The assassination of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is likely to have tremendous repercussions for the country’s conflict and its future, which is expected to be split in terms of loyalties and political ideologies, aggravating the humanitarian issues. The Yemeni scene is undoubtedly complex and the future cannot be determined with any certainty because of overlapping interests and the fact it is closer to a regional and international conflict than merely an internal one.
It is believed that Yemen now needs a person who represents the overwhelming majority of its citizens, regardless of their age and political affiliation, to save the country from further bloodshed.
One should recall that the rift in the Saleh-Houthi axis started a few days before Saleh’s death. Before the assassination, thousands of Houthis and supporters of Saleh gathered in Sanaa, leading to bloody clashes near the Saleh Mosque. The rift and subsequent clashes reveal how fragile political alliances are in the region. No external party can help solve the issue if there is no domestic will to end the conflict and save the lives of the people.
Saleh has left behind a thorny issue that cannot be solved, and no one will be able to bear this very convoluted legacy. He was the president who unified Yemen in 1990, with many wars against the Houthi movement following the killing of Hussein Badreddin Al Houthi in 2004.
During the Arab Spring, which erupted in 2011, Saleh was ousted after 33 years. This led to the war that has destroyed the country’s infrastructure and seen the death toll rise in the past few months. Saleh’s cooperation with the Houthis was a secretive concordat in the beginning, but it was later fully announced. Nevertheless, this coalition was for fake political purposes rather than for true and honest reasons, due to the many contradictions between Saleh and the Houthis in ideology and interests.
A few days before the assassination of Saleh, the Houthis installed billboards on the streets of Sanaa depicting their leader and defending his right to rule the country. Such political moves show a kind of monopoly of power, at least in North Yemen. This led to the recent escalation between Saleh and the Houthis and the exchanges of criticism, with each of the two former allies plotting to eliminate the other at any cost.

Yemen needs a person who represents the overwhelming majority of its citizens, regardless of their age and political affiliation, to save the country from further bloodshed.

Maria Dubovikova

With the death of Saleh, Yemen will be the new battleground of regional and international powers, turning the whole country into a fireball or a new frontier. The Bab Al-Mandab Strait’s importance as the southern gate to the Red Sea has substantial importance in the new world order, which seeks natural resources from Africa. Yemen is regarded as a confrontation field between the superpowers, who strive to set up and then promote their military manifestation and power.
It is difficult to envisage how events will unfold in the coming weeks, as the crisis has already dragged on for nearly three years. No one could have ever imagined the Houthis would ambush Saleh until his mission was over.
No one knows how this recent rapprochement between Saleh and the Arab coalition came about, nor the conditions of their pact. However, Saleh gambled his political career and his life by agreeing on a “political divorce” from the Houthis. It is recognized that the last-minute deal between Saleh and the Arab coalition overturned the balance of power and this switching of allegiances led to the Houthis’ decision to liquidate him at any price, putting an end to his political activities and to his manoeuvers to restore his political party’s power. It appears now that his move was too late.
For Russia, it is important to see Yemen as stable and in peace. The Russian government wants to see Yemenis having dialogue without any external influence on decision-making. Moscow is very much concerned about who will take the help of the General People’s Congress, who will keep the party intact and who will open channels of communication with other parties and with the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. As Yemenis were shocked by the killing of Saleh, the Russian government is hoping that Yemenis manage to tackle this issue to start a new phase and restore peace.
The Houthis may have primarily gained the most from Saleh’s assassination; however, this might not be accurate as many developments could happen at any time and loyalties may change, leading to a rising scale of hostility toward the Houthis.

