Washington Babylon — January 4, 2010, 2:25 pm

Yemen: A primer

Face it, until recently many of you didn’t know for sure if Yemen was a country or an erectile dsyfunction medication. Now that Yemen has emerged as a major focus of the war on terror (or whatever it’s called nowadays), you better study up. So here are a few suggestions.

First, try the website Waq al-Waq, which recently ran a post called “What to do in Yemen: Five Basic Suggestions”:

[S]uccess in Yemen requires a localized, nuanced and multi-faceted response to the challenge of al-Qaeda in Yemen. This requires a great deal of expertise and in-depth, localized knowledge, which I am not always sure neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia possess let alone the US and its European allies. Military strikes alone are not the answer, as I have said repeatedly over the past few weeks: “There is no magic missile solution to the problem of al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Then try the always interesting Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy:

Direct American military intervention in Yemen is so obviously ludicrous that it shouldn’t even need to be said. Even the hyper-interventionist conservatives at the Washington Post op-ed page allow that “U.S. ground troops are not needed, for now.” They never should be. The U.S. is already struggling to fully resource and equip a mission in Afghanistan which has been defined — rightly or wrongly — as vital to American security and interests. The U.S. simply does not have the resources to embark on a military mission in Yemen. If you think Afghanistan is a sinkhole, you will love Yemen.

Finally read this Michelle Shephard story in the New Republic:

The Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al Qaeda made their “merger” official in January, adopting the name Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula…AQAP represents what many consider Yemen’s second generation of Al Qaeda–and while the group may have ties to “Al Qaeda central,” the organization appears to act independently. Counterterrorism officials believe AQAP has learned from its recent past and built an organization that can withstand the loss of its leadership. Savvy in delivering its message, the group even has its own magazine, Salah al Malahim (The Echo of Battle), which covers everything from biographies of suicide bombers to advice columns on how to become an Al Qaeda foot soldier.

This stuff won’t make you an expert, but at least you’ll know enough to get through the next cocktail party, and help follow the story as it unfolds in the media.

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