Battleground Yemen – by Ryan Mauro


The narrowly missed terrorist attack on Christmas Day is causing the West’s attention to shift to Yemen, a country currently fighting two insurgencies led by different extremists of different ideologies but with common linkages to Iran. The Al-Qaeda portion of the forces fighting the Yemeni government has been strengthened by the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, making any move to send Yemeni detainees held there back to their homeland a very dangerous move.

Al-Qaeda has been building a base in Yemen for many years, facilitated by the willingness of the government to cut deals and negotiate truces with the organization in a way not dissimilar to Pakistan. President Saleh has used Arabs that fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets as soldiers in the 1994 civil war and against the extremist Shiite Houthi rebels in the north and has recruited from Salafi tribes, and many of these fighters have since received positions in the government and security forces.

Terrorism experts have suspected that prison breaks by Al-Qaeda members in Yemen are an inside job done to appease the group. For example, in February 2006, 23 members of Al-Qaeda including those involved in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the 2003 bombings in Riyadh escaped from a high-security prison. Those that were caught were pardoned as long as they promised not to return to jihad. In February of this year, Yemen released 170 suspected Al-Qaeda members after they also pledged not to go back to a life of terrorism.

The Arab press has reported that two Al-Qaeda camps are operating in Yemen, presumably with the government’s knowledge. One recently opened in Al-Jaza in Abyan Province housing 400 terrorists, and another open opened up in the spring, also in Abyan Province. The Yemeni government may be trying to make common cause with Sunni extremists to fight the Shiite extremists in the north.

Yemen has received increasing attention from the United States. The Defense Department is going to spend over $70 million in the next year and a half to train and arm Yemeni military and security forces, more than double the amount of previous aid provided.

The Obama Administration has looked at the possibility of sending the rest of the Yemeni nationals held at Guantanamo Bay back to their homeland, but the aforementioned issues with Yemen’s handling of Al-Qaeda makes such a move unlikely. Al-Qaeda in Yemen has been significantly strengthened as former Gitmo detainees have returned to jihad following their release and have risen to leadership positions. With nearly half of the 200 suspected terrorists held at Gitmo being Yemeni, Al-Qaeda can expect to see many of its old colleagues rejoining their ranks if such a move is made.

For example, Said Ali al-Shihri left Gitmo in 2007 and became a patient in Saudi Arabia’s terrorist rehabilitation program. Upon graduation, he went to Iran, and then became the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda in Yemen. Abdullah al-Qarawi following a similar path, also traveling to Iran after finishing the program, where he know oversees over 100 Saudi Al-Qaeda operatives. Mohammed al-Oufi, a former Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula commander, also was released from Gitmo. Luckily, he defected later and informed the Saudis about Iran’s secret involvement with Al-Qaeda in Yemen and a plot to bomb the Saudi oil infrastructure.

The Saudis have had at least 14 former Gitmo prisoners who entered their “rehabilitation” program make it back onto their list of wanted terrorists. In early February, when a list of 85 wanted terrorists was made, 35 were last seen in Iran or were believed to currently be there. The Saudis believe that the Al-Qaeda network in Iran is supporting the group’s efforts in Yemen. One former detainee was even killed in Yemen. It is clear that released prisoners from Gitmo are an important part of Al-Qaeda’s infrastructure.

The second insurgency in Yemen is of a more immediate threat to the Yemeni government’s survival and is stretching out its resources that could otherwise be used to fight Al-Qaeda. The extremist Shiite Houthi rebels in the north have been used by the Iranian government as a way of waging a proxy war against the Yemenis in order to create a pro-Iranian Shiite enclave. The Revolutionary Guards are training Houthi rebels in Eritrea, and is shipping weapons to them through the African country’s Asab harbor. A former Houthi official has confirmed that the Revolutionary Guards’ Al-Quds Force and Hezbollah are funding, training and arming them, and the Yemeni government says that Yemeni students studying in Cairo are being recruited to train in Iran before being dispatched to join the Houthi forces.

The violence has spilled over the border into Saudi Arabia and according to various reports, the Egyptians, Jordanians and even the Moroccoans are secretly come to Yemen’s rescue. The Iranians did not back down in the face of the Saudi intervention. Arms shipments to the Houthis continued, and the Saudis launched a naval blockade of the border area to prevent their arrival. The Iranians reacted by sending their own warships to the Gulf of Aden, ostensibly to fight Somali piracy, and tried to instigate riots during the hajj in Saudi Arabia.