Article published in Arab News:

Published in Tribune
Sunday, 26 March 2017 00:55

The complications in Yemen

The Yemeni conflict is frequently called a forgotten war, because in terms of media coverage it is always overshadowed by Syria and Iraq. But its tragedy is no less serious, and has no justification; this is the only simple thing about the conflict. Politically and historically it is a complete mess, more so than the public imagines.
The roots of the bloodshed go deep; we must take this into account when analyzing the situation. The current crisis started not in 2014 but in June 2004, and its direct roots are in the 1962 revolution in North Yemen that ended more than 1,000 years of Zaidi rule.
In 2004, the conflict flared when dissident Zaidi cleric Hussein Badreddin Al-Houthi launched an uprising against the Yemeni government, following an attempt by the authorities to arrest him. The government accused the Zaidis and other Islamist groups of trying to overthrow it and the republican system. Iran was accused of managing and fueling the uprising with financial support.
The rebels said they were defending themselves, and accused the government of committing an act of aggression. The conflict has since killed thousands of people and caused severe economic losses for the country.
In 2011, the Houthis tried to ride the wave of the 2011 revolution, expressing their full support for democracy. They overthrew the local government in Saada and established their own rule, independent from Sanaa. Following the revolution, Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down after 33 years as president, and was succeeded by Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Yemenis had many reasons to be discontent with the government, including enormous corruption, high levels of unemployment, economic decline and the absence of prospects for youths. These formed the core of the uprising, which was part of the Arab Spring. A change of leader could hardly bring significant change to the country; it needed in-depth reforms and a full restructuring of the governmental system.
Since 2011, Ansar Allah, the official name of the Houthi movement, had been sustainably undermining the authorities in Sanaa. It overthrew them in January 2015 after months of clashes and protests, again seizing on popular grievances such as the rising price of oil to gain support from ordinary Yemenis. Pro-Saleh forces joined Ansar Allah, even though the Houthis supported the 2011 revolution against him.
Hadi was forced to leave Sanaa, and the Houthis seized key provinces, though they have been expelled from southern Yemen due to Operation Decisive Storm. The campaign is carried out by a broad international coalition led by Saudi Arabia and supported by many major global and regional players, including the US. It is accompanied by Operation Restoring Hope, whose aim is to reach a political solution, but so far without concrete results.
Seven million people are on the brink of starvation due to the conflict. The health care system has collapsed. The conflict is worsening and becoming sectarian. The Houthis can no longer deny receiving backing from Iran, which they have been trying to conceal since 2004.
It is difficult to deliver humanitarian aid, especially in areas under Houthi control, not only due to airstrikes, but because of Houthi denial of access to aid convoys, and provocations by local community leaders. A Russian humanitarian convoy recently faced such a provocation while distributing aid in the Darawan camp for internally displaced Yemenis, forcing it to stop its work. Such cases are common and lead to the continuation of people’s suffering.
Attempts at constructive dialogue have failed as the Houthis and pro-Saleh forces have violated agreements and cease-fires. But a cease-fire is urgently needed, at least to allow humanitarian convoys to reach those in need, and at best to launch a political process and implement a UN roadmap.
The insurgents are becoming global troublemakers, recently planting underwater mines in Bab Al-Mandab, thus threatening the security of navigation in one of the most important waterways.
The situation is aggravated by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Yemen is bombed not only by coalition forces but also by the US, which has been striking terrorist positions in Yemen since the mid-2000s, inflicting civilian casualties. Coalition airstrikes are undoubtedly causing severe civilian losses, as in any similar situation.
Peace must prevail soon, not in the name of politics but for civilians. The coalition and its international supporters, as well as the legitimate President Hadi and forces loyal to him, are eager to work on a political solution and an inclusive government. But the international community does not have sufficient influence over the Houthis, whose actions belie the innocent image they are trying to portray. They are first to be blamed for civilian suffering.
Their slogan “death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews and victory to Islam” hardly correlates with the image of an oppressed people fighting for democracy and equal rights. The slogan is reminiscent of something heard all too often in Iran.
Continuing violence and sectarianism are creating regional instability and a breeding ground for extremist groups and terrorism. A roadmap to settle the conflict exists. The hardest question remains how to make all sides speak with each other. They have to demonstrate a high level of responsibility for the fate of their own compatriots, who have become hostages, and put aside politics to work on building a common fate.
The work of government institutes that are trying to function despite the conflict shows the high potential of Yemenis to overcome the crisis. The international community should take an active part in the peace process.
Article published in Arab News:
Published in Tribune
Thursday, 28 May 2015 02:28

Who are the Yemeni Houthis?

