Analysis: Why were Western diplomats evacuated from Yemen?

YemenBy J. FITSANAKIS and I. ALLEN | intelNews.org |
American and British embassies in Yemeni capital Sana’a were evacuated on Tuesday, soon after the United States closed 19 of its diplomatic representations in the Middle East and North Africa due to fears of a pending terrorist attack. But why exactly did the evacuations of diplomatic personnel take place in Sana’a? The Yemeni government announced on Wednesday that it had foiled a large-scale attack by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which allegedly aimed to cripple the country’s frail economy. According to Yemeni government spokesperson Rajeh Badi, the attack was planned to take place in the country’s central Hadramout governorate, which includes the port cities of al-Mukkala and Ghail Ba Wazir. The Yemeni government said the AQAP forces planned to blow up several oil pipelines before proceeding to occupy the two port cities, from which the majority of Yemen’s oil exports are shipped. Badi added that AQAP planned to take several foreign oil workers hostage as part of the military operations.

However, as Foreign Policy magazine’s Dana Stuster points out, Mohammed Albasha, spokesman of the Yemeni embassy in Washington, DC, seems to dispute his own government’s claims. Early on Wednesday, Albasha tweeted that, in his view, “AQAP doesn’t have the man power nor the capabilities to capture a city the size of Mukkala in Hadramout”, let alone Ghail Ba Wazir. Read more of this post

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Russia evacuating its citizens from Syria: A political turning point?

Busses carrying Russians arrive in LebanonBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In a move that surprised observers, the government of Russia began on Tuesday to evacuate its citizens from Syria. Late on Tuesday afternoon, four chartered busses carrying nearly a hundred Russians, mostly women and children, arrived at the Jdaidet Yabous border crossing, which links Syria with Lebanon. As soon as they stepped on Lebanese soil in Masnaa, which is located five miles west of Jdaidet Yabous, the evacuees were met by an official from the Russian embassy in Beirut, who had been waiting for them for several hours. Russian officials dismissed rumors that this is the beginning of a mass evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria. But international observers described this development as “the strongest indication yet” that Moscow is acknowledging the eventual collapse of the regime in Damascus. Russia has persisted in its role as the strongest international backer of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011, when the Syrian uprising against his government began. But many view the Kremlin’s move to evacuate some of its citizens as “a turning point in its view of the civil war” in the Middle Eastern country. According to reports by the Associated Press, the Russians onboard the buses, which had been chartered by the Russian government, appeared to have been briefed to avoid contact with the press at the border crossing. Many covered the bus windows closest to them with curtains so as not to be photographed by journalists, and most refused to speak with press crews. The few who spoke publicly said without exception that they were simply traveling to Russia “to visit relatives”. The evacuees were taken to Beirut, where they have been scheduled to board two airplanes chartered by the Russian government, headed for Moscow. Read more of this post

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