Finds Foiled Plot Hard to Believe
Foreign Policy — 7 August 2013
The Yemeni government has a history of making outsized claims about its counterterrorism successes; on at least two occasions, officials claimed to have killed AQAP’s deputy emir, Said al-Shihri, only for Shihri to release statements demonstrating that he was still very much alive. But there’s little wonder why the Yemeni government would claim a victory now. With the U.S. diplomatic community in lockdown in response to a terror threat emanating from Yemen — Craig, speaking to the BBC, describes the persistent hum of P-3 Orion electronic surveillance planes circling Sanaa today — the government has every reason to try and demonstrate that it’s doing its part in combating AQAP. As for what precisely that part has consisted of — well, Yemeni officials have been more tight-lipped on that front.

Westerners in Yemen Take Extra Precautions
Voice of America — 6 August 2013
From his office in Yemen, one official of a U.S.-based relief organization says he is trying not to attract attention and asks that neither he or his organization be identified.  He is one of dozens of Westerners who are cautiously staying behind after the U.S. and Britain hurriedly evacuated the majority of embassy staffers. The official says he has no immediate plans to leave Yemen but is taking the warnings seriously. “We just stay home, stay out of sight, away from public places, these kinds of things,” said the official. He says even if there had been no terrorist warning, his office would be closed for the next few days for the Muslim holiday Eid, marking the end of Ramadan. He also says life on the streets in Sana’a appears normal, in spite of the warnings.

Yemen, US at odds over diplomats’ exit
Politico — 6 August 2013
Just days after Yemen’s president visited the White House, his government and the U.S. are at odds over the U.S. decision to pull most diplomatic personnel from the Arab country amidst fears of an impending terrorist attack. Yemen’s embassy in Washington said Tuesday that the move is counterproductive and advances the goals of militant groups. “While the government of Yemen appreciates foreign governments’ concern for the safety of their citizens, the evacuation of embassy staff serves the interests of the extremists and undermines the exceptional cooperation between Yemen and the international alliance against terrorism,” Yemen’s embassy said.

What It’s Like to Be an American Who’s Still in Yemen
The Atlantic — 7 August 2013
Two American journalists left behind in Sanaa say life there seems to be proceeding largely as usual, though one said Yemenis seem to be more wary of the threat from drones than from jihadis. Casey Coombs, a freelance journalist from Colorado who arrived in Yemen in February 2012, said he remained there even after the country was evacuated because he wanted to capture major events, such as this one, in its post-Arab Spring transition. In recent days, he’s mostly stuck to his neighborhood and his apartment, which he shares with fellow expat journalists. He said that for security, they text and call each other regularly when they travel around the city.

UK and France close Yemen embassies
Financial Times — 4 August 2013
The UK and France have closed their embassies in Yemen amid fears of escalating violence and after the US issued a global travel alert. The Foreign Office said on Saturday it would close the embassy in Sana’a over Sunday and Monday and told UK nationals they were unlikely to be evacuated if they chose to stay in the country and civil unrest there deteriorated.

Yemen turmoil could stall Obama’s effort to close Guantanamo
Reuters via Chicago Tribune — 7 August 2013
Turmoil in Yemen and the warnings of attacks that prompted the United States to shut diplomatic missions across the Middle East could hinder President Barack Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison. Obama’s plan to restart the repatriation of Yemeni inmates, a large group at the prison, is coming under increasing scrutiny because of the recent focus on the country as a hotbed of al Qaeda activity.

Yemen drone strike kills four suspected al Qaeda militants: tribal leaders
Reuters — 6 August 2013
At least four suspected al Qaeda members were killed in a drone strike in central Yemen, local tribal leaders said on Tuesday, following a U.S. warning of a possible major militant attack in the region. The warning issued by Washington on Friday has prompted the closure of several Western embassies in Yemen and several U.S. missions across the Middle East and Africa.

