- On December 25, US authorities arrested a Nigerian named
Abdulmutallab aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit
on charges of having tried to blow up the plane with smuggled explosives.
Since then reports have been broadcast from CNN, the New York Times and
other sources that he was "suspected" of having been trained
in Yemen for his terror mission. What the world has been subjected to since
is the emergence of a new target for the US 'War on Terror,' namely a desolate
state on the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen. A closer look at the background
suggests the Pentagon and US intelligence have a hidden agenda in Yemen.
- A 23-yearold Nigerian allegedly trained by Al
Qaeda in Yemen has given the fraud 'War On Terror' a new boost
- For some months the world has seen a steady escalation
of US military involvement in Yemen, a dismally poor land adjacent to Saudi
Arabia on its north, the Red Sea on its west, the Gulf of Aden on its south,
opening to the Arabian Sea, overlooking another desolate land that has
been in the headlines of late, Somalia. The evidence suggests that the
Pentagon and US intelligence are moving to militarize a strategic chokepoint
for the world's oil flows, Bab el-Mandab, and using the Somalia piracy
incident, together with claims of a new Al Qaeda threat arising from Yemen,
to militarize one of the world's most important oil transport routes. In
addition, undeveloped petroleum reserves in the territory between Yemen
and Saudi Arabia are reportedly among the world's largest.
- The 23-year-old Nigerian man charged with the failed
bomb attempt, Abdulmutallab, reportedly has been talking, claiming he was
sent on his mission by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based
in Yemen. This has conveniently turned the world's attention on Yemen as
a new center of the alleged Al Qaeda terror organization.
- Notably, Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA veteran who advised
President Obama on the policy leading to the Afghan troop surge, wrote
in his blog of the alleged ties of the Detroit bomber to Yemen, "The
attempt to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253 en route from Amsterdam
to Detroit on Christmas Day underscores the growing ambition of al Qaeda's
Yemen franchise, which has grown from a largely Yemeni agenda to become
a player in the global Islamic jihad in the last yearThe weak Yemeni government
of President Ali Abdallah Salih, which has never fully controlled the country
and now faces a host of growing problems, will need significant American
support to defeat AQAP."
- Some basic Yemen geopolitics
- Before we can say much about the latest incident, it
is useful to look more closely at the Yemen situation. Here several things
stand out as peculiar when stacked against Washington's claims about a
resurgent Al Qaeda organization in the Arabian Peninsula.
- Yemen straddles one of the world's most strategic
oil passages, Bab el-Mandab
- In early 2009, the chess pieces on the Yemeni board began
to move. Tariq al-Fadhli, a former jihadist leader originally from South
Yemen, broke a 15 year alliance with the Yemeni government of President
Ali Abdullah Saleh and announced he was joining the broad-based opposition
coalition known as the Southern Movement (SM). Al-Fadhli had been a member
of the Mujahideen movement in Afghanistan in the late 1980's. His break
with the government was reported in Arab and Yemeni media in April 2009.
Al-Fadhli's break with the Yemen dictatorship gave new power to the Southern
Movement (SM). He has since become a leading figure in the alliance.
- Yemen itself is a synthetic amalgam created after the
collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, when the southern Peoples' Democratic
Republic of Yemen (PDRY) lost its main foreign sponsor. Unification of
the northern Yemen Arab Republic and the southern PDRY state led to a short-lived
optimism that ended in a brief civil war in 1994, as southern army factions
organized a revolt against what they saw as the corrupt crony state rule
of northern President Ali Abdullah Saleh. President Saleh has held a one-man
rule since 1978, first as President of North Yemen (the Yemen Arab Republic)
and since 1990 as President of the unified new Yemen. The southern army
revolt failed as Saleh enlisted al-Fadhli and other Yemeni Salafists, followers
of a conservative interpretation of Islam, and jihadists to fight the formerly
Marxist forces of the Yemen Socialist Party in the south.
