The United States is closing its embassy in Yemen amid the disintegration of the Yemeni government and deteriorating security conditions caused by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
From the AP:
The officials said diplomats were being evacuated from the country on Tuesday and the embassy will suspend operations until conditions improve. Yemen has been in crisis for months with Iran-linked Shiite Houthi rebels besieging the capital and then taking control. The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the closure publicly on the record.
Marines providing the security at the embassy would also likely leave, officials said, but American forces conducting counterterrorism missions in other parts of the country would not be affected.
Maj. Brad Avots, a Pentagon spokesman, would only say that the Defense Department is always assessing security conditions on the ground and the military has evacuation assets available if they are requested by the State Department.
Yesterday, UN-organized peace talks between Yemen’s various political factions broke down after reported threats from Houthi rebels. The rebels had previously insisted on imposing their own methods to maintain order, and formed a “presidential council” to rule; the other factions revolted against the idea, but agreed to come back to the talks earlier this week:
The latest round of talks began on Monday after the UN warned it would take unspecified further steps against the rebels if they refused to return to the negotiating table.
However, they quickly descended into arguments between party representatives and one of the Houthis’ delegates, Mehdi al-Meshaat.
According to the New York Times, Mr Meshaat was quoted by a participant as warning the parties: “If you don’t behave, we will take appropriate measures against you.”
The main Sunni Islamist party Islah, whose supporters have fought battles with the rebels, and the smaller Nasserite Organisation promptly withdrew, complaining of “threats”.
Nasserite leader Abdullah al-Noman claimed the Houthis intended to “impose the choices of the group by force”.
This isn’t your everyday example of civil unrest in the Middle East; in fact, this is much worse. This is bad—it’s the only way to describe it. The Administration’s strategy to combat terrorism has depended in part upon intelligence-sharing and partnering with the (now-former) U.S.-backed Hadi government; now that there is no Hadi government, the Administration’s counterterrorism efforts are come into question.
Yemen was never a perfect partner, but the fact that its government was at least semi-stable provided the U.S. a workable status quo. Now we have a power vacuum, and a volatile situation currently controlled by a group of radicals coming off of a successful coup. Late last month I explained why this type of situation is a death sentence for stability in the region:
On top of concerns regarding Iranian influence in one of the Middle East’s most volatile regions remains the growing influence of Yemen’s al-Qaeda cell. Earlier this month, the group claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and promised more violence to come.
This is the type of environment where insurgencies thrive. The official leadership of Yemen has already been forced to concede weakness to a rebel group that only managed to move out of its northern territorial strongholds this past September; this means that not only do the rebels hold a bargaining chip, but the Iranians now have an even greater hand in how the government operates.
Between the Houdi, and al-Qaeda, we’re looking at a no-win situation. Unless the UN can convince all parties to come to the table and at least stall further hostilities, we’ll lose the region entirely.DONATE
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