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Houthi Rule In Yemen: USA Closes Its Embassy In Sana’a

It was a foreseen incident. Forces that chant Death To America finally end up encircling the USA embassy. Yesterday the Houthis did just that. Reports indicated that the American Embassy will shut and the ambassador is reportedly leaving Sanaa. The crisis that has been brewing in Yemen has reached its ebb. Disturbance and absence of law and order has finally engulfed the whole of Yemen.

Last Friday the Houthis finally dissolved the Yemeni parliament and named Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, president of the country. He is a cousin of the Houthi leader AbdulMalik al-Houthi.

That was expected since Abd-Rabbuh Mansur resigned on January 22, confirming the power vacuum in Yemen. Abd-Rabbuh was the vice president of Ali AbduAllah Saleh who in 2011 was pushed by a popular rebellion in the style of the Arab Spring countries. But Ali Saleh’s nails were not clipped enough, he still wields some influence within the “General People’s Party. (GPP)” After he lurked in hiding for two years Ali reappeared in a new alliance that he forged with the Houthis. Apparently he still has an influence on top military officials, and his son, Brig. Gen Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh occupies an ambassadorial position in the UAE since May of 2013.

That is why the ex-president didn’t hesitate to suspend the sitting president, Abd-Rabbuh, from the GPP.  Abd-Rabbuh was stripped of his presidential authority by the Houthis. He resigned leaving behind him a vacuum that the Houthis filled, with couching from the deposed ex-president Ali Saleh as a leaked tele-convesration between him and AbdulWahed Abu Ras, a top Al Houthi commander, explains. The Houthis are still holding Abd-Rabbuh, the resigned president, under house arrest.

The Houthis have jailed many of their opponents, including politicians and government officials. They have prevented demonstrations and their militias have been taking the law in their hands and terrorizing the people.

AbdulMalik AlHouthi, the new Yemeni strongman, dealt with the vacuum by issuing what he calls a “constitutional declaration“, which his opponents call a “political declaration.” As per the declaration, the Houthis disbanded the parliament and formed an interim five-member presidential council with a life span of two years. But Yemeni parties rejected the unilateral Houthi decision which was vastly denounced by the international community, including Ban Ki Moon who called for the reinstatement of president Abd-Rabbuh– a call that is not expected to amount to anything.

Jamal Benomer’s Follows Lakhdar Brahimi

Jamal Benomer, the UN appointed envoy has been mediating between the Yemeni political parties in talking sessions that are going nowhere. At the center of the impasse is the Houthis’ decision last week to fill the vacuum created by, mainly, the resignation of president Abdu-Robbuh, and which the Houthis instigated.

On Monday, Jamal Benomer mediation hit a snag when the Yemeni Nasserite party delegation withdrew from the talks. A Nasserite leader claimed that a Houthi leader, “Mehdi AlMeshaat had threatened the life of one [of the Nasserite] leaders at the talks.”

The Moroccan UN envoy’ s efforts in Yemen are expected to fail just like the Algerian UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi’s efforts, failed in Syria.

In the streets of Yemen, the Houthi militia has been passing death sentences and executing people in the streets. A reporter told Gedab News that “the militiamen are the judges and the executioners while their leaders bully those they are supposed to negotiate with in a UN sponsored talks.

However, a few observers believe the Houthis have a genuine need to resolve the impasse fearing an economic turmoil particularly if Saudi Arabia suspends its aid package to Yemen. It’s also noteworthy that the Houthis had a strong alliance with Al-Islah, a major Sunni party, during the popular revolution that forced president Ali AbduAllah Saleh to leave office. But now, the two sides find themselves in two opposing camps fiercely opposing each other as a result of the deal that was brokered by the Gulf countries, and which the Houthis didn’t find satisfactory.

The neighboring Arab countries, and the USA and western countries, are worried about the developments in Yemen because it leaves the doors wide open for Iran to establish itself in a strategic location. And Iran’s celebrations in support of the Houthi advances are too evident to deny–billboards and posters carrying pictures of the Houthi leader have become common in Iran.

On Tuesday, several news reports indicated that AbdulMalik Al Houthi flew to Iran accompanied by Hasan Nam Wadi, the Iranian ambassador to Sanaa. The source of the news is unknown and no agency has confirmed it yet. However, such news feed the already prevalent allegation of Iran’s support of the Houthis by the Arab governments, it increases the public paranoia driven by fear of instigation of sectarian strife, and it worsens the West’s anxiety and nightmare about Iran establishing a stronghold in Yemen.