- Before 1990 Washington and the Saudi Kingdom backed and
supported Saleh and his policy of Islamization as a bid to contain the
communist south. Since then Saleh has relied on a strong Salafist-jihadi
movement to retain a one-man dictatorial rule. The break with Saleh by
al-Fadhli and his joining the southern opposition group with his former
socialist foes marked a major setback for Saleh.
- Soon after al-Fadhli joined the Southern Movement coalition,
on April 28, 2009 protests in the southern Yemeni provinces of Lahj, Dalea
and Hadramout intensified. There were demonstrations by tens of thousands
of dismissed military personnel and civil servants demanding better pay
and benefits, demonstrations that had been taking place in growing numbers
since 2006. The April demonstrations included for the first time a public
appearance by al-Fadhli. His appearance served to change a long moribund
southern socialist movement into a broader nationalist campaign. It also
galvanized President Saleh, who then called on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf
Cooperation Council states for help, warning that the entire Arabian Peninsula
would suffer the consequences.
- Complicating the picture in what some call a failed state,
in the north Saleh faces an al-Houthi Zaydi Shi'ite rebellion. On September
11, 2009, in an Al-Jazeera TV interview, Saleh accused Iraq's Shi'ite opposition
leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, and also Iran, of backing the north Yemen Shi'ite
Houthist rebels in an Al-Jazeera TV interview. Yemen's Saleh declared,
"We cannot accuse the Iranian official side, but the Iranians are
contacting us, saying that they are prepared for a mediation. This means
that the Iranians have contacts with them [the Houthists], given that they
want to mediate between the Yemeni government and them. Also, Muqtada al-Sadr
in al-Najaf in Iraq is asking that he be accepted as a mediator. This means
they have a link."
- Yemen authorities claim they have seized caches of weapons
made in Iran, while the Houthists claim to have captured Yemeni equipment
with Saudi Arabian markings, accusing Sana'a (the capital of Yemen and
site of the US Embassy) of acting as a Saudi proxy. Iran has rejected claims
that Iranian weapons were found in north Yemen, calling claims of support
to the rebels as baseless.
- What about al-Qaeda?
- The picture that emerges is one of a desperate US-backed
dictator, Yemen's President Saleh, increasingly losing control after two
decades as despotic ruler of the unified Yemen. Economic conditions in
the country took a drastic downward slide in 2008 when world oil prices
collapsed. Some 70% of the state revenues derive from Yemen's oil sales.
The central government of Saleh sits in former North Yemen in Sana'a, while
the oil is in former South Yemen. Yet Saleh controls the oil revenue flows.
Lack of oil revenue has made Saleh's usual option of buying off opposition
groups all but impossible.
- Into this chaotic domestic picture comes the January
2009 announcement, prominently featured in select Internet websites, that
al-Qaeda, the alleged global terrorist organization created by the late
CIA-trained Saudi, Osama bin Laden, has opened a major new branch in Yemen
for both Yemen and Saudi operations.
- Al Qaeda in Yemen released a statement through online
jihadist forums Jan. 20, 2009 from the group's leader Nasir al-Wahayshi,
announcing formation of a single al Qaeda group for the Arabian Peninsula
under his command. According to al-Wahayshi, the new group, al Qaeda in
the Arabian Peninsula, would consist of his former al Qaeda in Yemen, as
well as members of the defunct Saudi al Qaeda group. The press release
claimed, interestingly enough, that a Saudi national, a former Guantanamo
detainee (Number 372), Abu-Sayyaf al-Shihri, would serve as al-Wahayshi's
- Days later an online video from al-Wahayshi appeared
under the alarming title, "We Start from Here and We Will Meet at
al-Aqsa." Al-Aqsa refers to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem that Jews
know as Temple Mount, the site of the destroyed Temple of Solomon, which
Muslims call Al Haram Al Sharif. The video threatens Muslim leaders --
including Yemeni's President Saleh, the Saudi royal family, and Egyptian
President Mubarak -- and promises to take the jihad from Yemen to Israel
to "liberate" Muslim holy sites and Gaza, something that would
likely detonate World War III if anyone were mad enough to do it.
