Was General David Petraeus Targeted for Take-down by the Military?
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A careful look at the map reveals that Yemen is the hinge between East and West. The Bab-el-Mandeb – which links the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden – highlights Yemen’s vital geostrategic location. Most will be familiar with the strategic and economic importance of the area, particularly the Canal, which remains at the heart of world trade and commerce.
[A] restructured, well-led and well-equipped Yemeni Coastguard active in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden could be leveraged in support of Combined Task Force 150 and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces to counter piracy and also quell the aspirations of both Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Additionally, the US would have a trusted ally acting across the CENTCOM – AFRICOM boundary.
That tracks with public discussions of regional policy. But what is the interest of Stratfor in Yemen, besides generating content for its subscription newsletters? According to its internal emails, in 2010 the private intelligence firm was providing custom analysis on Yemen for its clients National Oilwell Varco (a Houston-based multinational which builds oil rigs), and Hunt Oil (for more on Ray Hunt—a member of President George W. Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board—and his Middle Eastern operations, including in Iraqi Kurdistan, see this.) Email ID 5300460, sent May 23, 2011, shows Stratfor’s work for Hunt Oil included creating a database of incidents of violence, with precise information such as GPS coordinates. This is yet another reminder that where political struggles play out, the pursuit of profit cannot be far afield.
Petraeus, a canny man, surely understood the factors besides pure military strategy that underlie foreign policy calculations. Also, it was during this period that he was being mentioned as a possible opponent to Obama (Listen here to a top Fox News executive repeating speculation to Petraeus that he was being brought into the CIA to derail a possible run against Obama—and how Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and their Fox News team would get behind him if he chose to run. Petraeus deflected the talk about a presidential run, saying, with a laugh, “My wife would divorce me.”)
Who Gets Credit?
One of the more revealing aspects of the Stratfor memos is their candor about the narrow and self-serving behavior of agencies and departments whose official justifications are too seldom questioned by the media.
In Email-ID 1204569, coming a year before the US raid on Bin Laden’s haven in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Bhalla writes, with brutal cynicism:
There’s been a ton of media spin and leaks later about Anwar al Awlaki being the next bin Laden. OBL is becoming old news now. CIA and JSOC want a new target to claim success, so there’s a concerted campaign going on right now to play up al Awlaki as the #1 terrorist. Al Awlaki is much easier to target anyway and they have leads on him, so every agency wants to be the one to say they got him. [Emphasis added.]
The month before this September 4, 2010 email, the Obama Administration had placed Anwar al-Awlaki on a “kill or capture” list. A little over a year later, on September 30 2011, a US drone strike killed al-Awlaki in Yemen without his having been charged, given any due process or trial, and without any of the evidence against him being made public—an unprecedented attack on a US citizen.
That Stratfor analysts report a “turf war” between the CIA and JSOC also foreshadows what many see as the biggest fallout from installing a military general as head of what had been regarded as a civilian agency — the further militarization of the CIA’s mission. The fact that the general had a mistress in tow (or—if one assumes that the woman mentioned in Stratfor’s intelligence about that dinner in Yemen wasn’t Paula Broadwell—a series of mistresses) can only add to the disquiet.