The resignation of United States-backed Yemen President Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi was deemed a strategic “win for Iran” and al-Qaeda, according to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) in an interview on CNN Thursday. The war-torn nation’s Prime Minister Khaled Bahah also resigned.
“Unfortunately in the north it’s a win for Iran in Yemen. And in the south, where al-Qaeda dominates… it’s a win for al-Qaeda,” Royce said. The Southern region of Yemen is dominated by al-Qaeda and is the home of wanted Saudi Arabia-born terrorist Ibrahim al-Asiri, 32, who has attempted several attacks on the United States of America. Al-Asiri is also known for recruiting the man dubbed as the Christmas “underwear bomber,” Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 28.
Royce noted that this particular al-Qaeda faction is the “most toxic, most lethal al-Qaeda affiliate” and pointed out it is the same unit that orchestrated the attacks on the USS Cole. Yemen’s Houthi rebels are backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran and share the same motto as the Iranian Quds forces from whom they take their orders. “Death to America” is their motto.
Yemen’s President Hadi was a strategic U.S. ally in assisting with the targeting of al-Qaeda by providing America with intelligence used for drone strikes on the terrorist organization. President Barack Obama has held that America’s partnership with the Yemeni government was a model for counterterrorism success. Hadi’s fate also hangs in the balance now.
Several hours after President Hadi’s resignation, Saudi Arabia announced the death of King Abdullah ibn Abdilazīz. He was 90. King Abdullah was seen as one of the more lenient members of the Saudi Kingdom, placing forth reforms such as the historic move of issuing a decree in 2013 which allowed for women to serve in the Kingdom’s traditionally all-male Shura Council or parliament. He is succeeded by Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 79, widely viewed as possessing a more extreme interpretation of the Sharia Law than Abdullah.
Yemen’s fall to the Shiite Houthi group stands in stark opposition to the Sunni majority nation of Saudi Arabia, which is also viewed as an ally to the United States. The potential for heightened tensions between the already bitter relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia is now amplified.
“We have just lost our ally, President Hadi,” Royce said. “And that ally had helped us mightily in our fight against al-Qaeda in Yemen, so you can bet this is a big step forward for al-Qaeda.”
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter: @AdelleNaz.