News Update 17 October 2014

Highlights:
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.

Politics:
Yemen on the brink as rebels oust the old guard
Reuters — 14 October 2014
The Houthi rebels who stunned the Arab world with the sudden seizure of Yemen’s capital will have to strive to cement their power in the face of well-armed rivals, a test of strength that could tip the unstable country deeper into turmoil. A suicide bombing last Thursday that killed 47 in Sanaa is an example of the indiscriminate tactics Yemenis fear some armed groups are prepared to employ to check the ascent of the Shi’ite Muslim movement that swept into the city on Sept 21.

Yemen’s Capital Fell To A Rebel Group And The World Hardly Noticed
Huffington Post — 4 October 2014
The International Crisis Group explained in a June briefing that while the Houthis didn’t have much of a political agenda through that turbulent decade, the group shifted its footing in 2011, after Yemenis took to the streets in the wake of the Arab Revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. The group took advantage of the political and security vacuum created by the mass protests, strengthening its military position in the northern Saada region and widening its popular appeal significantly by supporting populist measures like fuel subsidies. According to the Economist, the group even swayed many Sunnis who appreciated both its distance from Yemen’s power brokers and its political positions, which are liberal when compared to those of other, more radical Sunni parties.

Houthi victory is defeat for Yemen’s Islah
Al-Monitor — 29 September 2014
Islah accepted and signed the agreement under the impact of military defeat. Some Islah members don’t want their party to participate in the next government. During the session to sign the agreement, Sheikh Muhammad al-Imam called on Islah not to participate in the government and to focus on social work among the masses. That same message was delivered by Islah figure Zaid al-Shami in a letter to members of his party. He concluded by saying, “Come back to the fields of education, guidance and giving. Give yourselves more time for review and for internal construction.”

Shiite rebels are Yemen’s new masters
Washington Post — 5 October 2014
The capital of Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest and perhaps most chronically unstable nation, has new masters. Shiite rebels man checkpoints and roam the streets in pickups mounted with anti­aircraft guns. The fighters control almost all state buildings, from the airport and the central bank to the Defense Ministry.

Houthis promise to remove camps
Yemen Times — 16 October 2014
The Houthis’ Protest Organizing Committee issued a press release on Wednesday promising to remove their camps in and around Sana’a as soon as the newly appointed prime minister is sworn in. Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Houthis’ Political Office, told the Yemen Times that the first step in removing Houthi camps and barricades will be taken once the newly appointed Prime Minister Khaled Baha is sworn in.

Southern Movement calls on government employees to leave
Yemen Times — 16 October 2014
The Southern Movement on Tuesday issued a statement, calling on the Yemeni government and all security and military personnel stationed in the south to withdraw by Nov. 30. The call came during a mass gathering in Aden to celebrate the 51st anniversary of the revolution against the British occupation which began in Oct. 14, 1963.

What the Houthi takeover of Sanaa reveals about Yemen’s politics
Al-Jazeera — 25 September 2014
Houthi fighters seized most of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and signed a deal with the government last Sunday. Since their lightning takeover of the city, Houthi militias have attacked the adversaries of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and political rivals of current President Abdrahbu Mansour Hadi. But the apparent ease of the Houthi victory reveals much more about the smoke and mirrors of Yemeni politics than it does about the militiamen’s fighting prowess. Indeed, by allowing the Houthis free rein of the capital, Hadi has taken a gamble that could bring more violence as the backlash against the Houthi uprising gains strength.

New ten-party coalition established
Yemen Times — 23 September 2014
A new ten-party coalition named the “New Yemen Parties Coalition” was launched in Sana’a on Monday. All of the coalition parties were established in the wake of the popular uprising in 2011, including the Development and Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Justice and Freedom Party. Moahmmed Juzailan, the head of the Republican Party, said that the new coalition is an independent entity and was established to counter the challenges Yemen has been facing since 2011.

