Thursday, September 25, 2014

Yemen Snapshot -- September, 2014

Circumstances change frequently in the Middle East, but the delicate balance of power in Yemen seems to be holding for the moment. 
This Twitter exchange is a peek behind the curtain. 
All these people are well-informed observers -- academics and journalists.

D. Gartenstein-Ross ‏@DaveedGR
Sad to say, but AQAP is probably the group best positioned to benefit from the Houthi takeover in Yemen.

Amel Ahmed ‏@amelscript
@DaveedGR @Malanesi actually, they were doing quite well with Hadi in charge. That counterrorism cash cow is the gift that keeps on giving.

Mohammed Al-Anesi ‏@Malanesi 2h
@amelscript @DaveedGR Cash cow gift? Most of the counterterrorism aid comes in either solider training, light weapons, or vehicles ..

Amel Ahmed ‏@amelscript
@Malanesi @DaveedGR You call precision strike aircraft and drones light weapons?

Mohammed Al-Anesi ‏@Malanesi
@amelscript @DaveedGR US aircraft and drones strikes are different story. I was referring to US aids for Yemen to counterterrorism

Amel Ahmed ‏@amelscript
@Malanesi The two aren't exclusive...

Mohammed Al-Anesi ‏@Malanesi 1h
@amelscript AlQaeda is spreading their operations all over Yemen and now adopting #ISIS methods in execution

@Malanesi I don't doubt that.... US-Hadi alliance has failed to curb AQAP. Houthis, so far, have proven their ability to get shit done.

Mohammed Al-Anesi ‏@Malanesi
@amelscript Most Yemenis support Houthis because we believe our government has failed us in so many ways. #Yemen

هيكل بافنع ‏@BaFana3
@Malanesi Agree. I have too many Sunni mates and acquaintances in Sanaa who suddenly became "Houthi" overnight. Not sectarian. @amelscript

Mohammed Al-Anesi ‏@Malanesi
@BaFana3 @amelscript I am not Houthi but hell yeah I am a big supporter of Houthis even though I disagree with their slogan and other things

هيكل بافنع ‏@BaFana3
@Malanesi Abdul Malik is too moderate, really. If I had an army of 10,000 I'd topple the govt AND exile all ministers to Somalia.@amelscript

Mohammed Al-Anesi‏@Malanesi
@BaFana3 Since Houthis came into Sanaa, people felt more secure and actually pleased with security level all over the city. @amelscript

Here, in no particular order, are three links from the last day or two.

What the Houthi takeover of Sanaa reveals about Yemen's politics
Analysis: Houthi militiamen capture Yemen's capital, but it's the president's adversaries that are targeted
September 25, 2014 12:56PM ET

