Mr. Obama is going to follow an ISIS strategy that mimics the one he used in “Yemen and Somalia for years.” We knew when he said it that it was an absurd comment, but the fall of most of the Yemeni capital yesterday to Iranian-backed protesters brought the point home.
In his recent ISIS-strategy speech, Mr. Obama said this:
“But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”
Two weeks later, Yemen is about to fall to Iranian-backed Houthis.
The Iran-funded Shi’ite Houthi rebels, pictured above, who have been protesting in the capitol of Yemen for days have taken over most of the capital. They captured key government offices and military installations a day after reaching an agreement with the Yemen leadership for the formation of a more inclusive government. They have seized tanks and armored vehicles from Yemeni military headquarters, which they drove out of the city to their northern strongholds on Monday.
It leaves an opening for the very dangerous Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
According to Long War Journal:
Local press reports on Monday described the complete absence of any Yemeni security services on the streets of Sana’a and the consolidation of the strong Houthi presence in the city. Houthi militias were reportedly fortifying their positions and setting up checkpoints on strategically significant roads in the capital, including Hadda, Sitteen, and Zubayri.”
[…]The changing security situation in Sana’a and the resulting power vacuum, both in the capital and throughout much of the country, grant al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) the opportunity to capitalize on the current chaos. As early as March 2014, AQAP announced the formation of a new armed group called Ansar al Shariah in the Central Regions, charged with targeting the Shi’ite Houthi rebels. On Monday, AQAP took credit for a suicide attack in Sa’adah province that targeted a “large gathering” of Houthis and allegedly resulted in the deaths of “tens of Houthis including leaders.”
Al Qaeda and its branches are known to exploit political and security vulnerabilities to consolidate power, including in Yemen. In 2011, when Yemeni troops were recalled to Sana’a in an attempt to quell the Arab Spring protests calling for the ouster of longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh, AQAP took advantage of the security vacuum to seize vast areas of southern Yemen. In March 2011, AQAP even announced the establishment of an Islamic emirate in Abyan.
Yemen is one of the Middle East’s poorest countries and the protests centered around deep cuts in fuel subsidies.