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Topic: Yemen (Read 17163 times)
FP: How we "lost" Yemen
Reply #50 on:
August 09, 2013, 10:50:03 AM »
THE SNAKE DEN: A PRIMER ON YEMEN
Reply #51 on:
August 11, 2013, 10:06:04 AM »
First, a comment on the previous post, Foreign Policy: How we "lost" Yemen. I notice Crafty has quote marks around "lost". Excellent article, loaded with facts and great analysis, yet I (too) question the title concluding that "we" "lost" Yemen. It isn't all about us, and it isn't all lost. But it does seem to be the focal point of AQ style terrorism at the moment and certainly warrants our attention.
THE SNAKE DEN: A PRIMER ON YEMEN By John Ford
To understand Yemen you must begin by understanding that there is very little reason for Yemen to be a country. In fact, until very recently it wasn’t a country at all. For most of the last 500 years, Yemen has been divided into a north and a south. The Northern part of Yemen is predominately Shia Muslim. Until 1918 it was dominated by the Ottoman Empire and after that it was an independent country dominated by the Zaidi Shia.
South Yemen was a British protectorate. The port of Aden was valuable to Britain as a fueling station on the way to India. It remained under British control from the mid-19th century until independence in 1967. Its population and economy were much smaller than that of North Yemen and its people were predominately Sunni Muslim but it still had one very important seaport in Aden.
After centuries of being divided first by imperial powers and then by the borders drawn by Imperial powers the two Yemens were united in 1990. North Yemen would be the senior partner in the marriage by virtue of being much larger in population and its President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, would be the President of the new united Yemen. Ali Salim al-Bidh, the President of South Yemen would be Vice President. The arrangements of Yemen’s merger set the stage for the serious problems Yemen faces today.
First, Saleh was an erratic personality. He called his political strategy for governing Yemen “dancing on the heads of snakes”. He was a bumbling would-be Machiavelli of the Arabian Desert whose modus operandi was to switch government patronage from one tribe to another and back again in such a manner that he was sure to alienate all parties. He began his administration of Yemen by siding with Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War and promptly lost nearly all his foreign aid when Saddam was defeated. Since 9/11, he posed as an ally against terrorism and took American aid to fight al Qaeda while he quietly coddled Salafi extremists. He seemed at times to connive for the pure joy of conniving and he spent his 20 years as President steadily losing one group of supporters after another until he was forced out of office during the Arab Spring.
Second, Saleh’s ruling coalition as President of North Yemen had been based on the support of his fellow Zaidi Shia, who comprised a slim majority of the population of North Yemen. But in the unified Yemen, the addition of almost exclusively Sunni southern Yemen gave the country a slight majority of Sunni Muslims. This prompted Saleh to switch patronage over time to the Sunnis and away from the Zaidi Shia and this in turn helped lead to a revolt against Saleh’s government by people who had once been his political base.
Yemen’s weak government and religious divisions helped set the stage for the civil war that began in 1994. Al-Bidh, Saleh’s Vice President, tried to launch a secession movement to break the south off from the newly united Yemen. As former President of South Yemen his power base was in the lightly populated south. He found himself increasingly marginalized in Saleh’s northern dominated government as resources were diverted towards the powerful Zaidi sheiks that Saleh depended on for support. Saleh won the civil war, but the country he won was severely damaged by the conflict. Saleh came out of the war having concluded that his Zaidi-dominated government was not durable in a majority Sunni country. He began to tilt towards Sunnis, increasing the patronage bestowed on Sunni tribes at the expense of the Zaidi (Even though Saleh was himself a Zaidi). By the decade’s end, Saleh’s government was dominated by Sunnis.
Yemen’s problems also made it a perfect target for al Qaeda. Yemen became a hotbed of al Qaeda activity in the late 1990s. An al Qaeda cell based in Aden bombed an American destroyer, the USS Cole, in 1999. Three years later, another attack occurred when Yemen based al Qaeda terrorists hit the Limburg, an oil tanker, off the coast near Aden. Saleh did not intend to repeat his mistake of supporting Saddam during the Gulf War. He saw the al Qaeda threat was of paramount importance to the US. He worked to ingratiate himself to the Americans and struck a pose as an ally in the War on Terror.
But while he was taking American aid he would not separate himself completely from some of his extremist allies. Saleh always appeared to be playing a double-game with the US on the terrorism issue. On the one hand, Saleh would allow American drone strikes like the one that killed al Qaeda leaders like Qaed al-Harithi and Anwar al-Awlawki to occur on his soil.
On the other hand, there were a series of suspicious “escapes” by terror suspects from Yemeni jails. In the most egregious jailbreak incident 23 terrorists escaped a jail in the capital city of Sanaa by tunneling into a women’s bathroom in a mosque next door to the prison. One of the escapees, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, is now the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the second highest ranking member of al Qaeda in the world. Few observers believe this escape was possible without help from the prison guards. While Saleh tried to play games with al Qaeda the terror group grew in strength and now controls large swaths of Yemen’s interior. The group is becoming stronger every day and now threatens to take control of the port of Aden.
Al Qaeda was not the only problem Saleh faced after 9/11. Saleh’s tilt towards the Sunnis had alienated his Zaidi allies. His alliance with the US had alienated them further. In 2004, a powerful family of Zaidi Shia called the al-Houthi began to lead organized protests against the government. The government overreacted massively by arresting hundreds of protests and killing the leader of the protest movement, Sheikh Hussein al-Houthi. The government’s crackdown sparked a broader revolution of Zaidi Shia. The revolution has become extremely violent and has killed 25,000 people since it began in 2004 and left 250,000 more internally displaced.
By 2011, Saleh’s position had become untenable. In the north, he faced a broad based rebellion of his own Zaidi sect led by the al-Houthis who were receiving arms from Iran. In the country’s center and south, he faced a growing al Qaeda insurgency that was beginning to take control of entire towns. Yemen’s security services were unable to win this two-front war. Saleh’s government was toppled during the Arab Spring.
The post-Saleh government of Yemen is sandwiched between two insurgencies it cannot seem to control. The United States continues to send substantial foreign aid to the government of Yemen in the hopes that Yemen’s government will be able to contain these twin rebellions but it is now obvious that as time goes by AQAP grows stronger while the central government grows weaker.
The US has no interest in seeing al Qaeda take control of Yemen and turn it into a base from which it can launch attacks against western targets. Nor does it wish to see the Houthi rebellion take control if it would increase Iranian influence in the Arabian Peninsula. It cannot afford to simply ignore the problems in Yemen. As the attack on the Cole and the Limburg show, a terrorist dominated Yemen would be a severe threat to international shipping. A terrorist safe haven for al Qaeda anywhere would be a base from which al Qaeda could launch attacks against American interests around the world.
The hope going forward is that Yemen’s government will be less duplicitous now that Saleh is gone and that it will stop playing a double game between the US and al Qaeda. For the moment, the US has no real choice but to continue to prop up Yemen’s government in the hope that it can roll back the two insurgencies it faces. This task will prove difficult because Yemen has no natural reason to be a country and the two insurgencies fall along Yemen’s natural dividing line going back for hundreds of years: A Zaidi Shia north and a Sunni dominated south.
For further reading:
“Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes” by Victoria Clark
“The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia” by Gregory Johnsen
“High Value Target: Countering al Qaeda in Yemen” by Ambassador Edmund Hull
Reply #52 on:
February 14, 2014, 10:42:28 AM »
Armed gunmen assaulted Yemen's Central Security Prison on Thursday, freeing at least 14 inmates potentially associated with al Qaeda. The attack on Yemen's main security prison, located in the capital Sana'a, allegedly began with a car bomb explosion at the prison's entrance. Militants engaged in a prolonged firefight with Yemeni security officials near the prison gates and reportedly used car bombs and grenades to break into the structure. Yemeni security forces report that seven policemen and three militants were killed in the attack, and several others were wounded. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but Yemen is facing a growing threat from al Qaeda within its borders. The Yemeni al Qaeda branch, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has conducted numerous militant operations against Yemeni state structures in the past year, including a brutal attack against Yemen's defense ministry in December 2013.
Maybe AQAP shouldn't have been so cocky
Reply #53 on:
April 21, 2014, 08:20:52 AM »
Our side was making some noise the other day when AQAP released a video of a big open air meeting. Maybe we were premature. It now looks like AQAP got a bit too cocky.
Air strikes in southern Yemen have killed more than 40 suspected al Qaeda militants as well as three civilians over the past three days. According to the defense ministry strikes on Saturday and Sunday were launched as part of the government's efforts to combat terrorism. A source from the High Security Committee said Sunday's strikes targeted a southern mountainous region between Abyan, Shabwa, and Bayda provinces and were based on information that "terrorist elements were planning to target vital civilian and military installations." A government official said the operation was conducted in collaboration with the United States but did not reference drone strikes, however local sources said drones had been seen circling the target areas prior to the strikes. According to the New America Foundation, the United States has carried out over 100 drone strikes in Yemen since 2002.
Reply #54 on:
April 22, 2014, 11:06:59 AM »
Yemen Confirms 55 Militants Killed in Joint Aerial Campaign
Yemen's interior ministry confirmed that 55 al Qaeda linked militants were killed in what a Yemeni official called an "unprecedented" joint aerial campaign between Yemen and the United States in the mountainous Abyan, Shabwa, and Bayda provinces from Saturday to Monday. Air strikes, possibly from U.S. drones, reportedly targeted a training camp as well as several vehicles in the region. Another Yemeni official estimated the number of dead in the 40s. According to the interior ministry, three senior members of al Qaeda were among the fatalities as well as three civilians. Additionally, reports suggest Ibrahim al-Asiri, al Qaeda's chief bomb maker, may have been killed in an ambush over the weekend by U.S. backed special forces. Since the weekend's strikes, gunmen have killed four senior security officers, according to Yemeni officials.
