Weekly News Update 15 August 2013

Yuri Kozyrev/National Geographic/http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130812-yemen-al-qaeda-aqap-attack-plot-united-states-drone-strikes-world/

Yuri Kozyrev/National Geographic/http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130812-yemen-al-qaeda-aqap-attack-plot-united-states-drone-strikes-world/

Highlights:
Yemen leader basks in U.S. favour as drone strikes fuel rage
Reuters — 13 August 2013
In this maelstrom, Washington finds Hadi a more amenable partner than Saleh, depicted in U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks as manipulative, self-serving and untrustworthy. Tensions with Saleh often flared because he offered himself as an ally in combating al Qaeda, while sometimes striking deals with militants instead of seeking to root them out, as the United States wanted. With Hadi, things are markedly different. “He is everything his predecessor wasn’t in terms of his determination, his understanding of the threat … his determination to destroy al Qaeda,” said Daniel Benjamin, who was deeply involved in Yemen policy as former head of the State Department’s counter-terrorism office.

Saudi Arabia Keeps Tight Grip on Yemen
Al-Monitor — 13 August 2013
Some sources spoke of Saudi Arabia and Qatar funding the transfer of Yemeni militants to Syria to fight with the Free Syrian Army, with the cooperation of local religious authorities. Meanwhile, local newspapers reported on some fighters who had managed to escape from Syria. They even said that the Russian ambassador to Yemen met with the leader of the Islamic Yemeni Congregation for Reform to talk him out of sending militants to Syria, because this would mean certain death for them. The authenticity of this news usually depends on the concerned parties’ denial of the claims, and nothing of that sort happened, which tips the balance in favor of these claims being true.

Myopic Solutions to Chronic Problems: The Need for Aid Effectiveness in Yemen
CDDRL — August 2013
While there is currently some movement in aid, its efficiency, effectiveness, and appropriateness is not measured. The government and donors have internal procedures that appear to have lessened the impact of assistance provided. Issues like security and absorptive capacity have become the red herrings in development assistance to Yemen, diverting from the real issue of improving the lives of the poor. It is also not clear how initiatives such as the Executive Bureau have any real added value in the development process given that the majority of the funds delivered to Yemen are still being channeled bilaterally and multilaterally between donors and the government, based on donors’ areas of interest.

Egypt:
Yemeni Nobel winner says Egypt coup deadly for Arab democracy
Reuters via Yahoo News — 13 August 2013
“The first emerging democracy in Egypt’s history and the first in the region since the Arab Spring is quickly being dismantled,” said the 34-year-old Yemeni mother of three. Karman, the first Arab woman and second Muslim woman to win the Nobel peace prize, was turned away from Egypt on August 4 after she announced on social media her intention to join Muslim Brotherhood protesters at a huge pro-Mursi vigil in Cairo.

IDPs:
Former five-star IDP camp in Yemen now neglected
IRIN — 14 August 2013
A giant sun-bleached banner plastered to an abandoned warehouse in Yemen’s northwestern Hajjah Governorate welcomes visitors to “al-Mazraq Camp 2” – a sprawling Emirati-funded project built in late 2009 to accommodate thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing conflict. When IRIN last visited three years ago, the camp provided residents with permanent electricity, three meals a day and a resident-to-medical staff ratio of less than 400:1. Since then, the so-called “five-star camp” has fallen into a state of decay, epitomized by the tatty logo of its former humanitarian overseers, the Emirati Red Crescent Society and Yemeni al-Saleh Social Development Foundation (SDF).

Economy/Governance:
Open for Business?
Asharq Al-Awsat — 14 August 2013
”Business” is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Yemen, the Arabian peninsula’s poorest and most troubled state. However, despite its political and economic problems, the country is taking steps to attract regional and international investors, drawn by low labor costs and access to the Red Sea and the Gulf. Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to Dr. Saleh Yahya Mohsen, the head of Yemen’s General Investment Authority, about the steps the country is taking to attract investment, the obstacles it faces, and his hopes for the future of the Yemeni economy.

Yemen Said to Offer 2 Million Barrels of October Masila Crude
Bloomberg — 14 August 2013
Yemen is offering 2 million barrels of Masila crude for October loading, according to two people who received the sales document and asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak to the media.

