No Arab Spring Democracy in Yemen yet, just All Out War

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 29th, 2011

Week in Review

Still no democracy in breaking out in the Arab Spring.  Just more violence.  And a preview of violence to come (see Yemen’s Embattled Government Calls Cease-Fire That So Far Fails to End Violence by LAURA KASINOF posted 10/25/2011 on The New York Times).

The northern part of the capital city has turned into a virtual war zone in recent days, and even as the government announced a cease-fire on Tuesday, explosions boomed across the city.

The failure to end the bloodshed was another sign that fighting has intensified between the nation’s elites, a dynamic that began to unfold when antigovernment protests began months ago, inadvertently aggravating longstanding rivalries between heavily armed groups. The largely peaceful protesters still camped out in the streets, calling for democracy, remain a vulnerable backdrop to an armed conflict that has defied resolution…

Then, The Associated Press reported that Mr. Saleh had met with the United States ambassador to discuss stepping down, a statement that, like the cease-fire announcement, may prove to lead nowhere.

Why would he step down?  Bashar al-Assad saw what happened to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.  No exile.  Only jail.  If he’s lucky.  So Assad has no incentive to step down in Syria.  And neither does Saleh in Yemen.  Of course, if he doesn’t step down, the images of a dead Muammar Gaddafi must surely come to mind.

Also, if he’s talking to the Americans you just know that it won’t end well for him.  Because it hasn’t helped our other allies in the Middle East and North Africa.  Unless you call these countries going Islamist a good thing.  Lest you forget, the Islamists are the ones who have been trying to kill Americans and Jews wherever they can.

The Arab Spring is not being very good to America.  Or Israel, for that matter.

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Osama bin Laden is Dead

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 2nd, 2011

SEAL Team Six

Early reports credit SEAL Team Six with the take down of Osama bin Laden.  Despite losing a helicopter, they executed the mission with extreme precision.  Which is the way SEALs like to do it.  A grateful thanks goes out to all our men and women in the armed forces, especially those in the Special Forces community.  Much of what they do never ‘officially’ happens.  So they are truly America’s unsung heroes.  And a special thanks goes out to Navy SEAL and Rogue Warrior Richard Marcinko.  He created SEAL Team Six and made it the potent asset it is today.  It’s not easy to become a SEAL.  And Marcinko made it harder still to get into SEAL Team Six.  A lot of what they do isn’t humanly possible.  And yet they do it.  Because that’s their business.  Doing the impossible.

A Work in Progress

Number 1 on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list took awhile to find.  Starting in the Clinton administration even before 9/11.  Yes, he was killing Americans before 9/11.  There were the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya.  And the 2000 USS Cole bombing.  Then came 9/11.  Which intensified the manhunt (see Getting Osama bin Laden: How the mission went down by Mike Allen posted 5/2/2011 on Politico).

In the biggest break in a global pursuit of bin Laden that stretched back to the Clinton administration, the U.S. discovered the compound by following one of the terrorist’s personal couriers, identified by terrorist detainees as one of the few al Qaeda couriers who bin Laden trusted.

“They indicated he might be living with and protecting bin Laden,” a senior administration official told reporters on a midnight conference call. “Detainees gave us his nom de guerre, or his nickname, and identified him as both a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of September 11th, and a trusted assistant of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the former number three of al Qaeda who was captured in 2005.”

Officials didn’t learn the courier’s name until 2007. Then it took two years to find him and track him back to this compound, which was discovered in August 2010.

It was this courier that led us to bin Laden.  Identifying him was key.  So important that President Bush authorized some forceful interrogation techniques (see Woman who died as a human shield was one of bin Laden’s wives: White House posted 5/2/2011 on The Toronto Star).

Torture and interrogation tactics inside CIA prisons in Romania and Poland extracted the courier’s name from Mohammed and his successor, Abu Faraj Al Libi, the Associated Press reported.

Former U.S. president George W. Bush had authorized the CIA to use torture; Obama closed the prison system.

Which of course led us not to some cave in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.  But inside Pakistan.  In relative comfort (see US kills Osama bin Laden decade after 9/11 attacks by Kimberly Dozier and David Espo, Associated Press, posted 5/2/2011 on Yahoo! News).

Long believed to be hiding in caves, bin Laden was tracked down in a costly, custom-built hideout not far from a Pakistani military academy…

The compound is about a half-mile from a Pakistani military academy, in a city that is home to three army regiments and thousands of military personnel. Abbottabad is surrounded by hills and with mountains in the distance.

