Cablegate: Al-Jazeera Tv Program: "The Untold War Story" -

Published: Wed 15 Dec 2004 10:03 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. SUMMARY: Al-Jazeera TV broadcast a documentary on
Thursday, December 9, 2004, titled "The Untold War Story"
addressing the impact and repercussions of U.S.-Yemeni
counterterrorism cooperation at the economic, social and
political levels. The documentary included impressions
from a wide variety of Yemeni officials. Al-Jazeera,
although fairly critical of American policy in the Middle
East, appeared to be more balanced than usual in its
assessment of the U.S. counter-terrorism effort in the
2. INTRODUCTION: The program opened with the U.S.S Cole
bombing of October 2000, which killed 17 U.S. sailors, as
well as the court sentences passed recently against those
responsible for the attack. It noted U.S. "pressure" on
Yemen to postpone the trial a number of times. Lawyer
and human rights activist, Badr Basunaid, spoke of the
trial as a "black mark" on Yemen's human rights record
that he said the Americans would one day note in their
human rights reports. He slammed the Americans for what
he called "taking part in faulty court proceedings."
Al-Jazeera touched on U.S.-Yemeni relations which
"stagnated" following 9/11, because of "unlimited U.S.
demands on Yemen" with regard to the U.S.S Cole; due to
Yemen's reservations on the case; and Yemen's stance
towards Iraq and Palestine "with which the U.S. was
4. RELATIONSHIP TO AL-QAEDA: The program showed footage
of Bin Laden's birthplace in Hadhramout and showed how
"Yemenis" constituted a key element within al-Qaeda
making it (Yemen) a possible U.S. target after 9/11.
"Yemen was labeled after 9/11 as a dangerous country and
a source of threat to America's national security"
analyst al-Sabri said. An excerpt of a speech made by
Shura Council Chairman Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani was played
in which Abdul-Ghani pointed out that "President Saleh's
visit to Washington on November 24, 2001 was a turning
point in U.S.-Yemeni relationships, as the outcome of the
visit completely changed the whole situation."
5. MILITARY COOPERATION: One part of the documentary
highlighted U.S. military support to Yemen in terms of
training and equipment. "We feel in Yemen that the
number of people trained is not sufficient, as Yemen
needs more training to protect all of Yemen, not only the
capital and its surroundings," Foreign Minister al-Qirbi
said. Al-Jazeera then showed a statement by former U.S.
State Department Spokesman-at-Large Phillip Reeker, who
met with Yemeni media representatives during a non-
official visit to Yemen in November 2003, declaring that
"the primary responsibility (to protect Yemen) is Yemen's
and the U.S. will offer as much help as it can."
Political analyst Al-Sabri criticized the U.S.-Yemeni
anti-terror cooperation, which he said, "is a war that
protects the interests of others and not Yemen's, even if
Yemen claims otherwise."
6. ECONOMY: Aden Governor Yehya al-Shu'aibi indicated
that Yemen's economic situation is improving and is
"slowly" restoring pre-Limburg bombing levels.
7. DIALOGUE: Unfavorable views were expressed in the
program concerning the government's theological dialogue
with extremists and al-Qaeda prisoners. Several
commentators also expressed frustration with the
practicalities of the dialogue program.
8. WAR ON TERROR RESULTS: The program highlighted that
Yemen's cooperation with the U.S. war against terror has
resulted in:
- The arrest of "dozens" of people including some of the
Afghan Arabs.
- Government clamping down on mosques, traders, religious
schools and money transactions.
- Confrontations between the government and tribes,
between al-Qaeda and the government, and between the
government and opposition parties, leading subsequently
to a possible "split" in national unity.
- Deteriorating government-tribe relations and resentment
about U.S. Embassy contacts with tribes. In this part,
Speaker of Parliament Shaikh Al-Ahmar was shown in an old
interview criticizing former U.S. Ambassador Edmund
Hull's meetings with tribal sheikhs and his visits to
certain areas in Yemen which al-Ahmar called, "a breach
of norms agreed upon by countries . and which no
ambassador has the right to do."
On one hand, a number of the interviewees held the view
that the war on terror harmed Yemen's security and
generated a situation worse than what had been hoped for.
On the other hand, some believed that an indication of
the success of the anti-war terror is that it has put al-
Qa'eda on the defensive.
9. MULTIPLE VIEWS: It is interesting to note that the
program showed both accusations and counter-accusations,
such as: the YSP accusing the government of having used
terrorists to get rid of its rivals (before and during
the 1994 war); the government (Prime Minister Bajamal)
accusing the opposition of supporting terror cells
responsible for the murder of former YSP senior figure
Jarallah Omar and murder of the three U.S. medics in
Jiblah; and government-reformed figures accusing former
YSP figures - currently holding government positions - of
encouraging the government to attack, in the name of the
War on Terror, those (Arab Afghans) who had sided with
the government forces in its war in 1994 against the
YSP's secession plans.
10. CONCLUSION: The program concluded with footage of
Yemeni Special Forces maneuvers, with the presenter's
voice citing Yemenis' "fears" that the War on Terror (in
Yemen) might be endless given the secrecy of U.S. demands
from Yemen in this regard.
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