US officers kill attempted kidnappers
Reply #55 on:
May 09, 2014, 09:06:10 PM »
U.S. Officers Kill Armed Civilians in Yemen Capital
A United States Special Operations commando and a Central Intelligence Agency officer in Yemen shot and killed two armed Yemeni civilians who tried to kidnap them while the Americans were in a barber shop in the country’s capital two weeks ago, American officials said on Friday.
The two Americans were whisked out of the volatile Middle East nation within a few days of the shooting, with the blessing of the Yemeni government, two senior American officials said.
READ MORE »
AQ wipes out rival camp
Reply #56 on:
June 02, 2014, 04:47:31 AM »
Re: AQ wipes out rival camp
Reply #57 on:
June 02, 2014, 04:58:27 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on June 02, 2014, 04:47:31 AM
An obscure YouTube video must be to blame.
Yemen: Rebel Advance could topple regime
Reply #58 on:
July 30, 2014, 10:35:00 AM »
In Yemen, a Rebel Advance Could Topple the Regime
July 29, 2014 | 0407 Print Text Size
Yemen's Escalating Houthi Conflict
Shia loyal to the al-Houthi movement ride past Yemeni soldiers near Yaz, Yemen, in May. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
The success of a rebel campaign in northern Yemen is threatening to destabilize the already weak and overwhelmed government in Sanaa. After capturing the city of Amran, a mere 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the capital, in early July, the rebels from the al-Houthi tribe are in their strongest position yet. The Yemeni government is developing plans to divide the country into six federal regions, and the rebels believe this is their chance to claim territory for the future bargaining.
The central government is nearly powerless to fend off the rebels; its forces are already stretched thin. Neighboring Saudi Arabia has intervened in Yemen before and still supports Sunni tribes in the north, but the risk of inciting a Shiite backlash or creating space for jihadists to move in could deter another intervention.
Followers of Zaidi Islam, a branch of Shiism, ruled northern Yemen intermittently for centuries before the Yemen Arab Republic was created after a coup in 1962. The Sunni-led government in Sanaa has since marginalized and repressed the Zaidis, who account for 40 percent of Yemen's population. The Zaidis were left to administer their rugged and resource-poor redoubt in northwestern Yemen's Saada province.
In 2004, the al-Houthi tribe, a member of the Zaidi order, rallied Yemen's Shia to reverse decades of subjugation. The tribe led an insurgency from its mountainous territory in the north against Saudi-backed Wahhabi and Salafist tribesmen and the Yemeni military, both of which the al-Houthis believed were encroaching on historically Zaidi territory. Five more bouts of fighting over six years failed to produce any changes on the ground.
Over time, the al-Houthi rebels became an effective insurgent force of more than 10,000 fighters. By the time Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was deposed in 2011, the al-Houthis were strong enough to exploit the ensuing power vacuum. They captured Saada city, installed a governor and began collecting taxes and directing the local government. They also began to openly contest tribal control of adjacent territory in al-Jawf, Hajja and Amran provinces.
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The latest round of violence began in October, when al-Houthi and Salafist fighters clashed in Dammaj in northern Yemen. Many groups and tribes had targeted the al-Houthis over the years, viewing them as a threat to their influence or territory in the north.
The al-Houthis launched a major offensive after Yemen's January National Dialogue Conference, which designated a year to draft a new constitution and proposed dividing the country into six regions. The offensive was intended to pressure Sanaa into bending on important territorial disputes during the constitution-writing process.
The tribe is displeased with the demarcation of its region, Azal, which has no access to the Red Sea, a large population and little in terms of water or natural resources. The al-Houthis claim rights to coastal Hajja province, including the valuable al-Midi port to the north, and al-Jawf province, which is within reach of Yemen's central oil fields. They have also rejected the Azal region's connection to the overcrowded and distant Dhamar province.
Proposed Regions of Yemen
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Over the course of a month the al-Houthi rebels gained territory in Hajja and al-Jawf, took the town of Kitaf near the Saudi border and forced the Salafists of Dammaj to retreat south to Sanaa. The focus of the offensive was Amran province, which the Ahmar clan (leaders of Yemen's most powerful tribe, the Hashid tribe) has historically dominated and through which the region's largest highway runs to the capital. By early February, the al-Houthis held most of northern Amran province and had expelled the Ahmars from their home district, Khamir. Notably, anti-Ahmar and anti-government tribes, reportedly including supporters of former president Saleh, joined the rebels' military campaign.
The Yemeni government has been unable to divert forces from other regions to reinforce Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar's 310th Brigade, which has been battling the al-Houthi rebels for more than a decade. The Yemeni armed forces are busy containing al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula activities, which are spreading from the country's southeast. Meanwhile, southern secessionists are threatening the country's unity, and tribal militants are threatening its infrastructure.
Despite several short-lived government-brokered cease-fires, heavy fighting continues in Amran, and the al-Houthis have been able to acquire large stockpiles of heavy weaponry and armaments left by withdrawing military forces and tribesmen. With rebels closing in on the capital in early June, President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi approved airstrikes against al-Houthi positions in Amran for the first time since the fighting resumed in October. By July 10, however, the al-Houthi rebels had taken Amran city itself, including the 310th Brigade's headquarters and armaments within the city.
Hadi announced July 23 that an agreement had been reached to return Amran to state control, but the al-Houthis will remain on the outskirts and will ensure that no threatening forces are allowed to move back into the city. Moreover, their advance, which the Iranians quietly encouraged, has raised concern in Saudi Arabia.
The Sectarian Divide in Northern Yemen
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A Proxy War
For Iran, Yemen's Shiite insurgency is an opportunity to distract its rivals in Saudi Arabia and eat up their resources, keeping them from focusing on regional theaters in which Tehran has bigger interests. Tehran can use its support for the Shia in Yemen as leverage during exchanges with Riyadh over sectarian competition in Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon and Iraq. Over the years, Iran has provided the al-Houthi rebels with limited materiel and financial support and has reportedly directed Hezbollah operatives and potentially Quds Force commanders to help train and direct the rebels.
The Saudis are concerned that the violence, or the al-Houthis' ambitions of autonomy, may spill over into Saudi territory. Saudi Arabia is home to a small Shiite population in its mountainous territories in the southwest, and a far larger Shiite population in its oil-rich Eastern province. In fact, when al-Houthi rebels in 2009 showed signs of overwhelming Yemeni forces and carried out small-scale operations in Saudi territory, Riyadh massed troops on the border and initiated serious airstrikes against rebel positions in northern Yemen until the al-Houthis capitulated.
As in the past, Saudi Arabia's ability to contain the al-Houthis depends on its ties to northern Yemen's conservative tribes, which Riyadh has historically supported financially to oppose the Shia. Nevertheless, the Saudis' influence over the tribes has waned, especially since Riyadh denounced the Muslim Brotherhood, effectively alienating the powerful al-Islah opposition group -- whose inner circle is dominated by the Ahmar family -- and its affiliated tribesmen.
There is also the fear that Saudi aid may find its way into the hands of jihadists in the north, particularly with the Islamic State expanding its influence in the region and threatening to strike in Saudi Arabia. If recent developments are any indication, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's decision to create a unit tasked to combat the al-Houthi rebels and the July 4 jihadist attack on the Wadia border post, Riyadh's fears are well-founded.
With Yemen largely unable to contain the rebel threat and the al-Houthis sitting on the outskirts of the capital, the Saudis could consider a military incursion similar to the one they conducted in 2009. There have been several recent high-level Yemeni-Saudi talks, including a July 8 meeting between Hadi and King Abdullah in Riyadh and a July 23 unannounced visit by Yemeni Defense Minister Muhammad Nasir Ahmad to the kingdom. Riyadh is likely providing selective assistance to the more moderate Salafist fighters in northern Yemen -- as it has in the past -- to strike back against al-Houthi territorial gains. Nevertheless, the Saudis must take care not to incite the Shia, particularly in Saudi Arabia's own southern territory, or to allow al Qaeda or Islamic State jihadists to fill the security vacuum in northern Yemen that would follow an intervention.
A Fragile Regime
The al-Houthis are unlikely to advance into Sanaa. They recognize the risk of reprisal from the Saudi military, are wary of triggering a nationalist response that unites northern tribesmen against them and are trying not to spread their forces too thin. The al-Houthis will also probably limit the expansion of their operations northward for fear of repeating the mistakes of 2009, when fighting spread too close to the Saudi border.
Nevertheless, the rebels will work to consolidate control in the territory they have captured and to undermine the support of their Sunni rivals, particularly the Ahmar family. The al-Houthis will also work to strengthen their defensive lines in anticipation of limited counterattacks by Yemeni armed forces and of growing jihadist activity. Yemen's leaders may be flexible on some of the al-Houthi rebels' demands regarding border demarcation and autonomy, but they are unlikely to concede on the al-Houthis' overarching desire for greater autonomy.
More important, the al-Houthi offensive comes at an inopportune time for the Yemeni regime. A large share of Sanaa's military forces have been busy combating al Qaeda elements in Shabwa and Abyan provinces since April. The Hadi regime is also struggling to contain secessionist activity in the south after one of the secessionist movement's most prominent leaders escaped from house arrest and vowed to renew the struggle. Within the government and military, supporters of Saleh are increasingly challenging Hadi; coup rumors came out twice in June. Finally, frequent militant attacks on energy infrastructure have hurt oil and natural gas production, and protests have grown over water, fuel and electricity shortages.
