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Obama on Yemen

In his weekly address today, the President directly tied the Christmas bombing with AQAP. It was only a few minutes of a talk, so I don’t want to read too much into it, but this one part struck me.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the Christmas Day incident continues, and we’re learning more about the suspect. We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies.

It isn’t necessary to parse the leaves here too much, but these talks aren’t just tossed off, either. There is a reason why things are said, and to me, the “grappling with…deadly insurgencies” shows that the admin is willing to buy into the government narrative. It implies legitimacy of the government and does not allow for the rebellions to be perceived as just.

Now, obviously I am not claiming that through that sentence I managed to divine our policy; Obama goes on to say that they are going to be supporting Salih’s government. What I am saying is that the policies being formed seem like they are coalescing around a narrative, that of the embattled government. I do think that, given the situation, the best of a lot of bad bets is to prop up Salih and hope he doesn’t fall. But, for a number of reasons, we need to also hold him at arm’s length, both for his internal politics and because the US shouldn’t be walking hand-in-hand with an unreliable leader who might fall despite our best efforts. Our policy will need to hedge a couple of bets, and not fall in behind the narrative of a government desperately trying to stave off its own elimination.

Last night Frontline aired the film al-Qaeda in Yemen, which was reported by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad who writes for the Guardian and who, along with Declan Walsh when he was at […]
Late last week Frank Cilluffo and Clint Watts released a policy brief from George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute entitled “Yemen and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: Exploiting a […]

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