July 19, 2011

U.S. Repackages al-Awlaki’s “Near Miss”

Anwar al-Awlaki, a cleric and operational commander within al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is back in the U.S. news for almost dying - over two months ago.

According to ABC News and Fox News, “briefed” at the same time by one or more anonymous officials, a Hellfire missile somehow hit the bumper of al-Awlaki’s truck without killing him. Except this “news” isn’t new; the near miss was recorded in May along with al-Awlaki’s vehicle swap. These reports contain nothing unknown, meaning they were launched with an ulterior objective. With U.S. policy under increasing fire inside Yemen for suppressing the revolution, the Obama administration is in urgent need of justification for expanding operations with Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime. No coincidence exists between the transitional councils announced on Saturday and Monday, silence from the White House and State Department, and now an artificial leak in the Pentagon.

Or perhaps these shadows were deployed by the newly-minted David Petraeus.

In the same way that al-Awlaki’s actual near-miss heralded the beginning of escalating U.S. air-strikes in southern Yemen, re-announcing a “near miss of inches” boldly declares that America will “get him next time.” Never-mind that over 20 air-strikes in June and July have failed to relocate him. al-Alwaki is being served up to validate continued support of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s “power transfer,” in order to widen military operations above Saleh’s remnants. These “reports,” if they can be called that, fit seamlessly into the U.S. pattern of opening, rather than closing, Yemen’s power vacuum to “take advantage of it.”

This advantage is an illusion. Citing a fear that the Houthis, major tribes and Southern Movement will pull the country apart without Saleh - every Yemeni party believes the opposite - Washington has ignored repeated advice that AQAP will enjoy no refuge in a democratic Yemen. Its revolutionaries are also united against U.S. and Saudi intervention. The Obama administration lacks a real strategy in Yemen, not even for counter-terrorism and certainly not for full-spectrum counterinsurgency. Otherwise there would be no need for such hollow propaganda.

A new policy would engage the revolutionaries instead of the tyrant they will eventually fell.

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