Despite Saudi assistance, Yemen's internal pressures have put Hadi's regime in its most fragile state since the 2011 uprising. The regime could be at risk of breaking down in the near future.
Read more: In Yemen, a Rebel Advance Could Topple the Regime | Stratfor
Yemen AQ supports ISIL
Reply #59 on:
August 21, 2014, 11:45:48 PM »
Yemeni rebels maneuver the govt. into talks.
Reply #60 on:
August 23, 2014, 09:06:20 AM »
Yemeni Rebels Maneuver the Government into Talks
August 22, 2014 | 1223 Print Text Size
Yemeni Rebels Maneuver the Government into Talks
Followers of the Shiite al-Houthi group watch Shiite leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi speaking on a giant screen during a rally marking the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed at a football stadium on Jan. 13. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Yemen's al-Houthi rebels, affiliated with the Zaidi sect of Shi'ism found in northern Yemen, have capitalized on their recent territorial gains and are now effectively laying siege to the capital and threatening to topple the Sunni government. Rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi's recent moves coincide with the demoralization of Yemen's military from continued losses and Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi's inability to manage the country's competing interests.
The al-Houthis and their armed tribal allies do not seem likely to try to occupy the capital by force, aware of the potential domestic and foreign repercussions of such a move. Rather, al-Houthi will use the rebel threat to force Hadi's government to make concessions. Hadi will likely make political compromises, such as removing Cabinet and senior leadership officials, rework the boundaries of a proposed federalization plan, and offer the al-Houthis both a larger role within the government and greater local autonomy, making them more powerful within Yemen. This would also allow the al-Houthis' traditional supporters in Iran to threaten their Saudi rivals to the north. Perhaps more importantly, political unrest will force Hadi to shift more of his limited military forces toward the capital, giving actors such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and southern secessionist forces an opportunity to expand their areas of influence.
Yemenis are quite familiar with the concept of northern highland tribesmen marching on Sanaa. Twice before -- first in the 17th century and then again in 1911 -- the armies of Yemen's Zaidi imamate laid siege to Sanaa and ousted its Ottoman rulers. In the midst of northern Yemen's civil war (1962-1970), the Saudi-backed Zaidi royalists bombarded Sanaa for nearly four months before ceding it to the control of the newly formed Yemen Arab Republic. This time, the al-Houthis, fresh from a string of battlefield successes against their traditional rivals within Yemen's armed forces and northern Sunni tribes, have acquired advanced weaponry and occupy strategic territory north of Sanaa.
However, in a televised speech on Aug. 17, al-Houthi demanded that Hadi overturn a recently implemented and unpopular fuel subsidy cut and dissolve the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa. Al-Houthi also demanded that a more representative governing body be established and ordered his supporters to stage demonstrations on the streets of Yemen until the government conceded. He gave president Hadi a deadline of Aug. 22, after which he threatened to use alternative measures.
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Over the past week, thousands of al-Houthi supporters have taken to the streets of Sanaa and set up camps at most of the main approaches to the city. By Aug. 22, demonstrators had established more camps within the city and were gathered around key government buildings, while al-Houthi fighters built fortifications in the mountains surrounding Sanaa. In response, Hadi held an extraordinary emergency meeting with his army leadership to enact emergency plans, distributing the elite Presidential Forces at key positions throughout the city and calling up the Fourth Brigade of Yemen's reservists. Reports from the local newspaper Aden al-Ghad on Aug. 20 claimed that the Yemeni air force transferred dozens of military aircraft from Sanaa's airport to nearby air bases to prevent them from falling into al-Houthi hands in anticipation of potential hostilities.
The Rebels Accumulate Influence
By framing the call for demonstrations as a general protest against deteriorating social conditions and fuel subsidy cuts, al-Houthi is trying to tap into pre-existing popular frustrations. Hadi is aware that his predecessor was forced to step down following mass protests in 2011, and knows he is in a dangerous position while the local population suffers from high unemployment, insufficient water and electricity supplies, and a lack of government services. Steep increases in gasoline and diesel prices, which make it more expensive to transport goods and run generators, have further exacerbated these tensions. In response, Hadi quickly called for a dialogue with the al-Houthi leadership Aug. 20, inviting the al-Houthis to join a new unity government and sending a 10-member negotiating committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Abid bin Daghr to Saada. Reports also surfaced Aug. 19 that a Yemeni delegation had left to negotiate with the Iranians -- using Oman as an intermediary -- to convince the al-Houthis to cease hostilities.
Despite al-Houthi's military posturing, it remains unlikely that he will order his armed forces into the capital. Such a move would only expose his fighters to potential urban fighting against local security forces and militant Sunnis and tie down large portions of the rebels' manpower in occupying Sanaa. Doing so would also serve to unite northern tribesmen and Salafist militants -- potentially including elements who were previously neutral or supportive of the Zaidi cause -- against the al-Houthis. Even potential reprisals from Saudi Arabia -- which initiated an airstrike campaign that forced the capitulation of the al-Houthis when they appeared likely to overwhelm Yemeni forces in 2009 -- may convince the rebels to avoid movements that would force Riyadh to check the Shiite threat across its southern border. Nevertheless, Stratfor is closely watching the situation for any signs of a shift in this calculation in the near future.
Instead of pushing into the capital, al-Houthi will try to use his forces to intimidate Hadi into concessions on longstanding political issues. The Yemen Times on Aug. 21 cited sources claiming that the al-Houthis are demanding 10 ministry positions in the future government, the right to maintain their arms and that some 20,000 of their supporters be integrated into the national military -- in addition to their initial demands that fuel subsidy cuts be overturned and the government resign. They have also included their demand that the Hajja and al-Jawf governorates be included in their proposed federal region, which would grant them access to the Red Sea and hydrocarbon reserves. As a signal that negotiations are making initial progress, al-Houthi in a televised speech on Aug. 21 urged his supporters to continue their demonstrations through the weekend -- beyond the initial deadline -- but without resorting to violence.
The Sectarian Divide in Northern Yemen
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Sanaa's Likely Response
With most of his military units tied down in other regions of the country and those based near Sanaa demoralized by repeated defeats at the hands of the al-Houthis, Hadi likely will be forced to capitulate to al-Houthi pressure. Hadi probably will remain in power, as the al-Houthis have avoided criticizing him directly and know there are few alternative candidates who could take Hadi's position. However, at a minimum, Hadi will probably be forced to dissolve his Cabinet, demand Basindwa's resignation and overturn the controversial fuel subsidy cuts. The formation of a national unity government with the al-Houthis entitled to a share of key positions and adjustments to the federalization plan are likely to be key areas of negotiation and probable concession. In fact, Stratfor's sources within Yemen have indicated that al-Houthi will settle for regional autonomy and greater representation within the central government.
The prospect of a more politically involved al-Houthi movement with increased autonomy will unnerve the Saudis, who are keen on limiting Shiite unrest in their own territories and are worried that Iran could use the al-Houthis to stir up trouble on their southern border. The potential for another Saudi intervention remains, although Riyadh's influence within Yemen's political and tribal landscape has deteriorated over the past few years, limiting Saudi options. For Iran, an empowered al-Houthi resistance is a valuable tool to use in bargaining with the Saudis over more critical interests, such as Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
However, perhaps the most import outcome of this week's political strife in Sanaa is the potential blowback in other regions of Yemen. Groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the southern secessionist Hirak movement could capitalize on Yemen's security focus on the al-Houthi threat by expanding their influence. If political instability becomes protracted, power vacuums could develop in some of the more remote regions of Yemen, allowing these groups to pose greater threats to the central government.
Read more: Yemeni Rebels Maneuver the Government into Talks | Stratfor
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Yemen divides could lead to Shiite power gains
Reply #61 on:
August 27, 2014, 10:49:59 AM »
Yemen's Divides Could Lead to Shiite Power Gains
Media Center, Image
August 26, 2014 | 1137 Print Text Size
Yemen's Divides Could Lead to Shiite Power Gains
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Yemen's al-Houthi rebels, who are affiliated with the Zaidi sect of Shi'ism found in northern Yemen, have capitalized on their recent territorial gains and are now using their position to pressure the capital by threatening to topple the Sunni-led government. Yemen's military is demoralized after suffering repeated defeat at the hands of rebels led by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi has proved unable to manage the country's competing interests.
Aware of the potential domestic and foreign repercussions that would result from such a move, the al-Houthis and their armed tribal allies do not seem likely to try to occupy the capital by force. Rather, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi will use the rebel threat to force Hadi's government to make political concessions. Perhaps more importantly, political unrest will force Hadi to shift more of his limited military forces toward the capital, giving actors such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and southern secessionist forces an opportunity to expand their areas of influence.
Eventually, Hadi likely will be forced to capitulate to al-Houthi pressure. Hadi will probably remain in power, as the al-Houthis have avoided criticizing him directly and are aware that there are few alternative candidates. However, at a minimum, Hadi will likely be forced to dissolve his Cabinet, demand Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa's resignation and overturn controversial fuel subsidy cuts. Key areas of negotiation, and probable concession, will probably include the formation of a national unity government that would include the al-Houthis and adjustments to the federalization plan. In fact, Stratfor's sources within Yemen have indicated that al-Houthi will settle for regional autonomy and greater representation within the central government.
