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Muhammad Sayf Haydar (Updated)

Late last week I linked to a transcript from al-Arabiyya’s Industry of Death program, entitled “al-Qaeda in Yemen.” True to my word, I woke up Saturday morning and started reading the thing. I could barely get through two pages. It was horrible.

I don’t know who ‘Abd al-Rahim ‘Ali is, but he clearly has little understanding of what is going on in Yemen. (If anyone has any information on him I would love to hear it, before I cast aspersions on who signs his pay check.) He was introduced as a specialist in extremist groups in Cairo. I found myself muttering to myself and angrily scribbling across my copy, and wisely realizing that the weekend is more a time for baseball than increased blood pressure I buried the thing beneath a pile of other papers and went to the Phillies game.

I dug it out yesterday afternoon and read the final 7 pages, at least as it printed for me. ‘Abd al-Rahim ‘Ali was as bad as I remember, spouting a bunch of crap about Iran’s alliance with al-Qaeda and about the Huthis alliance with al-Qaeda. He also seems to have swallowed everything Muhammad al-‘Awfi said as God’s honest truth.

‘Ali makes some curious mistakes about which tribes comprise the Hashid confederation (apparently it is the only tribe or tribal confederation he has heard of in Yemen and thus all tribes are Hashid.) and seems to conflate Tariq al-Fadhli and other members of the old guard of al-Qaeda with the current version of AQ in Yemen. His comments were just as off and just as bad as some of the worst and sensationalist English-language reporting on Yemen.

Thankfully, the other guest on the program was Muhammad Sayf Haydar, who actually knows something about al-Qaeda in Yemen. I thought his comments were particularly insightful (especially pay attention to the parts where he tries to correct ‘Ali’s increasingly confused statements without seeming to do so) and spot-on, with the exception of his argument that the suicide bomber that attacked the South Korean tourists had trained in Somalia. I still don’t think that has been proven, and personally I tend to ascribe that story to the Yemeni government’s desire to shift blame away from Yemen and onto external forces, which has been a common ploy since the USS Cole attack in 2000.

So for those with any desire to read the thing, my recommendation is to read what Haydar says and ignore everything else – although the portion where the host tries to convince him of Iran’s alliance with al-Qaeda in Yemen is funny – not ha ha funny, but you know what I mean.

For those looking for more of Haydar’s comments, he also features prominently in this English-language piece from Mohammed al-Qadhi in The National.

I would disagree with his following statement:

I believe al Qa’eda’s reprisal will be fatal. They have not yet retaliated for their colleagues killed by the police in Tarim [in Hadramaut] in August 2008. I expect al Qa’eda reaction will be strong and might reach high-ranking security officials, particularly if the authorities go ahead in executing the verdict,” Mr Haidar added.”

I read the attack on the US Embassy in September 2008 as a retaliation for the deaths of al-Qu’ayti and the other four in Tarim, and al-Qaeda has explicitly said as much. But of course al-Qaeda doesn’t limit itself to one retaliatory attack – it seems as though nearly every attack invokes Abu ‘Ali al-Harithi.

Update: I corrected a typo in the fourth paragraph.

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