Yemeni employees of the US embassy in Sanaa said on Tuesday the ambassador had informed staff the mission is closing down, amid deepening turmoil since the resignation of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government last month, according to Reuters.
They said the ambassador informed them that Washington may ask the Turkish or Algerian embassies in Sanaa to look after US interests in the country while the embassy was closed.
The apparent decision to shutter the embassy comes just days after the Houthi rebel movement, which had marched into Sanaa in late September, dissolved parliament. After the resignations of Yemen’s president, vice president, and cabinet in January, the Houthis’ decision to dismiss the parliament effectively completed the dismantling of Yemen’s internationally recognised government.
US officials were likely worried about their possible inability to protect American diplomats working in Yemen’s anarchic capital. Even with a more stable Yemeni state in place, the US embassy in Sanaa has been attacked on a number of occasions.
Ten people were killed when the embassy was bombed in 2008, long before Yemen’s post-Arab Spring political transition led to the slow-motion disintegration of the country’s government. Al Qaeda claimed credit for an IED attack on the embassy in November of 2014, and the embassy came under attack during protests in 2012 as well. The Obama administration doesn’t want a repeat of the atatck in Benghazi, Libya that killed the US’s ambassador to Libya on September 11, 2012.
But the closure of the Sanaa embassy presents a series of challenges for the US. Yemen is home to the Al Qaeda branch considered most capable of attacking external targets and that took credit for the January attack on the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. And the Houthis are a Shi’ite militia movement allied with Iran. The absence of the US from Yemen during a time when a Tehran-backed group is consolidating power will hardly reassure American allies in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari, writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Dominic Evans)
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