The Yemeni government said it had foiled an al Qaida plot to blow up oil pipelines and seize the country’s main ports this week, days after the Obama administration shut U.S. diplomatic posts across the Middle East in anticipation of a terrorist attack. Almost 100 U.S. government staff were evacuated from Yemen, and a total of 19 embassies and consulates were closed across the Arab world. Intelligence agencies learned of a possible attack on Western targets after intercepting a conference call between Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as chief of the terrorist organization, and senior al Qaida figures. This week alone, drone strikes killed at least 12 alleged members of the Yemen-based al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
“There is no end in sight to al Qaida,” said Bruce Riedel in TheDailyBeast.com. The Egyptian coup and the “ill-starred Arab awakening” have created a new generation of jihadists in unstable countries like Syria, Libya, and Iraq, focused on sowing internal strife and targeting “foreign ‘crusaders’” in the oil and gas industry. Thanks to “drones, poverty, and desperation,” there are plenty of new recruits in Yemen.
So much for Obama’s claim that al Qaida was “on the path to defeat,” said Bret Stephens in WSJ.com. He mistook Osama bin Laden’s death last year for a strategic blow, when it was a “symbolic one.” He said staying out of Syria would contain the war, but that has allowed al Qaida to fester there and fan out into Yemen and Iraq. On nearly every measure, Obama’s “facts and analysis were wrong.”
We are “playing a dangerous game” in Yemen, said Gregory D. Johnsen in ForeignPolicy.com. The U.S. targets supposed al Qaida leaders with drone strikes, without diplomatic outreach to stem the rising tide of jihadism there. “This is not a war it can win on its own.” Until Yemeni tribal leaders and clerics are enlisted in the fight, al Qaida will maintain “the type of power that sends the United States into panic mode.”