Today, US officials said that America will close its embassy in Yemen, amid continuing unrest. According to Reuters, remaining embassy staff are evacuating and the ambassador will leave by Wednesday.
It is not the first time that the State Department has shuttered the Sana’a embassy’s doors – the heavily fortified building is often closed to the public. This most recent closure comes on the heels of the Houthi rebel group effectively taking control of the country in recent months, and remains indefinite.
The Houthis are rooted in a Shiite offshoot of Islam and, at least rhetorically, take a staunchly anti-American stance. Their slogan reads “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam!” and they have also long been suspected up receiving support from Iran.
The Associated Press reports that U.S. counter terrorism operations in Yemen will continue. Under President Hadi, and his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the US was able to conduct extensive counter operations in Yemen. Most notably, they have launched dozens of sometimes controversial drone attacks against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – the Yemen based branch of the global terrorist network – operatives and other suspected militants.
State department spokesperson Jen Psaki declined to comment specifically about the situation in Yemen, but, at a regular briefing, said, “We take steps in order to make sure we do everything we can to protect [our staff].”
The closure does highlight the collapse of an internationally-backed effort to mediate a political solution in the conflict torn country following the 2011 onset of the Arab Spring.
Since then, the Houthis have made significant political and territorial gains in the Yemen. This fall armed Houthi fighters swept into Sana’a, and rapidly took a firm grip on the capital, where the embassy is located. Completely the effective coup, they pressured President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to resign last month and dissolved parliament earlier this week.