The PJ Tatler

U.S. Embassy Closes in Yemen, Will 'Explore Options for a Return'

The State Department acknowledged this morning that it has shut the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, though insisted it’s only a temporary move after Iran-backed Houthi rebels took power.

“Due to the uncertain security situation in Sana’a, the Department of State has decided to suspend our embassy operations and our embassy staff have been temporarily relocated out of Sana’a. Recent unilateral actions disrupted the political transition process in Yemen, creating the risk that renewed violence would threaten Yemenis and the diplomatic community in Sana’a,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in an early-morning statement.

“The United States remains firmly committed to supporting all Yemenis who continue to work toward a peaceful, prosperous, and unified Yemen. We will explore options for a return to Sana’a when the situation on the ground improves.”

The Houthi rebellion intensified shortly before President Obama’s State of the Union speech in January, and some lawmakers then were urging the administration to pull U.S. staff out. The administration, which has claimed Yemen as a success story in the war on terror, dug in its heels.

“Our Ambassador and Embassy staff will continue to engage Yemenis and the international community to support Yemen’s political transition process, consistent with the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, UN Security Council resolutions and Yemeni law. We will also continue to protect the American people, and we will not hesitate to act in Yemen to do so,” Psaki continued.

The State Department issued a travel warning today for Yemen “due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.”

“All consular services, routine and/or emergency, have been suspended until further notice,” said the notice, superseding a Sept. 25 warning. “The Department urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart.”

Psaki said “the Yemeni people have reason to expect to see this process resume with meaningful public timelines for finishing a new Yemeni constitution, holding a referendum on this constitution, and launching national elections.”

“We reiterate the call of the United Nations Security Council for immediate release of President Hadi, Prime Minister Bahah, and members of the Yemeni cabinet. An inclusive political process cannot resume with members of the country’s leadership under house arrest,” she said. “The future of Yemen should be determined by the Yemeni people. All Yemenis have both a right and responsibility to participate in this process peacefully.”

Britain and France also closed their embassies. The German Embassy was reportedly busy destroying sensitive documents in preparation to close its doors.

“It’s long been clear Yemen was not the ‘success story’ that President Obama once claimed it to be. Today’s news is an unfortunate, yet totally predictable, development which confirms that fact. Given the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, the State Department was left with no alternative but to withdraw American diplomats from the country and close our embassy,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement.

“Yemen has been of strategic importance to the United States, and I fear these latest developments will create a vacuum that will ultimately benefit al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). AQAP is a committed enemy of the United States and is believed to have been responsible for the recent terror attacks in Paris. AQAP continues to harbor a burning desire to attack the United States, and we must remain vigilant in protecting ourselves from them,” the senator added.

“Finally, our nation continues to be weakened by the Obama Administration’s lack of an overall strategy to deal with the threat posed by radical Islam. Yemen is but the latest, yet I fear probably not the last, example of President Obama’s failing foreign policy.”