edEx and UPS are suspending deliveries from Yemen after authorities intercepted two mail bombs sent from the companies' offices in the Yemeni capital, Sana. The homemade bombs — one hidden in a printer cartridge — were addressed to Jewish synagogues in Chicago. Investigators believe terrorists planned to detonate them in the air while en route to the U.S. The foiled plot "bears the hallmark" of al Qaeda's Yemen branch, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and "we have to presume" more bombs are on the way, says U.S. deputy national security adviser John Brennan. Are Yemen-based terrorists now the most immediate threat to American soil, and is Washington doing enough to stop them? (Watch The Week's Sunday Talk Show Briefing about Yemen's threat)
The Yemeni threat is now clear: Seven years ago, it seemed that "al Qaeda in Yemen was on its last legs," says Gregory D. Johnsen at Foreign Policy, "worn down by years of U.S. and Yemeni strikes." Since then, both countries have been "guilty of lapsed vigilance," and the threat is stronger than ever. Already "overburdened with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," President Obama doesn't want to invade, but the "surgical strikes" he's using to decapitate the group's leadership clearly won't be enough to eliminate the threat.
"Ignoring Yemen at our peril"
Saudi Arabia will help counter this common enemy: Including the failed 2009 Christmas Day plot, this marks "the second time in less than a year" that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has attempted plane bombings, says Deborah Jerome at the Council on Foreign Relations. One interesting twist: Since the group is also targeting the Saudi royal family, Saudi Arabia has been providing valuable intelligence information. Without it, we might not have been so lucky this time.
"Growing terrorism threat, postmarked Yemen"
The threat is bad — but Washington may be making it worse: The Obama administration has ruled out sending troops into Yemen, say Ginny Hill and Sally Healy at Chatham House, but the U.S. is "arming, training and funding local proxies to track and kill suspected terrorists." This might seem logical, but a backlash could "fuel discontent," and only drive more people into the terrorists' camp.
"Aggregating or aggravating the terrorist risk in Yemen and Somalia?"
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