A not so subtle warning? (Updated)
Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Johnsen has written for a variety of publications on Yemen including, among others, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The National. He is the co-founder of Waq al-Waq: Islam and Insurgency in Yemen Blog. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID's conflict assessment team for Yemen.
There have been a number of news reports today, suggesting Yemeni war planes have carried out strikes against suspected al-Qaeda positions in in Bani Dhabayn territory just outside of San'a. News Yemen has two local sources, stating that no strikes took place.
Al-Tagheer makes the interesting point that the bombing of Bani Dhabayn, if it happened, came one day after Shaykh Ahmad 'Abad Sharif, the head of Bani Dhabayn talked to the Guardian about the difficulties of going after AQAP in Yemen.
(Al-Tagheer meant the Daily Telegraph, which actually ran this piece by Richard Spencer. I hadn't intended on commenting on the piece. There were too many factual mistakes - al-Nuhayshi instead of al-Wihayshi, the vowelling is al-Sharif not al-Shurayf, al-Awlaki as a "spiritual mentor," and, of course, Bani Dhabayn is in Khawlan and not really in Mareb. I suppose one could fudge this last point, but obfuscation is no longer cool, right?)
But today's news forces me to talk about it - man I hate media criticism. I have a great deal of sympathy for Spencer, he is thrown into an incredibly complicated country and then has to have people like me pick on him for vowelling a name wrong, while anyone who knows me, knows that my vowelling is often lacking in accuracy. I certainly wouldn't do any better if I were sent to some country like Pakistan, which I don't know at all and speak no Urdu. So, in that spirit I will also talk about what I enjoyed in the article:
There was this quote from Spencer's article:
How much Mr Saleh can do to recruit the sheikhs to the cause of chasing the West's enemies is the big question. "He can't control the whole country, but he can put a squeeze on any sheikh he wants to," claims one senior western official. "If he wanted to make it not worth their while to shelter al-Qaeda he could."
This, of course, begs the question, was today's bombing a "squeeze"?
And, this rather funny (not really ha ha funny, but still) bit:
The most strategically significant result of the attempt by the al-Qaeda-backed "underpants bomber" to bring down a plane over Detroit last Christmas was the formation by a number of governments, led by Britain, of the "Friends of Yemen". The group is friendly in the sense that it promises much-needed development aid.
.... But the group is friendly in the way a police interrogator is friendly, bearing the implicit threat of exclusion from the outside world – or worse – if Yemen does not put its house in order.
Finally, Mareb Press has Shaykh Ahmad's son, Nasir, warning the government against killing innocent civilians in its hunt for al-Qaeda.
Update: The broad strokes of Richard Spencer's article are actually well worth your time, despite my criticisms.
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