The “Yemen Model” as a Failure of Political Imagination
International Journal of Middle East Studies — February 2015
Unfortunately, there is something of a vicious cycle in this process. The seeming irrelevance of formal institutions to crisis management—let alone to the more robust standard of accountable governance—is at once a symptom and a contributing factor to activists’ turn outward. Yet activists will find it difficult to effect change without engaging state actors and institutions. How will the informal meet the formal without being subsumed by its impoverished logic of representation? By failing to account for the role of informal practices in building formal institutions, scholars and policymakers may overlook a critical ingredient in the development of the kind of state capable of responding to Yemen’s current crises and to the broad and diverse aspirations of Yemeni society.
The Failure of the Transitional Process in Yemen
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik — February 2015
In the end, only the Yemeni stakeholders can lastingly counter the political crisis in Yemen, and then only through political action. Given the complex mesh of Yemeni actors, external military intervention is more likely to aggravate the situation. Since the international community no longer has any real influence on these stakeholders, it can only attempt to exert pressure by either approving or disapproving of specific Houthi actions. Germany and its partners therefore need to urge the Houthi movement to make real compromises; and they must reject its unilateralism. At the same time, they should insist that all stake holders participate within the framework of the existing political institutions. It is especially important to integrate the Hirak leaders so as to prevent further radicalization of that movement.
In Yemen, Hard Times Remain a Constant as Rebels Take Charge
New York Times — 6 February 2015
Difficult is just how life is in Yemen, yesterday, today and every day. It does not matter that the president and his cabinet have resigned, that the government has not functioned for weeks or that the gunmen in control of the streets say they plan to set up a new regime to their own liking. Families have always had to struggle to get through their days in a country where the government has long been incapable of delivering essential services. There is hardly any running water now — and there was hardly any before the political crisis.
Yemen’s Houthis and Islamist republicanism under strain
The Monkey Cage — 2 February 2015
International “openness” toward the Houthis in September, while legible in terms of dual Gulf and European and American anxiety about (Islahi) Islamist republicanism, has had disastrous consequences, just as the earlier exclusion of Houthis from the governing compact did. As the International Crisis Group’s most recent report suggests, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the only beneficiary of the January 2015 crisis. No matter how poorly conceived the GCC framework may have been, the events in September communicated clearly that agreements could be rewritten by force, a process now underway again. This time, however, Yemen stands more polarized in sectarian terms, with Islamist republicans from Islah and the Houthi movement unlikely, if not unable, to realize their substantive convergence. Understanding the processes that “undid” this possibility is essential to any hope of its recuperation.
Yemen parties agree on transitional council: U.N.
Reuters — 20 February 2015
Yemen’s feuding parties have agreed on a “people’s transitional council” to help govern the country and guide it out of a political crisis, U.N. mediator Jamal Benomar announced on Friday. The move follows the takeover of power by the Houthi movement, a Shi’ite Muslim militia, which led to the resignation of the president last month and the paralysis of many of Yemen’s state institutions.
A peculiar United Nations resolution on Yemen
Al-Arabiya — 18 February 2015
There are indications that the feebleness of this resolution is partially due to a Russian touch, which ditched GCC expectations that it would be passed under Chapter VII of the charter. This would allow enforcement measures such as further sanctions or even military force. The cunning Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained the Russian position before the vote: “We believe the ratcheting up of external pressure on the parties to the political process, including through sanctions, is counterproductive.”
Resumption of national dialogue marred by disagreement
Yemen Times — 9 February 2015
A new round of national talks began at the Movenpick Hotel Monday after the Houthis’ constitutional declaration was roundly rejected by political groups within Yemen and much of the international community. The talks have already been undermined by disagreements. Representatives from the Nasserist and Islah parties walked out of discussions shortly after they commenced on Monday morning.
