Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is Obama arming the Shiites? This is the second transfer of military weapons to the Islamists. Are the Iran talks a subtrifuge?

Iran-backed rebels in Yemen loot secret files about U.S. spy operations
S ecret intelligence files held by Yemeni security forces and containing details of American intelligence operations in the country have been looted by Iran-backed militia leaders, exposing names of informants and plans for U.S.-backed counter-terrorism operations, U.S.
officials say.
U.S. intelligence officials believe additional files were handed directly to Iranian advisors by Yemeni officials who have sided with the Houthi militias that seized control of the capital of Sana last September and later toppled the U.S.-backed president.
For American intelligence networks in Yemen, the damage has been severe. Until recently, U.S. forces deployed in Yemen had worked closely with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government to track and kill Al Qaeda operatives, and President Obama hailed Yemen six months ago as a model for counter-terrorism operations.
But the identities of local agents were considered compromised after Houthi leaders in Sana took over the offices of Yemen’s National Security Bureau, which had worked closely with the CIA and other intelligence agencies, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive operations.
Yemeni intelligence officers still loyal to Hadi’s besieged government burned some secret files, one official said. But they couldn’t destroy all of them before the Houthi forces, whose leaders have received some weapons and training from Iran, took control.
The loss of the intelligence networks, in addition to the escalating conflict, contributed to the Obama administration’s decision to halt drone strikes in Yemen for two months, to vacate the U.S. Embassy in Sana last month and to evacuate U.S. special operations and intelligence teams from a Yemeni air base over the weekend.
The Houthis claimed Wednesday that they had captured that base, Anad, as new fighting broke out in and around the strategic seaport of Aden, the country’s financial hub, where Hadi had taken refuge. Page 1 of 5
Iran-backed rebels in Yemen loot secret files about U.S. spy operations - LA Times 3/25/15, 6:08 PM
Over the weekend, the Houthis seized the central city of Taiz.
A Houthi-controlled TV channel announced a $20-million bounty for Hadi’s capture and his Aden compound was hit by airstrikes.
Foreign Minister Riadh Yassin said Hadi was overseeing the city’s defense from an undisclosed safe location. The Associated Press reported that he had fled the country on a boat.
Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said U.S. diplomats “were in touch” with Hadi early Wednesday and that he had “voluntarily” left his residence. She said she could not confirm if he was still in the country, calling conditions there “incredibly volatile.”
As the turmoil deepened, Yemen appeared to be descending into a civil war that could
ignite a wider regional struggle. Saudi Arabia reportedly moved troops, armored vehicles and artillery to its border with Yemen, which sits alongside key shipping routes.

The conflict has taken on an increasingly sectarian nature. Last week nearly 140 people were killed in suicide bombing at two Shiite mosques in Sana.
After pitched battles north of Aden, the Houthis and their allies, backed by tanks and artillery, advanced Wednesday to within a few miles of Aden, officials and witnesses said. Much of the rebels’ heavy weaponry was provided by Yemeni military units that remained loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was toppled in 2012 and is a bitter opponent of Hadi.
The struggle for Aden comes in advance of an Arab League summit. Yemen is poised to seek a military intervention by fellow Sunni Muslim states, and the Houthis appeared to be trying to gain as much ground as possible before the gathering.
In the town of Houta, the capital of Lahej province, the fighting left bodies strewn in the streets, residents reported, and people cowered indoors as gunfire rang out. The Houthis appeared to be consolidating control of the town’s southern outskirts, closest to Aden.
But U.S. officials also worried Wednesday about the loss of the Yemeni intelligence files, including the names and locations of agents and informants with information on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered the terrorist network’s most dangerous and resourceful branch.
There was no indication that the Houthis had gained direct control of U.S. intelligence files, so the loss doesn’t compare to more infamous cases, like the takeover by militants of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 or the U.S. retreat from Saigon in 1975. Page 2 of 5
Iran-backed rebels in Yemen loot secret files about U.S. spy operations - LA Times 3/25/15, 6:08 PM
But AQAP, as the group is known, has repeatedly sought to attack American interests and facilities. It designed a bomb that a Nigerian man sought to explode on a Detroit-bound flight in 2009, and hid explosives aboard four cargo planes headed to the U.S. in 2010. Both times, the bombs were discovered before they exploded.
The U.S. still plans to fly armed drones over Yemen from bases in Saudi Arabia and Djibouti, but officials acknowledged that their ability to identify and locate terrorist suspects has been severely hampered by the loss of the intelligence files, and the collapse of Yemen’s security services.
Under Hadi, U.S.-trained Yemeni forces launched regular raids to capture or kill Al Qaeda militants. CIA and military drone strikes targeted senior officials, most famously killing Anwar Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric and militant leader who was linked to several major plots, in 2011.
Experts warn that AQAP could use the growing chaos to reassert itself, and to link up with anxious Sunni Muslims to fend off the minority Houthis, who are Shiites, and were previously concentrated only in the country’s north.
“From a counter-terrorism perspective, AQAP has less pressure on them,” said a U.S. defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive assessments. For now, he said, the Houthis appear more intent on destroying Hadi than going after their rivals in AQAP.
U.S. attempts to track Al Qaeda operatives are “not impossible. It is just a lot more difficult,” he said.
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, appeared to agree at a news briefing Wednesday. “The ability of the U.S. to put pressure on these extremists is not helped by the fact that US personnel had to leave,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that we’d like to see a functioning central government in Yemen. We don’t see that right now,” Earnest added. He said Washington is still able to work the “security infrastructure that remains.”
“We have the capability to take out extremists if they pose a threat to the United States,” he said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview that the Houthis may have captured a “significant portion” of the $500 million in military equipment that the U.S. has given Hadi’s government.
The equipment approved included Huey II helicopters, Humvees, M-4 rifles, night-vision goggles, body armor, and hand-launched Raven drones.

“The news from Yemen is all bad,” Schiff said. “I have to think that given the magnitude of the support we have given and the rapidity with which large portions of Yemen fell to Houthis, that a significant portion of military support is now in the hands of people who are not our friends.”
The abrupt changes in Yemen has prompted criticism that the White House failed to adequately prepare for the collapse of a fragile ally, and that it relied too heavily on poorly trained local security forces.
“It was a train wreck that anyone who knows anything about Yemen could see happening. It seems we put our head in the sand, and the train wreck has happened and now we are saying, ‘How did this happen?’” Ali Soufan, a former senior FBI agent who worked on terrorism cases and now heads the Soufan Group, a security firm in New York.
“We pulled out from any meaningful control of the situation in the country and now I think it is too late, because every decision is a bad decision,” he said.
Special correspondent Al-Alayaa reported from Sana, Yemen. Times staff writers W.J. Hennigan and Christi Parsons contributed from Washington, Paul Richter from Lausanne, Switzerland, and Laura King contributed from Cairo.
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

To what level of incompetence must we be subjected?

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