July 21, 2011
U.S. Calls In German Strike on Yemen
After piling alleged “tough-talk” onto Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Jay Carney found himself confronted today for issuing only a passing mention on Tuesday. The White House’s spokesman has been justifiably consumed by America’s deficit crisis and the “Gang of Six,” except the administration’s poor handling of the Arab Spring is conspicuously blocked out of the U.S. debate. Told that the administration seems “relatively quiet on the subject of Syria as of late,” and asked whether he had any comment on recent developments, Carney answered as solidly as a shaky response could be.
“Simply that - I mean, we don’t have - I mean, not since the last time I addressed this. We continue to condemn the violence. We believe that President Assad has lost his legitimacy. He had the opportunity to lead the transition that the Syrian people are demanding, and he has not followed up or taken that opportunity. That’s regrettable, because there will be - there has to be a transition. The Syrian people are demanding that there be one.”
As usual, neither Carney nor his challenger paused to hear the deathly silence over Egypt, Bahrain or Yemen’s ongoing revolutions, three uprisings the Obama administration has come to fear and loath.
Despite a carousel of U.S. officials labeling al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as America’s new “greatest threat,” few areas are treated with greater silence than Yemen. While U.S. military operations continue to escalate, the White House and State Department have shut down on the political and information fronts. On Friday, when State spokesman Mark Toner last addressed the health of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, no further contacts had been made after John Brennan’s visit. Since then only two low-level officials have deployed to contain a whirlwind of transitional councils, anti-U.S. protests and government hostility, with an assassination attempt inside the eye.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must be too busy in Syria, or Libya, or India. Anywhere but Yemen, one of the weakest links in U.S. foreign policy.
The Obama administration’s systemic failure has led the White House to contract its dirty work to European Union, whose diplomats rigorously adhere to the U.S. line by co-sponsoring the Gulf Cooperation Council’s “30/60 initiative.” The deal, negotiated between Saleh’s regime and the oppositional Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) would grant Saleh and his family of commanders immunity in exchange for exile, while also rewarding his party with 50% of a transition council. Viewed as a flagrant violation of their revolution, protesters have denounced the GCC’s “power transfer” - and held more than one mock burial - since its birth in April.
Yet that hasn’t stopped U.S. or E.U. officials from declaring it “the only way forward in Yemen.” On Monday, in response to a transitional council announced by Tawakul Karman, UK ambassador Jonathan Wiliks warned that no international state would recognize the council. (Wonder who he’s talking about?) On Tuesday Janet Sanderson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, voiced full support for the GCC’s initiative, testifying to Congress, "We will be able to more effectively engage in Yemen once the Yemeni government initiates the political transition and identifies its way forward.” Washington remained silent as Saleh’s forces took a shot at Mohammed Yadoumi, a JMP leader, then summoned the Germans on Thursday for their turn on the front line.
According to reports from The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Michael Klor-Berchtold told Saleh in Riyadh, "the GCC initiative is currently the only way to prevent a possible escalation of tensions to armed conflict.”
As the head of Germany’s “crisis response center” at its Foreign Office, Klor-Berchtold later traveled to Sana’a for talks with government officials and the opposition, a “mission had been closely coordinated with Riyadh, Washington and key European allies.” U.S.-Saudi manipulation of whole episode is utterly transparent, a rare moment of clarity in their response. Klor-Berchtold’s visit follows a controversial German-Saudi arms deal agreed to sell 200 Leopard 2A7+ tanks, some of the most advanced on the market. Berlin’s participation in Washington and Riyadh’s counter-revolution is painfully obvious in Yemen.
Thursday unfolded like Monday in more ways than silence and a E.U. envoy too. Yemen’s government has announced a series of quick victories and AQAP casualties over the last week, all designed to prove Saleh’s worth against “terrorism.” Today another kill was claimed, Ayad al-Shabwani of Abyan governorate, who ranges from “a commander in Abyan” to a “senior commander in AQAP.” While his death may be true, the battle between the government and its sponsored militants, AQAP and local tribes is a tangled mass of proxies. Substantial evidence exists that Saleh’s regime has choreographed a takeover of southern Yemen to first scare the West, then demonstrate his cooperation against AQAP.
For example, the government claims that Zinjibar’s siege has just been broken - and with U.S. support no less. Somehow “a Yemeni army brigade composed of thousands of troops had been surrounded by militants for the past two weeks.” Estimated around 500 insurgents - many of which the government claims to have killed - AQAP’s the entire force is unlikely to congregate in one area. Only now though, after “weeks of pleas for support,” has the government sent its first reinforcements to break the “siege” around the 25th Mechanized Brigade. Local residents say the event, which began in late May, is largely manufactured and that many of the dead are either civilians, anti-government tribesmen or government-sponsored militants employed to copy AQAP’s specter.
Abdo al-Janadi, Saleh’s deputy information minister, revealed this much through his own propaganda, telling a news conference, "The American forces are helping Yemen in its fight against Al-Qaeda... They helped the army by bringing in food supplies when they were besieged by Al-Qaeda members.” U.S. airstrikes on militant bases also changed the battlefield, he said. Al-Janadi then insinuated that the JMP was responsible for the assassination attempt on Saleh, when many Yemenis suspect an internal plot amongst his family.
Whatever the circumstances in Zinjibar, al-Janadi’s remarks form a standard disinformation warhead.
Meanwhile the U.S.-trained Republican Guard and Central Security force continue to assault peaceful protesters, just as they have throughout six months of revolution. A statement on Islah’s website accused “a US-trained Yemeni counterterrorism unit” or killing over 40 tribesmen and wounding dozens more in Arhab, a district on the outskirts of Sana’a. The Republican Guard had sent a unit, “trained and supported by the United States and Britain,” with “full and modern equipment” to commit what they labeled “more crimes and abuses.” Elsewhere in Taiz, Yemen’s second epicenter of revolution, the Republican Guard attempted to disperse peaceful protesters with tear gas and live bullets, killing a child.
For months brutal acts such as these have been committed by U.S.-trained and funded soldiers. Each casualty has met silence in Washington, followed by an order for Saleh to sign the GCC’s initiative and “move the country forward.” Contrary to mainstream reporting, Saleh isn’t the only obstacle standing in the way of Yemen’s revolution. Washington is washing a finger, not its hands, of his regime.
U.S. policy has reached a despicable state in Yemen. As if Lord of War is stuck on repeat in the White House, the Obama administration continues to back the GCC’s initiative through European proxies while its Yemeni proxies assault AQAP and slaughter the innocent.