The Iranian government is quickly escalating the conflict on the Arabian Peninsula and is devoting a large amount of resources to it. A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps official is said to have held a meeting in November with members of Hezbollah and the Houthis to prepare a new offensive along the Saudi-Yemeni border. The Iranian Army Chief of Staff is warning the Saudis that violence will spread to their country for their attacks on the Houthis, and a newspaper run by the Revolutionary Guards predicts that the Saudi government will fall if they don’t retreat. It’s also been reported that Ayatollah Khamenei has asked the Revolutionary Guards to draw up a plan to seize the Yemeni and Saudi embassies in Tehran. The Basiji militia actually already attacked the Yemeni embassy on November 24.

The Iranians even named a street in Tehran after Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi, the former leader of the extremist Shiites in Yemen. The Yemenis retaliated by naming a street called Iran Boulevard to Neda Soltan Street, in honor of the young female protestor whose brutal death at the hands of the Iranian security forces this summer was videotaped and seen around the world.

The attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day brought some much-needed attention to Yemen. Although the government has a mixed record on fighting terrorism and is far from democratic, it is trying to fight back a bold Iranian offensive in the region on one hand, and faces a threat from Al-Qaeda on the other. If the U.S. does not become sufficiently engaged in the fight, the Yemeni government will embrace the former in order to fight off the latter. The U.S. must make clear that it will give Yemen all the help in fighting both enemies as long as it purges its ranks of sympathizers and does not try to make a deal with the devil.

  • dandandandan

    Please do not propagate unsubstantiated and concocted stories.

    “The Revolutionary Guards are training Houthi rebels in Eritrea, and is shipping weapons to them through the African country’s Asab harbor. “

    You know that is hear say concocted by the Eritrean opposition. The Eritrean President challenged the media to come with evidence and gps locations of where all this halabaloo is supposedly taking place, and he will take them there courtesy of his government. Are you up to it, or you will only write this junk stuff ?

    By the way, where did the submarines and the ballistic missile go ? Is it in still in Asab ?

  • bubba4

    That's OK….it fits the point he is trying to make. Even if it's not true…something like it is true and the point is that we need to go to war with Iran and Yemen.

  • raisacombs

    ITS a very nice article,i read this article,very nice.


  • Robert Bernier

    Every American should know the truth

    No one should miss this video:

    Look to the end ( 10 min.)

  • Robert Bernier

    Wow! Read this one. It is really good. And this gentleman says it just like it is.

    This venerable and much honored WW II vet is well known in Hawaii
    for his seventy-plus years of service to patriotic organizations and causes all over the country. A humble man without a political bone in his body, he has never spoken out before about a government official, until now. He dictated this letter to a friend, signed it and mailed it to the president. Consult :

  • Laura Latini

    The Eritrean President is the worst tyrant in Africa, bar none, and is hand in glove with the worst filth in Somalia. If you are dumb enough to believe his word on anything, you are either an accomplice or a moron.

  • Steve Chavez

    The Christmas Day incident is a local law-enforcement issue. The suspect, and innocent to proven guilty, now has a lawyer.

    The airline passengers are said to have taken the suspect to the First Class area and stripped him nude which surely embarrassed and humiliated him and reminds one of other torture pictures from Iraqi prisons. His brave lawyer will surely sue for this over-reaction of over-exposure to female passengers and stewardesses! I'm sure there was some laughter after seeing his genital area and that alone should be grounds to sue the airlines.

    Obama WILL NOT, AND CAN'T, attack Yemen for a local law-enforcement incident and for an isolated incident by a lone extremist who has revealed his loneliness and isolation. Is Obama to attack countries, illegal under International Law, for such small incidents especially since the suspect caused no harm to anyone except to himself? Is he to cause WAR and violate a country's sovereignty for this?

    Obama is a Man of Peace and was awarded for it. He is not a war-monger like Bush and Cheney who would have already sent cruise-missiles which surely would have killed innocent women and children and probably would have hit a milk factory which would have starved children even more!

    Speaking of Cheney–he's out of his cage again and obviously off his meds. Luckily for the world, this bully not in charge!

    Luckily for the U.S., we have reasonable people in charge, who will not attack no matter what, and a Nobel Prize winner for President who will let anyone and everyone push us around! “Visualize World Peace!” “Justice not Revenge!” “We Deserved It!”

