President Obama on Wednesday authorized sanctions on certain members of the government of Yemen and others whom the United States deems might pose a threat to Yemen’s peace, security, and stability.
As Yemen transitions to a democratically elected government, such threats would constitute an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” Obama said in an executive order. The order allows the Treasury Department to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone found to "obstruct" the transition—and prevents U.S. citizens from doing business with them.
After months of turmoil in the country, Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped aside after three decades in power, clearing the way in February for his vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, to take over and begin the transition to democracy. A number of Saleh’s relatives and supporters were reluctant to give up their high-level positions within the military and government until they were forced to resign. Obama’s order is meant to keep them from further interfering in the political transition.
“The president took this step because he believes that the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people, along with the urgent humanitarian and security challenges, cannot be addressed if political progress stalls,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
The order--issued just after officials disrupted an attempt by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to take down an airliner bound for the U.S.—is meant to ensure that the unrest in Yemen doesn’t undermine counterterrorism goals in the country, according to the The Washington Post. U.S. drone strikes have continued during the unrest, as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula took advantage of the political turmoil and began to make territorial gains in the country’s restive south.