April 11, 2011
The warning from two influential French senators was stark, but it suggested there was still time to “save Yemen so that it does not become the next base for al Qaeda.” Diplomats in Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt used words such as “frightened” and said al Qaeda was flourishing as Yemen faltered.
But the most dire assessments came from Saudi Arabia, where officials said Yemen would be a more hospitable environment for terrorists than even Afghanistan and was already so infested that it should be considered al Qaeda’s “main home.”
In cold and unflinching language, dozens of previously secret US diplomatic cables betray a level of international concern about the terrorist threat emanating from Yemen that is deeper and broader than has been publicly revealed.
The cables, from 2009 and 2010, depict a country on the verge of becoming a failed state even before the recent uprisings; a leader who exploited the threat of al Qaeda to extract foreign counterterrorism help that he sometimes diverted for use against internal foes; and an al Qaeda franchise remarkably suited to thriving in Yemen’s tribal culture and rugged terrain.