Yemen withdraws blanket approval for US action after Trump’s botched Raid

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The the Arab press, reports that that government has withdrawn blanket permission from the Trump administration to conduct raids and drone strikes on al-Qaeda and other targets. It is sourcing one of the two Yemeni governments (that of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi). Mansour Hadi’s diplomat expressed to the US “reservations about the way in which the raid on in Bayda province was carried out.” The US action targeted a base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the town of Yakla.

The raid, in late January, appears to have killed at least 10 civilians, including an 8-year-old American girl, along with 14 al-Qaeda operatives; an American Navy Seal lost his life in the operation, as well, and three other Americans were wounded. Some observers with ties to the Seals suggest that the operation was poorly planned and turned into a fiasco.

It is now being reported that Trump was told that Obama would never have actually carried out the operation, the planning for which began last fall, and that this assertion was influential in Trump’s decision to go forward. (If it is true that Obama was reluctant, it was obviously because of the extreme difficulty of this sort of operation and the high likelihood something will go wrong).

Other reports suggest that the point of the operation was to kill or capture AQAP leader Qassim al-Rimi. If he was the target, the mission failed, since he escaped and went on to ridicule Trump in an audio as “stupid.”

When Trump banned Yemenis from coming to the US, he alienated many of them; one Arab newspaper said the ban left Yemenis “disgusted.” The US-Saudi war effort in Yemen has created thousands of refugees, who Trump now says he will not help. If I were looking for a military ally, I wouldn’t treat them that way.

Yemen is a basket case, beset by a civil war in which outsiders have taken sides. If even it does not want Trump running around freely in its country, despite the promise his administration holds out, of a final destruction of the Houthis and their (alleged) Iranian patrons, then the US is in real trouble. Mansour Hadi is backed by Saudi Arabia and its allies. He now holds some of largely Sunni Muslim south Yemen and the southern port of Aden. Much of northern (actually northwestern) Yemen is in the hands of the Houthi (Zaydi Shiite) militia and its ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, along with troops loyal to him.

AQAP has been the most active branch of the al-Qaeda franchise in trying to find ways to hit the United States, and was responsible for the 2009 underwear bomber attempted attack over Detroit. AQAP has a special interest in non-metallic explosives, which is why TSA airport authorities often insist we be scanned for pouches of PETN; it doesn’t set off the metal detectors.

Yemen is extremely hostile territory for US military action. Many Yemenis, even those who dislike the Houthis, are angry about indiscriminate Saudi bombing of civilians and infrastructure. They have held large demonstrations in the capital, Sanaa, against the Saudi bombing raids. The Saudis bomb them during the demonstrations. The US has been closely associated with this Saudi war, providing refueling facilities, help with strategy, and even help with choosing specific targets for Saudi bombing runs. Many Yemenis see the US as complicit in their misery.

The Zaydis in the north resent decades of Saudi hegemony, and feel that the hard line Wahhabis in Riyadh are trying to convert them from their moderate Shiism.

AQAP has taken advantage of the disarray into which the country has fallen to expand the areas where it is active, in the south of the country. It is yet a third force. Zaydi militiamen and soldiers in the Yemeni military were, years ago before the civil war, among the more effective fighters against al-Qaeda.

Trump on the campaign trail talked a good game against groups like AQAP. He is now encountering reality, which, whether he likes it or not, will make itself felt. The reality is that Yemen is extremely rugged, and that it is clannish, and outsiders without intimate knowledge of the people and terrain will find the country hard going. Moreover, if you were looking for Yemeni allies you might have wanted to avoid alienating the whole country by locking them out of the US.


Related video:

CBS This Morning: ” Pentagon says civilians likely killed in Yemen raid”

14 Responses

  1. Obama would not have carried out the raid. Idle gossip. So Obama is a good killer and Trump a bad killer. This is the kind of fake news that makes you sympathetic to Trump.

    • Can you refute the piece with some facts? Rather than an illogical opinion.

      The fact is 45 botched his first military action so badly, Yemen no longer trusts his help.

      NOT “fake news.”

    • Because both sides are alike, which is why Obama’s sec. of state was also an oil man; which is why his sec. of education. was a know-nothing billionaire; which is why he also packed the White House stafff and national security council with white racist Neo-nazis with visions of apocalypse. Obama was an equal threat to the environment, economy, and world order, as well as to women, and people of color. Because both sides are the same.

      Hey come on and HOW ‘BOUT IT MR. GRAY!

      No, Obama wasn’t perfect, but your implied false equivalency is as intellectually lazy as the Right’s supine acceptance of climate change as a hoax!

      Goddamit man, why not excoriate Lincoln as someone who plunged the country into civil war and presided over genocide in the west while you are at it (because he did!) You don’t want to be compromised by power? Then don’t hold it.

      At least Obama wasn’t so stupid as to implement a Muslim ban against Yemen. Pah-leeeez!

    • Reread the article, and see that it says “If it is true that Obama was reluctant…” The statement is about decision-making for 1 raid. Therefore, the leap to a generalization that is not in the article, “Obama is a good killer and Trump is a bad killer”, is not grounded in this article. One specific is less than a straw upon which to make a sweeping and unfounded generalization. And the generalization comes from the commentator, not the text of the article.

      The article is an analysis of the implications of 1 failed raid, with uncertainties duly noted. It is informed commentary, not a news report, fake or otherwise.

  2. I don’t imagine he or anyone else will be unduly distressed by this development since there can’t be any profit in US involvement over there, and the Saudis can hardly blame him for backing off if Yemen itself has withdrawn its approval. Better off out of it for all concerned.

  3. If this was under Obama’s watch, the right wingers would have been howling that he is way over his head, is an amateur, and cannot make a good decision. Since this was done under their favorite commander in chief, it seems to be very acceptable.

  4. So Yemen has told Trump that US military incursions are no longer “approved”? Oh, I imagine the “vulgar talking yam” (per Charles Pierce) is shaking in his loafers. Just wait for him to tweet out that so what? If the US wants to come in, it’ll come in and just try to stop us.

    After all, isn’t that about what he informed Mexico last week?

  5. The raid involved two of those damn deadly Ospreys, one of which failed and had to be destroyed so it didn’t fall into AQAP hands. They are such incredible crap that leaving one for them might have been the best outcome of the raid.

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