Zaidis re-emerger on the scene
Reply #62 on:
October 02, 2014, 06:01:36 PM »
Zaidis Re-Emerge on Yemen's Political Scene
October 2, 2014 | 0415 Print Text Size
The Re-Emergence of the Zaidis on Yemen's Political Scene
Yemeni Zaidis shout slogans during a protest outside the headquarters of Yemen's national security service in Sanaa on June 10, 2013. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
For the first time since the fall of its imamate in 1962, northern Yemen's Zaidi community, which follows a branch of Shiite Islam, is poised to play a defining role in the country's political transition. Led by the charismatic Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and his tribesmen, the northern Zaidis have emerged as the best-organized and most effective fighting force in Yemen and have strong-armed the weak and divided regime in Sanaa into conceding to several key demands. With the regime's traditional backers in Riyadh lacking options and state security forces spread thin on multiple fronts, the al-Houthis will try to capitalize on recent victories to ensure a greater Zaidi political stake in Sanaa, as well as greater autonomy for their own mountainous region in the north. In due time, the re-emergence of the al-Houthis will provide Iran with a key point of leverage in negotiations with its Saudi adversary, but it could also lead to security and political vacuums that groups such as the Southern Secessionist Movement and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula could exploit.
Following weeks of demonstrations in Sanaa by thousands of Zaidis — many of whom were armed — that did not result in the Sunni-dominated government's capitulation, the al-Houthis adopted more aggressive measures. During clashes that left more than 150 dead between Sept. 18 and 20, al-Houthi militants besieged and occupied key government buildings, including the Defense Ministry, an army command center, the parliament building, the central bank and the state television compound. In part because local troops and security forces offered little resistance to the al-Houthis, Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi's government had little choice but to sign a U.N.-brokered deal with the Shiite rebels Sept. 21.
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Under the terms of the agreement, Prime Minister Mohammed Salim Basindawa would step down and be replaced by a neutral candidate within three days. Though Basindawa did step down, his replacement has yet to be named. Unpopular cuts to fuel subsidies, which had provided the initial impetus for al-Houthi demonstrations, were rolled back by around 25 percent, and Hadi is now required to take on a presidential adviser from both the al-Houthi and southern secessionist camps. More important, according to the agreement, a national unity government guided by a new constitution is to be formed within the month, with the al-Houthis reportedly set to take over several key Cabinet positions. In exchange, Abdul-Malik agreed to remove his supporters' camps from Sanaa's outskirts and to return occupied buildings to state control. Both sides have yet to follow through on many of their commitments, however, and heavy fighting between al-Houthis and their tribal and Islamist rivals continues in al-Jawf province, northeast of the capital.
The Saudi Factor
Saudi Arabia, which initiated an air campaign against the al-Houthis in 2009 when the group's military strength threatened to overwhelm Yemeni security forces, has remained strangely quiet over the past few weeks. Part of this may reflect the diminished influence the Saudis have had with their traditional partners in northern Yemen since the country's 2011 uprising. The Saudi policy of confronting regional Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations has alienated two of Riyadh's most important allies in Yemen: the powerful al-Ahmar tribal clan and former commander of the First Armored Division Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar (no relation), both powerful players within Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood branch, the al-Islah party. Stratfor sources in Sanaa have highlighted Riyadh's deteriorating ties within northern Yemen's tribal landscape, which is increasingly identifying with Islamist and jihadist ideologies that pose immediate threats to the kingdom's interests.
More important, Riyadh is reluctant to intervene in northern Yemen because it is preoccupied with its involvement in Syria and fears Islamic State activity could spread to Saudi Arabia. Now a formal participant in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in eastern Syria, Saudi Arabia cannot afford to be tied down militarily on two fronts and does not want to risk upsetting its own restive Shiite minority, which may sympathize with the al-Houthis, particularly those in southwestern Saudi Arabia. Riyadh also has an immediate stake in the future of Iraq's Sunni community, leaving the kingdom with little reserve bandwidth to deal with developments toward its southwestern border. In many ways, a resurgent Zaidi powerbroker in Yemen could satisfy Riyadh's short-term interests by ensuring some form of stability in historically restive northern Yemen and by keeping al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's activities focused on the Shia as opposed to the Saudis. At the moment, the al-Houthis may represent the lesser of two evils from the Saudi perspective, a concept supported by our Yemeni sources.
Another actor who has remained quiet throughout Yemen's crisis is former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, of Zaidi descent himself, who is rumored to retain clandestine ties with some al-Houthi elements and who has actively sought to counter Hadi's control of the state. As a result of his 22 years in power, Saleh reportedly enjoys a substantial patronage network within Yemen's armed forces despite Hadi's attempts over the past few years to replace senior commanders with his own cadre of supporters. However, the relative ease with which the al-Houthis managed to occupy a city of 2 million and the lack of direct confrontation between security forces and al-Houthi militants remains suspicious. Indeed, most reports indicate that there were instances where the military and police units simply handed over institutions and districts. In some cases, authorities reportedly ordered security personnel to avoid antagonizing the rebels. Hadi himself has described the developments as part of a well-planned coup, and Foreign Minister Jamal al-Salal alleged during his speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 29 that the al-Houthis had received political and logistical support from the former regime. Stratfor will be closely monitoring Saleh's activities over the coming weeks in the event the former president attempts to capitalize on Hadi's current predicament.
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At the moment, there is no other cohesive force that could effectively challenge al-Houthi military might in northern Yemen. The Yemeni armed forces are spread thin on multiple fronts, carrying out campaigns against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — particularly in Shabwa, Abyan and, most recently, Hadramawt provinces — while containing secessionists in the south and rebellious tribes in Marib. Brigades operating in northern Yemen who fall under the sixth military district have suffered humiliating and repeated defeats at the hands of the al-Houthis, and many remain fractured and scattered. Tribesmen loyal to al-Islah and the al-Ahmars have been pushed out of much of their traditional territory in the north by the al-Houthis and have struggled to contain al-Houthi offensives in al-Jawf province. It remains to be seen whether al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula can pose an effective challenge to the Zaidi rebels of northern Yemen.
Central Authority Erodes
The al-Houthis will work to take advantage of the existing security vacuum, and Saudi Arabia's lack of options will likely pressure Hadi into additional political concessions in the near future. To achieve this end, Abdel-Malik will use his ability to incite a new round of violence in the capital to his advantage and will continue military offensives in al-Jawf. When the new Cabinet is eventually announced, the al-Houthis will likely acquire several key ministerial positions. As Sanaa continues its constitutional drafting process, the al-Houthis will look to redefine the boundaries of their proposed federal region to include Hajja province, which will offer the group formal access to the Red Sea, and al-Jawf province, which is strategically located near central Yemen's large Marib oil fields. By expanding territory beyond their traditional capital-intensive, mountainous enclave of Saada and by forging a greater role in Yemen's political process, the Zaidis could ensure a degree of autonomy for themselves not seen since the times of the imamate.
For Iran, a country long suspected of providing funding, armaments and training to the Shiite al-Houthis, the rise of the Zaidis is a strategic victory in its proxy war against Riyadh. As Iran and Saudi Arabia vie for influence in states such as Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, the al-Houthi role in Yemen will be an increasingly important bargaining chip. In many ways, by combining a political stake in Sanaa with a powerful militia outside state control in the northern mountains, the al-Houthis are poised to play a role akin to Lebanon's Hezbollah. The al-Houthi's relationship with Iran, however, is far less overt and substantial than Hezbollah's, diminishing Tehran's ultimate sway within the group, at least in the short term.
Power is increasingly devolving away from Sanaa, carrying important consequences for the broader state and region. Regional movements such as the southern secessionists and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which see a weakened government that is preoccupied with events back in Sanaa and the collapse of security forces in the face of al-Houthi aggression, will be emboldened to reassert control in their own respective regions. In fact, according to independent newspaper al-Wasat, days after the al-Houthi occupation of Sanaa, the Southern Mobility Movement announced the establishment of a Southern Military Council for the purpose of seizing control of southern provinces and laying the foundations for the region's independence. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also reportedly seized on paralysis in the capital to carry out a number of attacks on al-Houthi and state security forces in recent weeks. Regardless of how the fragmented Yemeni landscape becomes, it is clear the al-Houthi movement has catapulted itself into the national mainstream and is no longer just a regional sectarian rebel movement.
Read more: Zaidis Re-Emerge on Yemen's Political Scene | Stratfor
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Al-Houthi Rebles seize strategic port
Reply #63 on:
October 16, 2014, 03:55:30 PM »
Yemen's al-Houthi Rebels Seize a Strategic Port
October 16, 2014 | 0430
Armed supporters of the al-Houthi movement gather against al Qaeda militants on Aug. 17. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Yemen's Zaidi al-Houthi rebels have gained control of the strategic Red Sea port city of al-Hudaydah, further strengthening their negotiating position in back-channel talks with the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi. Seizing Yemen's second-largest port is a dramatic move intended to pressure Sanaa into making concessions on key points of disagreement between the government and the rebels. The move also signals that the al-Houthis still retain key levers with which to threaten Hadi's economic interests -- and legitimacy -- if the government continues to stall in reaching a political settlement.
It is likely that the fall of al-Hudaydah and the threat of further rebel aggression will force Hadi to accommodate al-Houthi demands. If he fails to do so, the rebels could respond with attempts to expand their territory or disrupt the country's vital oil industry.
A number of local Yemeni news outlets reported Oct. 14 that several thousand al-Houthi militants had rapidly -- and facing seemingly little resistance -- established control over a majority of al-Hudaydah, Yemen's fourth-largest city. The al-Houthis and their allies now control (or are in the process of gaining control of) al-Hudaydah's port complex and international airport, as well as several administrative buildings, a local armory and a military base. The rebels have also established checkpoints and have begun conducting armed patrols throughout most of the city. Reports conflict as to whether al-Hudaydah Gov. Sakhr al-Wajeeh -- a former finance minister with reported links to Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood branch, the al-Islah party -- has submitted his resignation or is mediating between locals and al-Houthi commanders. Initial indications show that local security forces were ordered to stand down as the al-Houthis entered the city. Rumors that elements of Yemen's 10th Brigade, made up of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's elite Republican Guard units, may have facilitated the takeover once again raise questions about Saleh's potential involvement in the conflict.
