CAPITOL HILL —
The chaotic situation in Yemen was the focus of a congressional hearing and United Nations Security Council action against the Houthi rebels Tuesday. The attention came as the terrorist group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, said its top cleric had been killed in an airstrike.
Widespread fighting continues in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab coalition effort to push back a Houthi rebel assault against what is left of Yemeni government forces.
Ibrahim al-Rubaish, the top cleric of Yemen’s al-Qaida branch, appears in this wanted poster from the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice website.
Amid these deteriorating conditions, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula said that its spiritual leader, Ibrahim al-Rubaish, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, was killed in a drone strike.
Asked about the chaos in Yemen, former U.S. ambassador to that country Gerald Feierstein told a House Foreign Affairs panel the U.S. wants the parties to the conflict to return to the negotiating table.
“Only through a negotiated resolution of the political conflict can we resume the cooperation with the government of Yemen to deter, defeat and ultimately to eliminate the AQAP threat to Yemen and the United States and our partners around the world,” he stated.
Panel chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the Obama administration is in danger of making the same mistakes in Yemen that it made in Syria, by not engaging right away. “And just like in Syria, today Yemen is in utter chaos,” she added. “In large part due to Iran’s antagonism and meddling.”
Some Democrats on the panel said Republicans should not blame Yemen’s inherent instability on President Barack Obama. Representative Gerald Connolly. “I don’t think throwing potshots at this administration, as if it were omnipotent on the world scene, especially in this region, is very helpful,” he said.
Some analysts said that while the world is focused on Iran’s nuclear activities and the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the danger posed by AQAP in Yemen cannot be underestimated.
“AQAP still to this day was deemed the biggest threat to homeland security in the United States. This chaos has only grown and will continue to grow, and I think the humanitarian disaster for the poor Yemeni people will likely create a longer-term problem for the U.S,” said Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress.
Also Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo against the Houthi rebels, citing the rapidly worsening humanitarian situation.