The Yemeni Houthis are among the main motives for the intervention in Yemen by Saudi Arabia led coalition that started on the 25th March 2015. The Houthis are not tolerated not only by Saudi Arabia, but also by the US – both leading sponsors of the manageable political process in Yemen that was launched in 2011.

The Houthis were accused of being an Iranian “Trojan horse” that has infiltrated the back areas of Saudi Kingdom. The war in Yemen is interpreted as a proxy war where Saudi Arabia has faced Iranian agents – the Houthis, who had committed a coup in order to seize power in Yemen. The leading international media controlled by the US and the UK have been playing a major role in demonization of the Houthis for long time.

The unusual feature of the Yemeni case is that the country has been de-facto under the mandate of the UN for more than three years, which prioritized the realization of the two-step peace settlement plan of Yemeni crisis – the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)initiative. Even President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi who has replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh, a dictator, who ruled the country for many years, in February 2012, was nothing more than a designated person who was entrusted to carry out the peace plan of the transition issued by the international community. The Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the UN Jamal Benomar was a second person appointed for this task by the UN Security Council.

The Saudi intervention that was formally provoked by President Hadi’s speech on the 23d March 2015 has in fact rendered futile the long Benomar’s mission. His resignation on the 16th of April 2015 was followed by a number of shocking declarations with the worst assessments of Saudi military intervention that, from his point of view, has ruined the pretty likely possibility of successful completion of the transition and the termination of the severe crisis in Yemen.

The falseness of the thesis about the connections between the Houthis (Ansar Allah movement) and Iranian agents is evident for the experts. Thus, the leading US orientalists have strongly condemned the Saudi intervention in Yemen as well as the supportive role of the US and the UK governments. In Washington Post they declared that they were well aware of the internal divides in the Yemeni society, but that they strongly believed that the Yemeni should be given an opportunity to negotiate the political settlement themselves.

The Houthis see the intervention as yet another act of adversity by the ruling Saudi dynasty towards Yemen. They believe that the Saudi wish to crush Yemen by the ideology of religious intolerance towards both Zaidiyya(the Shia) and the Yemeni Shafi'i (the Sunni) with the support of the Wahhabiwing of Muslim Brotherhood within the Islah party and of the terrorist structures of Al-Qaeda. According to Houthis the Saudi consider the prevention of the victory of the Yemeni patriots the key element of the general plan to divide the country.

They also consider the war as the indication of fear of the regional reaction to the Yemeni revolution that started in February 2011 and that has brought Yemen closer to a true national rebirth after the hard series of crises.

There are four stages of development of the Houthis as a political movement:

The birth stage covered the period of 1997-2001, when Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, Zaydi, representative of an ancient Hashemitecleric clan of Sadah, became the head of the Zaydi movement “Shabab al-Mumin”. Disillusioned by the Zaydi party al-Hakk, we has turned his attention to the youth and charitable social projects. His concerns were focused on the protection on the Zaydi cultural heritage from the attacks of the Wahhabipreachers, who had declared Zaidiyyaa heterodoxy (Takfir) and were trying to completely eliminate it.

The Wahhabiactivity in Yemen was led by a radical wing of the Muslim Brotherhood of Sheikh Abdelmajid al-Zindani, which together with the tribal group of Hashed Sheikh  Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar formed a core of Islah party. Islah has firmly occupied the second line of the Yemeni political parties rating, with the party of power of President Saleh (GPC) on the first place after the unification of the two Yemeni states in 1990 and with YSP, the party of the South, on the third place. The success of Islah was assured by the generous Saudi funding. A wide network of Salafi schools “Maahid Yl’miya” was founded in 1970 under the aegis of Islah. The political support of the Salafiproselytism by the republic’s government back in the 1979 has allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to open a big religious educational center in Sadah, the native city of Yemeni Zaydis, Dar al-Hadis, that has become a source of sectarian conflicts between the Zaydis and the Salafi.