The Importance of al-Hudaydah
The port city of al-Hudaydah, once labeled by the World Bank as the "agro-industrial capital of Yemen," is a central node for Yemen's non-oil economy and handles the bulk of the country's total cargo imports. The city is an important transportation hub both domestically, with major highways running north and south along the coast and east to Sanaa, and internationally, with Red Sea shipping lanes. Al-Hudaydah is also surrounded by Yemen's most important agricultural region, the Tihama plain. Notably, reports indicate that the port city has long served as a critical smuggling hub for al-Islah leaders, particularly former Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. The al-Houthis have long perceived al-Islah, a party with Sunni tribal, Islamist and Salafist links, as their principal rival in northern Yemen.
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Perhaps more important is the city's location a mere 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the Ras Isa floating terminal, which exports oil produced in the vast Marib fields via the 435-kilometer Marib-Ras Isa pipeline. The pipeline transports between 70,000 and 110,000 barrels per day of the nation's average production of 125,000 barrels per day. Ras Isa and the nearby Saleef port complex have not yet fallen under al-Houthi control, but the threat of additional disruptions to an already troubled oil sector is certainly disconcerting for Yemeni leaders. With the country's oil revenues fluctuating wildly and the central bank severely strapped for cash, the al-Houthi occupation of such a critical economic hub would pose a serious threat to the government. It would also present an opportunity for the al-Houthis, who have long sought to control a major Red Sea port through which they could generate revenues and gain access to global transportation lanes.
Rebels' Motives and Next Steps
The al-Houthis are well aware of the panic their occupation of al-Hudaydah will cause in Sanaa, and they are likely expecting the move to spur progress in their negotiations with Hadi, as the al-Houthi occupation of Sanaa did. But since the Sept. 21 announcement of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire in the capital, Hadi has been slow to meet the demands of al-Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi. These demands include greater political representation, a larger share of the national wealth, restructuring proposed federalization boundaries and potentially incorporating Zaidi militants into state security forces. While the al-Houthis have managed to successfully install a neutral prime minister (over Hadi's objections), the decision took weeks of behind-the-scenes political jockeying.
As al-Houthi leaders look toward the next step in the movement's political re-emergence -- the formation of a new Cabinet in Sanaa -- the militants will seek to gain control of several ministries and access powerful deputy positions within key security, financial and energy posts. Doing so will enable the al-Houthis to manage the government from behind the scenes without being seen as the face of the new administration -- a role not unlike that of Lebanon's Hezbollah or Iraq's influential Shiite militias.
Yemen's Looming Water Crisis
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To achieve this goal, al-Houthi understands that he will need to strike at or threaten the regime's vulnerable points: the ports along the western coast and the oil fields in the country's center. By imposing a new military reality on the ground, the al-Houthi militants are hoping to avoid the deadlock they encountered with the prime ministerial selection process. In fact, there are rumors the group is preparing for a new offensive across the northwestern border of Marib province, home to a large share of Yemen's oil reserves. Meanwhile, militias aligned with the al-Houthis have begun to expand their security presence south of Sanaa in the mountainous Dhamar province, which lies at the southernmost tip of traditional Zaidi territory, occupying the provincial capital -- again reportedly with the help of Saleh-linked elements -- and forcing the governor to resign. Early reports also indicate that dozens of al-Houthi fighters seized the nearby city of Ibb on Oct. 15 and have begun advancing tentatively on Bayda and Taiz provinces.
These strategies to gain leverage will increasingly draw the militants out of their traditional mountainous strongholds and into Sunni-majority territories. For example, the western coastline, though sparsely populated, is home to a Sunni Arab majority. The city of al-Hudaydah itself is overwhelmingly Sunni, and there are already reports of local resistance forming under the Tahami Movement, a Sunni organization based along Yemen's northwestern coast. Looking elsewhere, the al-Houthis risk encroaching on the heartland of the country's southern separatist movement by extending too far south of Dhamar province, into predominantly Sunni territory with a history of activity by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Likewise, if the al-Houthi militants attempt to seize the oil fields in eastern Marib province in Yemen's central interior, they would have to cross arid land that is home to some of Yemen's most notoriously territorial and fiercely autonomous Sunni tribes and an AQAP stronghold. In fact, Oct. 14 reports claim that tribesmen in Marib province have begun welcoming AQAP fighters from the nearby Hadramawt, Shabwa and Abyan provinces, perhaps seeking to bolster their defenses against a potential al-Houthi incursion. The risks of attacking these alternative targets likely contributed to al-Houthi's ultimate decision to target the coastline.
The Sectarian Divide in Northern Yemen
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Al-Houthi militants also face the danger of overextending their manpower and resources by expanding too far, too fast. The rebels are currently engaged in heavy fighting against al-Islah supporters and tribesmen in the northern al-Jawf province while simultaneously occupying Sanaa, a city of nearly 2 million people. Expanding too far beyond their current territory could also open up a new front against heavier concentrations of state military forces. Marib province alone is home to some three battalions -- an organized force larger than the force the militants encountered on the road to Sanaa. Meanwhile, AQAP has announced that it will begin targeting the Zaidi rebels more regularly; an Oct. 9 suicide bombing targeted an al-Houthi checkpoint in the capital and left more than 50 dead.
These challenges will likely constrain al-Houthi territorial ambitions for the time being, as their leaders focus on political negotiations and capitalize on the newfound leverage gained by the occupation of al-Hudaydah. Hadi cannot afford to let the Ras Isa export terminal, one of his country's most important economic lifelines, fall to the rebels. The president is also aware that the longer his government appears to be held hostage by the northern Zaidis, the further his credibility and legitimacy will decline and the more emboldened regional entities will become. The Southern Secessionist Movement already held demonstrations in Aden on Oct. 14, the 51st anniversary of southern Yemen's insurgency against British occupation. The demonstrations took place amid rumors that exiled southern leaders are beginning to return to the country to launch a new bid for independence, as well as reports of the secessionists demanding that all oil and natural gas firms halt exports immediately until they agree to operate under southern jurisdiction.
Hadi is likely to cave in the face of such overwhelming pressure, but the al-Houthis will be ready to respond should he choose to stand firm in negotiations. If the need arises, al-Houthi will likely choose to pursue the less risky option of asserting control south of the capital near Dhamar province and possibly in the crucial coastal port cities of Ras Isa and Saleef. The al-Houthis' ability to solidify their territorial control highlights their re-emergence in northern Yemen as a regional power broker and underscores Sanaa's rapidly declining ability to maintain its authority in the country's hinterlands.
Yemen coup by Iranian backed jihadis
Reply #64 on:
January 21, 2015, 10:41:28 AM »
Re: Yemen coup by Iranian backed jihadis
Reply #65 on:
January 21, 2015, 10:49:00 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on January 21, 2015, 10:41:28 AM
Reply #66 on:
January 21, 2015, 02:24:09 PM »
Not sure how smart the WSJ's suggested solution is either, but FWIW here it is:
The Collapse of Yemen
The country could split into two radical Islamist safe havens.
Updated Jan. 20, 2015 7:43 p.m. ET
It wasn’t long ago that President Obama touted Yemen as a success in the fight against terrorism. “This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us while supporting partners on the front lines is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years,” he said in a major speech in September, outlining his approach to defeating Islamic State. Within weeks of that pronouncement, the Iranian-backed Houthi militia occupied the capital city of San’a. Now matters are getting worse.
On Tuesday Houthi forces seized the presidential palace along with the headquarters of the presidential guard, taking dozens of hostages and seizing an arsenal of tanks and artillery. The country’s nominal president, the U.S.-backed Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, was last seen inside his residence; his fate wasn’t clear as we went to press. The U.S. Embassy in San’a reported that Houthi gunmen fired on one of its diplomatic vehicles, though nobody was injured.
A member of the Houthi militia stands on a street near the Presidential Palace, Sana'a, Yemen, 20 January 2015. ENLARGE
A member of the Houthi militia stands on a street near the Presidential Palace, Sana'a, Yemen, 20 January 2015. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency
This comes days after the West was brutally reminded in Paris that it cannot remain indifferent to chaos in a poor Arab country. At least one of the Kouachi brothers had weapons training in Yemen, and the Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda took credit for sponsoring the attack on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo. If the Houthi have now overthrown our partner government in Yemen, we’ll need either a new partner or a new strategy.
Opinion Journal Video
American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow John Bolton explains how Iranian-backed Houthi militants are seizing power in a key part of the Arabian Peninsula. Photo credit: Associated Press.
The Houthi are often described as a sect or a tribe. But it’s more accurate to say they are a radical Shiite political movement similar to Hezbollah, whose guiding slogan is “God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.” Last year, the Houthi gained control of the Yemeni port city of Al Hudaydah, just north of the Bab El-Mandab strait separating the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean. Along with the Strait of Hormuz, this gives Iran the ability to threaten both maritime chokepoints surrounding the Arabian peninsula.
One temptation will be to see a silver lining in the Houthi takeover, on the theory that the Shiite group is at war with al Qaeda and its radical Sunni affiliates. But the “let Allah sort it out” approach to foreign policy espoused by Sarah Palin won’t work, given that neither side is likely to defeat the other and a de facto partition of the country into two radical camps would complicate and multiply the dangers. The Hadi government cooperated with U.S. forces targeting al Qaeda in Yemen, but the Houthi won’t do the same. We could face two terrorist havens.
