We must take an honest stand with our Yemeni brothers, especially considering the reactions of some of them, regarding the terrorist parcels issue, show that they are sensitive to the fact that the Saudi security services were responsible for the information. Yemen’s problem today was Saudi Arabia’s yesterday. After the September 11th terrorist attacks in America, and the discovery that 15 of the perpetrators were Saudis, Saudi Arabia was in a state of denial. It did not face its problem, but rather confronted those who said it had a problem. However, when Saudi Arabia accepted that it had an issue with terrorism, then came the moment of transition, and Saudi security became exemplary, and still continues to excel.
In contrast, Yemen is still in a state of denial about the presence of al-Qaeda in its territory, and the fact that it poses a genuine threat to the country, ahead of anything else. Therefore, it is unfortunate that some Yemeni analysts, or security sources, say that al-Qaeda is a Saudi organization, with Saudi funding, and continue to deny the facts. Some forget the mass escape, or the so called ‘Great Escape’, of 23 of the most dangerous members of al-Qaeda in Yemen, from a secure political prison. This incident can be interpreted as the official announcement of the launch of the Yemeni wing of al-Qaeda. At the time Yemen took formal measures to absorb the international and internal outrage, but no one was punished or held accountable. Interestingly, it was claimed that the escape took place by prisoners digging the earth with spoons!
Instead of Yemen acknowledging the size of its al-Qaeda problem, we read about leaked documents aiming to discredit the Saudi security effort to thwart the terrorist parcel bomb plot. Jabir al-Fayfi, who surrendered himself to the Saudi security forces, is responsible for providing the Saudis with a receipt for the shipping container carrying the parcel bombs. Despite this, Yemeni authorities have claimed that they arrested him, contradicting the Saudi Arabia announcement that he surrendered, even though Riyadh thanked the Yemeni government in an official statement. If the Yemini security services arrested him first, why did they not receive this information [about the parcel bombs]?
It is also wrong to say that al-Qaeda has spread in Yemen as a result of the Saudi-funded Salafi School. Everyone knows that ‘al-Qaeda’ is capitalizing on Yemen’s ongoing political crisis, and not its schools. For example, Anwar al-Awlaki, the most significant ‘al-Qaeda’ ideologue today, is an American graduate, but has returned to Yemen!
When Yemen claims that al-Qaeda is a Saudi organization, are Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, [Nasser] al-Ohishi, [Qasim] al-Rimi, and Anwar al-Awlaki Saudis or Yemenis? They are, of course, Yemeni, and it is enough to state that more than half of Guantanamo prisoners are from Yemen! Whilst we are on the subject of al-Qaeda leaders, was it reasonable for Yemen to charge Anwar al-Awlaki with belonging to al-Qaeda, and incitement to kill foreigners, for the first time, only yesterday?
Thus, Yemen’s problem is denial, and a failure to acknowledge the gravity of their situation. The first step to address the scourge of terrorism is to recognize the problem, and not place blame on others. Recognition means that everyone will come to Yemen’s aid, with training, financing and so on. The war against terrorism is not a competition, rather it is an integrated, coordinated effort, but more important than that it is a sincere and honorable battle. Victory can only be achieved once the size of the problem has been recognized!