- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2015

President Obama held out hope Sunday for a political solution to the burgeoning crisis in Yemen, where Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels have overrun the capital of Sanaa and upset U.S. operations against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a particularly dangerous wing of the Sunni terrorist group.

Traveling in India, Mr. Obama pushed back at reports the U.S. had suspended its targeted drone strikes against the Islamist extremists.

“We continue to go after high-value targets inside of Yemen and … will continue to maintain the pressure that’s required to keep the American people safe,” he said in a joint event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

Yemen has “never been a perfect democracy or an island of stability,” he acknowledged, as Sunnis and the Shiite Houthis threaten to tear the country apart.

But he doubled down on a strategy of pairing targeted missions with Arab partnerships and intelligence-sharing.

“The alternative would be for us to play whack-a-mole every time there is a terrorist actor inside of any given country, to deploy U.S. troops,” he said. “And that’s not a sustainable strategy.”

Mr. Obama is scheduled to cut his trip to India short to visit Saudi Arabia, where he’ll pay his respects after the death of King Abdullah and greet the new ruler, King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud.

Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat and ranking member on the House intelligence committee, said cutting short the Indian visit to go to Audi Arabia is a prudent decision, as the oil-rich kingdom plays a valuable role in counter-terrorism efforts.

“I think it’s a very good call,” he told CNN.

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