What should the U.S. do? The Obama Administration should insist that the Houthi guarantee Mr. Hadi’s safety and release him if he’s in custody. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia may also need to coordinate a strategy to dislodge the Houthi from San’a. The collapse of Yemen is another reminder, along with Iraq, that counterterrorism-lite doesn’t work, and that the U.S. has to do more to prop up its allies, if necessary with troops on the ground.
If it can’t be reversed, the fall of Yemen takes the Mideast closer to a regional war between radical Sunnis and radical Shiites, with U.S. allies caught in the middle. It’s an illusion to think that if we withdraw the carnage will stay over there.
Reply #67 on:
January 21, 2015, 02:25:13 PM »
AirDrop coexist stickers ASAP!
Yemen returns to its natural divided state
Reply #68 on:
January 26, 2015, 03:27:17 PM »
Yemen Returns to Its Natural, Divided State
January 20, 2015 | 00:31 GMT Text Size Print
An ongoing rebel offensive in Yemen is, in many ways, a continuation of what the Arab state has seen since the establishment of a republican polity in 1962. The hyper-fragmentation of the country's political establishment since the ill-fated 2011 Arab Spring shows that the two decades that followed Yemeni unification in 1990 were an anomaly. Yemen has reverted to its natural state, in which different geographic, sectarian and ideological forces are locked in a "balance of weakness" preventing the country from existing as a coherent polity.
On Saturday, militiamen associated with the al-Houthi rebel movement — affiliated with the Zaidi sect of Shi'ism found in northern Yemen — allegedly kidnapped Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, the chief of staff to Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi. Mubarak, a technocrat who was reportedly rejected by the al-Houthis in 2014 as a candidate for prime minister because of his close links to Hadi, was due to present a draft of Yemen's new constitution to the president. The al-Houthis oppose the new charter, and it appears that the abduction took place to prevent it from moving forward.
The envisioned charter calls for the reorganization of Yemen into six administrative regions. Led by the charismatic Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and his tribesmen, the al-Houthis are calling instead for two such regions — northern and southern — which would enable the movement to consolidate its recent territorial gains in an area spanning from its northern strongholds to the capital, Sanaa, and even farther south.
What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.
The core of the al-Houthi movement consists of a Zaidi tribal alliance led by the al-Houthi clan. Despite months of expansion from the movement's base in the northern Saada province, the limits of the al-Houthi's influence has been made obvious by the serious resistance from the Yemeni military it is facing in Marib, Ibb and Bayda provinces. The al-Houthis themselves can go only so far in pushing southward. The al-Houthis are also well aware that Yemen's southern separatists — with whom they would ultimately like to share power — have been weakened by internal differences and the presence of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the south.
Thus, the movement is not seeking to replace the Yemeni military-dominated political order established by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh — a dynamic that is struggling to persevere under the leadership of Saleh's successor, Hadi. Instead, the al-Houthis are aiming to become the kingmakers in a new power-sharing system divided into the northern and southern administrative regions, in which the movement and the southern separatists would have the majority of power, with establishment factions as junior stakeholders. The al-Houthis are willing to allow the old guard led by Hadi to maintain some semblance of a central government in Sanaa — at least until the movement can further solidify its position and the southerners are able to gain ground in their own region.
Certainly the al-Houthis have emerged as the largest political force in the country, but they remain locked in a balance of weakness involving the old order, anti-Houthi tribes, al Qaeda and the southern separatists. It is unlikely that the al-Houthis will be able to break out from this constrained order anytime soon. But considering the broader geo-sectarian struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran (in which Yemen has become a key battleground) and the sheer number of camps and competing factions within the two main Yemeni separatist movements, Yemen over the long haul will not be able to exist as a nation-state in the classical sense of the term.
The Yemeni condition represents the broad general trend within the Arab world that remains in the throes of autocratic meltdown, as seen in Libya and Syria. The states that remain standing — namely Saudi Arabia and Egypt — face similar challenges of how to maintain their dominions in such an anarchic environment.
Read more: Yemen Returns to Its Natural, Divided State | Stratfor
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Reply #69 on:
February 11, 2015, 05:50:44 PM »
Yemen Enters a More Chaotic Time
February 11, 2015 | 22:05 GMT
Al-Houthi fighters ride in the back of a vehicle in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Feb. 11. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa closed Feb. 11 after the few remaining staff members and the company of U.S. Marines guarding the embassy compound traveled to the airport to leave the country. The withdrawal of the U.S. diplomatic presence comes after the al-Houthi militia dissolved parliament Feb. 6 and announced the establishment of a five-member presidential council and a 551-member transitional national council to replace the government. The diplomatic decision also comes as the factions fighting for control of the country are threatening to become more violent than in past Yemeni conflicts.
Though the U.S. government's explanation for the embassy closure listed uncertainty of the security situation, the embassy has stayed open in times when security in Sanaa was far worse, such as in 2011 when the military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh were fighting military units loyal to defected Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar for control of the capital. This fact, and a careful reading of the U.S. government statement, makes it clear that the decision to withdraw was more politically driven than security driven. The U.S. government does not recognize the al-Houthis as the legitimate government of Yemen and therefore does not have an entity with which to conduct diplomacy. Such a move is clearly intended to pressure the al-Houthis to back down, and now that the U.S. Embassy has withdrawn, we can anticipate European embassies to follow, as the British and the French have done.
The road ahead for Yemen is unclear. While U.N. and international efforts to find an inclusive solution for Yemen's political problems continue, it does not appear that such a solution can be reached without a military imposition of unity — essentially conquering the various factions and forcing them to join the process. The al-Houthis have made some significant military headway in Bayda province in recent days, and they appear to be preparing a major military offensive to expand their control in Marib province and take control of the energy fields there.
Meanwhile, the secessionist Southern Movement and many factions of the reformist al-Islah coalition have rejected the al-Houthi announcement. A coalition of tribal leaders in Marib has also pledged to oppose the al-Houthis, even floating the idea of declaring independence from the rest of Yemen. There are also reports that the Saudis are supporting the conservative tribes in Marib. These tribes are closely linked to jihadists in Yemen, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). They fought alongside Saleh's government in several past wars against the al-Houthis, and Saleh used these tribal militias and jihadists against the Southern Movement in the Yemeni civil war.
It appears, however, that there may be a conflict between U.S. and Saudi interests in Yemen. Saudi support for the conservative tribes conflicts with the United States' view that AQAP is the primary threat in Yemen. While the United States is not supporting the al-Houthis, a strong and rapid al-Houthi military push that would weaken the conservative tribes will also weaken the jihadist group. Conversely, a prolonged period of conflict between the tribes and the al-Houthis could again permit AQAP to strengthen, as it did amid the chaos of 2011. However, a nascent challenge to AQAP by the Islamic State is dividing, and may weaken, the jihadists if it is able to grow. Indeed, reports came out Feb. 11 that a group of AQAP militants renounced its loyalty to leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and pledged its support to the Islamic State.
Yemen has long been a troubled country wracked by violence, civil war and political infighting. But these developments may be taking the county from the normal level of chaos it has experienced over the past few years and pushing it toward an even more violent and chaotic time.
Marines gave up their guns?!?
Reply #70 on:
February 11, 2015, 10:33:51 PM »
US trained, but , , , once again , , ,
Reply #71 on:
February 25, 2015, 10:03:47 AM »
$500M here and $500M there and pretty soon you're talking about real money
Reply #72 on:
March 17, 2015, 08:32:29 PM »
Houthi rebels capture and hand over US intel files to Iran
Reply #73 on:
March 26, 2015, 04:25:51 AM »
US offers to begin aerial refueling for Saudis
Reply #74 on:
April 07, 2015, 09:28:22 AM »
The beginning? On April 6, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren confirmed that the U.S. has agreed to begin performing aerial refueling of Saudi and allied bombers hitting targets in Yemen, with the caveat that American tankers won’t gas up over Yemeni airspace.
"Aerial refueling has been approved but has not yet been conducted," he told reporters at the Pentagon. "It’s been authorized, assets are in place. The Saudis have not requested it. Any refueling will not take place over Yemen. Any refueling will take place over Saudi Arabia or other places."
AQ trying new strategy
Reply #75 on:
June 10, 2015, 09:14:28 AM »
BEIRUT, Lebanon — After they routed the army in southern Yemen, fighters from Al Qaeda stormed into the city of Al Mukalla, seizing government buildings, releasing jihadists from prison and stealing millions of dollars from the central bank.
Then they surprised everyone. Instead of raising their flags and imposing Islamic law, they passed control to a civilian council and gave it a budget to pay salaries, import fuel and hire teams to clean up garbage. The fighters receded into the background, maintaining only a single police station to arbitrate disputes.
Al Qaeda’s takeover of Yemen’s fifth-largest city in April was the most direct indication yet that the group’s most potent regional affiliates are evolving after years of American drone strikes killing their leaders and changing to meet the challenge posed by the Islamic State’s competing and land-grabbing model of jihad.
While the image of Al Qaeda has long been one of shadowy operatives plotting international attacks from remote hide-outs, its branches in Yemen and Syria are now increasingly making common cause with local groups on the battlefield.
In doing so, they are distancing themselves from one of Osama bin Laden’s central precepts: That fighters should focus on the “far enemy” in the West and not get bogged down in local insurgencies.
