- The Yemeni Uprising (intifada), and also known as the Yemeni Revolution of Dignity followed the initial stages of the Tunisian Revolution and occurred simultaneously with the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and other Arab Spring protests
- In its early phase, protests in Yemen were initially against unemployment, economic conditions and corruption, as well as against the government’s proposals to modify Yemen’s constitution.
- The protesters’ demands then escalated to calls for the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
- Saleh signed a power-transfer agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh where Vice President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi took over as president after Presidential elections in 2012.
- President Hadi struggled to deal with a variety of problems, the continuing loyalty of many military officers to Mr Saleh, as well as corruption, unemployment and food insecurity.
- There was continuous threats both from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Houthi militants.
- The Houthis are members of a 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 imamatefor 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.
- In 2011, the Houthis joined the protests against then President Saleh and took advantage of the power vacuum to expand their territorial control in Saada and neighboring Amran province.
- In 2014, Houthi fighters swept into the capital of Sana’a
- The 2015 Houthis declared themselves in control of the government, dissolving Parliament and installing an interim Revolutionary Committee led by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a cousin of Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.
Saudi Arabian war in Yemen
- Saudi Arabia started the attack in March 2015 after Shia Houthi rebels captured parts of Yemen, including the capital city Sana’a.
- Riyadh saw the Houthis as Iranian proxies and was worried they would establish stable rule in its backyard.
- For the sake of legitimacy, the Saudis claimed they were fighting on behalf of the globally recognised government of Yemen, led by President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi who is reported to be residing in Riyadh.
- But the war has reached a bloody stalemate as the Houthis still remain powerful in northern Yemen and the government controls the southern parts, including Aden.
Grave violations of Human Rights
The Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen is proof of how things can go wrong with an ill-conceived, poorly strategized and geopolitics-driven military interference that cares little about human lives.
- After four years of war, the Saudis have not met their declared goal — pushing back the Shia Houthi rebels from the capital Sana’a and restoring the ousted government
- On the contrary, the war has pushed Yemen into what the UN calls the worst humanitarian crisis.
- Thousands have been killed, tens of thousands displaced and about two thirds of the country’s 28 million people do not have enough to eat. And now, there is a rebellion within the coalition.
Southern Transitional Council (STC)
- It is a secessionist organization in Yemen.
- It was formed by a faction of the Southern Movement
- The Southern Movement also known as the Southern Separatist Movement, or South Yemen Movement, and colloquially known as al-Hirak
- The Southern Movement was established in 2007, during the term of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and it has called for and worked toward the separation of southern Yemen from the rest of the nation (as it previously was until 1990).
A triangular War unfolding in Yemen
- The Southern Transitional Council (STC), a militia group that was fighting the Houthis as part of the Saudi-led coalition, turned against their masters and captured the presidential palace in Aden as well as the city’s main port.
- In return, Saudi jets targeted STC fighters before a tenuous ceasefire set in.
- It now looks like a three-way conflict.
- The Shia Houthis, who the Saudis claim are backed by Iran, are controlling much of the country’s north including Sana’a.
- Yemen’s internationally-backed government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the Saudi ally, is controlling the south, though Mr. Hadi is running the purported administration from Saudi Arabia.
- The STC wants the south to be an independent entity, like it was till the Yemeni unification in 1990.
- The STC’s rebellion also signals the growing friction in the multi-national coalition Saudi Arabia has stitched together to fight the Houthis.
- The STC is backed by the UAE, a crucial partner of Saudi Arabia in its foreign policy adventures.
Differences of opinion in the mode of Operation between Saudi and UAE
- In the past the Saudi and UAE stayed together in propping up the military dictatorship of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt, in countering the spread and influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world, in opposing the Iran nuclear deal and on blockading Qatar.
- But when it comes to Yemen, the Saudis see the Hadi government and Sunni Islamic parties, including the Islah, as allies who could stabilise and rebuild the whole country after the Houthis are defeated, while
- UAE, already frustrated by the coalition’s failure to defeat the rebels, counts on the STC and is staunchly opposed to the Islah party, which has ties to the Brotherhood.
- The UAE has already pulled out of the Yemen war leaving it to Saudi Arabia to defeat the Houthis.
- And with their continued backing to the STC, the Emiratis appear less concerned about defeating the Houthis than maintaining their influence in southern Yemen.
- This should be a moment of reckoning for Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince and the main architect of the Yemen intervention. He has lost the war and his coalition is crumbling, while Yemen is left with unimaginable human suffering.
- If Saudi Arabia has geopolitical concerns about Iran’s growing influence, it should address them directly with Tehran, not by punishing the people of Yemen.
- It is time for a nationwide ceasefire and talks with all stakeholders under the mediation of a willing UN to find a political settlement to the crisis.