Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.S.-Saudi Teamwork Led to Bomb Plot Failure

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.S.-Saudi Teamwork Led to Bomb Plot Failure

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- In the video, Yemeni militants can be seen forcing their prisoner to his knees in the bright sunlight. The gunmen read out a death sentence declaring the man to be a Saudi spy who hoped to infiltrate al-Qaida, and then, as the screen goes blank, a rifle shot rings out, followed by cries of "God is great!"

That clip was released by al-Qaida's Yemeni affiliate in March, two months before the revelation this week that U.S. and Saudi intelligence agencies had infiltrated al-Qaida in Yemen and foiled an effort to smuggle a bomb onto a U.S.-bound jetliner. But it offers a glimpse of the clandestine battle occurring in mountains and deserts of Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and the United States have worked together closely against a militant network that remains determined to strike U.S. targets.

That collaboration appears to have intensified over the past two years, despite a history of mistrust rooted in the role of Saudi hijackers in Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States. The relationship was tested again last year, when Saudi leaders responded furiously to U.S. endorsement of the revolt that ousted a Saudi ally, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. U.S. diplomats, in turn, were surprised and angered soon afterward, when Saudi Arabia sent troops to help put down unrest in neighboring Bahrain.

But when it comes to counterterrorism, the Saudis have been crucial partners not just for the United States, but also for an array of other Western powers. The crucial testing ground for that partnership is now Yemen, where the local al-Qaida affiliate continues to plan attacks against Western targets, even after the killing of its chief ideologue, U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, in a drone strike last September in the Yemeni desert.

"The Saudis have a special position in Yemen; they can do what the Americans cannot do," said Gulf Research Center security analyst Mustafa Alani in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. …

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