The New York Times launched some weapons-grade stupidity on Sunday with an article by Rod Nordland and Eric Schmitt citing “experts” claiming that the Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen that have swept though critical parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa, are not just moderates, but possible U.S. counter-terrorism partners.
Because of the ongoing Houthi offensive, Yemen’s information minister admitted last week that the government had lost effective control of the country.
JUST IN: Yemeni Info Minister @NadiaSakkaf tells me government control in Yemen is "almost non-existent". Intv airs 8pm CET // 2pm ET
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) January 19, 2015
Thankfully, the Times is here to assure us that when the Houthis shout “Death to America” they really don’t mean it:
At first glance the official slogan and emblem of the Houthis, who are now the dominant force in Yemen, does not offer much hope to American policy makers.
It includes the words “Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews.” Houthis shout it when they march, wear it on arm patches, paint it on buildings and stick it onto their car windows. When pictured, those words are rendered in red, framed by “God is great” and “Victory to Islam” in green, on a white background.
Sometimes the red words are shown dripping blood.
But for all their harsh sloganeering, the Houthis may be a lot more moderate than it suggests, according to many diplomats and analysts who have followed them closely. They say it would be premature to dismiss them as Yemen’s Hezbollah, despite their alliance with Iran.
For reference purposes, here’s the slogan in question:
The logo of Yemen's triumphant Houthis:
Death to America
Death to Israel
Damn the Jews
Victory to Islam pic.twitter.com/BOQSpAFCDD
— Oren Kessler (@OrenKessler) January 22, 2015
Ah, but we have nothing to fear, because they fight Al-Qaeda says the Pentagon:
On Wednesday, Michael G. Vickers, the Pentagon’s top intelligence policy official, noted that the Houthis’ dominance had been growing over the past several months as they expanded their control since last September, but he said that has not interfered with American missions. “The Houthis are anti-Al Qaeda, and we’ve been able to continue some of our counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda in the past couple months,” Mr. Vickers said.
And they’re nothing like yet another Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, say the “experts”:
“The Houthis are not Hezbollah,” said Charles Schmitz, an expert on the group and a professor at Towson University, referring to the Iranian-supported group that dominates Lebanon and is actively fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. “They are domestic, homegrown, and have very deep roots in Yemen, going back thousands of years.”
In fact, they could be U.S. counter-terrorism partners if they only dropped their “Death to America” sloganeering (!!) the “experts” continue:
April Alley, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Sana, said: “Theoretically there is quite a bit of common ground in Yemen between the Houthis and the U.S., particularly when it comes to security issues and Al Qaeda. But so far it’s not been enough to overcome the obstacles. The Houthis have their own limits in which they can engage the Americans given the political narrative they have propagated.”
It should be noted that last week a U.S. Embassy vehicle carrying U.S. personnel was shot up at a Houthi checkpoint:
— Haykal Bafana (@BaFana3) January 20, 2015
And a Houthi checkpoint featuring the “Death to America” signs has been operating right outside the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa since September:
— Hisham Al-Omeisy (@omeisy) September 24, 2014
Another surreal sight: Houthi checkpoint with big sarkha sign ('death to America') on 40m road bang slap in front of US embassy#Yemen
— Peter Salisbury (@peterjsalisbury) September 24, 2014
And yet on Friday the White House said that the embassy will remain open:
WH spokesman Josh Earnest says US Embassy in Sanaa remains open; US monitoring situation closely #voaalert
— Luis Ramirez (@LuisVOA) January 23, 2015
One curious omission in the Times article, however, is that Obama hailed Yemen as one of his administration’s counter-terrorism successes back in September:
Note: President Obama's reference to counter-terror success in Yemen (Sept. 10) does not seem to be aging well http://t.co/rBxCpF0eqh
— Michael B. Kelley (@MichaelBKelley) January 14, 2015
So with Iran or Iranian proxies in charge of another Arab capital (Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, Sanaa) we have nothing to fear, the New York Times is here to tell us.
And the Houthis take their place as acclaimed moderates in the U.S. foreign policy narrative bubble, along with the “largely secular” Muslim Brotherhood, the “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels, the “moderate elements” of Hezbollah (as cited by CIA Director John Brennan), and even “moderate” Al-Qaeda.