Is Yemen with us or against us? Actions speak louder:
Yemen has set free one of the al-Qaida masterminds of the USS Cole bombing in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors, a senior security official said Thursday.
Jamal al-Badawi, who is wanted by the FBI, was convicted in 2004 of plotting, preparing and helping carry out the USS Cole bombing and received a death sentence that was commuted to 15 years in prison.
He and 22 others, mostly al-Qaida fighters, escaped from prison in 2004. But al-Badawi was granted his freedom after turning himself in 15 days ago and pledging loyalty to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The official said police were told by the government to “stop all previous orders concerning measures adopted against al-Badawi.”
Witnesses told The Associated Press that al-Badawi was receiving well-wishers at his home in the al-Buraika district in Aden.
Yemen uses and exports Islamic fanatics as a tool of domestic and foreign policy. After the empowerment of Hamas in a democratic election, the idealistic US push for democratization and reform in the Middle East was met by the real-politik fears of radical Islamists gaining political power. In Yemen, radical Islamists already have political power and government jobs, as evidenced by the state’s failure to thwart terrorist financing, media incitement, mosque incitement, material support and moral support for terrorism. With or without official political status, elections or recognition, Yemeni Islamist militants are capable of influencing the regime and deploying state resources. And these political players are more dangerous when they are playing the game underground, while an enormous game of charades takes place in the media.
The days of “with us or against us” are certainly over as the intertwined structure between dictatorships and terrorists becomes clearer. To undermine one is to undermine the other, to support one supports the other. The natural alliance between indigenous reformists and the United States is dysfunctional in the current climate, leaving both more vulnerable. However, there are many in the Yemeni administration and some in the opposition who are quite patriotic and in favor of reform and modernization. Somehow the US must become as good at playing both sides of the fence as the Yemeni regime is.