Iran – Backed Houthi Rebels on Verge of Routing Regime in Yemen.
Info Graphic on Yemen Crisis
Al Arabiya, 9-23-14
While the world and the West’s attention are riveted on air strikes against the Islamic State in Raqqa Syria, Iranian- backed Houthi rebels threaten to vanquish the US backed Sunni government in the Capital of Sanaa, Yemen. This despite a UN brokered agreement Sunday, September 21, 2014 reached by the Yemeni government, Houthi rebels, Sunni Islamist groups, and Southern Yemeni separatists. Latest reports indicate that the well equipped Houthi rebel forces may be on the verge of taking control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa.
This is troubling to the Saudis, who embarked in 2003 building an 1,100 mile fence along the frontier with Yemen between the Red and Arabian Seas. A suicide bombing attack in July 2014 at a Saudi-Yemeni border crossing killed six people, including two security personnel. Currently, Saudi Arabia is also constructing a multi-layer 560 mile fence along its Northern border with Iraq to prevent infiltration by ISIS forces.
The possible overthrow of the Yemeni government in a Houthi rebel-led coup is indicative of the calculating strategic program of the Islamic regime in Tehran. Their goal to spread its influence beyond the Shia Crescent that includes Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Add to that the Houthi rebels, members of the Shia Zaidi sect in Yemen. The Zaidi Shia sect, unlike the Iranian Twelvers, believe in only four Imams, with the “fifth” being, Zayd ibn Ali.
The US counter terrorism drone campaign against the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula may be threatened by these rapidly evolving developments.
Al Arabiya reported the threat by Houthi rebels to the Yemeni capitol of Sanaa, “Houthi rebels take near-total control of Sanaa”.
Heavily Armed Houthi Rebels in Yemen
Current status in Sanaa:
Heavily-armed Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels took almost total control of the capital Sanaa on Monday, seizing government offices and blocking main streets a day after a power-sharing deal was signed with the president, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.
Agence France-Presse also reported that the Houthi have erected checkpoints on the capital’s main roads and were conducting patrols.
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in a speech at the presidential palace, said: "Sanaa is facing a conspiracy that will lead towards civil war."
How the Houthi Rebels Succeeded:
Observers say the Houthis' battlefield success reflects a major change in Yemen's political landscape, with traditional sources of power - Sunni Islamists, allied army generals and tribal chiefs - losing their grip as the central government gave in to the Shiite rebels to avert a full-blown civil war, according to Associated Press.
The Houthis signed the U.N.-brokered deal on Sunday, an agreement that gave them unprecedented influence in the presidency and over the Cabinet. It calls for an immediate cease-fire and the formation of a technocratic government within a month after consultations with all political parties.
According to the deal, President Hadi is to appoint key advisers - from both the ranks of the Houthis and the pro-separatist factions in the south.
However, the Houthis abstained from signing an appendix to the deal that stipulates that they abide by the cease-fire, withdraw from Sanaa and other northern cities, and surrender their weapons to the government.
BBC news profiled the Yemeni crisis in an article, “Who are the Houthis?”
Origins of the Houthi Shia Rebels:
The Houthis are members of rebel group, also known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), who adhere to a branch of Shia Islam known as Zaidism. Zaidis make up one-third of the population and ruled North Yemen under a system known as the Imamate for almost 1,000 years until 1962.
The Houthis take their name from Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi. He led the group's first uprising in 2004 in an effort to win greater autonomy for their heartland of Saada province, and also to protect Zaidi religious and cultural traditions from perceived encroachment by Sunni Islamists. After Houthi was killed by the Yemeni military in late 2004, his family took charge and led another five rebellions before a ceasefire was signed with the government in 2010.
Houthi Rebels seized the Vacuum following the onset of Yemen’s Arab Spring:
In 2011, the Houthis joined the protests against Mr. Saleh and took advantage of the power vacuum to expand their territorial control in Saada and neighboring Aman province. They subsequently participated in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), which led to President Hadi announcing plans in February 2014 for Yemen to become a federation of six regions.
In July, the Houthis inflicted a series of defeats on tribal and militia groups in Aman province backed by the country's leading Sunni Islamist party, Islah.