The second stage of the Houthi movement took the period from the end of 2001 to June 2004 and was characterized by the increase of the fields of activity of “shabab mumin” movement and by the simultaneous adoption of the specific attributes of the movement, its stigmatization. The leader’s attention was focused on the criticism against the US policy in the region and on the accented analysis of the Israeli position. Several specific religious and secular dates related to the development of ideas of Zaydi Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi followers were set to be celebrated. These holidays were the following: Zaidiyyaholiday “Id la-Gadir” (the farewell preachment of the Prophet), that was sometimes banned by the republican authorities due to the security reasons; the Birthday of the Prophet (Moulad Nabaviy), common for the majority of Sunni and Shia, but condemned by the Wahhabis; and the day of Palestine, that allowed to attract the audience to the Palestinian issues. The terrorist acts of 9/11/01 that provoked a shock among Muslims and the US military intervention in Iraq in 2003 as well have become the turning point for the ideological development of the Houthi movement. Zaydi Hussein al-Houthi believed that the responsibility for fighting the extremist ideologies lies primarily upon the leaders of the countries themselves. He condemned the delegation of this duty to the US, the politics of which he considered adversary to Islam and explicitly pro-Israeli. He was one of the first to consider Al-Qaeda as one of the means of the US military intervention in the Middle East in order to divide its society. In 2003 the Houthis have adopted a specific slogan “Death to the USA! Death to Israel! Shame to the Israeli! Victory to Islam!” that they yelled after the Friday religious services.

The third phase overlaps with the tragic Sa'dah wars that lasted from June 2004 to February 2010. Besides regular governmental forces the Houthis were opposed by Islah militia. The commander of the governmental coalition General Ali Mohsen, well-known for his sympathies to Wahhabismand close contacts with Saudi military elites, widely used the Jihadist rhetoric against the Houthis. This factor has led to the rapid transformation of the Houthi movement into a strong armed resistance with the participation of Sa'dah tribes, who came to their rescue because of the genocide threat. Despite the broad information warfare against the Houthi, the new leader of the movement Sayid Abdul-Malik al-Houthi (who has replaced his brother killed in September 2004) strictly followed the defensive character of his struggle and gave no reasons to suspect him of promoting the Imamite tendencies or rebuilding monarchy in Yemen – the issues that were incriminated to the movement. Just the same, no facts of Iranian involvement in the conflict were found (except the condemnation of the military actions against local Zaydi population).

In 2009 before the beginning of the sixth act of war against the Houthi President Saleh completely renounced all the accusations connected with the “Iranian trace”. The sixth war could not have happened if not for the position of General Ali Mohsen and the Saudi funding, which became the first act of open involvement of Saudi Arabia in the Yemeni conflict on the side of governmental coalition. However, Saudi military have been captured by the Houthi and that has enabled the transition of the conflict into the settlement stage in January 2010.

The Sa'dah wars had a catastrophic influence on the economic and humanitarian situation on the North of Yemen. More than 200 thousand people were left without shelter (one third of Sa'dah province), about 10 thousand were dead and dozens of thousands people of all ages became angry on Saleh regime because they were oppressed by his security services. In 2013 President Hadi offered official apology to the Houthi for all the suffering caused by the unjust wars declared by the regime.

These wars have forged the military might of Ansar Allah, which relied on the effective and disciplined units with warlords in the head (so called militia), that were armed by the government issued weapons from Yemeni army and even from disarmed Saudi units. However, Sayid Abdul-Malik al-Houthi continuously stressed his allegiance to the peaceful conflict resolution and the exclusively defensive nature of his movement. The most important issues for him were the just compensation of the war damage and the guarantees of the equal rights for all the Yemeni religious groups in the country. By the end of the war the Houthis possessed a developed propaganda machine that included printed and on-line editions and also a satellite channel Al-Masira, where they showed all the crimes of the regime and condemned the actions of “Takfirites” against the unity of the Yemeni society.

The fourth stage of the Houthi movement began with Yemeni revolution in February 2011 when Sayid Abdul-Malik became the first from the opposition to declare a full support to the ideals of the revolution started by city youth, and expressed his intention to fully dismantle Saleh’s regime in order to carry out the democratic reforms. The revolution and the peace process within the framework of the international plan of GCC initiative that began soon after it have opened for Houthis the road to transform into a political organization. However, the sudden move of General Ali Mohsen with a significant part of Yemeni army to Islah side in March 2011 did not allow this. The Houthis have realized that it was too early to give away the captured weapons and preferred to remain a movement or as they are sometimes called a “Jamaat”, that was called Ansar Allah in 2013. The prospect of General Ali Mohsen’s arrival at power created a fatal danger for all the Zaydi part of the country, which is the third of all population.