Imminent Secession of the South

What has been happening in Yemen has all the signs of a pre-civil war tension whose main victim is expected to be the union of South and North Yemen, followed by sectarian wars whose repercussion no one can predict.

The Houthi clan hails from the Saada region of north Yemen and is part of the Zaidi sect, a Shiaa community that represents about four million of Yemen’s 24 million population. The Zaidis are Shiaa though traditionally they are close to the rest of the Yemeni Sunnis, mostly followers of the Shaaf’ie school of Sunni Islam.

In rejection of a Houthi rule, South Yemen will be forced to secede from the union, and the South is where AlQaeda has a strong presence. For several years American drones on a look out for AlQaeda bases have been crisscrossing the Yemeni skies. After years of trailing, in 2011 a drone managed to kill Anwar AlAwleqi in North Yemen. Anwar was born and raised in the USA until he joined AlQaeda and moved to Yemen, his ancestral home, and became a prominent AlQaeda leader.

AlQaeda which has driven government forces out of South Yemeni towns it overrun in the last few years, is likely to rally the Sunnis against the Houthi advances. If that happens, it would lead to wider alliances that would welcome the likes of ISIS to the Arabian peninsula encouraging Iran to have a visible and more serious involvement–and that poses great risks to the security of Saudi Arabia which will definitely respond militarily.

The Arab Gulfquacke

The Gulf Arab countries have been caught by surprise though the Yemeni drama has been unfolding for several years just across their fences. But even if they resisted heavy engagement, they cannot resist being pulled in.

Yemen is ripe with elements that would plunge it into a fierce civil war. No UN or Western efforts seems able bring about a settlement soon enough because it is unlikely that a clear victor emerges in any confrontation in which the heavily armed population will be involved. And it is not expected that the Houthis will control Yemen for too long before they are seriously challenged.

Western countries are tied up in parallel negotiations with Iran, in an unrelated subject, basically Israeli security concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear power.

Yemen is not a member of the GCC though it is strategically more qualified than Oman; it was left to rot in its poverty and tribal rivalry. Worse, Saudi Arabia is likely to suspend its aid package to Yemen as long as the Houthis are in power; it is unlikely there will be an alternative to the Saudi Arabia’s aid. At any rate, if the Yemeni fire is not put off soon enough, it might end up burning the entire region which is now encircled by ISIS and Al Qaeda. Adding the Houthi force to the mix is the nightmare forf the region’s regimes.

The conflict could pull countries from many corners of the world. Egypt is naturally in since the Houthis have now a foothold on the Red Sea. So is Eritrea and Djibouti, and by extension Ethiopia, and almost every country that depends on the Red Sea marine passage for trade. The sea-lane that runs from Bab El Mended, the southern mouth, to the Suez Canal in the north, is vital for world trade and security, but more worrisome is, now the Houthis have an open sea outlet to import weapons, particularly from Iran, which allegedly have supplied the Houthis with weapons channeled through Eritrea, whose president Isaias Afwerki indicated that he cooperates with Iran “in everything.”

Receiving Iranian support directly through the Red Sea would put the Houthis in a position to destabilize Saudi Arabia, while Iran also targets the entire Sunni region to expand its influence. Currently, Iran has established strongholds in three countries: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. Yemen is the fourth one. Iran had no influence in the four countries a decade ago.

Judging by the statement of “AbdulMalik Al Houthi on AlMasirah Television, threatening the interest of the USA, Britain, France and other countries that oppose the constitutional declaration,” Yemen is fast approaching a state of total collapse. Hinting at the closure of Bab AlMendeb, and threatening that the interest of many countries “will not be safe in the face of the peoples’ anger,” is a warning that should not be taken lightly.

Related Reading:
Eritrea Watches The Houthi Advance In Yemen
Eritrea: Chiefs and Ambassadors

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  • said

    This is an excellent article.

    It is an in-depth analysis of an ongoing complex situation. Politically the article is very well analysed from all aspects.

    Reading the article and the attachments explains the back ground of the Houthis and gives a clear idea about the history and the nature of the Saudi-Yemini struggle.

