Two Bad Options in Yemen
Salih's demise has long been self-evident. The Obama administration's dithering has only put U.S. security interests more at risk.
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.
Following weeks of on-again, off-again negotiations, in which Salih appeared to back away from tentative deals to step down, forces loyal to his government opened fire on protesters today in Taizz, killing at least 15 according to al-Jazeera.
Other forces in Hudaydah also cracked down on protesters today, firing live bullets and tear gas and injuring more than 300 according to the breaking news tracker on Mareb Press. (Note: many of these injuries are the result of tear gas.)
There are also early reports of renewed clashes in Sanaa.
All of this comes shortly after the New York Times published a piece today suggesting that the US is ready to abandon President Salih.
The piece is getting a lot of play on al-Jazeera, and on nearly every Yemeni news website.
It is unfortunate that the Obama administration's policy only began "to shift in the past week." Salih's demise has been self-evident for much longer than that, and consistent US refusals to see that and the resulting dithering and calls for negotiations (asking protesters to give up the only leverage they have) has only put U.S. security interests more at risk.
Salih's last-ditch attempts to hold on to power have resulted in a security breakdown in other parts of the country, as parts of the military defected and others abandoned their posts. This breakdown has opened up a great deal of space for AQAP - anyone think they aren't taking advantage of the current situation?
I argued nearly a month ago that the US needs to ask more than just: what comes after Salih?
It should also be asking: what does Yemen look like if Salih stays?
I'm not sure if the US asked itself this question or if it just came to the conclusion that no matter what it did Salih was on his way out, I suspect the latter, but have no inside information.
We should be clear, both scenarios - Salih leaving or staying - are potentially dangerous for US national security, which is one of the reasons the Obama administration is so hesitant to withdraw its support from Salih.
If Salih leaves the US is worried that the next government won't be as willing to meet US requests in fighting al-Qaeda as Salih has been in the past 14 months (because when journalists talk about Salih being an ally of the US in the war against AQAP this is the period they are referring to).
If, on the other hand, Salih stays, in the current environment it would likely take him several months to reassert control over much of the country that he has lost in recent weeks if he ever could, meaning that AQAP would not be as opposed as it has been. Salih has often been mocked as the "mayor of Sanaa," a snide journalistic and diplomatic remark that often betrays more about the speaker's lack of knowledge about Yemen than it does Salih's authority.
But if he stays, this description could very well turn out to be true, and for a US that worries that if AQAP isn't under any pressure it will be free to plan and launch attacks on the US such a scenario is rightly frightening. (Personally, I don't believe that even if Salih remains throughout this term - an outcome I believe is unlikely - he will ever be able to reassert control over the whole of Yemen).
So that is where the US is at in Yemen: two bad options.
Recognizing at the same time that regardless of what course it decides to pursue much of Yemen's future will remain beyond the realm of human engineering. There will only be so much that the US and the future government of Yemen will be able to control and dictate.
I have argued that from strictly a US national security point of view and leaving aside all other considerations (an approach to foreign policy I don't believe is wise) that helping to push Saliih out is the least bad option.
In that scenario the US will have, as I suggested recently in the New York Times, a small window of opportunity to positively impact change in Yemen. I don't have great confidence that the US, the EU, Saudi Arabia, and the GCC will actually be able to take advantage of this but by pushing Salih out at least they will have a chance. And any chance is better than the no chance they will have if Salih remains.
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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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