So, the dormant conflict between the Houthis and Islah has revived on the wide front and entered the active phase, having widened geographically compared to the Sa'dah wars. However, the fate of this confrontation was decided in favor of the Houthis by Saleh, who has engaged into a real battle with Islah (including General Ali Mohsen), where the President Hadi did not play an important role. Saleh has decided to use the Houthi as a strike force to defeat Islah and thus facilitated his victories in February-September 2014. The contribution of Saleh to the Houthi’s victories consisted of two elements: a.) The establishment of strict neutrality of the army in the Houthi-Islah armed conflict, including when it left the borders of the “Houthi” territories, and b.) Contribution to the divide in coalition of Hashed tribes, the majority of which turned off their supreme leader, Sheik Sadyk Al-Ahmar (from Islah) and took a friendly position towards the Hothis, remembering about their Zaydi origins.

The successful change of the “agreement government” of Basindawaby Ansar Allah in Sana and the simultaneous signing of the the Peace and National Partnership Agreement between all the main parties and movements (including Islah) under the aegis of Benomar in September 2014  meant the change of leaders in the political process inside Yemen.  Islah has lost the ambitions of the main candidate for the power. The last undecided question about the integration of the Southern Movemen (al-Hirak) into the project of preservation of Yemeni unity was put on the agenda. The leaders of Ansar Allah have started paying their utmost attention to this question having launched intensive talks with al-Hirak on finding the compromise in the issue of the country’s federalization.

The causes of the grave deterioration of the political situation in Yemen that have led to the concerted voluntarily resignations of President Hadi and Prime Minister Bahah on the 22d of January 2015 should be examined particularly. I will just note that there were no signs of possible coup or breakdown of the mission of Special Councilor of UN Secretary General Benomar by the effort of the Houthis. After the resignation of Hadi Iran has shown its interest in the development of relations with Yemen in the conditions of its inability to borrow from traditional donors. But it is unlikely to become a true reason for the intervention.

Published in Tribune
Sunday, 12 April 2015 19:47

Iran in Yemen?

US Secretary of State John Kerry said recently Iran is “obviously” aiding the Houthi uprising in Yemen. According to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, "Iran provides financial support for the Houthis and helps them in building weapon factories and providing them with weapons.”[1] "There are 5,000 Iranians, Hezbollah and Iraqi militia on the ground in Yemen," an unnamed diplomatic official in the Gulf is reported as saying.[2] The Editor-in-Chief of the Arab Times of Kuwait calls the Houthis Iran’s “dummy”[3] and “tools” of Iran and Hezbollah.[4] In Britain, “The Telegraph” writes of “the Iranian-backed takeover of Northern Yemen”[5]

Sergei Serebrov, of the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, noted that the Telegraph’s claim would be unarguably true had it been followed by the qualification “11 centuries ago.”[6] And he is far from the only observer skeptical that Iran stands behind the Houthi eruption in Yemen. Wikileaks documents analyzed on the Al-Bab website indicate the US was not convinced by the Yemeni government’s repeated claims of Iranian involvement in a series of conflicts with the Houthis over the last decade[7] — claims made by the regime of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is now allied with the Houthis (and who in 2011 found refuge in Saudi Arabia, the country now assaulting his forces from the skies). The US Embassy in Yemen, according to a leaked 2009 memo, was more concerned with the interference of Saudi Arabia and other gulf states, which it feared might make Iranian alleged involvement a self-fulfilling prophecy:


… we can think of few ways to more effectively encourage Iranian meddling in the Houthi rebellion than to have all of Yemen's Sunni neighbors line up to finance and outfit Ali Abdullah Saleh's self-described ‘Operation Scorched Earth’ against his country's Shia minority.[8]


