Who Is Plunging Yemen Into a Crisis?
Yemen has been plunged into a government crisis. The desert nation of 26 million people is in turmoil after its president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, resigned on January 22. His resignation comes after two days of house arrest by Houthi rebels.
On Wednesday the rebels agreed to release the president and withdraw from key areas of the capital, Sanaa, in return for a greater share of political power. Hadi agreed to revamp a constitutional commission to ensure that the Houthis receive greater representation. But when rebels refused to withdraw until additional conditions were met, Hadi resigned. Hadi was considered a key U.S. ally.
Houthis are a Shiite insurgent group funded by Iran. The rebels have been fighting the Yemeni government, which is Sunni, in order to seize greater control over their territory. Inspired by demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, the group joined in protests in 2011 and helped overthrow the previous president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh was forced to resign and Hadi was elected in his place, but the Houthis are not satisfied with the current government.
The Houthis rise to power in Yemen has shifted the complex web of tribal, religious and regional allegiances. The Houthis are also players in the Middle East power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran. When the rebels took over the capital, Saudi Arabia cut most of its financial aid to Yemen.
The crisis in Yemen’s government and the rising conflict could bring much more violence in the future. The terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the recent terrorist attack in Paris is none other than al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. The United States considers this branch al-Qaeda’s most dangerous. With the Sunni government and President Hadi in retreat, the door is open for terror to grow more powerful.
With Hadi resigning under duress, Yemeni parliament speaker Yahia al-Rai should legally assume the presidency. He is a close ally of Saleh. But the Houthis still effectively control the capital, and their disregard for the rule of law has become apparent.
Yemen’s location on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden means that Saudi Arabia and Iran will continue to fight for dominance in this region. Continue to watch Yemen, a flash point Iran can use to ignite a war that will engulf the whole region. For more detailed analysis on what is happening in Yemen and where it’s headed, read our Trumpet article “Libya and Ethiopia Reveal Iran’s Military Strategy.”