The violent push Tuesday by Houthi rebels against the American-backed government in Yemen is undermining military and intelligence operations against al-Qaida’s Yemen-based affiliate, which made its reach felt in this month’s deadly Paris attacks, U.S. officials say.
President Barack Obama cited Yemen as a terrorism success story in a September speech outlining his strategy against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which involves targeted U.S. strikes on militants with the cooperation of a friendly ground force. Obama called it an approach “that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”
But 10 days after the president uttered those words, the Iran-backed Houthi militia swept into Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, seizing a share of power. On Tuesday, those same rebels seized the presidential palace and shelled the president’s residence, leading Yemeni officials to warn of a coup.
“The government is hanging by a thread,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee. “This has really scrambled our counterterrorism strategy there and it gives al-Qaida a great new opportunity.”