In recent weeks, the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has allied with armed tribes to fight Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, putting that alliance on the same side of the country’s civil war as the United States and Saudi Arabia. In Syria, Qaeda-allied fighters are important members of a rebel coalition against President Bashar al-Assad that includes groups supported by the West.
This strategy has clear benefits for a group that has long been near the top of the United States’s list of enemies by allowing it to build local support while providing some cover against the threat of foreign military action.
But despite Al Qaeda’s increased involvement in local battles, American officials say the group remains committed to attacking the West, a goal that could be easier to plot from sanctuaries where it enjoys local support.
Cooperating with others could also give Al Qaeda a long-term advantage in its competition with the extremists of the Islamic State, analysts said.
Since its public break with Al Qaeda last year, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has stolen the jihadist limelight by seizing cities in Syria and Iraq and declaring a caliphate in the territory it controls. This has won it the allegiances of other militant cells from Libya to Afghanistan.
The Islamic State has insisted that other groups join it or be considered enemies, a tactic that has alienated many in areas it controls. And its public celebration of violence, including the beheading of Western hostages, helped spur the formation of a United States-led military coalition that is bombing the group.
Al Qaeda’s branches in Syria and Yemen have taken a different route, building ties with local groups and refraining from the strict application of Shariah, the legal code of Islam, when faced with local resistance, according to residents of areas where Al Qaeda holds sway.
When Al Qaeda took over Al Mukalla in April, it seized government buildings and used trucks to cart off more than $120 million from the central bank, according to the bank’s director, Abdul-Qader Foulihan. That sum could not be independently verified.
But it soon passed control to a civilian council, giving it a budget of more than $4 million to provide services, an arrangement that made sense to local officials seeking to serve their people during wartime.
“We are not Qaeda stooges,” said Abdul-Hakeem bin Mahfood, the council’s secretary general, in a telephone interview. “We formed the council to avoid the destruction of the city.”
While the council pays salaries and distributes fuel, Al Qaeda maintains a police station to settle disputes, residents said. It has so far made no effort to ban smoking or regulate how women dress.
Nor has it called itself Al Qaeda, instead using the name the Sons of Hadhramaut to emphasize its ties to the surrounding province.
One self-described Qaeda member said that the choice of name was deliberate, recalling that after the group seized territory in southern Yemen in 2011, the country’s military had mobilized to push it out with support from the United States.
“We were in control for a year and six months, we applied God’s law, we created a small state and the whole world saw it, but they did not leave us alone,” the man said in an interview with a Yemeni television station. “So we came here with the name the Sons of Hadhramaut, but the people here know who we are.”
American officials have long considered the terrorist group’s Yemeni branch, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most dangerous to the West. It has sought to carry out attacks against the United States, and it retains sophisticated bomb-making expertise.
Now, Yemen’s civil war has given the group an opportunity to expand, analysts said.
After Houthi rebels seized the Yemeni capital and forced the president into exile, Saudi Arabia began leading a bombing campaign aimed at pushing the Houthis back. With all that going on, no one has tried to dislodge Al Qaeda from Al Mukalla, although American drone strikes have killed top Qaeda leaders nearby.
April Longley Alley, a Yemen analyst with the International Crisis Group, said there was reason to worry that the close ties between Qaeda fighters and other armed elements meant that any foreign military support given to fight the Houthis could eventually end up in Al Qaeda’s hands.
“It is very likely that if the war continues, we’ll see a dynamic like we have seen in other parts of the region, where money and arms given to an opposition movement bleed out to other groups,” she said.
An American intelligence official said that Al Qaeda’s senior leadership had suffered losses in recent years, diminishing its importance and giving greater autonomy to the affiliates, some of which still pursue attacks on the United States and its allies.
While Qaeda networks in South Asia and North Africa have struggled to recover from the losses of leaders, resources and territory, Yemeni and Syrian branches have “gained momentum and, in some cases, more resources due to ongoing instability,” the official said, on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.
Syria’s Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front, has made itself an essential component of the rebel forces seeking to oust Mr. Assad. It recently joined a rebel coalition called the Army of Conquest, putting itself in the same trenches as groups that receive support from the West.
“They are Muslims, no different from us,” said Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, the Nusra Front’s leader, in a recent interview with Al Jazeera.
He also said his group had been ordered by Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s global leader, not to carry out foreign attacks that could disrupt the fight against Mr. Assad.
American officials called that propaganda, and the United States has bombed Nusra bases, saying it is targeting operatives focused on attacking the West. But the strikes have been criticized by other rebels, reflecting the Nusra Front’s importance to the rebel cause.
The group has worked to strengthen those ties to bolster its might against the government and the Islamic State, according to a Nusra Front coordinator based in northern Syria.
Such cooperation also allows the group to benefit from arms given to other rebels.
“The mujahedeen need sophisticated weapons, and the West provides these weapons to whomever it thinks is able to carry out its agenda,” said the coordinator, who goes by the name Abu Omar al-Muhajir and was interviewed via text message.
Civilians living in Nusra Front areas, too, say the group has built local support, refraining from imposing Shariah when residents resisted.
Meanwhile, its fighters have distributed food and fixed plumbing systems. In the village of Binnish, it recently fielded a team in a friendly soccer match against another rebel group. Nusra’s team wore fatigues in line with Islamic modesty, and it lost against players wearing shorts.
“Nusra are not extremists,” said an activist who attended the game and gave only his first name, Najid. “They distribute leaflets at checkpoints and call people to the religion.”
Others worry that the group is merely laying the groundwork to eventually impose its will.
“I am worried that after all the gains the Nusra Front has made in the past four months and the notable increase in popular support, locals will tolerate and accept the Nusra Front’s way of governing the liberated areas,” said Hasan al-Ahmed, an activist in the town of Kafr Nubul.
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August 12, 2015, 11:54:58 AM »
Anti-Houthi forces supported by the Saudi-led coalition have built up significant momentum in Yemen. To the south, Southern Resistance fighters have renewed their efforts after capturing Aden, pushing north and northeast from the port city. Greatly assisted by an influx of combat power, including Saudi-operated armored units, they captured Lahj and al-Anad air base last week and are advancing. The Southern Resistance recently liberated the city of Zinjibar, a major gain that allows them to push farther into Abyan governorate where they intend to link up with friendly forces locked in battle with Houthi- and Saleh-aligned elements near Lawder.
The Houthis, along with forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, are in an increasingly precarious position after the liberation of several localities in the Ibb and Dhamar regions. This has led them to dig in and fortify some of their stronger urban positions, namely the cities of Taiz and Ibb. The Southern Resistance has given Houthi defenders in Ibb — 46 kilometers (28 miles) northeast of Taiz — 48 hours to withdraw from the city. Despite their impetus to drive on, rebel forces are reluctant to simply push into population centers, in part because of the risk of inflicting collateral damage and in part because of the perils of clearing well-defended urban terrain.
Yemen's capital, Sanaa, remains firmly under Houthi and Saleh control for now, but coalition-supported forces have closed to within 100 kilometers (60 miles) of the city. As well as encroaching from Dhamar governorate to the south, coalition-backed Yemeni fighters are massed in Marib, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Sanaa, having moved in from Saudi Arabia via the al-Wadiya border crossing earlier this month. Before moving on the capital, coalition-backed forces are likely to neutralize the surrounding area first, defeating Houthi and Saleh elements in the key popular centers of Taiz, Ibb and Dhamar city.
The civilian population in Sanaa is largely anti-Saudi, which could complicate efforts to seize the city. Significant protests are common against the Saudi-supported operation to pacify Yemen and against naval blockades that are preventing an influx of essential goods. A number of tribal groups have sided with the anti-Houthi movement, helping to accelerate the pace of operations in places such as Ibb. This boost and Saudi armored, air and logistic support mean that rapid gains are likely to continue, especially in less urbanized areas.
Media reports citing Yemeni military sources indicate that dozens of tanks, armored vehicles and personnel carriers accompanied by hundreds of Saudi-trained Yemeni troops entered Yemen overnight from Saudi Arabia via the al-Wadiya border crossing.
If confirmed, this development is significant. Stratfor has long anticipated a push by coalition ground forces toward Sanaa through Marib. The terrain along this route is favorable, making a push through it more viable than one toward Sanaa south through Sadaa or north from Aden and Lahj. The highway network in Yemen, specifically S150 and N5, permits movement and resupply from Saudi Arabia. The terrain from the al-Wadiya border crossing to Marib also allows armored units room to maneuver — especially with air support.
Once coalition forces reach Marib, however, the terrain becomes more challenging. The landscape becomes rugged in the 153-kilometer (95-mile) corridor along highway N5 between Marib and Sanaa. The terrain along highway 515, the equally long southern route from Marib to Sanaa, is even more rugged and restrictive.
By pressing on Sanaa from the east, the coalition would force the Houthis and allied supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh into a two-front war, a position further complicated by the Houthi need to maintain forces in the north to protect the movement's heartland in Sadaa from a Saudi thrust from the north. If the coalition could seize control of the capital, Sanaa, it would be an important symbolic victory. It would also deprive the Houthis of significant resources from taxes and black market fuel sales. Taking Sanaa might also flush Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and other senior opposition leaders out of hiding.
Elsewhere reports have emerged that Yemeni opposition forces launched an attack against Saudi forces in Najran. As coalition and southern resistance forces have pushed rebel forces out of the Aden area, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also allegedly seized three new towns near Aden. In Abha, a town in southwest Saudi Arabia close to the Yemeni border, a suicide bomber attacked a Salafist mosque used by a Saudi state security unit known as the Special Emergency Force. The bomber, who was reportedly disguised as a janitor, killed 13 people, including 10 members of the unit.
