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Opinion

Yemen holds its breath amid talk of civil war

Catherine Shakdam

Yemen’s Islamic movement, Ansarallah has taken control of the country and forced the president to resign. The Saudis, Americans and their agents are trying to instigate a civil war now that they have lost the power struggle.

Four years on, Yemen’s revolutionary storm has not lost its fury. Less than two days after Seyyed ‘Abd al-Malek al-Houthi, the powerful leader of Houthis (a group hailing from the northern province of Sa‘adah, now organized under the political denomination, Ansarallah) slammed foreign and national powers for working against stability in the country, Arab and Western diplomats announced they were withdrawing their staff. On February 11, both the US and Britain confirmed that they were in the process of evacuating their “diplomats.”

Speaking from London, British Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood told the meida, “The security situation in Yemen has continued to deteriorate over recent days. Regrettably we now judge that our embassy staff and premises are at increased risk.” Similar statements were issued from several other Western capitals earlier last month. With experts and officials having warned that the crisis in Yemen could soon evolve into a full blown civil war, Sana‘a, the capital city, has become a diplomatic ghost town.

But while Western powers backed by the United Nations and the GCC countries have pointed an angry finger at Ansarallah, alleging that the group had overstepped its station by grabbing the reins of power, thus plunging Yemen into chaos, their allegations do not exactly match reality. Rather, they are the ones responsible for the political failures and upset at not being able to assume control over the impoverished country as is the wont of all imperialist powers.

A geostrategic jewel, Yemen, this poorest and most unruly nation in the Arabian Peninsula, is far too significant an asset for both the US and Saudi Arabia to lose control of. And this is where the straw has broken the proverbial camel’s back. Neither imperial America nor Bani Saud can bear the idea of losing political, religious and military control in Yemen.

And where the US could envision brokering new political alliances, Riyadh understands that by losing Yemen, it is really Saudi clan that would come undone, along with its Wahhabi empire.

And as Yemen stares down the barrel of the gun, its factions and people torn along tribal, sectarian, and political lines, pitted against one another for the sake of covert foreign agendas, those Western powers have branded Ansarallah’s militants as rebels yet they are actually the only people capable of setting Yemen free.

If Ansarallah has indeed seized control of Yemen’s institutions, stepping into the void left by President ‘Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s resignation, this was not the result of a violent takeover. Rather, it was the consequence of the officials’ political games. To better understand Yemen’s crisis one needs to glance back at events in September 2014 when Ansarallah assumed responsibility for Yemen’s revolutionary dream, determined to stand against the strong and the mighty, raising the banner of social justice and democracy.

Following weeks of brutal and often bloody battles against Yemen’s pro-Salafi and Wahhabi militias, Ansarallah eventually broke al-Ahmar’s hold over Sana‘a (powerful tribal faction aligned with al-Islah, the country’s radical political faction backed by Saudi Arabia) by breaking its political and military ranks. Weeks into its September campaign, Ansarallah gathered enough popular and political support to exert unprecedented pressure on both the presidency and the cabinet to implement meaningful changes, in keeping with people’s wishes.

It is this power struggle, this friction between Seyyed al-Houthi and Yemen’s deep state that ultimately led President Hadi and his cabinet to resign — but not because they faced or felt any threats; they sought to engineer a power vacuum that would destroy Ansarallah and allow foreign-sponsored political puppets to rule unchallenged over a subdued and badly demoralized Yemeni people. Behind Yemen’s troubled towers, the dark shadow of Saudi Arabia and its beloved Wahhabi zealots stand ready to pounce.

As Seyyed al-Houthi noted in his speech on February 10, “Factions are using the language of takfir and extremism in order to confront revolutionary forces, and are simply seeking to wreak havoc on the country and to foment political and economic crises in Yemen, pushing the country toward the abyss.” If Ansarallah had truly sought to depose President Hadi, why then did the movement refrain from using violence in September at a time when hundreds of thousands of its supporters had flooded the streets of the capital? Why would Seyyed al-Houthi have cared to engage in lengthy political negotiations if not to prevent Yemen’s institutions to dissolve under the weight of its troubles?

Where Ansarallah worked to contain and restore, President Hadi and his men held their hands in the air, reneging on their oath and duty to serve, for the sake of their own selfish political and financial ambitions. Where Ansarallah worked to remove foreign influences, extracting Yemen from under the clasp of Bani Saud, foreign powers have plotted to return Yemen to its cage.

Yemen now stands at a dangerous precipice. Its finances all but spent and its people crushed under the weight of acute poverty, Yemen risks falling to al-Qaeda. Therein lies the real threat; there lies a reality most Yemeni politicians have failed to grasp in their scramble for power.

While various factions attempt to form a coalition against Ansarallah, alleging that because it is a Shi‘i movement, it is a threat to Yemen’s republic, playing directly into Saudi Arabia’s sectarian narrative, it is Yemenis that ultimately will pay the price of such folly. Unity and cooperation are what will save Yemen from the fire of extremism and sectarianism. Prejudice will only feed its flame.


Article from

Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 1

Jumada' al-Ula' 10, 14362015-03-01


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