Iranian-backed Houthis cause closure of Western embassies in Sanaa

 

The United States, France, and the United Kingdom closed their embassies in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Wednesday, citing security concerns in light of the Iranian-backed Houthis’ aggressive actions. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki issued a press statement on Tuesday to explain the need for the embassy’s closure: “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.” Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in Sanaa and Taiz on Wednesday to demonstrate against the Houthi takeover. The Houthis seized Sanaa last September and forced the resignation of the Yemeni president, a firm U.S. counter-terrorism ally, and the entire government last month. An Iranian general crowed about this “historic victory for the Iranian Islamic revolution.” A member of the Iranian parliament, Ali Reza Zakani, who is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that Sanaa is the fourth Arab capital to join the Iranian Revolution (after Beirut, Damascus, and Baghdad). Thousands of pro-Houthi demonstrators marched in the capital last Wednesday, chanting, “Death to America, Death to Israel”; two days later, the group announced that they had taken over the government and had dissolved parliament. On Tuesday, Houthi fighters captured the city of Al Bayda in central Yemen, which lies adjacent to Mareb province, the location of much of Yemen’s oil and gas infrastructure. Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders are reportedly in Yemen training Houthi fighters and approximately 100 Houthis have trained near the Iranian city of Qom. A Yemeni intelligence officer told the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat last September that Hezbollah militants were also in Yemen. Obama touted Yemen as a model of success as recently as last September, just weeks before the Houthi seizure of Sanaa, to market his strategy of defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria: “This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years,” President Obama said. "It is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America's core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order." Dr. Joshua Teitelbaum, lecturer and senior research associate at Israel's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) at Bar-Ilan University, said in a conference call hosted by The Israel Project Wednesday that America’s regional allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, have a sense of “a lack of U.S. leadership.”

 

No matter when you visit Israel, you can be sure there will be festivals and other special events on tap somewhere in the country. ISRAEL21c has chosen 30 events from February through November (December warrants a separate listing), to feature in our ultimate guide to 2015 in Israel. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it does provide a glimpse into the festive future. If you’ve got other favorite events please add them to our comments below. Dates are subject to change, so do confirm ahead of time. And because many happenings are announced only weeks or days beforehand, check tourism websites shortly beforehand for the most updated information. See the complete list of events at Israel21c!


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