By Sen. Ted Cruz
Last Tuesday night, President Obama assured the American people that their nation is secure because of his leadership. His “steady, persistent resolve,” Mr. Obama proclaimed in his State of the Union speech, has resulted in a “safer, more prosperous world.”
Mr. Obama’s soothing words stand in stark contrast with the violent results of his foreign policy playing out halfway around the globe in the nation of Yemen. Despite an American-brokered cease-fire last September, Shiite Houthi rebels control the northern part of the country supported by their Iranian sponsors, who want to control the strategically important entrance to the Red Sea. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), widely recognized as one of the most vicious Sunni terrorist organizations in the world, controls large parts of the country. Attracted by the general lawlessness, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is sending operatives to join in the mayhem. The existing government has resigned en masse. The country has become a magnet for bad actors of all descriptions and the United States has little if any control over events as they fight among themselves.
Americans might be forgiven for wondering why we should be concerned about events in this distant and impoverished country, but Yemen demands our attention as the terrorism bred there has global reach. The USS Cole was attacked in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000, and the so-called “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a commercial airliner over Detroit in 2009, was trained there. The radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who instructed Fort Hood attacker Nidal Hasan in jihad was killed in a drone strike on the Yemeni province of al-Jawf in 2011. Seventy-one of the 122 prisoners remaining at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility are from Yemen.
The Obama administration, however, has refused to recognize the dangerous reality that is Yemen, and has instead embarked on a campaign of outreach that has until recently been touted as a hallmark of its achievements on the international stage.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Sanaa in January 2011 and announced that U.S. policy was to develop a “unified, stable, democratic and prosperous Yemen where civil society has room to operate but al Qaeda does not.” American aid subsequently doubled in what Mrs. Clinton called a “rebalancing” of priorities.
Mr. Obama has repeatedly insisted this policy has been a great success. Last June, for example, the president praised Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi as a “committed partner” to the United States, and boasted “we have been able to develop their capacities without putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground at the same time as we’ve got enough counterterrorism capabilities.” Yemen should become, the president said, a “model” for trouble spots like Syria and Iraq because of the “wide-ranging national dialogue that took a long time, but helped give people a sense that there is a legitimate political outlet for grievances.” Just four months ago, the president informed the American people that our strategy against ISIS in Iraq would be the exactly same as the one “we have successfully pursued in Yemen for years.”
Ted Cruz is a Republican representing Texas in the U.S. Senate.