Saturday, May 26, 2012
Yemen: U.S..involvement in Yemen creates anger and blowback
The devastating suicide attack in Sanaa the capital of Yemen that killed about a hundred people and wounded many more is partly in revenge for U.S. backed attacks on AQAP, (Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula). No doubt there will be more such attacks as well as attacks on U.S. special forces. Cori Crider legal director of the activist charity Reprieve argues that elevated involvement by the U.S. in Yemen will make the U.S less safe.
The U.S. involvement may also further destabilize the Hadi government the U.S. approved successor to former president Saleh. Saleh gave up power in exchange for immunity from prosecution for any crimes he committed against protesters. The pro-democracy groups in Yemen have never accepted this. However these groups are relevant only when they conform to U.S. and Saudi objectives in the region.
Cori tells the story of a family caught in the web of U.S. CIA involvement in Yemen. Sharif Mobley is actually a visiting U.S. citizen but he is imprisoned in Sanaa. Cori went with his wife and kids to visit Mobley. This was the first time in two years he has been allowed a visit from his family.
Sharif has been in the capital since 2008 studying Arabic and Islam. When he went to the U.S. embassy to get a passport for his newborn son U.S. agents followed him home. Shortly afterwards he was kidnapped by men in balaclavas who drove two white vans. He was shot in the leg during the kidnapping. The gang took him to a hospital where he was chained to a bed and blindfolded most of the time.
Under the Freedom of Information act Reprieve received information that while he was a secret prisoner in the hospital FBI agents among others.( I wonder if these were FBI agents or CIA agents?) Sharif asked the agents for a lawyer and also begged them to tell his wife that he was safe. They refused saying: "There are no Constitutional rights in Yemen." Matt and Khan as they called themselves said he would be detained until he told everything he knew about extremists. While Sharif had met extremists including Anwar Al-Awlaki he had no continuing relationship with him and had no idea where he was.
When the agents did not get the responses they wanted they threatened Sharif with prison where he would be raped and said that his wife too would be brought to prison for similar treatment. After nearly two months in the hospital Sharif tried to escape killing one guard in the process and wounding another.
He is now on trial for his life. Reprieve is defending him. In theory it is permissible to use lethal force in self defense when kidnapped. However, when the kidnapping is itself at the request of the U.S. government such a defense is not likely to work. For much more see this article.
As Cori notes the U.S. has gone far beyond just kidnapping suspected militants and now targets them through drone attacks. With the targets now expanded to signature strikes that target just based upon suspicious behaviour more and more innocent people may be collateral damage in the strikes. Even before the expanded strikes they were often based upon faulty intelligence. An infamous attack in al-Majala killed 41 civilians many children.
The U.S. defends tbe Yemen attacks as simply justified counter terrorism defending the U.S. However as Cori points out the opposition to the Hadi regime is quite multifaceted with many groups involved rather than just AQAP. In effect Hadi can picture any opponents of his regime as Islamic militants and thus enlist the US in what is more a counter insurgency campaign as much as counter terrorism. The U.S. however is hardly a dupe. The U.S and Saudis. want a compliant government in Yemen and they have that in Hadi and the old guard in Yemen.