by Iona Craig
SANAA, Yemen — Houthi fighters seized most of Yemen’s capital of Sanaa and signed a deal with the government last Sunday. Since their lightning takeover of the city, Houthi militia have attacked the adversaries of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and political rivals of President Abdrahbu Mansour Hadi. But the apparent ease of the Houthi victory reveals much more about the smoke and mirrors of Yemeni politics than it does about the fighting prowess of the militiamen. Indeed, by allowing the Houthis free rein of the capital, Hadi has taken a gamble that could ultimately bring more violence as the backlash against the Houthi uprising grows. 
It has been more than a decade since Yemenis were last given the opportunity to vote for a parliament. After 33 years of rule by President Saleh, a popular uprising in 2011 led to an internationally backed deal and an election — in which there was only one candidate: Hadi, Saleh’s long-serving deputy. 
The government had broken the social contract with Yemen’s 25 million people long before peaceful protesters took to the streets in 2011. The Houthis — also known as Ansar Allah — joined the demonstrations against Saleh, who had presided over six wars against them between 2004 and 2010 in the groups’ stronghold in Yemen’s northern province of Saada. 
The Houthis are rooted in a Zaydi Shia youth movement in the 1990s, that grew to a movement formed in 2004, taking their name from then-leader Hussein al-Houthi. Hussein was killed during the first war in Saada in 2004. 
The 2011 uprising marked the group’s revival and, after Salehs’ ouster, saw a surge in open support. During Saleh’s rule, Zaydism was repressed, and Houthis in Sanaa were under constant threat. Many disappeared into the prison cells of the capital’s notorious Political Security Organization, while others maintained their allegiance to the movement in secret. 
During the unrest of the 2011 political uprising, the Houthis, who had been calling for autonomy, consolidated their control in Saada as the power struggle played out 115 miles away in Sanaa. Saleh’s ouster allowed Houthi supporters to emerge from the shadows, resulting in the groups’ slogan being daubed across walls from the ancient city of Old Sanaa to mountainsides across northern Yemen. The battle-hardened group soon gained popularity outside their traditional Zaydi lines. 
The 2011 protests had united political opponents around the shared goal of removing Saleh and his regime, but once that was achieved, rivalries quickly resurfaced. In the two-mile-long tented sit-in that had been home to anti-government protesters for nine months in Sanaa, fistfights broke out between Houthi demonstrators and their political rivals, Islah — Yemen’s equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood. 
At the same time, confrontations in the north turned violent, centered on the Salafist Dar Al-Hadeeth religious school in the village of Dammaj, to which the Houthis laid siege for two months at the end of 2011. Renewed fighting in 2013 led to a cease-fire agreement in January this year that included the evacuation of the Salafi students. After the fall of Dammaj, the Houthi fighters began their push south toward the capital. 
Although often painted as a sectarian conflict between Shia and conservative Sunnis, the root of the conflict is political and tribal rather than sectarian. But the Houthis’ rise could cause the sectarian narrative to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yemen’s Al-Qaeda insurgency has always had an aggressive stance against the Houthis. As the group began taking territory in northern provinces, the Al-Qaeda fighters of Ansar al-Sharia started to act upon their long-running anti-Houthi threats. In July, in a brutal Ansar al-Sharia’s attack that mirrored those by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), 14 unarmed off-duty soldiers had their throats slit and heads hacked off by militants wearing head-mounted cameras. Ansar al-Sharia justified the killings by claiming the soldiers were Houthis 
Saudi Arabia vs Iran

Conflict with the Houthis in Yemen is often framed as an Iran versus Saudi Arabia proxy battle that came to a head in 2010 when the Saudis were dragged into the most recent war in Saada as it threatened the Kingdom’s border. 
Saudi Arabia has backed multiple individuals and factions in Yemen, including Islah. But since 2011, the regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has played out in the in the tussle for influential patronage in Yemen. The previously close relationship between Saudi Arabia and Islah has soured since the uprisings of 2011, while Qatar has been spreading its informal sponsorship networks in Yemen. In March, Saudi Arabia listed both the Houthis and the Qatar-backed Muslim Brotherhood as banned “terrorist organizations.” 
President Hadi has repeatedly thanked Saudi Arabia for its financial support while accusing Iran of inciting conflict by supporting the Houthis and the southern secessionist movement, Al-HIrak. Iran has denied arming the Houthis but is unlikely to refute credit for the Houthis’ rise when it provides a boost to Tehran’s leverage in the region. 
The takeover of Sanaa this week appeared well planned. After setting up tented encampments at the entrances to the city, peaceful demonstrators took to the streets of the capital calling for the corrupt government to be dissolved and fuel subsidies, lifted in July, be reinstated — both appealing demands to many Yemenis. On Sept. 9 those protests turned deadly when uniformed soldiers opened fire on demonstrators. Eight protesters and an ambulance driver were shot dead. 
Attempts to broker a deal between President Hadi and Houthi leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi over fuel prices and the formation of a new government repeatedly stalled. On Sept. 16 the first clashes broke out, leading to four days of heavy fighting concentrated on a major military camp, the former base of Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar — who led the wars against the Houthis in Saada — and the surrounding area in the north of the city. 
The battle was won by Houthis in four days, just in time for the signing of “The Peace and National Partnership Agreement” agreed by the two sides as fighting raged in the north of the capital. While politicians gathered in the capital’s south for a ceremony to sign the deal, the prime minister announced his resignation and Houthi militiamen turned up at key government buildings in the center of the capital. Uncontested by the soldiers and military police posted to protect the city, the gunmen asserted their control of strategic buildings across the city, including the American embassy. 
The target of the apparent takeover has not, so far, been president Hadi, but his political adversaries and those of former President Saleh. After storming the base of General Ali Mohsen, who had turned his back on Saleh in 2011 and defected, the Houthis targeted the homes of the al-Ahmar clan (no relation to the major general), including the houses of Islah backer Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, who had also stoked the uprising against Saleh in 2011. 
Brewing backlash

