Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Yemen Meltdown

At WSJ, "The U.S. withdrawal is a victory for Iran and al Qaeda":
Another week, another victory for disorder in the Middle East. This time the meltdown is in Yemen, where this weekend the U.S. withdrew the remaining U.S. special forces from a base where they were waging a drone war against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The withdrawal comes amid growing chaos in the country after Houthi militants deposed the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled the capital, San’a, for Aden last month. The Houthis belong to the Zaidi offshoot of Shiite Islam and are receiving help from Iran. They are at war with Sunni jihadists, who struck back in bombings on Friday that killed 152 people in San’a and Saada province. An Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility.

The U.S. retreat is a major loss in the fight against AQAP, which has been the al Qaeda branch most focused on hitting the U.S. mainland. The U.S. has a military base in Djibouti across the Gulf of Aden as well as naval assets in the region from which it can still strike targets in Yemen. But the loss of special forces on the ground is bound to hurt intelligence collection and thus the ability for accurate targeting. Chaos is a jihadist’s best friend.

As recently as September, President Obama hailed Yemen as an antiterror model. “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,” he said. That wishful thinking has now been exposed...