White House Says We Have ‘Succeeded’ In Yemen, As Its President Reportedly Flees Rebels

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Mar 25, 2015 4:55 PM
White House Says We Have ‘Succeeded’ In Yemen, As Its President Reportedly Flees Rebels

After Houthi rebels took over the capital of Sanaa, Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his cabinet resigned. He was placed under house arrest, but escaped in Feburary and established a new power base in the city of Aden. Now, he’s on the run again as Shiite Houthi rebels approach the city, taking an air base that was used by American forces for counterterror operations in the process, though Hadi Chief of Security says he’s still in Aden (via NBC News/AP):

Yemen's president fled his palace in Aden to an undisclosed location Wednesday, five Yemeni officials told The Associated Press, as the advance of Shiite Houthi rebels plunged the Gulf nation further into crisis.

Witnesses also told the AP they saw a convoy of presidential vehicles leaving President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's hilltop palace in Aden. However, Hadi's chief of national security denied to Reuters that the president had fled his home.

"He's here, he's here, he's here. I am now with him in the palace. He is in Aden," Maj. General Ali al-Ahmadi told the news agency.

The developments came just hours after Houthi rebels seized an air base formerly used by the U.S. and Europe in the fight against al Qaeda, both the AP and Reuters reported.

That air base is only 35 miles away from Aden — and the developments plunged the city into a state of "chaos," one Yemeni official loyal to Hadi told NBC News.

Reportedly, Hadi had to flee the coastal city by boat.

The Houthi rebels are a minority, but allegedly have ties to Iran (they sent a delegation to Tehran last week), and have an alliance with Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh was Yemen’s president from 1990-2012; he couldn’t survive the Arab Spring. Nevertheless, as The New York Times reported, Saleh has given the Houthis control of most of Yemen’s military, including the air force. He’s reportedly still popular with the military.

The United States evacuated the last of its forces–about 100 Special Forces personnel–last week. Yet, somehow as we’ve left and Yemen descends closer to civil war, the Obama White House contends that Yemen serves as a counter-terror "template that has succeeded."

Frankly, it’s a disaster. Yet, it’s a movement that could face obstacles in expanding their base of support. Yemen is the poorest Arab country, which has a severe water shortage problem. As New York Times video journalist Mona El-Naggar documented when she was embedded with the Houthi rebels, the tap sometimes flows once a month. Oh, and they chant “Death to America, Death to Israel, damnation to the Jews, and victory to Islam.” But have no fear, El-Naggar says because the Houthis distance themselves from Sunni terror groups, like al-Qaeda and ISIS. That point shouldn’t make anyone sleep better. Yet, she does capture how this fledgling political movement is still unfocused.

Regardless, statements from the Obama White House on how this is a successful template for fighting terror when the governing body was virtually overthrown, and our troops have been withdrawn due to deteriorating security conditions, is just an exercise in a lack of self-awareness. Are we “asleep at the switch?” It appears that we are–and this administration pleas to the rebels to stop creating instability is just pathetic. They might as well have added “pretty please with a cherry on top.”

Right now, Saudi forces are massing at the Yemeni border.