Yemen’s Houthi movement sack top military official: sources
Asharq Al-Awsat — 15 February 2015
Yemen’s Houthi movement was plunged into a state of confusion on Wednesday following news of the sacking of one of its top military commanders over the failure to reach a settlement with other political factions. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, Yemeni political sources said the leader of the powerful group, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, sacked the head of the “Revolutionary Committee” Mohamed Ali Al-Houthi after he failed to convince other factions to join with it in forming a new government in the wake of president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s resignation. A top military commander, Mohamed Al-Houthi emerged as the de facto ruler of Yemen after the Shi’ite group, officially known as Ansar Allah, announced a controversial declaration earlier this month that dissolved parliament and tightened its grip on the organs of government. He also reportedly played a key role in the Houthi seizure of the Yemeni capital Sana’a in September. While some sources said Mohamed Al-Houthi had resisted his dismissal, a senior Ansar Allah figure, Saleh Al-Samad, told Asharq Al-Awsat that reports of his dismissal were untrue.
Houthi rebels in Yemen eye oil-rich province, sparking fears of all-out civil war
Washington Post — 15 February 2015
The Shiite insurgents who have toppled Yemen’s government are threatening to take over a key oil-producing province to the east of the capital, triggering fears that the country could explode in all-out civil war. The rebels, known as Houthis, have already seized much of the country’s north with relative ease. But they are likely to encounter stiff resistance if they move into Marib province. Already, the largely Sunni tribes in the region are arming themselves with tanks and rocket-propelled grenades, according to tribal leaders, and the governor has ringed the area with tribal fighters and military units. “It will be civil war if they come here,” said Mohammed al-Wills, a leader of the Murad tribe in Marib, who has begun coordinating with fellow tribesmen and soldiers to defend the province.
Battle lines drawn for a civil war in Yemen
Reuters — 18 February 2015
The rump state Houthi fighters have carved out in Yemen’s north and west needs resources in order to be viable. Clad in the traditional Yemeni dagger belt during a televised speech last week, the group’s leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi upbraided leaders of areas not yet under their control and warned them against “playing the devil’s game.” “If people try to play games which affect the economy, the people will resist them. The revolution, the people, the army and the security forces will stand against them,” he said. Bereft of much of the state’s revenue since Saudi Arabia pulled its aid late last year, the Houthi-run government likely won’t be able to pay public sector salaries or keep the moribund economy afloat without the oil and electricity overwhelmingly concentrated in the hands of Sunni tribal enemies in Marib.
Houthis appoint Mahmoud Al-Junaid director of the presidential office
Yemen Times — 9 February 2015
Houthis have installed Mahmoud Al-Junaid as director of the still-vacant presidential office, replacing Ahmad Awad Bin Mubarak, who was removed from the position after the group kidnapped him on Jan. 17. Al-Junaid’s appointment is the latest in a series of moves by the Houthis giving them greater control over government. President Hadi and some Cabinet members remain under house arrest since resigning on Jan. 22, while Parliament was effectively dissolved by the Houthis’ constitutional declaration on Friday.
Yemen’s neighbors warn of action if world fails to intervene
AP — 15 February 2015
Yemen’s Gulf Arab neighbors warned on Sunday that if the world fails to act against the Shiite rebels who have toppled the Yemeni government, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council will take whatever actions it deems necessary to maintain regional security and stability. The foreign ministers of the GCC did not elaborate on what measures the group might take, but called specifically on the United Nations Security Council to intervene. The Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, control the capital, Sanaa, and recently forced the resignation of the president and dissolved the parliament.
Ministry of Interior bans protests
Yemen Times — 9 February 2015
Yemen’s Ministry of Interior issued a directive on Sunday banning all public demonstrations in the country, except those approved by the authorities, amidst a surge in protests against Friday’s constitutional declaration. The directive was issued to protect demonstrators from attacks by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), according to a memorandum circulated to law enforcement officials by the minister of interior, Jalal Al-Rowishan.
Protests by state media employees escalate
Yemen Times — 4 February 2015
After two months without pay, public sector media employees protested in front of the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) on Tuesday morning to demand their salaries. Around 100 protestors gathered in front of the CBY after the bank’s governor, Mohamed Awad Bin Hummam, refused to release funds for public media employees’ salaries.
