News Update 23 January 2015

Highlights:
Yemen crisis: A coup in all but name
BBC News — 22 January 2015
The true extent of Houthi ambition is unclear; but the fact that they did not kick Mr Hadi out of the presidency or claim the premiership indicates they prefer to control from behind the scenes by placing their members in ministries and high-level government positions. This allows them to consolidate power, but without being saddled with ultimate responsibility. But the resignations of Mr Hadi and Mr Bahah now turn the table on their strategy. Sadly, the rebels’ tactics affirm the power of the gun over the power of persuasion, and it marks a massive setback for the democratic transition process that began in 2011 with a youth-led uprising against longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a new government, and a successful National Dialogue Conference that produced agreement on the country’s most pressing problems.

Yemen in Crisis
ECFR — 23 January 2015
The next few days will unquestionably be crucial. At writing time, Houthi fighters reportedly have the homes of many members of the now-resigned cabinet under siege. All eyes are set on Sunday’s meeting of the two houses of the Yemeni parliament, which could very well reject the president’s resignation, sending the country into further uncertainty. Indeed, little remains clear at the moment, except for the fact that the country is likely facing its most crucial juncture since the overthrow of the Mutawakkilite Monarchy on 26 September, 1962.

The End Of Yemen?
Buzzfeed — 22 January 2015
Huthi spokesmen on al-Jazeera television have suggested that the movement will name a presidential council to take control of what is left of the government. But any such Huthi move toward a consolidation of political power in Sanaa, will likely be met with opposition in the south of the country. Already there are reports from local television in the southern port city of Aden, which has long desired secession, that orders from Sanaa are to be disregarded.

Politics:
Why Yemen’s Implosion Matters
Foreign Policy — 22 January 2015
But it’s government itself that may be the greatest casualty. Since the Houthis started their push to power last fall, al Qaeda has exploited the fears of Yemenis who oppose the Shiite group, trying to convince them that it is their natural ally against the Houthis. A sectarian war in Yemen would further strengthen al Qaeda, providing it with more recruits among the disaffected Sunni Yemenis who increasingly view the rise of the Houthis as an existential threat. There are already clear signs of a strengthened al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), including expanded operations and a larger presence across the country.

Yemen falls apart
Al-Monitor — 22 January 2015
The goals of the Houthis are unclear. When their rebellion began in 2004 they wanted greater autonomy in their home province of Saada. Many suspect their goal now is to restore the Zaydi Imamate that ruled North Yemen until the 1962 revolution. In the civil war that followed the Saudis backed the Zaydi royalists against the Egyptian-backed republic. After 2004, the Saudis fought a series of border wars with the Houthis. In December 2009, a Royal Saudi Air Force bombing strike almost killed Abdul Malik al-Houthi.

Pressure from powerful Houthis proves too much for Yemen’s Hadi
Reuters — 22 January 2015
Diplomats say the movement’s entry into Sanaa was made possible by a tactical alliance with his predecessor, Saleh, who retains wide influence, especially in the army, despite having stepped down in 2012 after months of Arab Spring protests. Saleh’s critics widely accuse him of making common cause with the rebels to settle old scores and undermine Hadi, despite himself having fought several wars against the rebels in the mountainous North. The regular army appeared to make little attempt to assist Hadi’s presidential guards this week when they fought battles with Houthi forces in a flare-up of tension, an indication, some Yemenis believe, of Saleh’s continued favor to the Shi’ites.

Marib tribes demonstrate support for Hadi
Yemen Times — 21 January 2015
Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, held virtual prisoner at his home by political adversaries this week, resigned on Thursday, his two-year-old attempt to steer the fragile country to stability exhausted by opposition from Houthi rebels. His term as head of state of the poor Arabian peninsula state may also have fallen foul of less visible opposition from his predecessor, veteran former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Thousands Demonstrate Across Yemen
AP via Wall Street Journal — 23 January 2015
Thousands of protesters demonstrated Friday across Yemen, some supporting the Shiite rebels who seized the capital and others demanding the country’s south secede after the nation’s president and cabinet resigned. President Abed Rabbo Hadi, a U.S. ally in its campaign against Yemen’s local al Qaeda branch, stepped down Thursday with his cabinet over the pressures by Houthi rebels who demanded a bigger share of government power. A faction of southerners, who oppose the Shiite power grab and live in what was a separate country until 1990, have seized the opportunity to press their case for independence.