Now, with a fragile Iran-US détente underway and sanctions a step closer to ending, Iran would be risking much more by stepping into the Yemen imbroglio than it would have in 2009. Why unnecessarily antagonize the US and jeopardize the longed-for sanctions breakout for a prize of such questionable practical value? Or for that matter, why antagonize Saudi Arabia? While it’s a widely accepted truth that Iran will get up to any mischief it possibly can against the Saudis, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made a point of calling for a mending of relations with the Kingdom soon after his election. The US National Intelligence’s annual security assessment in February also noted that Iran was still seeking to “deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.”[9]

Iranian involvement in Syria and Lebanon is already a serious drain on the limited resources of an economy shackled by sanctions. From the Iranian security perspective, those countries are strategically crucial, a buffer between itself and Israel. Not only is Yemen not a buffer against a perceived threat, but its devastating poverty makes it an expensive proposition. A Houthi government under Iranian auspices would require massive financial support. What would be the motive? To reestablish the Persian Empire, the rationale repeatedly put forth the Saleh administration for alleged Iranian meddling in Yemen, according to Wikileaks? Rhetoric aside, behind the scenes the Americans were not convinced.

The smart play for Iran at this critical juncture is not to rock the boat unnecessarily, which corresponds to its official line: a denial that it provides military support to the Houthis coupled with vociferous condemnations of the bombing campaign and calls for all the warring parties to come to the negotiating table.

Whatever external factors are exacerbating the conflict in Yemen, the main spark is internal, and as related to the country’s economic problems as it is to the much-trumpeted Shia-Sunni conflict. Yemen is one of the poorest Arab countries, with 50% of the population below the poverty level, despite potentially lucrative fishing and some oil. The recent Saudi withholding of funds from a promised bailout package and the sabotage of oil pipelines and electricity infrastructure in the Mareb Province of Yemen have only compounded economic woes. When President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government abolished energy subsidies last summer, causing a spike in the price of gasoline, the result was protests in the streets with the army called in to put them down. Social unrest is common, and the populace has arms and knows how to use them – some say guns far outnumber people in Yemen. Even in peaceful times, Sana’a has the feel of a Wild West town: men strolling the streets or sitting in cafes with their “ali” (AK-47) and pickups zooming by with mounted chain machine guns.

Yet Sana’a was taken by the Houthis without much of a fight. That and their dramatic advance to Aden owes much to a formidable domestic ally, former Yemeni president Saleh, ousted in Yemen’s “Arab Spring” but still commanding a great deal of loyalty in the government and military. He is a wily political survivor who has switched sides more than once in the past, this time making an advantageous alliance with his former foes. It was Saleh’s regime killed Al-Houthi, founder of the movement.

Trade and economic ties between Iran and Yemen were weak under former president Saleh; and under President Hadi they had been all but shut down. But with Hadi fleeing to Aden and the Houthis essentially taking control of the government in February, preliminary agreements were signed between Yemen and Iran on reconstructing the port of Al Hudaydah on the Red Sea and establishing regular direct Iran-Yemen passenger flights. And no wonder, with all other outside funding cut off or on hold. Apparently, the prospect of this deal too much for the Saudis and their allies. Accusations followed immediately that the flights were for military supplies from Iran, and soon after that, the bombs began coming down.

The Zaydiyyah Shia branch in Yemen, to whom the Houthis belong, differs in many ways from the Ja’fari Islam of Iran, and is similar in many ways to Sunni Islam. The two Shia schools do, however, share the concept of the Imamate, as distinct from the Sunni; and ideological resonance seems to have been increasing in recent decades. The Zaydi imamate ruled from 897 to 1962, its territory expanding and contracting, but the heartland always remaining in the mountainous northwest of Yemen, where the Houthis are now based. Like the Zaydis, Ja’faris and all Shia sects, the Houthis come into being as a force of opposition to the powers that be, in the 1990s. The founder of the Houthi movement, also known as “Ansar Allah,” was Said Hossein Al-Houthi, a Yemeni parliamentarian of aristocratic heritage and a religious education from Sa’ada, that same mountainous Zaydi heartland in the north of Yemen, bordering on Saudi Arabia. His family enjoys great respect among the tribes there, and in Yemen, tribal alliances are everything. Al-Houthi came into conflict with former president Saleh in the early 2000s. In addition to defending the interests and culture of the Zaydi minority against what he saw as an encroaching Salafi presence backed by Saleh, Al-Houthi decried Yemen’s alliance with and reliance on the US and Saudi Arabia. After increasingly tense clashes with the government, he was killed in 2004. His brothers, primarily Abdul Malik, now lead the movement, which has also made battling corruption a centerpiece of its rhetoric. Despite the Houthis’ “Death to America” chants and placards, some Yemenis’ believe that the Americans may not have been opposed, at least early on, to the Houthis’ growing power as a counterbalance to the greater evil of Al-Qaeda and other extremist Sunni groups in Yemen. Just to further muddy the waters….