Yemeni former bin Laden aide pledged to fight for generations
Reuters — 7 August 2013
Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) whose alleged communications with al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri sparked a worldwide terrorism alert, is a veteran of global jihad who has promised the West a fight that will last for generations. According to Gregory Johnsen, author of a book on al Qaeda in Yemen, he was born in southern Yemen and left his country for the first time when he went to Afghanistan in 1998 to join al Qaeda.

Yemen releases names of 25 al-Qaida figures, says they were planning attacks across country
AP — 5 August 2013
Yemeni authorities released the names of 25 wanted al-Qaida suspects on Monday, saying they were planning terrorist attacks in the capital, Sanaa, and other cities across the country. The development came as Washington ordered the closure of 20 U.S. diplomatic missions in the Muslim world through the week, following warnings of a possible al-Qaida attack.

U.S. tells its citizens in Yemen to leave immediately
Reuters — 6 August 2013
The United States told its citizens in Yemen on Tuesday to leave immediately and ordered the evacuation of non-essential U.S. government staff because of the threat of terrorist attacks. The State Department announcement was the latest warning since Washington issued a worldwide travel alert on Friday that prompted the closure of several Western embassies in Yemen and U.S. missions across the Middle East and Africa.

The first steps towards criminalising drone strikes, Obama take note
Al-Jazeera — 2 August 2013
“America’s actions are legal” claimed President Obama in a speech on drones earlier this year. It was the latest in a string of attempts made by his administration to justify covert strikes carried out by the US overseas – in countries including the Arab peninsula’s poorest nation, Yemen. But back in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, it appears the country’s civil society disagrees. Members of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC) – a US-supported initiative which will map out Yemen’s post-Arab Spring future – overwhelmingly voted to criminalise drone strikes in Yemen. The Yemeni people have spoken. Now Presidents Hadi and Obama must listen – for their own sake, as much as that of Yemen.

Two killed in clashes between rival factions in Yemeni army
Reuters via Chicago Tribune — 2 August 2013
At least two people died and five were wounded in clashes between soldiers once loyal to Yemen’s ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh and a rival army faction in Sanaa on Friday, police and medical sources said. Hundreds of members of Yemen’s now dissolved elite Republican Guard gathered on a parade ground near the presidential palace in the capital to protest against what they say is neglect by the new leadership.

Gunmen kill intelligence official in Yemen
AP via The State — 5 August 2013
Security officials say suspected al-Qaida gunmen have killed a military intelligence official in central Yemen. Officials say Lt. Col. Mohammed el-Mamari was shot on his way home Sunday. He was walking to his car after work when two unidentified gunmen killed him in the central province of Bayda. The officials spoke anonymously in line with regulations.

Yemen mosque bombing kills 1, injures 12
CNN — 6 August 2013
A bomb exploded inside a mosque in a northern Yemen on Monday evening, killing one person and injuring 12 others, police told SABA, the state news agency. Someone threw the bomb into the mosque in Mahaweet province during evening prayers, according to Brigadier Ali Abdullah Tahir, the provincial security chief.

This Is the 8th Time al Qaeda in Yemen Has Threatened U.S. Embassies
Foreign Policy — 6 August 2013
In a separate analysis, IntelCenter found that AQAP has publicly discussed attacking embassies seven times since December 2009. Last September, in a statement issued shortly after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, AQAP praised the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and urged others to emulate the attack: “[W]henever a Muslim gets hold of US ambassadors or delegates, he has the best example in the act of the grandsons of Omar Mukhtar in Libya — who slaughtered the US ambassador — may Allah reward them. Let the step of expelling embassies and consulates be a milestone to free the Muslim lands from the American domination and arrogance.”

Foreigners targeted in Yemen kidnappings
Al-Jazeera — 3 August 2013
A video confirming fears that a Dutch couple had been kidnapped in Yemen has increased concerns about the risks facing journalists in the country. Evidence that Dutch freelance journalist Judith Spiegel and her husband Boudewijn Berendsen had been seized was posted on YouTube in mid-July. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is warning that reporters are now seen as “high-value targets” in a wave of kidnapping that has plagued the country, while Reporters Without Borders has voiced alarm at the growing threat to media staff.

