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Cablegate: Media Reaction On Us Treasury Department

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SANAA 000488

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA, NEA/ARP, NEA/PD, NEA/RA, DS/OP/NEA AND
S/CT

CENTCOM FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP KMDR PHUM PTER KISL YM TERFIN COUNTER TERRORISM
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION ON US TREASURY DEPARTMENT
DESIGNATION OF SHAIKH ZINDANI AS TERRORIST FINANCIER.

REF: SANAA 468

1. SUMMARY: Press coverage of the 2/24 terrorist financing
designation of Shaikh Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani, Head of both
Al-Iman University and the Advisory (Shura) Council of the
leading Yemeni opposition party Islah, has generally been
highly critical. A few papers offered muted support,
reprinting the argument outlined by the U.S. Treasury
Department that Zindani had ties to al-Qaeda. The
designation was covered by all Yemeni newspapers and news
websites except government-controlled media such as Yemen
TV, Yemen's official news agency (SABA), Al-Thawra official
daily, Aden-based October 14, and 26 September weekly of the
Armed Forces of Yemen. Press reports focused on U.S.
Treasury accusations concerning Zindani's role in
financially supporting terror groups associated with al-
Qaeda. The Islah party's reaction to the designation was
described by some newspapers as "cautious." Some anti-U.S.,
pro-Islah newspapers carried articles critical of the U.S.
counter-terrorism policy toward Yemen and commented that
Yemen-U.S. relations will be "adversely effected" by the
Zindani case. Some newspapers refrained from commenting,
due to the sensitivity of the issue at least at the public
level. END SUMMARY.

2. Al-Tagheer Net (02/25) published a report titled
"Zindani joins the U.S. list of terrorists," highlighting
the U.S. Treasury announcement that Zindani is Usama bin
Laden's loyalist and one of his spiritual advisors. The
same site published an op-ed article (2/26) commenting on Al-
Iman University headed by Shaikh Zindani. The article said
that, years after its establishment and particularly after
many of those who fought in Afghanistan joined it, the
University turned from a "scientific institution" into a
"suspicious front that gives birth to elements with
fundamentalist and extremist views." "This whole project"
Al-Tagheer added, "emerged amidst an atmosphere full of
suspicions and controversy about the nature and real
objectives of the University's activities." The article
referred to an FBI list, which it said was submitted to the
Yemeni government following the U.S.S. Cole bombing,
"putting Al-Iman University on top of 16 locations in Yemen
suspected of harboring extremist and terrorist elements" and
requesting its closure. The article also examined links
between Shaikh Zindani and Ali Jarallah, assassin of the
number two leader for the Yemeni Socialist Party YSP),
Jarallah Omar, and "the key role Zindani played in financing
the assassination."

3. Aden-based Al-Ayyam independent daily (02/26) quoted the
DPA German news agency in Egypt which said that the Leader
of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mahdi 'Akef, criticized
the U.S. Administration's designation of Zindani as a
terrorism financier. The Muslim Brotherhood issued a
statement saying that "the U.S. is relying on its power,
designating people as terrorists without any evidence."
"This act" the statement added "is part of a U.S. campaign
against anything that is Islamic under the pretext of
fighting terrorism which the U.S. failed to define until
now." Al-Ayyam added that 'Akef defended Zindani and said
that, "if Zindani made any mistake, he should be brought to
account by his own government." On February 28, Al-Ayyam
published a statement by Zindani denying U.S. Treasury
charges, which he described as "false". Zindani said: "If
the U.S.A. has any accusations against me it has to present
them to the competent authorities and the judiciary in the
Yemen Government. I would like to remind everyone that the
Yemeni Government is responsible for defending its citizens
and I am a Yemeni citizen. I would like to reiterate that
terrorism as defined by Muslim scholars in the Juristic
Assembly of Mecca as `the use of weapons in breach of
Shair'ah or the Law, or the murder of innocent people;' is
something I condemn in all its forms, and I have already
announced this several times before."

4. Weekly of the opposition Al-Haq party, Al-Umma (02/26),
cited "unconfirmed reports" that in February 2003 the Yemeni
Government received a list of Yemenis in leadership
positions wanted by the U.S. Administration, including
Shaikh Zindani and Shaikh Omar Ahmad Saif, and accused by
U.S. sources of having issued a Fatwa to blow up the U.S.S.
Cole warship.

5. Independent weekly Al-Usbu' (02/26) quoted U.S. Public
Affairs Officer John Balian, who said that "the designation
does not constitute a request that Yemen extradite Zindani
or interrogate him over links to al-Qaeda." The paper
quoted Foreign Minister Qirbi, as saying that "the Foreign
Ministry did not receive the official charge documents from
the U.S. and will respond to them once it receives them."
The paper commented that the U.S. designation of Zindani
will "arouse" anti-U.S. sentiments in Yemen.

6. Web site of Islah's Al-Sahwa weekly, Al-Sahwa Net
(02/27), published the text of a short statement issued by
the Islah party February 27 which said that "rebutting the
allegations of the U.S. Treasury Department concerning
Shaikh Zindani is the responsibility of the (Yemeni)
Government since Shaikh Zindani is a Yemeni citizen."