[8] ibid.


Published in Tribune

The crisis in Yemen is entering a new, extremely dangerous stage and I will further list the reasons for that. A direct threat of an outbreak of the civil war has reappeared. The international peace settlement plan active in Yemen since 2011 the key goal of which was to avert the war, as it was considered, is failing now.

The condition of diarchy created both due to the logic of internal processes and to the artificial factors are the main causes of current aggravation of the situation. President Hadi’s sudden resignation on January 22, 2015, his firm refusal to revoke this decision in response to the demands of all the political forces and the UN special representative, and then his unexpected appearance in Aden (ex-capital of the South-Yemeni state) on February 21, 2015 and simultaneous revocation of his resignation – all this forms a background for the performance we witness. Diarchy supposes the polarization of forces, which in the Yemeni conditions means the confluence of a great ensemble of contradictions that have not been resolved three years since the implementation of the international plan – the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative. The issues of the destroyed nationhood, the conflict between the North and the South and finally the sectarian conflict between the Houthis and the Salafi, where Al-Qaeda plays an important role, supporting the Salafi side, are all put in the same pot. President Hadi’s belligerence is alarming, as he has at once started arming the tribes against the Houthis on the background of the ongoing that time dialogue of all the political parties of the country in Sana under the aegis of the Special UN Envoy Jamal Benomar.

Hadi’s move to Aden and his sudden revocation of resignation was followed by the unanimous recognition of his legitimacy both by the forces within the country and by the leading world and regional powers. Meanwhile, the negotiation process in Sana under the UN aegis was going on and was aimed at carrying a reform in order to mitigate the conflict in the upper government institutions. It should be mentioned, that after the declarations of resignation made by the President Hadi and the Prime Minister Bahah on the January 22, 2015, the Parliament in Sana has become the only legitimate institution. Why were the representatives of different Yemeni political forces not allowed to to work on restoration of the executive government in the country, that has been facing the deepest crisis in its history? Oddly enough, that, having rapidly recognized Hadi’s legitimacy in Aden, the international community has derailed the negotiations in Sana that undoubtedly had a true legitimate nature.

The difficult situation in Yemen has allowed Hadi to interpret the events after the fact (post factum) as a coup committed by the Ansar Allah movement after the signing of the “The Peace and National Partnership Agreement” on September 21, 2014. But if this act was a coup, why did Hadi himself preserved his President office till his voluntarily resignation on January 22, 2015? Why the UN Security Council has approved the signing of a new Agreement that put emphasis on the practical implementation of the decisions of the National Dialogue Conference that was finished on January 25, 2014 in Sana, and legitimized by the special UN Security Council resolution? This strange coup would not be such if Hadi and PM Bahah had not resigned themselves. These events have fairly increased Ansar Allah’s role to an unprecedented level in the crisis settlement process, but they did not serve as a prelude to the violent seizure of power, to be frank.

The discontent was caused by the very fact that during the implementation of the settlement plan elaborated by Saudi Arabia the former outsiders, as the Ansar Allah movement, have strengthened their positions, instead of the forces desired by the US and the Saudi Arabia. Once again, as years ago, during the Saad wars, they were accused of the ties with Iran.