Yemen suffers power vacuum after president, premier quit
Reuters — 23 January 2015
Yemen drifted deeper into political limbo on Friday after President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi resigned in exasperation at a Houthi rebel takeover of the country, a move that appeared to catch the Iran-backed group off balance. Hadi, a former general, blamed the Houthis’ control of the capital Sanaa for impeding his attempt to steer Yemen toward stability after years of turmoil and tribal unrest, deepening poverty and U.S. drone strikes on Islamist militants.

Leaked conversation shows Saleh, Al Houthi ties
Gulf News — 23 January 2015
The powerful Al Houthi movement in Yemen has admitted being in contact with the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, but deny receiving any military commands from their ex-archenemy. The admission comes in the wake of a leaked telephone conversation between Saleh and Abdul Wahed Abu Ras, a top Al Houthi commander.

Houthis’ Rise in Yemen Risks Empowering al-Qaeda
Time — 22 January 2015
The Houthis, though, are no friends of the Sunni al-Qaeda militants. The group, which is believed to be backed by the Shi‘ite leadership of Iran, has clashed with al-Qaeda in Yemen and criticized Hadi’s failure to quash Sunni extremism. The problem for the U.S.’s counterterrorism operations is that it also has no interest in an alliance with the U.S.; it has been equally critical of Hadi’s dependence on U.S. support, and it’s motto reads in part, “Death to Israel, Death to America.” Meanwhile, its growing influence in Sana‘a threatens to marginalize Sunnis in the deeply fractured country and boost support for al-Qaeda. “The Houthis victory also ironically benefits AQAP by polarizing Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, between Shia and Sunni, with AQAP emerging as the protector of Sunni rights,” Riedel writes.

Thousands protest in Yemen as government resigns
AP via Toronto Star — 23 January 2015
Thousands of protesters demonstrated Friday across Yemen, some supporting the Shiite rebels who seized the capital and others demanding the country’s south secede after the nation’s president and Cabinet resigned. President Abed Rabbo Hadi, a U.S. ally in its campaign against Yemen’s local Al Qaeda branch, stepped down Thursday with his Cabinet over the pressures by Houthi rebels who demanded a bigger share of government power. A faction of southerners, who oppose the Shiite power grab and live in what was a separate country until 1990, have seized the opportunity to press their case for independence.

U.S. Fears Chaos as Government of Yemen Falls
New York Times — 22 January 2015
The resignation of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi brought full circle Yemen’s Arab Spring revolution, which ousted former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011 amid massive popular protests. Now Mr. Saleh, who has lately made himself an unlikely ally of the Houthi rebels who toppled the government, is poised to return to the forefront of Yemeni politics. But some experts warned that the country might be hurtling toward partition — and civil war.

Houthis and GPC refuse to vote on constitution
Yemen Times — 19 January 2015
Representatives for both the General People’s Congress (GPC) and the Houthis in the National Authority for Monitoring the Implementation of NDC Outcomes refused to discuss the final draft of Yemen’s new constitution on Saturday. GPC and Houthi representatives withdrew from a meeting on Saturday attended by President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, saying they were surprised by the request to vote on the constitution’s draft.

Security:
Yemenis living “hour to hour” amid power struggle
IRIN — 20 January 2015
According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), close to 16 million people in Yemen – more than half the population – will need humanitarian aid in 2015, of whom eight million are children. More than 330,000 Yemenis are already displaced within the country due to pockets of conflict in both the north and south. Around the Nahdayn hills that oversee the presidential palace, evidence of the more recent battles is clear: buildings hit with heavy artillery, others pockmarked by bullet holes. One resident pointed to a gaping hole in his gate caused by the crossfire. “Everyone is armed. You see weapons everywhere. How can you feel safe?” said an employee at a construction company who did not want to share his name. Speaking in whispers, he said the violence has made old friends lose trust in one another.

