“Secret files held by Yemeni security forces that contain details of American intelligence operations in the country have been looted by Iran-backed militia leaders, exposing names of confidential informants and plans for U.S.-backed counter-terrorism strikes,” reports the L.A. Times:
U.S. intelligence officials believe additional files were handed directly to Iranian advisors by Yemeni officials who have sided with the Houthi militias that seized control of Sana, the capital, in September, which led the U.S.-backed president to flee to Aden.
The L.A. Times judges the damage to American intelligence networks in Yemen as “severe,” recalling more productive times when U.S. forces worked with deposed President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi’s government to drone al-Qaeda leaders. That’s done for good, since Iran’s crew in Yemen has compromised the local agents—who had better be running for the hills, if they know what’s good for them—and seized whatever counterintelligence files Hadi loyalists couldn’t destroy.
The Houthis also claim to have captured the air base American special operations forces and intelligence crews evacuated over the weekend. It is not quite as picturesque as the last helicopter buzzing away from the U.S. Embassy in Iran, but it will serve as one of Obama’s Jimmy Carter moments. America did not need any more Jimmy Carter moments.
As for Hadi, he is either holed up in an “undisclosed location” coordinating operations against the Houthis or running for his life in a boat, depending on whom you ask. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki claimed on Wednesday they were “in touch” with him, but didn’t know where he was. Reuters is confident he settled into Saudi Arabia as of Thursday morning.
Iran has “denounced the surprise assault on the Houthis and demanded an immediate halt to Saudi-led military operations,” according to Reuters. Iran is angry about Saudi Arabia and its allies throwing their weight into the Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict in Yemen, because only Iran is allowed to throw its weight around like that.
The Iranians are saying the conflict in Yemen will threaten the nuclear deal Obama is so desperate to shake hands on, which raises an interesting dilemma since American logistical and intel support has reportedly been authorized for the anti-Houthi operation. Would that be intel support from the network the Houthis just gift-wrapped and handed to Iran? This Yemen business has the ugly look of a World War I-style alliance chain reaction, with Jordan, Sudan, and Egypt participating, Turkey considering involvement, and Pakistan threatening to respond to any threat against Saudi Arabia, a threat that seems clearly intended for the ears of Tehran.
A senior Iranian official informed Reuters that his country would “use all possible political ways to allay tensions in Yemen,” but “military intervention is not an option.” Do the mullahs have enough leverage over Obama to make him dial the Yemen war down? They have gotten everything else they could dream of by threatening to walk away from the nuclear deal, so why not this too? Might the intelligence seized by the Houthis give them even more leverage?