Yemen introduces its new weekend
Al-Shorfa — 13 August 2013
Yemen is rolling out its new workweek this week, switching its weekend from Thursday-Friday to Friday-Saturday in a bid to bring its economic activities into step with the rest of the world. “Those were four lost days during which we were disengaged from the world,” Nasher said. “So the Council of Ministers decided to change the weekend, making Yemen the last Arab country to announce this decision.”  Saudi Arabia, which implemented its new weekend June 29th, was the last Arab country before Yemen to adopt this change.

Arabia’s wildlife supermarket
Al-Jazeera — 13 August 2013
Yemeni traders know that foreigners wandering though their souk are not simply looking for camels or cheap Ethiopian sheep. The city has become a hub for the lucrative trade in wild animals, smuggled across the Red Sea between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Visitors from the Gulf states looking for exotic animals for private collections and pets have become a common sight in western Yemen. While the exact numbers are unavailable, the trend seems to have put a dent in the cheetah population across Somalia, whose autonomous Somaliland region – located across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen – is used as a staging ground for the smuggling. In an ironic twist, Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, is now allegedly one of the world’s most lucrative conduits for wildlife crime.

Yemeni energy company denies attack report
UPI — 13 August 2013
A natural gas company operating in Yemen said it denied there was a deadly al-Qaida attack on an export terminal last weekend. Yemen LNG said there was no validity to reports of an attack by al-Qaida on the Balhaf liquefied natural gas export terminal, the country’s only such facility.

National Dialogue Conference:
All Hirak NDC delegates missing
Yemen Observer — 14 August 2013
Representatives of the Hirak (Southern Movement) were completely absent on the first day of the meetings of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) following the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Sources at the NDC said the attendance on the first day was very low and that the complete absence of the Hirak was apparent, amid media leaks that Hirak intends to suspend their participation or withdraw from NDC. On the official NDC news website, a senior Hirak leader and Vice President of the NDC, Yasin Makawi, denied early Monday the leaked reports that reveal Hirak representatives intend to withdraw from the dialogue.

Security:
Al Qaeda Threat in Yemen Greater Than Ever
National Geographic — 12 August 2013
Yemen’s Central Security Forces recovered from their 2011 humiliation with a spring 2012 offensive that seized back Zinjibar and Jaar, killed nearly 400 militants, and sent hundreds, if not thousands, fleeing to their mountain redoubts. But “what the Yemeni government called the ‘defeat of al Qaeda’ became a victory,” one Yemeni journalist who has covered the Islamists for a decade told me last week. “Before, they were concentrated in certain areas, and surrounded by the army. But now they have spread out. They are everywhere.”

The innocents caught under the drones: For fearful Yemenis the US and al-Qa’ida look very similar
The Independent — 11 August 2013
The US comprehensive policy towards our country is comprehensive only on paper. Yemen is, once again, in the West’s view, a country where problems come from. As the country was waiting for Eid to finish so that the US-funded and supported National Dialogue Conference could resume and eventually finish negotiations on the coming constitution, the US suddenly, via the drones, sent a message that such an entity and its delegates were much less important, and would be taken less seriously, than the shared enemy of both Yemenis and the US – al-Qa’ida.

Drone offensive in Yemen kills 34 militant suspects
AP via Boston Globe — 9 August 2013
The United States has sharply escalated its drone war in Yemen, with military officials in the Arab country reporting 34 suspected Al Qaeda militants killed in less than two weeks, including three strikes on Thursday alone in which a dozen died.

Embassies Open, but Yemen Stays on Terror Watch
New York Times — 11 August 2013
In response to the latest threat, the United States has unleashed a barrage of drone strikes in that impoverished country, but it is unclear to what extent it has reduced the persistent and deadly threat from an increasingly decentralized Qaeda organization. The United States has carried out nine strikes in Yemen since July 28, broadening its target list beyond the high-level leaders it has always said are the main objective of the attacks.  Senior American counterterrorism and intelligence officials say the lack of certainty about the effectiveness of the latest drone strikes is a sobering reminder of the limitations of American power to deal with the array of new security threats the turmoil of the Arab Spring has produced. These doubts come even as lawmakers in Washington debate whether to restrict the surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. And Yemen is not their only concern.