    The Yemeni Houthis’ Blitzkrieg, Shifting & Compounding Saudi Security Woes

    As one was full with optimism that the transfer of power in Saudi to the more enlightened hands-on New Saudi Sovereign King Salman Ben Abdel-Aziz could mark a shift in Saudis’ policies bidding for reconciliation and improved regional political relations that could lead to detent in a region in flames, the Houthi Tribe’s new thrust and moving to consolidate their hold on Yemeni State Affairs could signal a huge security reversal involving the Saudis in a protracted regional tensions trying to extinguish fires at the Saudis’ very doorsteps.
    The Houthis’ continuing March to consolidate power in Yemen could signal a very short lived Saudi Transfer of Power Honeymoon.
    The Saudis’ failure to quell the Houthis’ encroachments into Saudi territories at the Saudi-Yemeni borders in a direct Houthi-Saudi military showdown more than 5 years ago (Please refer to my article herewith attached dubbed, “caused heads to role in the Saudi Royal Establishment assigning responsibilities for the failure of the Saudi military poor performance including that of the ambitious Prince Khalid Bin Sultan bin Abdel Aziz who at the time posed as the strongman of the Saudi Ministry of Defense sure to succeed his ailing father the Minister of Defense the late Prince Sultan Bin Aziz, lined up as second for the succession on the Saudi Throne.
    Ironically, the Saudi military’s poor performance during that war more than 5 years happened despite the absence of a number of unfavorable ensuing negative strategic factors that were not present at the time, more than five years ago; including:

    • General relative political stability in the Middle Eastern region before the advent of the Arab Spring first kindled in the dramatic Mohammed Bou Zizi’s setting himself on fire on November, 2010 in Tunisia, more than a year later of the start of the Saudi-Houthi military showdown in 2009.

    • The Mubarak regime in Egypt, a strong ally of the Saudis, appreared then well-entrenched in power and a sure ally of the Saudi regime. Egypt looked relatively stable in every regard. Egypt is now does not enjoy a free-hand and herself is currently plagued with all kinds of very serious security and economic woes of its own.

    • Saudi Arabia was not entangled in the endemic and gnawing Syrian civil war and the Jihadist Salafists, foremost, the imminent threat posed and the enlarging war on Da’ish, “ISIS, represent. Da’ish and their splinters of the Jihadist Salafists now equally represent an actual and a direct threat and concern to Saudi internal security.

    • The Yemeni Regime of Ali Abdallah Saleh, an adherent of the Zaiydi sect himself, fought ferociously on the side of the Saudis against the Houthi insurgents during that war five years ago.
    • NATO intelligence played a major role in providing the necessary valuable military intelligence information to guiding the Saudi military operations in the direct war with the Houthis providing the Saudis with a determinant edge in that protracted war.
    • The Houthis, unlike today, did not enjoy a direct access, a foothold on the waterfront of the navigational Red Sea that could serve as a port for the incoming logistical and military hardware and weaponry, foremost as directly sourced from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
    • The Saudis enjoyed historic records of oil revenues at the disposal of the Saudi Treasury and in-turn to affording enlarged and protracted military confrontations as the oil prices then soared to unprecedented levels of nearly three times their current low levels.
    • Iran was treated as a “Pariah” state at the time by the strong Western Powers and a military showdown between NATO/Israel and Iran seemed imminent; however, the picture now looks drastically different with the Western powers as represented by the P5+1 and Iran appear poised for reconciliation.
    • As Iran and the Shiite inspired militants are, possibly, not considered a potential threat feeding into “International Islamic Terrorism;” this while more than 60 countries are coalesced to fighting Jihadist Salafists, Shiite inspired regional insurgency would seem less of a direct threat to the security and even direct strategic threat to Western countries and Western interests.
    However, in addition, the current larger picture could seem fuzzy with regard to the series of changes that took place in the leadership of the Saudi Ministry of Defense in the short span of the last 4 years with what seems a relatively inexperienced young Prince currently in-charge of that behemoth and complex Ministry of the Saudi military.
    Besides, the Houthis’ strategic agenda and priorities this time in view of the rapid regional security and strategic changes appears drastically different and more ambitious from what it was before the Arab Spring; the entanglement of the Saudis in the civil war in Syria that’s taking an increasingly sectarian face.
    the Houthis are now digging their heels as the struggle in Yemen appears more part of a large geopolitical struggle. The agenda of the pro-Iranian Shiite Houthis seems to centrally position themselves as a force to reckon with, as part of a wider strategic alliance to face-up to what seems an imminent sectarian strife that’s existentially challenging.