The guided President Hadi, having arrived in Aden, did not even expect to receive the support of al-Hirak (the Southern Movement), as after the war 1994 (in which, by the way, was in command of the forces of the West) they have been declaring that de facto unification of Yemen is invalid, and so he has started at once to call the UN and the Gulf Cooperation Council to deploy troops in Yemen in order to begin war with the Houthis. He was not ready for this war, but does it mean that the scenario had already been ready?

Besides their militia, Ansar Allah is supported by the loyal armed tribes in 12 provinces of the Northern Yemen, where in coordination with security forces Ansar Allah is trying to establish order in the conditions of power vacuum. Besides that, the ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh who has retained the post of the Chairman the Yemeni ruling party, of the General People’s Congress (in full concordance with the international settlement plan after the resignation) that has majority in the Parliament and the key positions in the Army and the Security Forces, also assists them. This strange and unlikely to exist for a long time alliance has been created due to a set of random circumstances, but it represents a political reality that should be taken into consideration.

President Hadi having returned to his duties has mainly external support, as it was mentioned before, and sets hopes upon the support from the rapid deployment forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council. But for what? And how it will influence Yemen?

Saudi Arabia has traditionally been playing an important role in many aspects and nobody intended to contest it in the economic sphere. In their declarations Ansar Allah always stated their allegiance to friendly relations with all the neighbors and mainly with Saudi Arabia. Without the financial aid from the Saudi Arabia Yemen would have faced much more difficulties during the revolution crisis settlement started in 2011 (and even before that). The cut of donor aid to Yemen by Saudi Arabia after the arrival of Ansar Allah in Sana in September 2014 has led to the dismissal of Bahah’s Head of the Cabinet and put the country on the verge of bankruptcy. But I think that Saudi Arabia saw an Iranian Trojan Horse in Ansar Allah, however without sufficient proof. Zaidiyyah community constituted 40% of North Yemen population and represented the basis of the Yemeny statehood since the 9th century. The last Zaidiyyah imam was overthrown by the revolution of 1962, but the Houthis are the partisans of the republic. They just advocated the protection of Zaidiyyah cultural legacy.

The main accusation against Ansar Allah is the adoption of the Constitutional Declaration of 6 February that dissolved the Parliament and put instead a chamber of deputes extended from 301 to 551 members. The doubts in legitimacy of this action has provoked a furious reaction, but mainly from its “ally” ex-President Saleh who would lose control over them. As a result a new formula approved by all the parties of the country was created under the aegis of the UN. But the practical implementation did not follow due to the sudden return of President Hadi.

Before the evening of March 25, 2015 the development of the situation was the following: on the North the coalition of Ansar Allah and ex-President Saleh was opposed by President Hadi, who do not have support in the South, by armed tribal militia and some fragments of the Army Corps.

Any scenario becomes extremely dangerous. But the most hazardous one is an armed conflict between the North and the South that throws Yemen back to the situation of the Civil war of 1994.

But at 11 PM on March 25, 2015 a full-scale military operation was launched following the decision of five member-states of Gulf Cooperation Council (with the exception of Oman). According to the unconfirmed sources Saudi Arabia intends to engage 100 aircrafts and 150 thousand soldiers. The strong Air force will be strengthened by dozens of jets of Gulf countries, Jordan, Morocco. During the last years Saudi Arabia has accumulated a colossal amount of modern weaponry exceeding the Indian volumes of purchases. But the evident military superiority will not solve the political problems.

If the main fault of the Houthis is that they represent the Zaidiyyah community that belongs to the Shia school of Islam, if the religious factor determines the hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and as the situation in Iraq, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries has already shown the examples of the possible consequences, then why not to call the Security Council to stop the invasion and sit down at the negotiating table?

Maybe they are guilty of condemning the role of the US and Israel played in the fates of the Arab countries?  Or maybe they are guilty of believing that the main responsibility for abolishing religious terrorism lays upon the Islamic states leaders and not on the US?

The armed conflict between Yemen and Saudi Arabia is a catastrophe not only for Yemen itself, but for the whole region.

It can lead not only to the radical changes in the Yemeni political map but also to a complete revision of the basic principles of the security system in the zone of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait that is a transit artery for almost a third of the world trade.

Published in Tribune