Parliamentarians sign up for National Council seats
Yemen Times — 11 February 2015
Thursday marks the end of a four-day window for parliamentarians to join the National Transitional Council, a new government body established by the Houthis’ constitutional declaration. The Houthis effectively dissolved Parliament when they announced the creation of a 551-member national council on Friday, and called on former members of parliament to begin registering Monday.
Houthis continue policy of abducting protesters
Yemen Times — 16 February 2015
At a protest in Ibb Sunday morning demanding the release of an anti-houthi organizer, Houthis abducted two more people, a photographer and another activist. Armed Houthis kidnapped photographer Mohammed Al-Moalimi and activist Mohammed Al-Doais at a protest demanding the release of Ahmed Haza’a, the secretary general of the Rafdh (Rejection) Movement in Ibb.
Al-Jawf tribesmen close governor’s office
Yemen Times — 18 February 2015
Dozens of tribesmen closed the governor’s office in Al-Jawf on Tuesday in protest over plans to replace the governorate’s highest ranking military official, Brigadier Adel Al-Qumairi. Al-Jawf’s governor, Hussein Al-Awadhi, was appointed by President Hadi on Dec. 25, 2014, and is accused by local tribesmen of being pro-Houthi. Based in the capital Sana’a, Al-Awadhi has yet to travel to Al-Jawf and was not present at the protests. However, in a show of defiance the tribesmen closed his local office for two hours on Tuesday morning and warned all employees, in addition to the governor himself, not to enter.
Yemen Times — 11 February 2015
Four years after the start of Yemen’s 2011 uprising, Houthis and the youth movement found themselves demonstrating together once again. If 2011 was a uniting moment for Yemen’s disparate groups, the morning protest of Feb. 11, 2015 was frought with tension. The Houthis came out to the protest, organized by independent youth, to celebrate their “continuation of the revolution.” Independent youth denounced their presence as an attempt to “hijack” the demonstration like they “hijacked the revolution.”
Talks underway for independent Sheba region
Yemen Times — 9 February 2015
Hundreds of tribesmen from Marib, Al-Baida, and Al-Jawf governorates gathered in Marib city on Sunday to discuss the creation of an autonomous “Sheba” region, one of the six federal regions approved at the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) but never put into effect. According to Mohammad Buhaibeh, a tribal field commander from Marib who attended the conference, prominent tribal figures from the three governorates began coordinating immediately after the Houthis’ constitutional declaration on Feb. 6.
Gulf Arab states urge bigger international role in Yemen crisis
Reuters — 6 February 2015
Concerned Gulf Arab nations called on the international community to take a stronger position on Yemen and expressed concern about Iranian influence amid the political instability there, a senior State Department official said on Friday after meetings with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. However, no plans were made to contact Tehran about the situation during talks between Kerry and foreign ministers and senior officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain, the official added.
Gulf States urge U.N. to enforce resolution in Yemen: Arabiya
Reuters — 14 February 2015
Gulf foreign ministers on Saturday urged the United Nations Security Council to authorize coercive measures to try to resolve the crisis in Yemen, the Saudi-owned news channel Al Arabiya reported. An emergency meeting of members of the Gulf Cooperation Council urged the Council to pass a “Chapter 7” resolution, which authorizes the use of military force or economic sanctions to enforce Council resolutions, the channel said.
Government failure extends private healthcare crisis in Sana’a
Yemen Times — 16 February 2015
Over a year and a half has passed since several hospitals were ordered to close due to malpractice, but a follow-up investigation by the Yemen Times reveals they are continuing to operate in sub-standard conditions. Following an inquiry in 2013, the Ministry of Public Health and Population found the majority of private hospitals in violation of minimum health and technical standards. In a statement released on Aug. 12 that year, the ministry stated that only eight of the capital’s 62 private hospitals were up to standard.
