|Photo from blog.haykal.sg|
In a New York Times interview published today (U.S. Embassy Shuts in Yemen, Even as Militant Leader Reaches Out) the leader of the Houthi militia expressed his desire to be friends with everybody:
Mr. Sammad also said the Houthis wanted a Yemen with good relationships with the United States and other countries, provided that its sovereignty was respected. The militants’ slogan, which is chanted at rallies and painted on walls in Sana, includes the phrase “Death to America.”
“It’s not meant to suggest harming American people,” Mr. Sammad said. “This is just a slogan.”
Just a slogan? Only figurative language? Okay, then. Still, it seems very unfriendly, especially after some Houthis shot up of one of our embassy vehicles, which, according to the NYT, happened on 19 January and was a factor in the decision to evacuate our embassy.
I think something about that slogan is getting lost in translation. The Houthis ought to dial it back if they hope to achieve the good relationship with us that Mr. Sammad says they want. They could do it in steps. Start by changing the slogan to something like “Go screw yourself, America!” Then, “Go home, America!” Then, “Good riddance to you, America!” And finally, “Hey buddy, got any loose change, America?”
Some other excerpts from Sammad's interview:
In his first interview since the Yemeni government collapsed, the leader of the Houthi militants who control Sana, the capital, depicted his movement as eager to share power with its rivals and to reach out to the country’s traditional allies, including the United States and Saudi Arabia — even as the American Embassy prepared to shut down. Saleh Ali al-Sammad, the senior Houthi leader in Sana, made the remarks as a new round of United Nations-mediated talks among the Houthis and other major political parties to try to form a government entered a second day. Yemen has been leaderless since the president and his cabinet resigned on Jan. 22, citing Houthi pressure and attacks.
-- snip --
Mr. Sammad’s remarks, and his unusual willingness to be interviewed by an American news organization, suggested that the Houthis were anxious to climb down from the position they took on Friday, when they declared a unilateral plan for forming a new government.
-- snip --
Mr. Sammad took pains to say that the Houthis wanted normal relations with the United States and other countries. No diplomats have been harmed since September, when the Houthis took over security operations in Sana, he said, adding, “We are not against the missions or individuals themselves, but against policies adopted by America.” However, an attack on an American Embassy car on Jan. 19 at a Houthi roadblock was far worse than previously known, according to a Western diplomat who was briefed on the attack and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities. He said the armored car had been hit with 87 rounds of automatic weapons fire, but the vehicle’s armor withstood the onslaught, and those inside, including two diplomats, were able to escape to safety. “The Americans are furious,” he said. A 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, killed four staff members, including the ambassador.
Once again, those armored vehicles have proved to be worth every penny they cost. They have saved more U.S. diplomats from being killed than any other physical countermeasure the USG puts out there.
By the way, I highly recommend following this Twitter account for news and educated opinion on events in Yemen. It was the source of the photo above.