The American Bear


Yemen and the US: Down a familiar path | Robert Grenier

[Steadily], progressively, but largely unremarked upon, the American political leadership is marching down a now-familiar path, with the latest Yemeni bomb plot apparently contributing as both private motivation and public justification. In recent weeks, the White House has announced a stepped-up drone campaign in Yemen, while for the first time publically acknowledging and trying to overtly build public support for their use. We are told in press reports that just as the US government has long since lowered the threshold employed for use of drone-launched missile attacks in Pakistan through resort to so-called “signature strikes”, missile operators in Yemen are being permitted to fire at targets engaged in activities deemed “suspicious”, even when the target personalities themselves are unknown.

A steady drumbeat of leaked intelligence analyses cites significant swaths of territory in Yemen allegedly falling under the control of al-Qaeda, as large-scale attacks against “hundreds” of supposed “al-Qaeda militants”, launched by Yemeni forces with US assistance, gain momentum. I do not claim deep knowledge of developments in Shabwa Privince, but when I hear significant numbers of tribal militants being referred to as al-Qaeda operatives, and AQAP, a small organisation dominated by non-Yemenis, being alleged to have political control of significant parts of Yemen, I react with some scepticism, and some suspicion.

One wonders how many Yemenis may be moved in future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to US military actions against them. AQAP and those whom it trains and motivates to strike against civilian targets must continue to be resisted by the joint efforts of the civilised world. But the US would be wise to calibrate its actions in Yemen in such a way as to avoid making that obscure and relatively limited and containable threat into the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan. [++]

The individual has been described by some as a ‘double agent’. In fact, it seems more likely that he is a straightforward undercover agent who infiltrated the group and not a double agent whose loyalties shifted or who told both sides he was working against the other. The agent managed to convince the Yemen-based al-Qaeda group that he wanted to carry out an attack but then took the device he was given - an underwear bomb impossible to detect by most airport security - and somehow ensured it was delivered to those it was meant to target.

Al-Qaeda infiltration: A glimpse into a shadowy world

On the ‘more sophisticated’ underwear bomb plot/entrapment/whatever the hell this was.

Double agents and drones | Paul Woodward

This is in reference to the foiled underwear plot (2.0) and the 'double agent' revelation:

A successful infiltration of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula by a Saudi intelligence agent with CIA oversight will be hailed in Washington as a major success, but it begs an important question: if the operations of the bomb maker, Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, could be tracked so closely, why couldn’t he have been arrested instead of killed by a drone strike?

The supposed rationale for assassinating suspected terrorists by remote control is that they are so elusive and operate in such inaccessible locations that capture is impossible. It’s hard to imagine how this could have been the case with al Quso. He must effectively have been under surveillance and rather than make use of what might have been multiple opportunities to arrest him, the CIA apparently decided there was no need — he could simply be eliminated whenever necessary.

As a battlefield practice, take no prisoners is considered a war crime. For the Obama administration it has become standard procedure — and a procedure that the American journalists virtually never question.

Did Another Saudi Double Agent “Tip” Us Off to a “Plot” Against America? | emptywheel

ABC reports that the UndieBomber 2.0 plot revealed yesterday in breathless fashion was exposed by a double agent that–given that he delivered the bomb to Saudi Arabia–was presumably being run by the Saudis just like all the other men the Saudis have infiltrated into AQAP.

In a stunning intelligence coup, a dangerous al Qaeda bomb cell in Yemen was successfully infiltrated by an inside source who secretly worked for the CIA and several other intelligence agencies, authorities revealed to ABC News.

The inside source is now “safely out of Yemen,” according to one international intelligence official, and was able to bring with him to Saudi Arabia the bomb al Qaeda thought was going to be detonated on a U.S.-bound aircraft.

So as happened when Jabir al-Fayfi revealed the toner cartridge plot, we can now celebrate the skill of our spooks without thinking too much about what it means that the Saudis are running this terror show. (Though at least we’ve reached the point where US outlets are reporting this, rather than just British outlets.) […]

I argued that the decision to use signature strikes in Yemen seems like a Saudi-driven demand rather than a well-considered US decision. We apparently made that decision around the same time the US reportedly learned of this “plot.” If the Saudis were–as I suspect–running this double agent like all the other double agents we’ve infiltrated into AQAP, then did they “tip” this plot as a way to convince us to make what on its face looks like a boneheaded decision?

As sophisticated as this new underwear bomber may be…

and without condoning violence from anyone, I’ll just say this:

No matter how sophisticated, an underwear bomb is not as sophisticated as a drone strike, nor is it as effective a means of terrorizing (and radicalizing) a populace.

Retaliation for retaliation for retaliation for retaliation ad infinitum…if we want to ‘end terrorism’ a good first step is to stop employing it ourselves.