"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Monday, April 26, 2010

Attacking the British

Clearly, the big news of the day is the attack on the British Ambassador, Tim Turlot, in San'a today.   Turlot was unhurt as his car was armored (armoured, sorry).  The attacker, 22-yr-old named Othman Ali al-Salwi, was killed when his suicide vest went off (some stories add the salacious detail of his head being found yards away, because nothing significant can happen unless attached to a gruesome depiction).  

This clearly bears the hallmark of our friends at AQAP- a high-value target, careful planning, knowledge of routine and with the best chance of making a splash.  Clearly, it "failed", as Turlot escaped, but in terrorism carnage is not the only goal.  This is especially true for AQAP.  They once again made a splash (although a quick jaunt around some English papers shows it buried below election news, though this might be due to time differences and my own delay).  And, just like the Christmas attack, they didn't really lose anything.  A one-man operation is ideal; all losses are minimized. 

I think the interesting question that attacks like this always beg is "rational is not?".   Obviously, our sense of rationality would reject such an attack.  The British, despite involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, aren't directly at war with AQAP.    This would only seem to draw in a potentially powerful enemy, something intelligent actors are loathe to do (the classic example of this is, of course, Hitler invading Russia).  But you also have to understand that their goal is to destabilize Yemen.  The Brits have been in the forefront of international efforts to help Yemen.  If an attack on their Ambassador causes them to engage more militarily, AQAP wins even if they are hurt.  If it causes them to throw their hands in the air, or to question Salih's commitment (and to tighten their own wallets) AQAP wins.   They are, indeed, extremely rational answers.

There is also the side question of them possibly influencing the British elections, a la Madrid.  I can't speak to that, nor can I say what would be a desirable outcome for them.  I only know enough about British politics to know that you are legally required to refer to Gordon Brown as a "dour Scotsman", and that there is a guy named Clegg who may or may not be the British Obama.   Also, as my friend Mark says, every single one of them makes a tortured 20-yr transition from Labour to Tory, particularly all the authors.   However, if I had to bet, I would say that this attack while this attack was carried out at least in part with British politics in mind, electoral politics had little to do with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment