The Trouble With Yemen
Businessweek — 29 October 2014
In interviews with Bloomberg Businessweek Middle East, a number of those manning People’s Committee checkpoints say that they are longstanding members of Ansar Allah, or “Partisans of God”, the Houthis’ preferred name for their movement. But roughly the same proportion say that they joined the movement on or around 21 September, as the Houthi militias were completing their rout of First Armoured. The vast majority of this second group are supporters of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former president, and the General People’s Congress (GPC), Yemen’s historical ruling party. Saleh was ousted in a 2011 uprising after leading the country for 33 years. Meanwhile, senior government and diplomatic sources say it is no coincidence that the People’s Committees are split between the pro-Houthi and Saleh camps: they believe that Saleh played an active role in the fall of First Armoured and the takeover of the capital.
A Bloody Conundrum Beckons As Yemen Slides Into Civil War
Newsweek — 29 October 2014
While events in Yemen cannot be reduced to a simple Sunni-versus-Shia binary because they are rooted in historical conflicts of family and tribe, it may end up turning into that sort of war. Houthis militias have expanded southward from the capital and entered territory that is controlled by al-Qaida. The ensuing hostilities have killed dozens of fighters and at least 10 civilians, according to reports. “The average Yemeni is not scared of the Houthis’ military checkpoints. But the average Yemeni is scared of the suicide bombings,” says Sarah Jamal, a Sanaa-based independent researcher. “When we hear news on the radio that the Houthis are battling al-Qaida in the countryside, people’s first reaction in Sana’a is to worry that al-Qaida is going to get us back here in the city.”
Abaad Report: The south’s separation countdown
Yemen Times — 21 October 2014
According to a report released last week by the Abaad Studies and Research Center, southerners in Yemen feel that after the Houthis seized control over Sana’a their time has come to achieve independence from the north. The Houthis are an armed group prevalent in the north that effectively took control over Yemen’s capital on Sept. 21. “Yemenis in the south feel now is their chance for self-determination and separation from the north,” the report read. Continue reading
Who Lost Yemen?
Politico — 15 October 2014
The Huthi’s stunning rise to power is mainly the result of four factors: the incompetence of the interim government installed in 2011, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s desire for revenge against those who ousted him in 2011, Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s sharp turn against the Muslim Brotherhood and the astute political leadership of the Huthi movement itself. Just who is playing whom in this complicated game of Yemeni politics is not clear. The Huthi themselves may have neutralized much of the military though astute leadership and by gaining the loyalty of key military leaders. The Saudis and the Saleh clan were happy to see their former allies in Islah destroyed, even if by an adversary with close ties to Iran.
Houthi victories in Yemen make Saudi Arabia nervous
Al-Monitor — 15 October 2014
What concerns the Saudis the most is the Iranian connection to the Houthis. Saleh alleged Iranian help to the rebels as early as 2004, but it wasn’t until 2012 that US officials began confirming that Tehran was aiding the Houthis. Iran, with its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, has been shipping small arms and ammunition to the Houthis for several years now and also providing limited quantities of financial aid. Last month, the Yemeni authorities deported to Oman two Iranians whom they accused of being members of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force arrested in Yemen assisting the Houthis. Whatever the extent of Iranian aid to the Houthis, Riyadh believes it is extensive and critical to their success. A senior Saudi prince recently told me that the kingdom is now surrounded by Iranian proxies. He said Iran’s assets control four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. The Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat this month editorialized that “Iran is encircling Saudi Arabia.”
Shifting balances of power in Yemen’s crisis
Washington Post — 26 September 2014
This week’s events in Yemen have been mischaracterized in a variety of ways: A sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni groups; a second revolution that finally removes the pre-2011 actors from power; a counter-revolution backed by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s party and his tribal affiliates; and a self-staged coup condoned by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to weaken his political opponents. Given the rapidly evolving events, the malleable and shifting alliances, and the profusion of backroom deals among the main political actors, such a menagerie of competing explanations – each of which contains a nugget of truth – is not surprising. Nevertheless, a longer look at how political actors in Yemen balance against each other, and at how a shift in such balance of power between groups that is not reflected in the distribution of power in the government, provides a better explanation for the crisis. It also provides lessons about how to avoid similar escalation in the future. Continue reading