- Also in that video, in addition to former Guantanamo
inmate al-Shihri, is a statement from Abu-al-Harith Muhammad al-Awfi, identified
as a field commander in the video, and allegedly former Guantanamo detainee
333. As it is well-established that torture methods are worthless to obtain
truthful confessions, some have speculated that the real goal of CIA and
Pentagon interrogators at Guantanamo prison since September 2001, has been
to use brutal techniques to train or recruit sleeper terrorists who can
be activated on command by US intelligence, a charge difficult to prove
or disprove. The presence of two such high-ranking Guantanamo graduates
in the new Yemen-based al Qaeda is certainly ground for questioning.
- Al Qaeda in Yemen is apparently anathema to al-Fadhli
and the enlarged mass-based Southern Movement. In an interview, al-Fadhli
declared, "I have strong relations with all of the jihadists in the
north and the south and everywhere, but not with al-Qaeda." That has
not hindered Saleh from claiming the Southern Movement and al Qaeda are
one and the same, a convenient way to insure backing from Washington.
- According to US intelligence reports, there are a grand
total of perhaps 200 al Qaeda members in southern Yemen.
- Al-Fadhli gave an interview distancing himself from al
Qaeda in May 2009, declaring, "We [in South Yemen] have been invaded
15 years ago and we are under a vicious occupation. So we are busy with
our cause and we do not look at any other cause in the world. We want our
independence and to put an end to this occupation." Conveniently,
the same day, al Qaeda made a large profile declaring its support for southern
- On May 14, in an audiotape released on the internet,
al-Wahayshi, leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, expressed sympathy
with the people of the southern provinces and their attempt to defend themselves
against their "oppression," declaring, "What is happening
in Lahaj, Dhali, Abyan and Hadramaut and the other southern provinces cannot
be approved. We have to support and help [the southerners]." He promised
retaliation: "The oppression against you will not pass without punishment
the killing of Muslims in the streets is an unjustified major crime."
- The curious emergence of a tiny but well-publicized al
Qaeda in southern Yemen amid what observers call a broad-based popular-based
Southern Movement front that eschews the radical global agenda of al Qaeda,
serves to give the Pentagon a kind of casus belli to escalate US military
operations in the strategic region.
- Indeed, after declaring that the Yemen internal strife
was Yemen's own affair, President Obama ordered air strikes in Yemen. The
Pentagon claimed its attacks on December 17 and 24 killed three key al
Qaeda leaders but no evidence has yet proven this. Now the Christmas Day
Detroit bomber drama gives new life to Washington's "War on Terror"
campaign in Yemen. Obama has now offered military assistance to the Saleh
- Somali Pirates escalate as if on cue
- As if on cue, at the same time CNN headlines broadcast
new terror threats from Yemen, the long-running Somalia pirate attacks
on commercial shipping in the same Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea across
from southern Yemen escalated dramatically after having been reduced by
multinational ship patrols.
- On December 29, Moscow's RAI Novosti reported that Somali
pirates seized a Greek cargo vessel in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia's coast.
Earlier the same day a British-flagged chemical tanker and its 26 crew
were also seized in the Gulf of Aden. In a sign of sophisticated skills
in using western media, pirate commander Mohamed Shakir told the British
newspaper The Times by phone, "We have hijacked a ship with [a] British
flag in the Gulf of Aden late yesterday." The US intelligence brief,
Stratfor, reports that The Times, owned by neo-conservative financial backer,
Rupert Murdoch, is sometimes used by Israeli intelligence to plant useful
- The two latest events brought a record number of attacks
and hijackings for 2009. As of December 22, attacks by Somali pirates in
the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia numbered 174, with 35 vessels
hijacked and 587 crew taken hostage so far in 2009, almost all successful
pirate activity, according to the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy
Reporting Center. The open question is, who is providing the Somali "pirates"
with arms and logistics sufficient to elude international patrols from
- Notably, on January 3, President Saleh got a phone call
from Somali president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in which he briefed president
Saleh on latest developments in Somalia. Sheikh Sharif, whose own base
in Mogadishu is so weak he is sometimes referred to as President of Mogadishu
Airport, told Saleh he would share information with Saleh about any terror
activities that might be launched from Somali territories targeting stability
and security of Yemen and the region.