Drone strike kills two in southern Yemen: officials and residents
Reuters — 10 August 2013
Local officials and residents in Yemen’s southern Lahj Province said a drone destroyed a vehicle travelling on a mountain road late on Saturday evening killing its two occupants and bringing to 15 the death toll from four strikes in three days. The local officials and residents said the vehicle, which was travelling between Yafe and Radfan, was believed to be carrying arms and its occupants were suspected members of al Qaeda.

7 Saudis among militants killed by drones
AP via CBS News — 12 August 2013
At least seven suspected militants from Saudi Arabia were among the alleged al Qaeda members killed in Yemen in a recent wave of U.S. drone strikes, senior Yemeni officials said Friday, suggesting that Saudis are increasingly crossing the border to carry funds or seek terrorist training.

Yemen’s al Qaeda leader says will free prisoners
Reuters — 12 August 2013
The leader of al Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, said he would free jailed Islamist militants soon, days after the United States shut missions across the Middle East because of the threat of an attack, possibly from Yemen. Wuhayshi did not say in his Internet statement how he would free those jailed, but al Qaeda militants staged at least two prison breaks last month.

Yemen drone strikes ‘counterproductive’
Deutsche Welle — 13 August 2013
Peter Salisbury, a project consultant at Chatham House’s Yemen Forum in the UK, is wary of saying that drone strikes are directly radicalizing Yemenis, but he is certain they are having a negative impact on the country. “The drone strikes amplify the sense among ordinary Yemenis that the US is prioritizing its security interests over the wellbeing of Yemenis,” he told DW. “And that the politicians running the country, particularly President [Abd Rabbuh Mansur] Hadi, are complicit in the drone campaign despite public anger against the use of drones.”

Drones In Yemen: Does the U.S. Pay Families When Strikes Kill Innocent Yemenis?
Huffington Post — 12 August 2013
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, U.S. Central Command told ProPublica it has 33 pages somehow related to condolence payments in Yemen – but it won’t release any of them, or detail what they are.

Gunmen kill five Yemeni troops guarding LNG plant: official
Reuters — 11 August 2013
Suspected al Qaeda militants killed four Yemeni soldiers in their sleep early on Sunday in an attack on forces guarding the country’s only liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal, a local official said. The assault follows an escalating campaign of drone strikes by the United States over the past two weeks and warnings of militant attacks that prompted Washington to close embassies across the Middle East and evacuate some staff from Yemen.

Yemen downplays security threats
UPI — 14 August 2013
The Yemeni government said military and national security personnel were effectively coping with the heightened state of alert. Dozens of U.S. embassies in the Middle East and North Africa were shut down early this month as a precaution following indications of an al-Qaida threat. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa said it would remain closed because of the security threat.

America Loses Yemeni People In Drone War
Al-Monitor — 13 August 2013
Twitter, Facebook and other media outlets exploded with comments from enraged residents of Sanaa, voicing their frustration with the American and Yemeni governments for allowing US planes to occupy the capital’s sky for three days. Yemenis also expressed bewilderment as to the reasons behind the scare, given that the security situation on the ground has remained stable. The capital security measures are even lower than in some days in the past. It remains too obvious that Yemenis don’t understand this sudden evacuation that presented Yemen as the source of evil and threats; especially that they weren’t bothered with anything recently more than with the drones above their heads.

Barrage of drone strikes in Yemen show flaws of US counter-terrorism strategy
The Guardian — 12 August 2013
If the barrage of US drone strikes over the last week weakened al-Qaida‘s Yemen affiliate, the terrorist organization that has captured Washington’s attention isn’t acting like it. Not only is it vowing another attack, it has prompted the US to keep its Yemen embassy closed while reopening all the others – implicitly highlighting the weakness of the US policy of launching drone strikes first and asking questions later.

The Case for Restraint in Yemen
Huffington Post — 14 August 2013
At the intellectual level, the president seems to realize that U.S. counterterrorism attacks can adversely affect public opinion in Islamic countries and potentially generate lethal blowback. Yet, when a threat — real or exaggerated — is uncovered, Obama has quickly responded with a fusillade of drone strikes. Although the administration likes to tout the many senior al Qaeda figures they have killed using drones, senior intelligence officials admit that the recent flurry of attacks in Yemen have killed only three dozen minor actors, such as vehicle drivers for the group.

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