Yemen’s Bloody Weekend Leaves Hundreds Dead And Rebels On The Rise
Buzzfeed — 22 September 2014
The U.S. has repeatedly expressed concern over the growth of the Houthi movement in Yemen, publicly worrying that the group is sponsored by Iran. And while there is some evidence of cooperation and support from Iran, it is unclear what exactly that money buys in Yemen, where many groups accept outside funding without ever acting as proxies. Although tempting to see the Houthis as part of larger Sunni-Shiite war, this is a local war with a regional dimension. This means that in Yemen, just as in Syria and Iraq, the U.S. now finds itself opposing multiple sides of an increasingly violent conflict.

Saudi Crapshoot in Yemen
Huffington Post — 28 September 2014
So far, this is business as usual in Yemen. The surprise is to hear how closely involved Saudi Arabia and its ally the United Arab Emirates were in the Houthi advance and how it reached a de facto understanding with their biggest regional rival, Iran. In November last year I first reported Saudi contacts with their old enemies the Houthis. In the last few weeks those meetings have intensified. I understand that a Houthi delegation went to the UAE for a high-ranking meeting and that the same delegation flew on to Riyadh. There has also been a successful meeting between Iranian and Saudi Arabian foreign ministers in New York a week ago.

The GPC: A party divided, but still intact
Yemen Times — 16 October 2014
The General People’s Congress (GPC) witnessed many divisions in 2011, when Yemen’s popular uprising led dozens of high-ranking officials to resign from the party. Following the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative, the head of the party, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was replaced by his party deputy, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi as the country’s president. Despite this political shake-up, Saleh remained the head of the GPC and continues to be actively engaged in politics. He remains visible on posters and his daily statesmanlike activities are reported by Saleh affiliated TV channels and newspapers.

The Price of Abandoning Yemen
New York Times — 19 October 2014
To prevent further chaos in Yemen, there is no alternative to putting the peaceful and inclusive transition process back on track. Power does not translate to legitimacy: The Houthis will need the participation of other parties, particularly their opponent Islah, to govern. The Houthis have demanded the implementation of a plan that would devolve power from Sana. That would be a step forward. Yet the Houthis should note that one of the plan’s major recommendations is to disarm Yemen’s various militias, and begin with themselves. Only then can the hope and promise of the Arab Spring in Yemen be revived.

Yemen’s new prime minister hopes to apply lessons from Canada
Toronto Star — 14 October 2014
Khaled Bahah, Yemen’s newly appointed prime minister, was nostalgic as he left Canada after five years serving as ambassador. Bahah’s surprise appointment Monday as prime minister brought rare praise from all rival factions, including Houthi rebels who had swiftly taken control of the capital, Sanaa, on Sept. 21, forcing the resignation of the former prime minister and dramatically altering Yemen’s political landscape. The Houthis belong to a minority Zaydi sect from the north, a Shia offshoot that comprises more than a quarter of the population in the primarily Sunni country. They fought six wars with Saleh’s government from 2004 to 2010, honing the military prowess on display in the capital last month as they moved into Sanaa with relative ease.

Security:
Al Qaeda and Houthis clash in central Yemen: residents
Reuters — 16 October 2014
At least 10 people were killed in fighting between Houthi tribesmen and militants linked to al Qaeda in central Yemen on Thursday, witnesses said, part of a growing struggle over territory and influence between the two enemy sides. The Shi’ite Muslim Houthis established themselves as Yemen’s new powerbrokers last month, capturing Sanaa on Sept. 21 to little resistance from residents or from the weak administration of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Dhamar falls to the Houthis
Yemen Times — 16 October 2014
Armed Houthis have been deployed at checkpoints in the streets of Dhamar city since Tuesday morning, with rebels controlling the entrances and exits to the governorate. Mohammad Ahmed Al-Ansi, a resident in Dhamar city, said Houthi armed men appear to be deployed in every street in the city, with checkpoints set up in the main streets.

