U.S. Condemns Houthi Detentions, Disinformation

The Houthis, as AP reports, have “faced increased financial pressures” and “have cracked down on dissent at home, including recently sentencing 44 people to death.”
US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller. (Photo: AP)
US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller. (Photo: AP)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller issued a statement on Wednesday condemning the Houthis in Yemen both for their unlawful detention of UN personnel and former U.S. embassy staffers, along with the Houthis’ lies about those actions, which he, at least initially, referred to as “disinformation.”

However, on second mention, Miller dropped the diplomatic nicety and called out the Houthi falsehoods for what they are—“lies.”

Background to U.S. Denunciation of Houthis

On Friday, the United Nations confirmed that the Houthis, who are backed by Iran, had detained 11 UN staffers, amid reports that other Yemenis working for U.S. and UN-funded organizations in Sana’a had also been arrested.

Responding to a request for comment, a State Department Spokesperson replied on Saturday and strongly denounced the Houthis’ actions in a statement to Kurdistan 24.

Read More: U.S. Condemns ‘Houthi-Led Violence in Yemen’

Yet, since then, the Houthis have escalated their attacks. On Monday, they announced that “they had arrested members of an ‘American-Israeli spy network,’” as the Associated Press reported out of Cairo.

With the new arrests, as the Associated Press explained, the Houthis released “what they purported to be videotaped confessions by 10 Yemenis, several of whom said they were recruited by the U.S, Embassy,” which actually closed in 2015.

U.S. Denunciation

“The United States strongly condemns the recent detentions by the Houthis of United Nations, diplomatic, and non-governmental organization staff,” the State Department Spokesperson said in his statement on Wednesday.

“We also strongly condemn the Houthis’ efforts to spread disinformation regarding the role of detained current and former U.S. mission local staff through televised forced and fake ‘confessions,’” he continued, as he explained that the Houthis were using “disinformation to shift blame to the United States and other outside actors for their own failures.”

Indeed, in trying to understand why the Houthis would take such actions now, the Associated Press noted that they have “faced increased financial pressures” and “have cracked down on dissent at home, including recently sentencing 44 people to death.”

That report is from Egypt. It is nearby, and it is an Arab country. It is, almost certainly, more insightful than the naive explanation given by media like The New York Times, as discussed below—that the Houths’ actions are all for the sake of the Palestinians. 

Indeed, Miller charged that the Houthis’ actions “reflect a blatant disregard for the dignity of the Yemeni people and individuals who – contrary to the Houthis’ lies – have dedicated themselves to their country’s betterment.”

In 2015, the U.S. suspended the operations of its embassy in Yemen. In October 2021, the Houthis arrested a number of local staffers who worked there in a caretaker capacity, along with their families.

The State Department condemned the detentions and demanded their release. It is unclear what happened subsequently, but at least some of those individuals remained in the Houthis’ custody and provided the videotaped “confessions.” 

Thus, Miller issued yet another demand for their release. “Their detention, and that of the UN staff, is an affront to diplomatic norms, and they should be released immediately,” he said. “We will not rest until they are.”

The New York Times’ Naivety vs. AP-Cairo’s Understanding

Yemen is a desperately poor country—and as the Associated Press explained, the Houthis are facing serious economic problems.

Yemen “has long been one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and North Africa,” according to the World Bank. Currently, it “is facing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises,” it said.

The actions of the Houthis, including their attacks on international shipping, only make that situation worse, exacerbating Yemen’s poverty.

Perhaps, the Houthis are acting at the direction of Iran, which arms them and supports them against their Saudi-backed rivals in the country’s decade-long civil war. 

Read More U.S. Intelligence: Iran Supplying Houthis with Missiles, Drones

Perhaps, the Houthis, unpopular in Yemen, are trying to distract the population by picking fights with the U.S. and Israel, as they attack international shipping.

And perhaps it is some combination of both. But one can be sure that the principal motive of the Houthis is not the motive that The New York Times attributed to them in a report published on Wednesday—that they are acting in support of the Palestinians. 

Since the Houthis do not care much about the fate of their own people, as Miller rightly observed, why should anyone believe they care about the Palestinian people?

After all, that was the same excuse Saddam Hussein used, when he invaded Kuwait. It was, according to him, for the sake of the Palestinians—who actually embraced and supported him!