Detained without evidence: The forgotten victims of Saleh’s assassination attempt
Yemen Times — 11 February 2015
For five-year-old Ghazal Al-Hamadi, Fridays are a special day. Once a week she accompanies her mother to a mysterious building in Sana’a, its entrances guarded by heavily armed men. She has grown fond of the high, long wall and the giant gate—she is told her father Ibrahim is well-protected while he completes his “secret mission.” “Here we are, here we are!” she shouts when she sees the big gate, an image sketched onto her mind by now. “My father is waiting for us,” she tells her mother. It’s been like this every Friday since the end of 2012. “No one could cling harder to the gate of prison,” the mother says. “The gate is hiding the man she loves most.”
Two years on, NDC tents continue operating
Yemen Times — 4 February 2015
In the heart of Sana’a stands a resilient reminder of the long-passed National Dialogue Conference (NDC): A white tent, plastered with posters. The NDC tent was first set-up at the beginning of Yemen’s nation-wide political dialogue—a historical moment that many associate with feelings of hope and aspirations for change. Long after the NDC came to an end in January of 2013, the tent continues to attract visitors and remains a spot for political debate. Located in the public park in Tahrir Square, it is one of many similar tents that are spread throughout the country’s governorates.
Drop Charges Against Baha’i Adherent
Human Rights Watch — 4 February 2015
The Yemeni government should drop all charges against a member of the Baha’i faith, which violate his basic rights to freedom of religion. Authorities have detained Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara, 50, without trial since December 2013. They have often denied him access to lawyers and family and subjected him to torture, his wife, Elham Muhammad Hossain Zara`i, told Human Rights Watch. The authorities allege that Haydara attempted to convert Yemeni Muslims and collaborated with Israel.
Al Qaeda supporters in Yemen pledge allegiance to Islamic State: group
Reuters — 11 February 2015
A group of Islamist fighters in Yemen renounced their loyalty to al Qaeda’s leader and pledged allegiance to the head of the Islamic State, according to a Twitter message retrieved by U.S.-based monitoring group SITE. The monitoring group could not immediately verify the statement distributed on Twitter purportedly from supporters of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) based in central Yemen.
Yemen: Southern tribes set to unite in face of Al-Qaeda gains
Asharq Al-Awsat — 14 February 2015
Yemen’s southern tribes will discuss the formation of a unified command on Monday, a senior tribal official said, as Al-Qaeda-linked militants lay siege to another military base in the south. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the leader of Hadhramaut tribal alliance Omar Ben Habrish said tribes will meet on Monday to discuss ways to fill the security vacuum in southern Yemen, including a proposal to form a unified command to run oil infrastructure and maintain security in the strategic area.
Forces loyal to president seize parts of Yemen’s economic hub
Reuters — 16 February 2015
Forces loyal to Yemen’s president said they had seized strategic buildings in the southern city of Aden on Monday after a five-hour battle, escalating a civil conflict threatening to split the country in two. The militias supporting Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi wrested parts of Yemen’s economic hub from security forces allied to the Houthi movement, including its main power station and intelligence headquarters, sources said.
Senior al Qaeda cleric killed in Yemen drone strike, AQAP says
CNN — 5 February 2015
A senior cleric for al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen was killed along with three other people in a drone strike on their vehicle January 31 in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said Thursday. The cleric, Harith bin Ghazi al-Nadhari, was killed in Yemen’s south-central Shabwa province, AQAP said.
Clashes between Shi’ite Houthis and Sunnis in Yemen leave 26 dead
Reuters — 14 February 2015
Tens of thousands of Yemenis demonstrated in several cities on Saturday against the rule of the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi movement as clashes between Houthis and Sunnis in a southern mountainous region left 26 dead. It was the second day of nationwide demonstrations against the Iranian-backed Houthis in less than a week after their dissolution of parliament this month unravelled security and sent Western and Arab embassies packing.
Three US drone strikes in eight days
Yemen Times — 4 February 2015
Yemeni Security and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) sources have confirmed a drone strike killed three on Monday in Al-Baida governorate, central Yemen. According to a source from AQAP, who refers to himself as Abu Turab Al-Maribi, three AQAP members were killed on Monday evening when their vehicle was hit by two missiles.
