Sunday, September 20, 2015

Muscat Sultans 2 -- Washington Drones 0

Statement from Oman Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In response to the Royal Orders of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and as per a request of the US government to assist in settling the case of the US citizens detained by the Yemeni security units, the concerned authorities in the Sultanate, in coordination with the Yemeni authorities in Sanaa, have managed to release two of the US citizens as they were transported this night from Sanaa to Muscat on board of an aircraft of the Royal Air Force of Oman in preparation to return home.

This carefully worded statement, among other things, refers to the Houthi militias who were holding the foreign citizens as "Yemeni security units." Anyway the point is that the usual US government approach of attempting to recover hostages -- meaning military operations and blanket refusal of ransom demands -- looks like it's been sensibly dropped in this case. Instead Oman, which has carefully kept neutral in the Yemen war -- at risk to itself in various ways -- was able to spring the detainees. It might be worth trying this "ask someone local for help" in other Middle East contexts as well.

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