  • SamBlue

    You are either beung satirical (overstatement) or you're on the side of the jihadists

  • USMCSniper

    So Steve, you say that President Obama will make nice nicey to all the “misguided young militants” then they will all come to like us and go away. Wait until the next one goes off and hundreds if not thousands of Americans are killed. Steve, you really have to lay off those magic mushrooms and the hard drugs they are damaging your brain.

  • Steve Chavez

    Are you new here?

  • 1uncle

    Believing that a fanatic would care about a promise he made re: peace, is like government at Walter Reed Hospital being concerned about Ft Hood shooter,promoting him to Major and sending him to FT Hood or letting a known fanatic or lunatic board a plane. There is nobody in charge.

  • free4now

    Right on point Steve and exactly why the terror attacks have been defined and treated as they have. Wake up People. The enemy is among us…

  • turbeaux

    “The U.S. must make clear that it will give Yemen all the help in fighting both enemies as long as it purges its ranks of sympathizers and does not try to make a deal with the devil.”

    Someone needs to go buy this loon who wrote the above article a clue! The last thing the USA should become involved in is the jihad in Yemen. In fact, we need to look for and exploit more cracks and fissures within the house of Islam, so that more, not less, Muslims will fight and kill each other.

    Muslims killing other Muslims is good for the USA and bad for the house of Islam. Why would any sane purpose want to jump into the middle of their jihad? If anything we need to encourage it and help foster it.

    That is sort of like Bush idiotically jumping into the middle of a civil war in Afghanistan in 1991 to win the hearts and minds of Muslims, which is absolutely impossible, while at the same time letting OBL and AQ escape into Pakistan and Iran, and all of Bush’s fantasy based stupidity was based on that silly and absurd political correct multicultural model that says that Islam is a Religion of Peace™ and the vast overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world today are peaceful and moderate. It was also the weak pathetic justification for staying behind in Iraq after the country had been scoured for WMD and Saddam was captured.

    Had Bush not been so blinded by political correct multiculturalism, he would have focused 100 percent on the eradication of AQ and OBL in Afghanistan only and left the instant they had been obliterated, leaving behind our death and destruction and sending a strong and powerful message of deterrence to all Muslims so that they can understand what happens when they make the mistake of screwing with the USA

    In Iraq, instead of occupying the country to pursue another silly fantasy-based nation-building mission in anther misguided attempt to win the hearts and minds of Muslims, which again is absolutely impossible, Bush should have redeployed the troops back home or at least ousted the Iranian Ruling Mullahs and the House of Saud for good measure, as soon as the country was scoured for WMD and Saddam was captured. Again, leaving behind our death and destruction to send a strong and powerful message of deterrence.

  • Name

    140 civilians killed for each terrorist by drone strikes, i think we need to step back a bit from all this war talk and figure out why our cure is often as bad or worse than the disease. We're not making ourselves any safer this way, that's for sure.

    US Attacks in Pakistan Killed 700 Civilians in 2009

    By The Peninsula.

    January 03, 2010 “The Peninsula” — PESHAWAR: Of the 44 Predator strikes carried out by the American drones in the tribal areas of Pakistan in 12 months of 2009, only five were able to hit their actual targets, killing five key Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but at the cost of around 700 innocent civilian lives.

    According to the figures compiled by the Pakistani authorities, the Afghanistan-based US drones killed 708 people in 44 predator attacks targeting the Pakistani tribal areas between January 1 and December 31, 2009. For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by the American drones, 140 civilian Pakistanis also had to die. Over 90 percent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were innocent civilians.

    The success percentage for the drone hits during 2009 is hardly 11 percent. On average, 58 civilians were killed in these attacks every month, 12 persons every week and almost two people every day. Most of the hits were conducted on the basis of human intelligence, reportedly provided by the Pakistani and Afghan tribesmen, who are spying for the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan.

    Of the five successful predator attacks carried out in 2009, the first one came on January 1, which reportedly killed two senior al-Qaeda leaders – Usama al-Kin and Sheikh Ahmed Salim, both wanted by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Kin was the chief operational commander of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and had replaced Abu Faraj Al Libi after his arrest in 2004.

    The second successful drone attack was conducted on August 5 in South Waziristan that killed the most wanted fugitive chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Baitullah Mehsud along with his wife. The US State Department had announces a $5m head money for information leading to Baitullah , making him the only Pakistani fugitive with the head money separately announced by Islamabad and Washington.

    © 2001 The Peninsula.