Marib: Mobilized for war
Yemen Times — 3 February 2015
Rich in oil and with strong tribal customs, Marib has long posed difficult to control—first by the government, and now by the Houthis. Thousands of armed tribesmen have mobilized to deter any assault on the governorate. Should the Houthis invade, tribesmen have threatened to destroy the oil and electricity pipelines that supply much of Yemen’s north with energy. Marib has given refuge to Al-Qaeda for over decade, a fact the Houthis are using to beat the drums of war. It has also led the United States to launch drone strikes in the area as far back as 2002—before the Houthis even existed as an armed movement. The most recent US drone strike in the governorate occurred on Jan. 26, 2014, and killed two members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), along with a 13-year old boy.
Saudi Arabia, West evacuate embassy staff from Yemen on security fears
Reuters — 13 February 2015
Saudi Arabia has joined Western states in evacuating staff from Yemen after a power grab by Shi’ite Muslim Houthi militia there, a move reflecting the hostility of majority Sunni Muslim neighbors towards the Iranian-backed Houthis. Riyadh has suspended all work at its embassy in Yemen and evacuated its staff “due to the deterioration of the security and political situation”, state news agency SPA reported on Friday, citing an official at the foreign ministry. Germany and Italy also said on Friday they had closed their embassies in Yemen, following similar steps by Britain, France and the United States as the Houthis consolidated control after seizing the capital Sanaa in September.
Exclusive: U.S. armed drone program in Yemen facing intelligence gaps
Reuters — 29 January 2015
The United States is facing increasing difficulty acquiring intelligence needed to run its stealth drone program in Yemen, undermining a campaign against the most lethal branch of al Qaeda after Houthi rebels seized control of parts of the country’s security apparatus, U.S. officials say. Gaps in on-the-ground intelligence could slow America’s fight against a resurgent al Qaeda in Yemen and heighten the risk of errant strikes that kill the wrong people and stoke anti-U.S. sentiment, potentially making the militants even stronger in areas where al Qaeda is already growing.
UAE Closes Yemen Embassy As Houthi Clashes Continue, At Least 26 Killed
International Business Times — 14 February 2015
The United Arab Emirates closed its embassy in Yemen and evacuated staff over continuing security concerns after the Yemeni government fell and the militant Houthi group seized power, foreign ministry officials said in a statement Saturday. The Houthis had “undermined the legitimate authority and the political transition based on the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] Initiative and results of the UN Security Council-backed national dialogue,” the ministry said. At least 26 people have died in the ongoing clashes between the Houthis and tribal forces, Reuters reported, citing local officials.
Emails reveal sensitive info left exposed after US pullout from Yemen
Fox News — 20 February 2015
The unclassified emails reveal staff on the ground in Yemen, as well as senior department executives in Washington, were concerned the evacuation might go bad and left a communication network running at the embassy in case staff had to return. The emails point to uncertainty on the ground amid fast-moving developments, even as the Obama administration downplayed any irregularities. “It wasn’t hasty,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki insisted on Fox News’ “The Kelly File” on Feb. 12, a day after the evacuation. But one email reviewed by Fox News showed genuine concern — even panic — in Washington, that an unclassified system exposing emails and day-to-day operations was left up and running at the embassy in Sanaa. “We need to quickly think about the plan for destroying/sanitizing the OpenNet data that is still in Sanaa,” the email from a supervisor said.
U.S. special forces stay in Yemen
CNN — 11 February 2015
United States Special Forces personnel will continue to operate in Yemen conducting training missions with Yemeni forces, as well as retaining the ability to conduct counter-terrorism operations should they be needed, despite the suspension of U.S. embassy operations within the country a U.S. Defense official tells CNN.
Political Unrest In Yemen A Blow To U.S. Counterrorism Efforts
NPR — 11 February 2015
Rachel Martin speaks with Stephen Seche, former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen about the decision to close down the U.S. embassy in Sana’a and how that could affect U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Yemen.
