Navy prepares to evacuate US embassy in Yemen

Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is being held captive by rebels who have attacked his compound, just as the U.S. military has moved the USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry into the Red Sea, in position to take aboard evacuees from the U.S. Embassy in Yemen if tensions and violence continue to escalate.

Various media have also reported that the presidential compound is under attack and Shiite Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, are holding the Yemeni president captive.

Yemen’s information minister, Nadia Sakkaf, wrote in a Twitter message that “Yemeni president is being attacked by armed militias that want to overthrow” the government, The Washington Post reported. She also said that political talks were continuing, but that the situation was violent.

By Cheryl K. Chumley – The Washington Times –

US and Cuba to resume diplomatic relations

The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, American officials said Wednesday.

In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final culminating meeting at the Vatican, President Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the island nation just 90 minutes off the American coast.

The contractor, Alan Gross, boarded an American government plane bound for the United States on Wednesday morning and the United States sent back three Cuban spies who have been in an American prison since 1981. American officials said the Cuban spies were swapped for a United States intelligence agent who has been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years and said Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap but released separately on “humanitarian grounds.”

In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the administration signaled that it would welcome a move by Congress to ease or lift it should lawmakers choose to.
“Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people,” the White House said in a written statement.

By Peter Baker – New York Times –