Following in the footsteps of their counterparts in Syria and Libya, western diplomats in Yemen fled from their posts ahead of a new revolutionary government, leaving behind supplies, weapons, vehicles and cash.
MATT LEE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Jen, more broadly on Yemen, this is the third embassy that you guys have had to uncharitably, perhaps, say, abandon in an Arab Spring country since the first one, which was Syria. Is there a broader concern that you’re being – the U.S. is being run out of town in the Arab world?
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT: We certainly don’t look at it in that way. I would remind you that we were not the only country that moved our staff out of Yemen last night, and we have to take precautions to protect the men and women who are serving on our behalf. There’s no question that in each of the countries you’ve mentioned there’s a great bit of volatility, but that’s – the fact is that that’s what’s happening on the ground. It’s not a reflection of the United States and our engagement. It’s a reflection of the trouble and challenges happening in these countries.
QUESTION: Okay. So the Administration would take issue with people who are suggesting that these – this latest evacuation, combined with the other two, you would take issue with the suggestion that that is reflective of some failure in the Administration’s policy to deal with the aftermath or even the – well, to deal with the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the revolutions throughout the region.
PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, as you know, the UK and France also moved their staff out of Yemen last night. Clearly, we’ve talked about and the President and others have talked about regrets as it relates to Libya. There’s a civil war happening in Syria. So what I would say is there are challenging circumstances in each of these countries. What the United States leadership is reflected in is the fact that we want to return. We want to be engaged. We want to play a role if we can play a role, as do these other countries. But these are difficult challenges that we need to determine how we can best play a role.
QUESTION: But I think that there is people that would say that wanting to play a role and hoping that you can return is not exactly a leadership role. Is that – I mean --
PSAKI: Well, I would --
QUESTION: Hoping that the situation in Yemen, without your – without U.S. diplomats on the ground to report back on and to have communications with all the people – with all the parties involved, doesn’t seem to be a leadership role.
PSAKI: Well, we have our own interests in Yemen and we are continuing to implement those.
QUESTION: Clearly, you have less interests in Yemen than you did yesterday.
PSAKI: We are continuing to implement those. One of them is our counterterrorism work which is ongoing. So that is one that is continuing. We think having a diplomatic presence is in our interest and certainly in the interest of the region. But I don’t think that the facts bear out a notion that this is about the United States.
QUESTION: So it’s just about the West in general?
PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that. I think the situation on the ground has obviously been volatile and challenging politically for some time now, and there have been a history here that is not related to the United States or the West.