Gunmen attack army vehicles in Yemen’s port of Aden: officials
Reuters — 22 January 2015
Unknown gunmen attacked two military armored vehicles in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden in the early hours of Friday, two local officials told Reuters. Three explosions were heard in Aden during the attack, which was followed by the clashes, said one of the officials, who declined to be identified. The attacks come after Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi offered his resignation on Thursday after spending months in a stand-off with Yemen’s powerful Houthi movement.

US not sending Gitmo detainees to Yemen
AP via Fox News — 22 January 2015
Chaos in Yemen is adding yet another challenge to President Barack Obama’s drive to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, with administration officials saying a ban on detainee transfers to the unstable Middle East nation has effectively been restored. Obama authorized detainee transfers to Yemen nearly two years ago amid high hopes that President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s new leadership would help the U.S. fight terrorists operating from within his country’s borders. But the transfer authority was never used, as a violent al-Qaida branch has thrived amid government instability that forced Hadi from office Thursday.

Fighting disrupts everyday life in Sana’a
Yemen Times — 21 January 2015
“When the shell destroyed the entire second floor, we were hiding on the first floor,” Mansur Al-Houthi recalls. On Monday morning at around 8:30 a.m. his house was hit by a stray shell. Living in Hadda neighborhood, south-western Sana’a, with his nine family members, Al-Houthi said he felt trapped and exposed. While it was not safe staying, he felt that leaving would put his family at even greater risk. Though the fighting came to a halt, residents’ fears have hardly subsided. “We did not feel safe until the night, when the clashes stopped. But even now, we remain scared and are thinking of moving to an area that is safe.”

Gun Battles in Capital Shake Yemen
New York Times — 19 January 2015
Troops loyal to Yemen’s president clashed with Houthi militiamen around the presidential palace and other areas for hours on Monday, in some of the worst violence in the capital in months. At least eight people were killed as artillery and mortar shells fell on residential neighborhoods and tanks and gunmen roamed the streets. By late afternoon, a shaky cease-fire had taken hold, and the president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, appeared to have kept his post. But how much power he had retained was unclear.

Aden airport, seaport resume work as Yemen crisis eases
Reuters — 22 January 2015
Security authorities on Wednesday closed air, sea and land crossings into Yemen’s southern port city of Aden after fighting in Sanaa that threw the Arab state deeper into turmoil. They said the Aden security committee had said it was cancelling a decision to close the airport, sea port and land crossings in response to the agreement, which provided for all state institutions to return to work.

ISIS gaining ground in Yemen, competing with al Qaeda
CNN — 22 January 2015
The Syria-based terror group ISIS is active and recruiting inside the Middle Eastern state of Yemen, already a hotbed of terrorist activity, CNN has learned. The disturbing information comes from a Yemeni official, who told CNN on Wednesday that ISIS has a presence in at least three provinces in southern and central Yemen, and there is now a “real competition” between ISIS and the Yemen-based terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. That competition manifested itself in a gun-battle between the two groups in Yemen’s eastern provinces last month, the same official said, though he did not have specifics on the casualties that resulted from that incident. CNN cannot independently confirm the claims.

Economy:
Output stopped at Yemen’s Masila oilfields in Hadramout
Reuters — 19 January 2015
Oil companies in Yemen’s Hadramout and Shabwa provinces, including the main gas export facility at Belhaf, have suspended operations amid protests over the seizure of a presidential aide by Shi’ite fighters who control the capital Sanaa, local officials said on Monday. The Shi’ite Houthis seized President Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi’s chief of staff, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, a native of the southern Shabwa province, on Saturday amid a dispute over a proposed new constitution that threatens to bring down the government.