Houthis take Hodeida city and port
Yemen Times — 16 October 2014
Armed Houthi rebels captured the Red Sea port of Hodeida on Tuesday and erected checkpoints at the entrances of Hodeida city. The Houthis’ advance in the governorate came the day after Yemen’s new Prime Minister Khaled Bahah was appointed. Ahmad Hibat Allah, spokesperson of the Tehama Movement, said the rebels faced little opposition as they took over the city’s air and sea ports.

Al-Qaida Fighters Storm Security Base in Yemen
AP via ABC News — 16 October 2014
Suspected al-Qaida militants on Thursday overran a security base south of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, killing three policemen before fleeing to nearby mountains, security officials said. The attack took place in the al-Adeen area in Ebb province, nearly 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Sanaa, the officials said. The militants held the facility for three hours and also robbed a local bank, though it was unclear how much money they took.

Rebels in disguise
Yemen Times — 16 October 2014
Security personnel manning checkpoints around the capital have disappeared and been replaced by armed members from the Houthis, who call themselves “Ansar Allah,” or “Supporters of God.” The increasing number of Houthis wearing their traditional tribal clothes in the streets of Sana’a created a sense of resentment among many citizens who feel the state has been replaced by militias. “I’m afraid of Houthis because they are tribal persons and they do not know the meaning of civilization. Maybe they try to forbid us from doing our own routine,” Sana’ani resident Mohammed Saeed said, alluding to the more conservative rule imposed by the Houthis in their home governorate of Sa’ada.

Houthi fighters seize Yemen city of Ibb
Al-Jazeera — 16 October 2014
Houthi rebels have seized more territory south of Yemen’s capital, including the city of Ibb, near an al-Qaeda stronghold. Witnesses said that dozens of cars carrying Houthi fighters were seen arriving in Ibb on Wednesday, an area bordering al-Bayda province, a bastion of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Houthis, who took over Sanaa on September 21, and who have held the strategic southern port of Hudaydah since Tuesday, did not face any opposition from local authorities as they entered the provinces of Dhamar and Ibb and set up checkpoints, officials said.

Yemen’s Houthis advance near al Qaeda stronghold
Reuters — 15 October 2014
Yemen’s new Shi’ite Muslim powerbrokers sent fighters towards an al Qaeda stronghold on Wednesday, raising the possibility of clashes between the politically ascendant Houthi movement and the hardline Sunni Muslims of the militant network. Witnesses said dozens of cars carrying armed Houthi fighters were seen arriving in the city of Ibb, bordering al-Bayda province, a bastion of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Explosion kills two soldiers in Yemen’s Hadramawt region
Reuters — 11 October 2014
An explosion near a military checkpoint in Yemen’s southeastern Hadramawt region killed two soldiers and injured four others, a local official said, adding to a wave of attacks hitting the country at a moment of political turmoil. The blast took place on a public street in the city of Shibam in Hadramawt, the official said, adding that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or its affiliate Ansar al-Sharia is believed to be responsible.

Officer assassinated in Hadramout
Yemen Times — 14 October 2014
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on Sunday claimed responsibility for the assassination of an officer in Al-Shiher district of Hadramout governorate, in the south of Yemen. AQAP announced through its official Twitter handle Akhbar Ansar Al-Sharia that the attack was carried out on Saturday and that officer Abdu Khamis Abd Almolla was shot dead in Al-Majwara neighborhood in the middle of Al-Shiher city.

Fear of Sunni Extremists Grows After Fatal Blast in Yemen’s Capital
New York Times — 9 October 2014
A suicide bomber attacked a crowd of protesters here in the capital on Thursday, killing at least 47 people and adding to fear that Sunni extremists were mobilizing new attacks against a Shiite rebel group that took control of Sana last month. The bomber’s target appeared to be supporters of the rebel group, the Houthis, who were preparing for a march near the city’s Tahrir Square. Video that purported to depict the attack showed groups of people strolling or preparing banners before the explosion. Medics said that dozens of people were wounded and that several children were among the dead. Witnesses described the scene as gruesome.

