WikiLeaks Yemen Cables Could Embolden Al-Qaida Two of the leaked diplomatic cables in particular could provide some trouble for the Yemeni government. One describes a meeting between Gen. David Petraeus and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and another chronicles a conversation about whiskey smuggling.
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WikiLeaks Yemen Cables Could Embolden Al-Qaida

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WikiLeaks Yemen Cables Could Embolden Al-Qaida

WikiLeaks Yemen Cables Could Embolden Al-Qaida

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


Again and again this week, we're getting glimpses into private moments around the world.

INSKEEP: Diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks have let us in on the advice of kings and the opinions of diplomats who rarely speak in public.

MONTAGNE: Now we have the story of a private meeting involving two very public figures: American General David Petraeus met with the president of Yemen. They spoke of secret missile attacks on suspected terrorists.

INSKEEP: NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reports on what happens now that he's exposed.

DINA TEMPLE: "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours," the cable quotes President Saleh as telling Petraeus. Then one of his aides interrupted and joked about Saleh lying to his own parliament about the strikes.

GREGORY JOHNSEN: This something that won't necessarily surprise a great many people within the elite circles in Yemen.

TEMPLE: Gregory Johnsen is a Yemen expert at Princeton University.

PROF: But when you get outside into some of the tribal areas where al- Qaida is really attempting to recruit people, having something like this where the president and his ministers are on record - as talking about lying and deceiving parliament and the Yemeni public - I think this will get a lot traction. And I think al-Qaida will be able to use it in the months to come.

TEMPLE: Again, Gregory Johnsen.

PROF: One of the issues that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has had with the Yemeni government, is that it claims over and over, that the Yemen government doesn't uphold what it calls Sharia law or Islamic law. So for them to be able to position the president as someone who drinks whiskey, who jokes about whiskey, this will be something that really fits seamlessly into the narrative that they've been peddling for the past several years.

CHRISTOPHER BOUCEK: I'm Christopher Boucek and I'm an associate in the Middle East Program, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

TEMPLE: Yemenis chew a stimulant called khat every afternoon, and that's when they share the news of the day and talk politics.

BOUCEK: The fact that every day there is a built in block of hours, you know, during khat chews for people to get together and talk and discuss, I'm sure this will be the essential part of discussions for khat chews for, you know, the coming weeks.

TEMPLE: Will Yemenis understand what the cables are?

BOUCEK: I doubt that very many Yemenis are going to appreciate that this is how the State Department does business. But that's not really the point. I think the point is, this portrays a relationship that most Yemenis, I think, are ready to believe. You know, and this backs up those suspicions.

TEMPLE: Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News.

INSKEEP: By the way, Yemen's foreign ministry calls the leaked cables inaccurate.

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