Oil companies in Shabwa halt production
Yemen Times — 19 January 2015
Petroleum companies in Shabwa stopped production, and a number of businesses shut down on Sunday in reaction to the kidnapping of Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, the president’s chief of staff, on Saturday. “All the petroleum companies operating in the governorate stopped production voluntarily. This was in response to a call made by the leading tribesmen in the governorate who called for the immediate release of Bin Mubarak,” said Shabwa governor Ahmed Ali Bahaj in a statement to the Aden Al-Ghad news website on Sunday.

Sana’a: A hybrid city
Yemen Times — 22 January 2015
Even though Sana’a constitutes one of the very first urban centers in the Arabian Peninsula, the city remained a small town until the end of the 20th century. During Yemen’s Imamate (898-1962) the development and diversification of Sana’a’s economic and cultural functions progressed slowly. At the time, the pattern of Sana’a’s growth followed that of other Arab-Islamic cities: An expanding of the souq, a re-centering of the city around its main mosque, and the emergence of culturally segregated neighborhoods. Sana’a’s Turkish neighborhood, Bir Al-Azab, emerged during the first Ottoman occupation in the 16th century, and was long preserved as a place of leisure for the imams, while the city’s Jewish neighborhood, Qa Al-Yahud, emerged in the 18th century.

Neighborhood Internet hotspots
Yemen Times — 22 January 2015
Yemen has one of the least developed telecommunications networks in the Middle East. By 2008, according to a study by the Jordan-based Arab Advisors Group, only 0.5 percent of Yemenis had access to fixed line broadband. Costly subscriptions and Internet cafes have been the only options available, but some enterprising businesses and individuals are trying to change that by providing their own open-access hotspots. The country’s two internet service providers, YemenNet, which is part of the government’s Public Telecommunication Corporation (PTC), and TeleYemen’s Y.Net, which is under the management of FranceTelecom but also belongs to PTC, were established in 1996. In March 2014, the PTC reported the number of Internet users in Yemen had reached 2,424,890.

Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia’s new Yemen strategy: get behind a fence
Reuters — 22 January 2015
Saudi Arabia is increasingly taking a security-first approach to neighboring Yemen, where Houthi rebels have all but seized power, wanting nothing better than to finish a new border fence and then slam shut the gates. Riyadh convened a meeting of Gulf countries on Wednesday to threaten unspecified measures to “protect their interests” in Yemen where the Shi’ite Muslim rebels, allies of its enemy Iran, are holding the president a virtual prisoner.

US:
U.S. ‘assessing’ implications of resignation of Yemen president
Reuters — 22 January 2015
The Obama administration is “still assessing” the implications of the resignation of Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and many of his officials on Thursday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. Hadi resigned over pressure from rebels seeking to take control of the country. Speaking to reporters traveling with Obama on Air Force One, Earnest said the administration’s top concern is the safety of Americans in Yemen.

U.S. pulls more staff from Yemen embassy amid deepening crisis
Reuters — 22 January 2015
The United States has pulled more staff out of its embassy in Yemen, U.S. officials said on Thursday as Washington scrambled to cope with the collapse of a government that had been a key ally in the fight against al Qaeda. The scaling down of its presence in Yemen is the first sign that the latest turmoil there will affect U.S operations in a country that President Barack Obama hailed just four months ago as a model for “successful” counter-terrorism partnerships.

Migration:
Journey to Yemen: A deadly year for migrants and refugees
Yemen Times — 22 January 2015
The boats are often overcrowded, and to prevent capsizing, passengers are ordered to sit still. “On almost every boat the story is the same—as the journey stretches on passengers are compelled to stretch, stand up, or otherwise try to relieve the pain building up in their joints and limbs. The smugglers respond by beating those who move using rubber whips, sticks, or their own fists and feet. In some cases disruptive passengers are bound hand and foot or forced into the dank and airless cargo holds below deck,” according to the HRW report, Hostile Shores.

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