7. Independent weekly Al-Ibhar (02/27) published an op-ed
article commenting that the U.S. played a "cunning" game
first with the former Soviet Union "when it supported
mujahideen from different parts of the Arab and Muslim world
in the fight against communism in Afghanistan" and against
the mujahideen themselves "including Bin Laden, Al-Zawaheri
and now Al-Moayad and Zindani who once served indirectly the
U.S. interests during the Cold War." The paper indicated
that the U.S. designation of Zindani will put Yemen before
two difficult choices: "One" Al-Ibhar said "is to extradite
Zindani to the U.S. which if it occurs will turn the whole
situation in Yemen upside down. The second option is for
Yemen to face a possible economic embargo in case it decides
to turn down a U.S. request to extradite Zindani."

8. Anti-American Al-Shumu' independent weekly (02/28)
quoted an anonymous American source from the Brookings
Institution who described the recent U.S. Administration's
attempts to pin down people suspected of sympathizing with
al-Qaeda as "hasty". On the designation, the source told Al-
Shumu' that "sufficient intelligence has not been gathered
yet about Zindani." Al-Shumu' also quoted `western
diplomatic sources' who said that the U.S. began to gather
information about the activities of the "Head of Islah"
(probably referring to Speaker of Parliament Shaikh Abdullah
Al-Ahmar) and his ties with extremist Islah figures accused
by Washington of involvement in terrorist acts.

9. The English-language Yemen Observer (02/28) commented
that a massive backlash is expected at every level of the
Yemeni society in defense of the "respected national
figure." The Observer quoted tribal sources who warned
that, "they would attack American interests if the U.S. even
thinks about harming Shaikh Zindani." The Observer quoted
political observers who regretted the decision and said
that, "no state among the 44 countries in what the U.S.
calls the `Greater Middle East' that has co-operated more
than Yemen in the fight against terrorism." In an editorial
titled "Sewing the Seeds of Extremism," Editor-in-Chief of
the Observer said: "With the leveling of accusations against
Shaikh Zindani, the American administration is putting the
Yemeni government in very tight spot by raising the ante in
its pursuit of those it considers extremists ... and by
adopting this new policy, the U.S. is sparing no efforts to
shatter the spirit of cooperation with Yemen in the battle
against terrorism." The editorial questioned America's
motives: "Haven't the American officials considered that
their inconstant and querulous attitude may ignite anger
among the Yemeni public and convince them that America is
not fighting terrorism as it pretends to, but is in fact
targeting Islam, represented by its leaders and scholars?"
The paper added: "This will undoubtedly give extremists an
excuse to target Western interests in general and American
targets in particular in defense of the Yemeni people, whom
the U.S. has begun kidnapping one by one." "By this" it
concluded "the American administration has chosen a new
foundation for extremism, sewing its seeds instead of
combating them."

10. Prompted by the designation of Zindani, Pro-Islah
independent weekly Annas (03/01) published an op-ed article
commenting on Yemen's counter-terrorism relations with the
U.S. The paper indicated that the effect of President
Saleh's visit to the U.S. in 2000 "to avoid a possible U.S.
strike against Yemen" might not last long. Annas said that
Yemen is facing a real danger from outside "since some
Yemenis, at least from the American point of view, took part
in acts of violence, held senior positions in al-Qaeda, and
were accused of links to terror cells particularly in the
States." The paper added that the U.S. counter-terrorism
strategy concerning Yemen is based on: "using direct
military force to stamp out so-called terrorists, e.g. Al-
Harithi; dragging and kidnapping people believed to have
useful information; such as Al-Hillah (who disappeared in
Egypt) and Al-Moayad; making terror charges against
political and religious figures such as Abdullah Sa'atar and
Shaikh Zindani of Islah."

11. The independent English-language Yemen Times bi-weekly
(03/01) quoted Yemeni political analysts, who described the
Islah response to the charges as "clever and cautious".

12. Mouthpiece of the ruling GPC party, Al-Mithaq weekly
(03/01), quoted government sources who said that "once the
Yemeni government receives something official supporting the
U.S. allegations against Zindani, it will respond to them,
since Shaikh Zindani is a Yemeni citizen and is entitled to
protection." Al-Mithaq also published an article that the
U.S. Treasury announcement was a shock and a "puzzle" to the
Islah party. The article described the U.S. Treasury
announcement as clear and void of complications and its
expressions noted that the U.S. "considers Zindani a more
important target than Bin Laden himself since Zindani is,
according to the announcement, one of Bin Laden's spiritual
leaders." The article described Islah's response to the
accusations as a "strategic mistake that carried sheer
hostility to the Yemeni government by putting it in
confrontation with the U.S. and making it responsible for
defending every Yemeni citizen regardless of their acts!"
The article indicated that the Yemeni government will not be
able to enforce the Constitutional provisions that prohibit
the extradition of Yemeni citizens "if the extradition
request came from the Security Council itself or a United
Nations body." On the other hand, the article commented
that the delay in making this U.S. announcement on Zindani
has some "connotations" that go beyond the evidence
question. "Winning the coming U.S. presidential elections"
the article said "requires that the Americans' fear from
terrorism must be maintained to embellish Bush's heroic
achievements in this area and make the `war option' look
like an election program which the Americans have to vote in
favor." "Campaigning for these elections, therefore, might
have started with Zindani, but it could go beyond him since
Bush is looking for a field where he can launch his new wars
that require no evidence" the article added. "Our mission"
the article concluded "is clear and that is to find out
first who informed against Zindani and listen to the
American evidence so that Yemen does not get blamed or
attacked for the mistakes of others."

HULL

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