- Yemen and Somalia form the jaws
of a vice that could choke off vital Chinese and other Asian oil flows
- The Oil chokepoint and other oily affairs
- The strategic significance of the region between Yemen
and Somalia becomes the point of geopolitical interest. It is the site
of Bab el-Mandab, one of what the US Government lists as seven strategic
world oil shipping chokepoints. The US Government Energy Information Agency
states that "closure of the Bab el-Mandab could keep tankers from
the Persian Gulf from reaching the Suez Canal/Sumed pipeline complex, diverting
them around the southern tip of Africa. The Strait of Bab el-Mandab is
a chokepoint between the horn of Africa and the Middle East, and a strategic
link between the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean."
- Bab el-Mandab, between Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea connects
the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. Oil and other exports
from the Persian Gulf must pass through Bab el-Mandab before entering the
Suez Canal. In 2006, the Energy Department in Washington reported that
an estimated 3.3 million barrels a day of oil flowed through this narrow
waterway to Europe, the United States, and Asia. Most oil, or some 2.1
million barrels a day, goes north through the Bab el-Mandab to the Suez/Sumed
complex into the Mediterranean.
- An excuse for a US or NATO militarization of the waters
around Bab el-Mandab would give Washington another major link in its pursuit
of control of the seven most critical oil chokepoints around the world,
a major part of any future US strategy aimed at denying oil flows to China,
the EU or any region or country that opposes US policy. Given that significant
flows of Saudi oil pass through Bab el-Mandab, a US military control there
would serve to deter the Saudi Kingdom from becoming serious about transacting
future oil sales with China or others no longer in dollars, as was recently
reported by UK Independent journalist Robert Fisk.
- It would also be in a position to threaten China's oil
transport from Port Sudan on the Red Sea just north of Bab el-Mandab, a
major lifeline in China's national energy needs.
- In addition to its geopolitical position as a major global
oil transit chokepoint, Yemen is reported to hold some of the world's greatest
untapped oil reserves. Yemen's Masila Basin and Shabwa Basin are reported
by international oil companies to contain "world class discoveries."
France's Total and several smaller international oil companies are engaged
in developing Yemen's oil production. Some fifteen years ago I was told
in a private meeting with a well-informed Washington insider that Yemen
contained "enough undeveloped oil to fill the oil demand of the entire
world for the next fifty years." Perhaps there is more to Washington's
recent Yemen concern than a rag-tag al Qaeda whose very existence as a
global terror organization has been doubted by seasoned Islamic experts.
- Bruce Riedel, The Menace of Yemen, December 31, 2009,
accessed in "http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-12-31/the-menace-of-yemen/?cid=tag:all1"
- Stratfor, Yemen: Intensifying Problems for the Government,
May 7, 2009.
- Cited in Terrorism Monitor, Yemen President Accuses
Iraq's Sadrists of Backing the Houthi Insurgency, Jamestown Foundation,
Volume: 7 Issue: 28, September 17, 2009.
- NewsYemen, September 8, 2009; Yemen Observer, September
- Albaidanew.com, May 14, 2009, cited in Jamestown Foundation,
- Abigail Hauslohner, Despite U.S. Aid, Yemen Faces Growing
al-Qaeda Threat, Time, December 22, 2009, accessed in "http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1949324,00.html#ixzz0be0NL7Cv"
- Tariq al Fadhli, in Al-Sharq al-Awsat, May 14, 2009,
cited in Jamestown Foundation, op. cit.
- al-Wahayshi interview, al Jazeera, May 14, 2009.
- US Government, Department of Energy, Energy Information
Administration, Bab el-Mandab, accessed in "http://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/World_Oil_Transit_Chokepoints/Full.html"
- Adelphi Energy, Yemen Exploration Blocks 7 & 74,
accessed in "http://www.adelphienergy.com.au/projects/Proj_Yemen.php"