Nine months of war between a Saudi-led military coalition and a Yemeni rebel group have left thousands of civilians dead, a nation gravely polarized and the land strewn with debris, mines and unexploded bombs.The conflict has produced another bitter legacy: a new branch of the Islamic State that has quietly grown in strength and appears determined to distinguish itself as Yemen’s most disruptive and brutal force, carrying out attacks considered too extreme even by the country’s branch of Al Qaeda.The Islamic State’s deadliest attack, on mosques here in the capital, killed more than 130 people and helped start Yemen’s civil war in March. Now, as mediators are struggling to end the conflict, the group is fueling new tensions by carrying out powerful car bombings in southern Yemen and releasing videos filled with grisly executions and sectarian denunciations of Yemen’s Shiite minority.
Yemen, the president told us last year, was a success.
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Clinton is very excited, naturally enough, after the recently concluded climate change agreement. Unlike the Iran deal, it is not threatening to U.S. interests, but it is entirely useless, lacking required steps to meet the temperature goals, any enforcement mechanism or (without Congress) any funding to accomplish anything. It is the perfect triumph of diplomacy over reality.
In sum, “success” is ephemeral for the Obama-Clinton team. Success too often amounts to disaster, or at best, nothing tangible.
Seven years into the Obama presidency, it is fair to ask Clinton:
Are jihadists a bigger or smaller problem than when you took office as secretary of state?Is Russia acting in concert with — or in opposition to — our Middle East interests? If the latter, can we say our Russia policy was a failure?Aside from rhetoric, how is your policy regarding the Islamic State any different from the president’s?What is the point of a Syrian-negotiated settlement, if Iran, Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are in ascendancy and we are virtually absent? Is Secretary of State John Kerry wasting his time then?Why do Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia openly complain about our lack of staying power and reliability?With Israel, was it a mistake to focus so intently on settlements?Would you have negotiated a deal with Iran that lifted the missile and conventional arms embargoes, did not restrict its missile program, allowed self-inspection, did not specifically tie sanctions relief to full disclosure of possible military dimensions (PMDs) and released $150 billion to Iran while it was still holding Americans against their will and destabilizing its neighbors? If not, why did you support the deal?Where, other than Cuba and Iran, do we have better relations now than we did seven years ago?You oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Wouldn’t that be a blow to our Asian allies and a boost to China?
Clinton, like the president, talks a good game. No one can filibuster better in a debate. She can recite meetings and paper agreements. She can boast of her frequent-flier miles. But in the real world, outcomes matter. For the Obama-Clinton-Kerry team, it is increasingly hard to see what positive achievements –tangible gains — they attained. It is easy to reel off a list of failures. Why then does Clinton deserve a promotion?