No end in sight for Yemeni crisis

No end in sight for Yemeni crisis
4 min read
24 Jan, 2015
As the Houthis appear to be on the verge of taking over the Yemeni state, the one thing that is certain is that whatever happens in Yemen, it will have far reaching consequences for the region and the world.
Abdul Malik al-Houthi's speech was turning point in Yemeni politics [AFP]

The Ansar Allah movement (known as the Houthis) have reaped the fruits of the revolution the youth started in the squares of Sanaa, Aden, and Taiz in February 2011 against the rule of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis today are a key figures in the domestic power equation. They have taken over all the institutions of the Yemeni state, including the presidential palace.

The speech Abdul Malik al-Houthi delivered on the eve of the takeover of the presidential palace in Sanaa was a turning point in the course of Yemeni politics, not only because he undermined the status and role of the presidency, but because he placed himself as an authority above the state, its institutions, and all other political forces. He gave himself more than the right of "partnership" stipulated in the agreement signed after the Houthis' incursion into Sanaa in September 2014. This means the fate of Yemen is now in the hands of the Houthis.

There is no domestic balance of power capable of changing the new equation and turning the Houthis from a party set on monopolising power into a partner.

This is not an attempt to respect state institutions and other political forces, to involve others in the decision-making process. It is rather an attempt to take over state institutions by the Houthi group. This is reminiscent of what Hizballah did in May 2008, when it took over Beirut. The difference between the situation in Beirut and in Sanaa is that the domestic equation and the Arab interest are different in form and content.

It is a given in Yemen today that there is no domestic balance of power capable of changing the new equation and turning the Houthis from a party set on monopolising decision making into a partner. The Houthis have undermined most of their political rivals and, now that they are in control of the army, security, and the state's economic resources, there is nothing left in their way except al-Qaeda and some of tribes in Maareb.

On the regional and international levels, their latest attack came when the world is preoccupied with the war on the Islamic State group. Judging by international reactions to their actions from their move into Sanaa to the occupation of the presidential palace, there is no indication any external power is inclined to curb the Houthis. This probably means more is to come.

The dark tunnel of Abdul Malik al-Houthi

It is no exaggeration saying that Yemen has entered the dark tunnel Abdul Malik al-Houthi has excavated for it. It is a path that leads toward Saudi Arabia. Today, a Shia movement aligned with Iran shares a land border with Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has to significantly reconsider its calculations, not only its recent action on oil prices but also on all other issues relating to Yemen, especially the disputed borders.

It is no secret Iran is playing the Shia card against Saudi Arabia. The situation is now right to play this card, and not only for its immediate interests, but also to create real geopolitical change in the region.

The second Houthi advance will come in the south of Yemen, before they make a move on the regional level. Despite southern solidarity with former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, the historic grievances of the south is likely to play into the hands of the Houthis, who have claimed to be acting against injustice and corruption.

The situation in Yemen is extremely dangerous, given the regional and international failure to intervene to change the equation. It appears to be too late for foreign intervention, and in any case its effects would be uncertain. Yemen will be a key concern in regional and international politics for some time to come.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic website.