Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ymen 101

This week on Around the World, Christiane Amanpour speaks with David Ignatius of the Washington Post to discuss the foiled Al-Qaida terror plot targeting an overseas jetliner and the country of origin of the plot, Yemen.

Yemen is one of the regions poorest countries and al-Qaida has taken advantage of their political unrest to gain influence and set up a home base of operations. This is where bomb builder Ibrahim Al-Asiri has set up shop, working to to construct an undetectable bomb to take down airplanes heading towards the United States.

These developments come a week after the released private papers of Osama Bin Laden, a year after his death. These memos provide unique insight on the inner workings of the much diminished al-Qaida infrastructure. David Ignatius reveals why al-Qaida's current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is the just the person U.S. officials were hoping would assume leadership of the terror organization.

In the released papers, Ignatius was fascinated to learn that unlike previous homicidal mass-murderers like Stalin or Hitler, Bin Laden was open to advice and criticism from those around him and was willing to admit when he made a mistake.

Bin Laden eventually came to understand that he turned much the public against him and made serious mistakes in allowing al-Qaida affiliates to kill so many Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I found it fascinating that he was honest enough, self critical enough, to realize what huge mistakes he made."

But while Bin Laden may have made some serious mistakes in alienating Muslims, he was an effective leader, someone who could attract followers and get them to buy into his message.

That's not so for the current leader. U.S. officials told Ignatius that if they could pick someone to lead al-Qaida it would be current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. They believe he is a divisive figure within the organization and has a hard time rallying al-Qaida's diverse membership. From the released papers we also learn that Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri fought over all kinds of issues including broad strategies and tactics.