Posted on February 19, 2010 in Viewpoint with James Zogby
Edmund J. Hull, former Ambassador to Yemen, discussed Al Qaeda’s presence in the country and what potential factors the group’s influence might have on Yemeni-U.S. relations in the future. Extremism in Yemen and its reach abroad has come into question in light of the attempted Christmas day bombing and the Fort Hood shooting and has prompted discussion of possible conflict with Yemen in the near future. Hull stated that efforts to root out Al Qaeda were strong at one point but the recurrence of extremism is a result of the fact that “the U.S. and Yemeni government took their eyes off the ball” subsequently letting Al Qaeda “reconstitute itself [in Yemen].” Hull went on to explain the situation in Yemen in further detail vis-a-vis his article in The New York Times “Al Qaeda’s Shadowland” which debunks what Hull calls four myths about Yemen.
Christopher Anders, senior Legislative Counsel at the ACLU, discussed the current status of Guantanamo Bay and the controversy surrounding allegations of secret prisons, and the constitutionality of practices like indefinite detainment. Anders said that the ACLU hopes the Obama Administration will close Guantanamo Bay in the near future. He hopes that detainees accused of terrorism crimes will be tried by the Federal criminal court system here in the U.S. Anders added that detainees currently being held without formal charges should be repatriated to countries where they are no longer at risk of being tortured. Anders also maintained that those accused of crimes relating to terrorism should not be tried in Military courts.
Ellen Laipson President and CEO, Stimson Center spoke briefly about the current status of talks with Iran, and specifically commented on the Obama Administration’s change in policy from re-engagement to the call for regime change. Laipson, who was recently appointed by President Obama to his Intelligence Advisory Board said “I am not optimistic that we are close to any kind of a breakthrough On U.S.-Iran relations right now”, said Laipson. She Characterized the U.S.-Iran relationship as an “asymmetrical” one and warned the U.S. should not elevate Iran to a level where they are considered equal on a political level.