Critics have long accused elements of Pakistan’s security establishment of protecting bin Laden, though Islamabad has always denied it, and in a statement the foreign ministry said his death showed the country’s resolve in the battle against terrorism.

Still, bin Laden’s location raised pointed questions of whether Pakistani authorities knew the whereabouts of the world’s most wanted man.

And there he was.  Hiding in our ally’s back yard.  With all the comforts of home.  Including a wife or two.  For years.  And all that time not that far from under our very noses.  Was Pakistan complicit?  Time will tell.  Of course, Muslims helping Westerners to hunt down and kill Muslims is a tricky business.  Helping Americans isn’t exactly in their best interests.  They may have been hiding him.  But there were no communication lines going into that compound.  The only contact with the outside world was via those couriers.  So, yes, he was there.  But what exactly was he doing while he was there?  Probably not a lot.  So even though he wasn’t in Gitmo or dead, he may have been, for all intents and purposes, neutralized.  Which would have helped American national security interests.

From Osama bin Laden to Egypt

So bin Laden is dead.  Does it change much?  Perhaps.  But not in the way most would think.  Since 9/11 bin Laden hasn’t been all that active.  It’s hard to be active when you’re always hiding.  The real al Qaeda threat of late has been in Yemen.  Not Afghanistan.  The recent attempts (the underwear bomber and the printer cartridge bombs) were launched from Yemen.  So killing bin Laden may actually have a negative impact on U.S. security.  Because it brought him back from relative obscurity.  Perhaps offering a rallying call for our enemies.  Especially when the U.S. acted unilaterally inside a sovereign Muslim Pakistan.  Where the local population doesn’t much like the U.S. to begin with. 

Osama bin Laden may still have been active.  And taking him out sends a message to other terrorists.  But it is a distraction from more disturbing developments in the Middle East.  In Egypt to be specific.  Where a whole lot of change is happening.  Some of which may not be for the good.  Such as the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Opening the Gaza border crossing.  Their brokering a unity deal between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.  And Egypt’s move to normalize relations with Iran.  Little good can come from these developments.  And a lot bad can.  So, yes, bin Laden got what he deserved.  But the developing theater in the War on Terror may now be in the Middle East.

Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood Condemn the Killing of Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden was a Saudi.  ‘Was’ being the operative wood.  The Saudis were glad to see him go (see Saudi hopes bin Laden death will aid terror fight by Mahmoud Habboush, Cynthia Johnston, Joseph Logan and Mark Heinrich, posted 5/2/2011 on Reuters).

“An official source expressed the hope of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia that the elimination of the leader of the terrorist al Qaeda organization would be a step toward supporting international efforts aimed at fighting terrorism,” the news agency said.

It added that Riyadh hoped that bin Laden’s demise would also help break up al Qaeda cells and eliminate the “misguided thought” it said was drives militancy.

He and the Wahhabi sect had been a problem for the Saudi kingdom.  They were glad to get rid of him first from the kingdom.  Then from the living.  And when the U.S. offered them bin Laden’s body for burial they refused.  They did not want him buried in Saudi soil.  But not everyone in the Middle East shared Saudi opinion (see Hamas condemns killing of al-Qa’ida leader by Reuters posted 5/2/2011 on The Independent).

Hamas condemned on Monday the US killing of Osama bin Laden as the assassination of an Arab holy warrior, differing sharply with the Palestinian Authority, the Islamist group’s partner in a new unity deal.

“We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs,” Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, told reporters. ..

Hamas, classified by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist group over its violence against Israel, is due to sign a unity deal this week in Cairo with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s more secular Fatah movement.

Israel has condemned the agreement, saying it could sabotage any efforts to revive peace talks with the Palestinians. The deal envisages an interim unity government comprised of independents and Palestinian elections later in the year.

This is no surprise that Hamas would condemn bin Laden’s killing.  They share his hatred of Americans.  And the State of Israel.  What is troubling, though, is the unity deal between the secular Fatah in the West Bank and the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip.  Especially with that unity deal being brokered in post-Mubarak Egypt.  This is very troubling indeed.  For the Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel.  Which is still in the charter.  Which begs the question, what will be a unified Hamas/Fatah position on Israel?  Especially now that the Muslim Brotherhood, who supports that proviso in the Hamas charter, is ascendant in Egypt.  Perhaps we can learn by the Muslim Brotherhood’s reaction to the killing of bin Laden (see Egypt Muslim Brotherhood condemns Bin Laden death by the Associated Press posted 5/2/2011 on Yahoo! News).

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative organization with links around the Islamic world, has condemned the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces as an “assassination.”

