Even as senators such as Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Angus King (I-Maine) advocated evacuating the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said they’re not moving in that direction yet.
With the presidential palace overrun, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has agreed to give in to demands of Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels, Yemen’s news agency reported.
The Embassy issued a message to American citizens in the country on Tuesday: “The U.S. Embassy warns all U.S. citizens to avoid the areas around 50 and 60 Meter Road near the Presidential Palace, Presidential residence, and Haddah Area in Sana’s due to heavy fighting. While the fighting appears to be politically motivated and an internal domestic dispute not directed against foreign interests, all U.S. citizens should be vigilant of the continued high risk of kidnapping and terrorist attacks throughout Yemen. U.S. citizens living in Yemen should take extra precautions and consider leaving the country.”
Jarrett told CNN today that they’re watching and waiting.
“Well, first of all, there is nothing more important to the president than the safety of American people. Secondly, the State Department is in very close contact with our embassy and folks on the ground, and the president is receiving regularly — regular updates from his national security team here at the White House. So, no decision has been made to announce yet,” she said. “The president is very concerned, but that’s his decision to make and he’ll make it in consultation with both folks on the ground and his national security team.”
Jarrett said they’re not evacuating yet because “having a presence there is very important.”
“That’s a very important region and the work that they’re doing, that is key to our agenda and so it’s — many of the people who serve, and it’s an important point to make in our embassies all across the world are at risk. We are very grateful to them for that service. These are oftentimes very dangerous jobs,” she continued. “And so, it’s a delicate balance, and the president, as I said, is personally monitoring the situation very closely and the State Department is in absolutely continuous contact with our folks on the ground.”
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters today that the safety of U.S. personnel ranks “very highly” in their deliberations of whether to stay or evacuate.
Psaki was asked how Iran can be trusted to negotiate or abide by a nuclear agreement when the Houthis have “concerning relations” with Iran.
“It’s never been about trust. As you know, the nuclear negotiations are about the nuclear issue. If we reach an agreement, it doesn’t mean the other issues are resolved,” Psaki replied. “As you know, there are a number of sanctions and restrictions on Iran related to other issues. But we have a fundamental belief that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is in the interest of the United States and the global community. That’s why we’re continuing to pursue it.”