The pro-American president of Yemen abruptly resigned Thursday night along with his prime minister and cabinet, leaving his Houthi opponents the dominant force in a leaderless country that is a breeding ground for Al Qaeda.
The Houthis, who are allied with Iran, have been strongly critical of the United States, particularly opposing Yemen’s cooperation with drone strikes against the Qaeda affiliate here, Al Qaeda in Yemen. At the same time, the Houthis, whose leaders are members of the Zaydi sect of Shiite Islam, are bitter opponents of Al Qaeda, which is Sunni.
The resignation of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi came immediately after an apparently unsuccessful meeting between government and Houthi representatives, brokered by the United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar. It was intended to help carry out an agreement between the two sides that had been reached a day earlier.
Mr. Hadi’s abrupt resignation caught American officials off guard. Diplomats, military officials and counterterrorism analysts were scrambling to assess next steps, including any decisions to evacuate Americans at the United States Embassy and the impact on counterterrorism operations in Yemen.
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