The Brotherhood, which seeks the establishment of a state run according to Islamic principles through peaceful means, is Egypt’s most powerful and organized political movement.

Post-Mubarak Egypt is not looking good.  If current trends continue, it may be like exchanging a Mubarak-Egypt for another Iran.  On the all important Suez Canal.  And but a short walk from Israel.  Public enemy number one for radical Islam.  And let’s not forget that Iran is working on a nuclear program.

The Dawn of a new Islamist Day in Egypt?

It’s hard to find a bigger mistake in the Middle East than forcing Mubarak from office.  For Egypt has a lot more radical Islam fomenting in their populace than they do democracy.  Even bin Laden’s number two, Ayman Al-Zawahri, is an Egyptian.  And he may shortly become al Qaeda’s number one.  Which is cause for concern.  Because he’s not as nice a guy as Osama bin Laden was (see Egypt’s Al-Zawahri likely to succeed bin Laden by Hamza Hendawi and Lee Keath, Associated Press, posted 5/2/2011 on the Daily News Egypt).

With bin Laden killed, Ayman Al-Zawahri becomes the top candidate for the world’s top terror job.

It’s too early to tell how exactly Al-Qaeda would change with its founder and supreme mentor gone, but the group under Al-Zawahri would likely be further radicalized, unleashing a new wave of attacks to avenge bin Laden’s killing by US troops in Pakistan on Monday to send a message that it’s business as usual.

Yes, the mentor bin Laden was the less radical one.  The protégé, Al-Zawahri, may very well take it up a notch.  At least to avenge his mentor’s death.  Unless the U.S. gets to him first.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon made bin Laden Enemy No. 1 to the United States. But he likely could never have carried it out without Al-Zawahri. Bin Laden provided Al-Qaeda with the charisma and money, but Al-Zawahri brought the ideological fire, tactics and organizational skills needed to forge disparate militants into a network of cells in countries around the world.

“Al-Zawahri was always bin Laden’s mentor, bin Laden always looked up to him,” says terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University.

Osama bin Laden may have put out the call for jihad on 9/11.  By Al-Zawahri made it happen.  And created an international terror network to boot.

Al-Zawahri ensured Al-Qaeda’s survival, rebuilding Al-Qaeda’s leadership in the Afghan-Pakistan border region and installing his allies as new lieutenants in key positions. Since then, the network inspired or had a direct hand in attacks in North Africa, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, the 2004 train bombings in Madrid and the 2005 transit bombings in London.

It was Al-Zawahri, not bin Laden, who was responsible for post-9/11 al Qaeda.

But before Al-Qaeda — and before Al-Zawahri focused his wrath on the “far enemy,” United States — his goal was to bring down the “near enemy,” the US-allied government of then president Hosni Mubarak in his native Egypt.

And in what may prove one of the greatest blunders of national security, Al-Zawahri’s ‘far enemy’ took out his ‘near enemy’.  And now all that radical Islam that’s been simmering below the surface can boil over now.  Because the U.S. got rid of the guy that contained it.  Hosni Mubarak.

At the same time, Al-Zawahri began reassembling Islamic Jihad and surrounded bin Laden with Egyptian members of Jihad such as Mohamed Atef and Saif Al-Adel, who would one day play key roles in putting together the Sept. 11 attacks.

The alliance established Al-Zawahri as bin Laden’s deputy and soon after came the bombings of the US embassies in Africa, followed by the 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, an attack Al-Zawahri is believed to have helped organize.

Apparently these Egyptians went to work for bin Laden because they were not welcomed in Egypt.  Of course, that may have all changed.  Egypt is moving closer to Hamas.  And Iran.  And there’s talk about pulling out of the Camp David Accords with Israel.  No doubt these Egyptians are now feeling that there is no place like home.  And they’re probably going back to Egypt.  Eager to take part in the dawn of a new Islamist day there.

Developments in Egypt are of Greater Concern

President Obama acted boldly by giving the go ahead for SEAL Team Six to take down Osama bin Laden.  And some are already talking about how this will help his 2012 reelection chances.  Of course, Osama bin Laden may be moot by then if the economy is still in recession.  George H. W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton after riding record approval numbers after his victory in the Gulf War.  Because it was the economy, stupid.  Osama bin Laden is big.  But his he bigger enough to overcome a recession?

But Obama has a bigger problem, though.  He told Hosni Mubarak he had to go.  That was a mistake.  And it can have huge consequences.  On the War on Terror.  On Middle East stability.  And on world peace.  Bad things are already lining up to happen.  The degree of bad may very well determine the 2012 election.

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