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Context of 'December 3, 2010: Wikileaks Cables Reveals Secret US Bombing of Yemen'

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The US has been conducting airstrikes against suspected terrorists in Yemen, but denying responsibility for them, according to cables provided by the whistleblower organization Wikileaks to the British daily The Guardian. The bombings are being attributed to local forces rather than the US in an attempt not to rile Arab public opinion. The Guardian breaks the story based on a number of cables provided by Wikileaks, which contain damning quotes. In a September 2009 cable Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh told US President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, John Brennan, “I have given you an open door on terrorism, so I am not responsible.” Following a strike that killed multiple civilians carried out by the US, but attributed to Yemenis in December 2009, US Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche cabled Washington to say: “Yemen insisted it must ‘maintain the status quo’ regarding the official denial of US involvement. Saleh wanted operations to continue ‘non-stop until we eradicate this disease.’” Just over a week later, Saleh told General David Petraeus, then head of US Central Command, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.” This prompted the deputy prime minister, Rashad al-Alimi, who was also at the meeting, to joke that he had just “lied” by telling parliament the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa (the alleged al-Qaeda strongholds) were American-made but deployed by Yemen. In addition to the secret bombings, the Yemen-related cables published by The Guardian on this day deal with Yemeni reluctance to meet some US demands, the inaccuracy of some US weapons, large payments to be made by the US to Yemen, the Saudi Arabian reaction to the strikes, poor counterterrorism training for staff at Yemeni airports, Yemen’s unwillingness to share information about Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, alleged to be an al-Qaeda bomb-maker, and poor counterterrorist infrastructure in Yemen. [Guardian, 12/3/2010] Before the “war on terror,” the last time the US bombed a country in secret was during the Vietnam War, when the US bombed Cambodia (see March 15-17, 1969). It was a New York Times report on the bombing that was one of the spurs behind President Richard Nixon’s formation of the later-infamous “plumbers” unit (see May 9-10, 1969).

Entity Tags: WikiLeaks, John O. Brennan, Rashad al-Alimi, Ali Abdallah Saleh, David Petraeus, The Guardian, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, Stephen Seche

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, Misc Entries, Domestic Propaganda

The government of Tunisia prevents its citizens from accessing the website of the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, which has republished US embassy cables about the current Tunisian regime. The cables were first published earlier in the day by The Guardian (see December 7, 2010 and December 7, 2010), which obtained them from WikiLeaks. The content of the cables is controversial because they contain candid assessments of Tunisia’s situation and deep-seated public anger about the ruling elite grouped around President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and its opulent lifestyle. [Guardian, 12/1/2010]

Entity Tags: WikiLeaks, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali

Timeline Tags: Misc Entries, Domestic Propaganda

Wikileaks publishes a leaked US cable about the situation in Zimbabwe that will later become the subject of controversy. The cable is first published in the form of a bit torrent file and then on the organization’s website. Approximately one hour before Wikileaks publishes the cable, it had been published by The Guardian (see 9:30 p.m. December 8, 2010). [Atlantic Monthly, 12/28/2010]

Entity Tags: WikiLeaks

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, Misc Entries, Domestic Propaganda

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