- - Sunday, January 25, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Last Tuesday night, President Obama assured the American people that their nation is secure because of his leadership. His “steady, persistent resolve,” Mr. Obama proclaimed in his State of the Union speech, has resulted in a “safer, more prosperous world.”

Mr. Obama’s soothing words stand in stark contrast with the violent results of his foreign policy playing out halfway around the globe in the nation of Yemen. Despite an American-brokered cease-fire last September, Shiite Houthi rebels control the northern part of the country supported by their Iranian sponsors, who want to control the strategically important entrance to the Red Sea. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), widely recognized as one of the most vicious Sunni terrorist organizations in the world, controls large parts of the country. Attracted by the general lawlessness, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is sending operatives to join in the mayhem. The existing government has resigned en masse. The country has become a magnet for bad actors of all descriptions and the United States has little if any control over events as they fight among themselves.

Americans might be forgiven for wondering why we should be concerned about events in this distant and impoverished country, but Yemen demands our attention as the terrorism bred there has global reach. The USS Cole was attacked in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000, and the so-called “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a commercial airliner over Detroit in 2009, was trained there. The radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who instructed Fort Hood attacker Nidal Hasan in jihad was killed in a drone strike on the Yemeni province of al-Jawf in 2011. Seventy-one of the 122 prisoners remaining at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility are from Yemen.

The Obama administration, however, has refused to recognize the dangerous reality that is Yemen, and has instead embarked on a campaign of outreach that has until recently been touted as a hallmark of its achievements on the international stage.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Sanaa in January 2011 and announced that U.S. policy was to develop a “unified, stable, democratic and prosperous Yemen where civil society has room to operate but al Qaeda does not.” American aid subsequently doubled in what Mrs. Clinton called a “rebalancing” of priorities.

Mr. Obama has repeatedly insisted this policy has been a great success. Last June, for example, the president praised Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi as a “committed partner” to the United States, and boasted “we have been able to develop their capacities without putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground at the same time as we’ve got enough counterterrorism capabilities.” Yemen should become, the president said, a “model” for trouble spots like Syria and Iraq because of the “wide-ranging national dialogue that took a long time, but helped give people a sense that there is a legitimate political outlet for grievances.” Just four months ago, the president informed the American people that our strategy against ISIS in Iraq would be the exactly same as the one “we have successfully pursued in Yemen for years.”

But the reality is that four years and a billion American taxpayer dollars after Mrs. Clinton’s visit, Yemen is spiraling into chaos.

The collapse of Yemen is, unfortunately, not an isolated event — it is representative of the larger failures of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy. Convinced that they possessed unique insight into the global community, the administration has tried to manage the threat of radical Islamic terrorism with drone strikes, foreign aid and vague promises of “political reconciliation” to heal the 14-centuries-old divisions between Sunni and Shiite.

In Yemen, as in so many places around the globe, however, this approach has left the United States with few good options and with our influence in shambles. We need to face the reality that Yemen is being torn apart by two sworn enemies of America and our first priority should be to secure any remaining U.S. personnel in the country. We must then explore how to defend our strategic interests in the region without benefiting either Iran or al Qaeda.

The clear lesson of Yemen is that, rather than a magic formula for world peace, the Obama foreign policy has proven a recipe for disaster. The State of the Union speech demonstrated that the president refuses to learn this lesson. He is doubling down on the policies that have so demonstrably failed over the past six years.

The members of the new 114th Congress owe it to the American people to do everything we can to mitigate the damage the president is doing to our national security. As the recent violent attacks in Paris by radical Islamic terrorists trained by AQAP in Yemen demonstrate, the consequences of the president’s policies are not confined to faraway lands. They directly threaten America and our allies. This week, therefore, I refiled the Expatriate Terrorist Act, which prevents American citizens who have fought abroad for designated terrorists groups like AQAP and ISIS from returning to the United States. I am grateful for the support of my colleagues for this legislation, and look forward to working with senators on both sides of the aisle on additional measures to secure our nation.

As John Adams observed in 1770, “facts are stubborn things,” the president’s platitudes about the success of his policies in the State of the Union notwithstanding. The fact is these policies have failed — and the fact is we cannot afford additional fiascoes like Yemen over the last two years of the Obama administration.

Ted Cruz is a Republican member of the U.S. Senate from Texas.

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