    Thus, the Houthi Phenomenon is of a long strategic nature and the current Saudi-Houthi disputes do not appear open to early resolution through diplomacy and peaceful negotiations. The Saudi-Houthi conflict could have bearing further on the lull in the delicate situation in the Saudi Eastern part of the country with equal bearing on some neighboring Arab countries disposed of major Shiite majorities.
    The rapidly developing events in Yemen could very well see change of security and strategic priorities of the Saudis that could see some changes and reverse in recent designed political, ideological and strategic alliances .

    The Saudis and the rest of the GCC Countries’ pampering of the new Egyptian regime of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi flows into counting on Egypt to eventually been drawn into the conflict in Yemen and the facing up of the what’s perceived by the GCC Countries as a potential Iranian threat to shore-up the needed military support for the sparsely populated and increasingly strategically vulnerable countries of the GCC.
    However, as an outcome of these new developments, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Kuwait and Bahrain will reinforce their economic, financial and, foremost, military relations and military ties with the mostly military influenced regime of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Egypt in the days ahead. This, besides, increasingly of the holding back on civilian spending and the extending of the Gulf financial largess on the less important Outlay Projects and foreign aid priorities, including, possibly, curtailing financial aid designated to economically plagued Jordan.

    Israel would become less of a priority in terms of regional security and strategic concerns and challenges as at times could prove a potential deterrent force to facing up Iran’s regional strategic ambitions.

    Not a very rosy picture .

  • T..T.

    The Arab Spring was shrouded in confusions and mists of betrayals and mistrust since its inception and the Yemenis do not want to learn from the outcomes of the Arab Spring in Libya and Egypt. Those who hijacked the Arab Spring are seen supporting imposition of Libyan kingdom (King Idris family – still evolving) and Egyptian kingdom (King Farouk family, which appears to have reached dead end), so also will soon support Imam Ahmed family to Yemeni kingdom. If they succeed in Yemen, they will seek to crown and impose King Isayas on Eritrea. Can they also impose King Haile Selassie family on Ethiopia? With the Ethiopian federalism the return of kingdom appears to be beyond impossible.

    • guest

      With this fast pace events taking place, iran’s increasing influence in arab countries, specially iraq, syria, lebanon, and now yemen despite all the sanctions she is hit on economical and technological field on one side; and the fast rise of IS to prominense and its complete abrogation of the Sykes-Pecot Agreement and throwing it unceremonially to the waste basket, and other events in north and west africa taking place, anything could happen at anytime.yemen would go back to be two yemens.Libya would be three.and new borderlines could be drawn in eritrea, ethiopia, and sudan. What makes me more anxious is though, our esayas extends hands to the new leadership in yemen or sign some kind of strategic alliance with them. That will trigger the already sour relations he has with saudi monarchs, and the latters may expel all eritreans in retalliation out of their kingdom, as they did with with the yemeni guest workers during the first gulf war as a punishment to Ali Saleh’s administration for not condemning the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. That, God forbid, would be a very devastating action and will cripple many eritrean families to the ground.

  • A.Man

    Message of inquiry from A Man

  • guest

    If the zaydis constitute 40% of the yemeni population according Refworld.Org, world directory of minorities and indigenous people, there population must be way over 4 million as stated in this report.Almost 10 million. The 4 million could be in their stronghold region of Saada only, but cities like Saana, Amran, dhamar and others are heavily populated by zaydis. Houthies is a misnomer of the group known as A A. ANSAR ALLAH..meaning Partisans of God. We have enough of 3amma Haradit and Widdib Sabbe.surprise surprise! Saudi Arabia fought on the side and supported HEAVILY the Zaidis against the Shafi3ies during the previous yemen civil war from 1962 till 1968. because the monarchy of yemen ( albeit zaydi imam ahmed bin yahya ) was a friend of saudi monarchy while the shafi3i revolutionaries were supported by Egypt in Nasser’s era. Nasser and Faisal were rivals in representing the Arab Nationalism.