Economy:
Yemen separatists tell oil firms to stop exports from south
Reuters — 15 October 2014
Southern separatists seeking to split from Yemen’s north set an ultimatum for the government to evacuate its soldiers and civil servants by Nov. 30 and asked all foreign firms producing oil and gas in the region to halt exports immediately. Southern Herak, the main group demanding the restoration of a South Yemen state that merged with North Yemen in 1990, made its demands in a statement after it staged mass rallies in the southern cities of Aden and Mukalla on Tuesday. “The state of the south is coming and no power can stop us from achieving this,” the statement said.

Yemen’s main oil pipeline attacked, crude flow halted
Reuters via Daily Star — 15 October 2014
Tribesmen attacked Yemen’s main oil export pipeline late Wednesday, halting the flow of crude, a local official said. Yemen’s oil and gas pipelines have been repeatedly sabotaged by tribesmen feuding with the state, especially since mass protests against the government created a power vacuum in 2011, causing fuel shortages and slashing export earnings for the impoverished country.

Yemen to update its customs data system
Yemen Times — 14 October 2014
At Sana’a International Airport testing began this week of a new version of the Automated System for Customs Data, which is used for customs at ports around the country, officials at the Customs Authority told the Yemen Times. The Automated System for Customs Data, or ASYCUDA, was designed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to improve countries’ customs administration.

Lower gas and diesel prices issued
Yemen Times — 25 September 2014
Lower gas and diesel prices, in line with the Peace and National Partnership Agreement, went into effect on Wednesday. “From Wednesday onwards, gas and diesel will be sold for YR3,000 ($13.95) per 20 liters as stated in the Peace and National Partnership Agreement,” an anonymous source at the YPC was quoted as saying by the state-run Saba News Agency on Tuesday.

US:
Obama’s failing strategy in Yemen
Washington Post — 15 October 2014
The Houthis’ surge may make it impossible for the Obama administration to continue critical operations against al-Qaeda, which reportedly have included 19 drone strikes this year alone. It should force a reexamination of Mr. Obama’s model of managing threats from jihadist movements with narrowly focused training and advising of local forces and no effort to help build national institutions. Interventions that ignore the need to create functioning political systems and professional forces that can ensure domestic security only open the door to failed states — and heightened threats to the United States.

U.S. Pulling Diplomats From Yemen, Advises Other Americans to Leave
Wall Street Journal — 26 September 2014
As the political and security situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate, the U.S. State Department on Thursday said it has begun removing some of its diplomats from U.S. facilities there and advised Americans living there to leave the country. “We are taking this step out of an abundance of caution and in response to recent political developments and the changing, unpredictable security situation in Yemen,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, adding that the U.S. embassy will continue to operate with reduced staff.

US gives ‘strong support’ to Yemen government despite Shia rebel uprising
Guardian — 26 September 2014
The United States is continuing its full-throated support for the government of Yemen, despite an uprising in the country that threatens the hold on power of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, whom the White House considers a critical counter-terrorism ally. Administration officials say there has been has no dropoff in backing for Hadi, days after Shia minorities, who have endured a brutal crackdown, took hold of government and military installations in the capital of Sana’a. Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism chief, a critical manager of the relationship with Yemen, passed along the US president’s “strong support” for Hadi in a phone call to him earlier this week.

U.S. has faith in oil-rich Yemen
UPI — 14 October 2014
With a major oil company fearful of the security situation in Yemen, the U.S. State Department said it’s confident the government in Sanaa will stay in place. The Yemeni government is facing dueling threats from the northern Houthi rebel movement and southern separatist groups that at times have been associated with al-Qaida. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters during her regular press briefing she was concerned especially by Houthi rebel action, adding they were inconsistent with existing national partnership agreements.

Mystery continues to surround American held in Yemen
Washington Post — 3 October 2014
A U.S. State Department official has visited an American detained in Yemen since 2010 but cannot tell his family where he is being held, according to lawyers who say they fear for his safety. Cori Crider, a lawyer with the British legal rights group Reprieve, said Sharif Mobley, 30, a Muslim and father of three from New Jersey, was not brought to court last month for a scheduled hearing on murder charges, the fifth time this has happened in recent months.

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