The Houthi campaign in Sanaa was the culmination of months of fighting outside the city, most notably in the province of Amran to the north of Sanaa, where the Houthis persuaded tribal leaders and their men who had previously been loyal to the al-Ahmars to turn and fight against their former potentates. In a significant symbolic act to the tribes of northern Yemen, the Houthis blew up the main family home of the al-Ahmars in July, marking an end to the family’s command over Hashed tribal sub-sects. Islah’s tribal influence was usurped — to the benefit of all their political opponents. 
Saleh, who blamed the entire regional “Arab Spring” on the Muslim Brotherhood when I interviewed him early last year, has three decades of experience in creating conflict to meet his own ends in Yemen. A weaker Islah removes obstacles for Hadi. 
The drawback may come if, in the process of allowing the Houthis into the city, the conspiracy has inadvertently created a monster that could slip out of control. What happens next is almost impossible to predict. What parts of the deal will be implemented is largely down to the Houthis. In a televised speech to thousands of his supporters in the capital’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday, Abdulmalek indicated the “peoples’ committees” of militiamen would stay until the military was able to maintain security against the threat of Al-Qaeda, while also suggesting the Houthis’ plan to continue their path south and east to the oil-rich province of Marib and al-Baydah. 
In addition, a backlash from events in Sanaa over the last week may be brewing. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has already released a statement calling on Yemen’s Sunni tribesman to unite and attack the Houthis. If representation in the new government, set to be formed within a month under the terms of the signed agreement, does not meet the expectations of Islah, there is a risk of disenfranchising swathes of the party’s supporters and driving them to take up arms or into the hands of Al-Qaeda.

Further conflict appears almost inevitable, but while the Houthis’ progress to Sanaa was tolerated, the next stage may test Hadi’s ability to prevent their so far unabated territorial gains.
This untitled link is from Yemen Online...
The leader of Yemen's Shia Houthi rebels has described his supporters' takeover of key parts of the capital, Sanaa, as a "successful revolution".
Abdul Malik al-Houthi said his movement had forced the government to give in to the demands of the people. The Houthis and the government signed a deal on Sunday to end deadly clashes.
Yemen: Houthi leader hails

Earlier, Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi denounced the takeover of Sanaa as a conspiracy that could lead to civil war. 
At least 200 people are thought to have died in the latest fighting. Under the UN-brokered deal, a new government will be formed and the Houthis and southern separatists will nominate a new prime minister.
"These great efforts created this great success - victory - for all the people, forcing an answer to popular demands," Mr Houthi said, in a televised speech on Tuesday."If it is implemented, this agreement will also change the government, which the people called to fall, to fail, because it stood on an unjust, non-consensual basis," he said

Mr Houthi also called for partnership with Islah, the main Sunni party, the AFP news agency says. The rebels have been fighting forces loyal to Islah.  Yemen has remained unstable since anti-government protests in 2011 forced the then-President Ali Abdallah Saleh from office. 
The rebels, who are based in the mountainous north of Yemen, have been advancing on Sanaa for several weeks, skirmishing with rivals and staging mass protests calling for greater rights. The Houthis belong to the minority Zaidi Shia community. They have staged periodic uprisings since 2004 to win greater autonomy for their northern heartland of Saada province.
Does the seizure of Yemen’s capital by Houthi rebels represent a gift for Tehran?

1 comment:

  1. Two more links.