Minister of Foreign Affairs Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said that Yemen will not extradite the US Scholar from Yemeni origins Anwar al-Awlaqi to the United States. He affirmed that the scholar accused of links with al-Qaeda is now in the area where security forces are chasing al-Qada elements.This probably isn't going to go over very well, but Yemen has to play a dangerous game here- pleasing the US without alienating its own citizens, who still remember the kidnapping and trumped-up charges against Sheik Moyyad by the United States (for those who don't remember, the Sheik was arrested in Germany and brought to the US, where all accusations of helping Qaeda vanished. He was eventually convicted of supporting Hamas, which is not a crime in Yemen. Regardless of your feelings toward Hamas, this was bizarre and didn't present the US judicial system in a good light when it came to the GWOT. Legally, it wasn't any different than if we sent a swat team into Ibb to capture a local qat dealer- because qat is so very, very bad). The case against al-Awlaki is obviously a little more clean-cut, but when it comes to perception that doesn't matter. The government handing him over to a haughty and arbitrary United States is just another way they can be painted as lackeys to America (and probably Israel, because why not?).
Sadly, I think we're in a bind. We've trumped up this relative nobody to be the living, breathing embodiment of evil, the next Osama, a terrorist out of our nightmares, capable of riding into town wielding a sword made out of machine guns, or something. Yemen's unwillingness to extradite will make it clear to anyone with an opinion that they are an unreliable partner playing a double game and bent on making AQAP happy. This isn't the case- whatever Salih;s opinions are about Qaeda as a whole, AQAP is his enemy. He wants to get them, I think, but can't further and needlessly provoke the citizenry just so Sean Hannity doesn't call Obama a coward. Our breathless hype has made reconciling positions almost impossible. When we look back on the Yemeni chapter of al-Qaeda's history I think the relentless overstatement of his importance will be the most baffling thing.