How US Policy Helps Al Qaeda in Yemen

Exclusive: President Trump – like President Obama – is working at cross purposes in supposedly fighting Al Qaeda in Yemen while helping Saudi Arabia kill Al Qaeda’s chief Yemeni enemies, as Jonathan Marshall explains.

By Jonathan Marshall

In a world of bad actors, one of the “baddest” of all is the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the CIA once branded “the most dangerous regional node in the global jihad.” It masterminded the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000; nearly blew up a U.S. passenger jet flying into Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009; brought down a UPS cargo plane in 2010; and sponsored the 2015 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, killing 11 and wounding another 11.

President Donald Trump touches lighted globe with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman and Donald Trump at the opening of Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology on May 21, 2017. (Photo from Saudi TV)

All of which raises an embarrassing question: Why is the United States supporting AQAP’s main ally in Yemen, Saudi Arabia?

The respected news publication Middle East Eye reports that Abdulmajid al-Zindani, a Yemeni cleric, “veteran al-Qaeda supporter,” and “former spiritual adviser to Osama bin Laden,” has been operating freely in Saudi Arabia, even posting YouTube videos lauding the Saudi war in his home country.

Apparently no one in Riyadh cares that he’s been on the U.S. Treasury’s Specially Designated Global Terrorist List since 2004, identified as a recruiter for terrorist training camps and a key purchaser of weapons for al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. Indeed, Zindani “has been warmly received by senior clerics and officials,” including one adviser to the Royal Court, according to Middle East Eye.

The publication’s sources further allege that “at least five Yemenis designated as terrorists by the U.S. Treasury have advised and coordinated Saudi operations in Yemen with allied forces on the ground.” One senior al-Qaeda supporter in Yemen, Nayif al-Qaysi, has been repeatedly interviewed in Saudi Arabia by fawning television stations. He served as governor of…

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