Yemen and Libya: The Middle East’s other civil wars
Brookings — 18 February 2015
The conflicts raging in Syria and Iraq consume most of Washington and the international community’s attention, but civil wars in Yemen and Libya have brought both countries near total collapse. Houthi rebels continue to gain ground in Yemen and the security situation continues to deteriorate in Libya. Thousands have died, and terrorist groups are gaining strength. The United States and its allies have not stemmed this instability even as the violence spreads.
Political Crisis in Yemen Increases Risks for Children
Voice of America — 13 February 2015
The United Nations Children’s Fund warns the political crisis in Yemen is likely to plunge millions of children into deepening poverty. UNICEF says malnutrition rates are likely to increase and education for many children will be disrupted. Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. Before this present political crisis hit, more than 60 percent of the population was living under the poverty line.
Yemen: amid continuing instability, UN food agency urges increased humanitarian support
UN News Centre — 17 February 2015
As political uncertainty and violent clashes continue to keep Yemen in the grip of instability, the country’s food situation is becoming increasingly insecure, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today, as the agency announced its determination to continue critical humanitarian relief operations across the country. “In these difficult times, WFP’s role becomes even more important,” WFP Yemen Country Director Purnima Kashyap explained in a press release.
Yemen FX reserves stabilise but borrowing balloons in political crisis
Reuters — 20 February 2015
Yemen’s foreign exchange reserves have stabilised after a steep fall due to its political turmoil, but ballooning government debt issuance indicates the country may be moving closer to a fiscal crunch, central bank data showed on Friday. Shi’ite Muslim Houthi rebels completed a takeover of the capital Sanaa last month while in the south, forces loyal to former president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi still appear in charge. Tribal conflicts and al Qaeda insurgency are also disrupting Yemen’s oil and gas exports and other parts of the economy.
Persecution Defines Life for Yemen’s Remaining Jews
New York Times — 18 February 2015
The last of Yemen’s once numerous Jews, who predated Muslims by many centuries, have seldom been so threatened and had so few protectors. The Houthis, who now dominate the country, are particularly strong in the two places with confirmed remaining Yemeni Jews: here in Raida, where there are 55 Jews, and in Sana, the capital, where a small number live under what amounts to house arrest by the Houthi leadership.
Yemen’s last Jews eye exodus after Islamist militia takeover
Reuters — 15 February 2015
A few worried families are all that remain of Yemen’s ancient Jewish community, and they too may soon flee after a Shi’ite Muslim militia seized power in the strife-torn country this month. Harassment by the Houthi movement – whose motto is “Death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, victory to Islam” – caused Jews in recent years to largely quit the northern highlands they shared with Yemen’s Shi’ites for millennia. But political feuds in which the Jews played no part escalated last September into an armed Houthi plunge into the capital Sanaa, the community’s main refuge from which some now contemplate a final exodus.
Does Iran really control Yemen?
Al-Monitor — 12 February 2015
A series of statements by Iranian officials shed light on Iran’s point of view: Yemen is now within Iran’s sphere of influence and is viewed as a new member of the “axis of resistance,” which encompasses Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militants. This axis is an Iran-led alliance of state and non-state actors in the Middle East that seeks to primarily confront Western interests and Israel.
Washington’s Uneasy Partnership With Tehran Now Extends to Yemen
Foreign Policy — 13 February 2015
That the U.S. special operations task force remains in Yemen, even though the Houthis owe their success in part to Iranian support, adds another complication to the awkward balancing act that U.S. military and intelligence forces are performing across the Middle East when it comes to Iran. Houthi supporters in Sanaa marched through the streets chanting, “Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews.” Behind the scenes, though, Houthi leaders have said they want normal relations with the United States. There’s a simple reason for their potential willingness to work with Washington: The Houthis, like other Iranian-supported groups through the Middle East, hate and fear al Qaeda and are as just as devoted to fighting the militant group as the United States is. Retired Navy Cmdr. Chris Harmer, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, said the United States finds itself forced to engage in “dance-step warfare.” “We’ve got to look every place we step because in some places we are de facto, if not de jure, allied with Iran,” Harmer said. “In other places we’re still opposing Iran. And all of this is interconnected somehow.”