Why drone attacks in Yemen are like ‘trying to hit a ghost’
BBC News — 7 August 2013
There is little public support for al-Qaeda on the streets of Zinjibar, but plenty of anger over the strategy used to fight them. “Show the world. Show the world what the government has done,” said one man. “They bomb here but they’re trying to hit a ghost.”

AQAP threatens NDC members
Yemen Times — 1 August 2013
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has pledged to kill members of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) State Building working group that have voted against making Islam the sole source of law in Yemen. The AQAP-affiliated online Arabic magazine, Sada Al-Malahim, called the NDC members “infidels,” and encouraged supporters to send in the addresses of those who voted against the measure.

Security tightens around shuttered Yemen embassies after militant warning
Reuters via Yahoo! News — 4 August 2013
Soldiers blocked roads outside Western embassies in Sanaa on Sunday, after a U.S. warning of a possible major militant attack in the Middle East prompted the closure of many missions in Yemen and U.S. missions in several other Arab states. Security in Yemen, home to one of the most active wings of al Qaeda, is a global concern as the impoverished Arab Peninsula state shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally and the world’s top oil exporter.

Obama praises Yemeni leader, makes no mention of Guantanamo
Reuters — 1 August 2013
President Barack Obama praised Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi for his work combating terrorism but made no mention of efforts to repatriate detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison in public remarks at the White House on Thursday.

Yemeni TV channels fight terrorism through Ramadan programming
Al-Shorfa — 2 August 2013
Yemeni satellite television channels this Ramadan are combating extremist ideology and promoting dialogue and moderation through a diverse array of programmes, television executives and staff told Al-Shorfa.

After Qatar, US and Saudi Arabia : Will Hadi return to the capital?
Yemen Observer — 5 August 2013
The previous four days have revived negative memories in the minds of Sana’a residents, including loud explosions, assassinations and road blocks. Senior government sources whispered to the Yemen Observer that a message was communicated that “if the security threats and the continued attempts on the presidential residence do not stop, President Hadi will not return to Sana’a.”

Economy/Energy:
Yemen’s main pipeline attacked, crude flow stops again
Reuters via Chicago Tribune — 4 August 2013
Tribesmen blew up Yemen’s main oil export pipeline late on Saturday, halting the flow of crude, the state news agency reported on Sunday. The pipeline started pumping crude oil again last week after repairs that took several days, following a similar attack by tribesmen. Earlier this year, the pipeline was pumping around 125,000 barrels per day.

National Dialogue:
Political parties reject allotted representation in election supervisory committees
Yemen Times — 5 August 2013
The Supreme Committee for Elections and Referendum (SCER) has referred its dispute with political parties to President Abdu Rabu Mansur Hadi to resolve. SCER and the political parties disagreed over the percentage SCER had allocated to each political party in the supervisory committees that will oversee the work of the main and sub-committees in each governorate during the elections scheduled for February of next year. SCER deputy head Judge Suliman Al-Dini told the Yemen Times that SCER held several meetings with the political parties but hasn’t reached a solution yet for creating mechanisms and procedures that will establish the supervisory committees.

Ramadan/Eid:
The Spirit of Ramadan Thrives in Rural Yemen
As-Safir via Al-Monitor — 8 August 2013
When in Yemen, you cannot help but laugh when a Lebanese friend asks you if you are “fasting” during the month of Ramadan. Everybody fasts during Ramadan in Yemen, including non-religious people, who make sure to let it be known to the public. In any case, no restaurant or cafe receives visitors during Ramadan. Only children as young as the age of 10 can rebel against the situation.

Eid al-Fitr a joyful time in Yemen
Al-Shorfa — 8 August 2013
For most, the holiday also includes exchanging visits and gifts with relatives and friends, purchasing new clothes and al-jaala (nuts, raisins and sweets), fireworks and Eid money.  Sanaa carpenter Waddah Yahya Saleh, 28, said he worked hard during Ramadan to save money to give cash gifts for the women and children in his family, as well as buy other holiday necessities.

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