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5 questions every presidential candidate should answer: Yemen edition

March 26, 2015

By Katherine Zimmerman

Saudi fighter jets bombed al Houthi military positions in Yemen overnight. A Saudi-led coalition pits the Gulf States (except Oman), Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, and others against the Iranian-backed al Houthis under Operation Decisive Storm. President Barack Obama authorized US logistical and intelligence support for the operation. As Yemen descends further into chaos, the question is whether the US will be able to prevent another terrorist attack from within the country.

President Obama has repeatedly touted Yemen as his model for a successful counterterrorism strategy. Its low-cost approach and extremely limited US footprint are appealing; and it relies on the administration’s favorite counter-terrorism tool: airstrikes.

Recognizing the failure of the model in Yemen would call the administration’s entire counter-terrorism approach into question. It’s no surprise, then, that the White House continues to say that Yemen is a success despite the complete collapse of the country, the rise of Iranian influence there, the regrowth of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the emergence of an ISIS splinter group.

Since President Obama’s remarks last June and again in September, a coup forcibly replaced America’s legitimate counter-terrorism partner in Yemen, President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, with the Iranian-backed al Houthi movement. The al Houthi takeover effectively ended intelligence-sharing with Yemeni organizations, military cooperation, and military training and launched a civil war, which Hadi is losing. The US closed its embassy in Sana’a in February. It withdrew its remaining personnel from al Anad airbase in Lahij governorate after an ISIS attack in the capital and there have been reports of ISIS militants in Lahij. The al Houthis seized the airbase within days and advanced on Hadi’s positions. And yet, White House spokesman Josh Earnest continued to point to Yemen as a “template,” even when pressed after Hadi fled the country, and again after the start of Saudi airstrikes. If this is success, what would failure look like?

Read the full article at the American Enterprise Institute: 5 questions every presidential candidate should answer: Yemen edition