There has been no confirmed claim of responsibility yet, although a claim purportedly from the Islamic State is circulating on Twitter. The target and location of the attack mean that it could have been the work of either the Houthis or the Islamic State. The Islamic State's Wilayat al-Najd affiliate group has attacked Shiite mosques in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province in recent months. This was a similar soft target and apparently not as well protected as Shiite mosques, but to date the Islamic State has not attacked Salafist mosques in Saudi Arabia. If it is confirmed that the Islamic State was responsible, it will broaden the scope of the threat it poses to Saudi Arabia.
A large force of Southern Resistance fighters backed by Saudi-led coalition armored fighting vehicles have reportedly seized control of al-Anad air base, located north of the city of Lahj. The deployment of 3,000 ground troops — 1,500 Saudi and Emirati personnel and 1,500 trained Yemenis — with main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles is a notable escalation in the Saudi-led coalition's involvement in Yemen. It is also a sign that Riyadh is willing to take additional casualties.
As the tide of war in Aden began to shift toward the Hadi-aligned Southern Resistance in previous weeks, Riyadh exploited the opportunity to begin moving heavier equipment into the port of Aden. An influx of light armored vehicles greatly assisted the anti-Houthi movement in retaking the city. With the Aden Peninsula coming back under Hadi control, the Saudi-led coalition has deployed significant numbers of men and materiel by ship. The added complexity and logistic burden imposed by forward mounting an armored force left Riyadh with little choice but to deploy its own personnel to use the equipment. This is a significant commitment to the campaign, but a necessary one. To operate a large-scale armored formation requires a high level of training, expertise and support, beyond what the Yemeni resistance forces alone could muster.
Al-Anad is the first objective for the Saudi-backed fighting force. It is the largest air base in Yemen, and formerly the home of U.S. forces engaged in counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The United States withdrew its forces from the base in March 2015 when it came under attack from Houthi militants backed by remnants of the Yemeni armed forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthi thrust was an attempt to dislodge forces in al-Anad that were loyal to Yemen's internationally recognized government, led by President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi.
Since then, the base has changed hands several times. It has also been severely damaged during the fighting, and its arms storage facilities have been heavily looted. Situated approximately 48 kilometers (30 miles) north of Aden, al-Anad lies near the southern limit of the Houthis' military expansion and far from the group's northern power base. The facility is also at the confluence of Aden's coastal plain and the southern portion of Yemen's mountainous backbone. The southern approach is favorable terrain for coalition armor. Backed by air power, Saudi tanks and fighting vehicles have ample space to maneuver, creating a problem for the Houthi defenders.
However, the terrain just north of al-Anad tells a different story. It is very mountainous, with limited routes along which armor can move. This will provide Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces with a defensive advantage, more so than they had in Aden or Lahj. The heavily channeled terrain provides ample opportunities for mines and improvised explosive devices and offers positions for anti-armor ambushes. The defenders will also be able to shell the base and its approaches from elevated positions in the mountains. Additionally, the fact that the Saudis have bombed several bridges on important highways — part of the Saudi air campaign meant to cut Houthi supply lines running from the group's stronghold in northern Yemen to the south — will now actually hinder mobility for the coalition forces themselves through the mountain passes.
At this point, the coalition clearly has the upper hand in the area surrounding Aden. They have been able to reopen the port and the airport in Aden, establishing essential air and sea bridges to move personnel, supplies and equipment. The coalition will also likely attempt use al-Anad as a supply hub once the airfield there is secured. Still, their airlift capability is limited compared to what they can bring in via the port. The Saudi-led coalition undoubtedly has superior logistics, firepower and manpower, and has amassed an impressive modern fighting force. However, the farther the coalition moves from this beachhead into the hostile terrain of Yemen's mountains, the more exposed they will be to ambushes and counterattacks. Saudi forces took heavy losses in the 2009 war with Yemen, when Riyadh's offensive operations against the Houthis were staged in the mountains of northern Yemen.
Despite months of fighting against forces loyal to Hadi, the southern movement, and tribal forces backed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Houthis are still far better armed than they were in 2009, thanks to the vast quantities of military ordnance they successfully looted from government stockpiles over the past year. Dislodging them from their mountain strongholds will be a formidable undertaking, but the coalition forces are beginning to show their commitment. Still, the true motivation behind Riyadh's latest actions in Yemen remains to be seen. It could be either the beginning of a sustained effort to totally defeat the Houthi- and Saleh-aligned forces on the battlefield, or an effort to ratchet up pressure to force a political settlement that would end the conflict.
Yemeni rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said in an Aug. 2 speech that a political settlement with the country’s exiled government was still possible, despite the ouster of the Iran-backed rebels by their Saudi-backed counterparts from the port city of Aden. The Houthis would welcome any mediation effort by a neutral party, whether Arab or international, he said. Meanwhile, the prime minister of Yemen’s exiled government, Khaled Bahah, arrived Aug. 2 in Aden, nearly two weeks after his forces retook the city.
A car rigged with explosives detonated outside the al-Fayd al-Hatimi mosque in eastern Sanaa, killing three people. The local Islamic State affiliate, Wilayat Sanaa, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was retaliation for Ismaili support of the Houth rebels, according to messages posted on Twitter. Meanwhile, the internationally recognized Yemeni government said it will incorporate the anti-Houthi Popular Resistance militiamen into the army.
A humanitarian truce in Yemen failed to take hold as Saudi-led airstrikes resumed July 28 against Houthi rebels who continued to fight with loyalists. The truce was implemented just a day earlier and was scheduled to last five days to enable aid workers to deliver humanitarian relief to the country. Airstrikes targeted Houthi positions north of Aden, the port city recaptured by anti-Houthi forces last week, and also struck rebel positions in Lahj province.
Saudi forces retaliated against Houthi rebel shelling of a border region in Yemen. No additional details were provided about the incident, which comes just hours after another "humanitarian cease-fire" between rebels and Saudi-backed forces in Yemen was scheduled to begin. Additionally, Saudi-led coalition jets mistakenly hit positions held by pro-government forces in Lahj province in southern Yemen
Yemeni forces allied with the Saudi-led coalition fought Houthi militia for control of the al-Anad air base July 26, local residents said. The fighting for Yemen's largest air base north of Aden comes hours before a five-day cease-fire is supposed to take effect to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid. But the truce, which the Arab coalition announced July 25, was cast into doubt when Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi was reported to have rejected it, arguing it would only benefit the Islamic State and al Qaeda.
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen called a five-day humanitarian truce that will begin midnight, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The coalition specified it would respond if Houthi rebels violate the cease-fire.
Representatives of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh have been meeting with diplomats from the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Britain, the leader of Saleh’s Congress party said July 24. The negotiations are taking place in Cairo and are aimed at finding a solution to the conflict in Yemen, he said. An official statement from the Congress party later denied any meetings. Western diplomats contacted by Reuters downplayed the meetings, saying they are part of regular discussions with Yemeni officials.
Houthi forces fired rockets at Aden's airport July 23, one day after the facility reopened. Three of the rockets landed near the runway, where a Saudi cargo plane carrying 20 tons of humanitarian aid was parked. Aden's airport has been closed for the duration of the four-month conflict in Yemen, but it reopened after Saudi airstrikes helped forces loyal to exiled President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi gain control of most of Aden.
A Saudi military plane landed in the Aden airport, the first since anti-Houthi forces seized the airport from Houthi rebels. Planes carrying unspecified relief supplies are expected to land in the next two days.
A car bombing claimed by the Islamic State killed four in rebel-controlled Sanaa. Another eight people, including several children, were wounded in the attack. Sunni extremists have carried out attacks against Shiite targets in Yemen since March. According to unnamed sources, another 11 Houthi fighters were killed in separate attacks overnight.
After months of intense fighting, the battle for Aden appears to be over. Advancing from the direction of the airport and through the Khormaksar district into the neck of the peninsula, Southern Resistance forces made good use of their new armored capability, liberating the Crater district from the Houthis and capturing key rebel leaders in the process. The Southern Resistance armored thrust then continued through the Maala port district and on to Tawahi. Rather than die in place, many Houthi fighters have surrendered. The isolated pockets of resistance that do remain are in tactically untenable positions and will likely not hold out long. The city of Aden is for all intents and purposes under Southern Resistance control.
Some Houthi forces were able to escape the final push and are headed northeast, where reports suggest they intend to regroup in Abyan governorate. One of the instrumental factors in Aden's fall to the Southern Resistance was the surrender of the 39th Armored Brigade, which was loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Losing the brigade, stationed at the military base at the airport, was a major blow for the lingering Houthi fighters in Aden.
Keen to exploit the fledgling victory, Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi immediately dispatched government and security officials to the city. Hadi seeks to rapidly reestablish as least a perception of political control over the peninsula. However, beyond the current pragmatic cooperation between military forces loyal to Hadi and the Southern Resistance militia, these parties are not politically aligned. Hadi is the internationally recognized president of Yemen but the Southern Resistance is the strongest physical element on the ground. Without a common and present enemy threat to act as a unifier, conflict over the political control of areas liberated from Houthi fighters is a disquieting possibility.
Both sides will attempt to limit such a conflict from emerging until their mutual interest in combating Houthi and Saleh forces results in some kind of resolution. At the same time, the success in Aden gives reason for Hadi and the Southern Resistance to pursue military action over negotiations, mainly because of the prospect of continued military success in the near future.
The U.N.-brokered cease-fire that was supposed to bring a temporary halt to fighting in Yemen over Ramadan failed before it even started. Supposedly taking effect midnight on July 10, the humanitarian truce was largely ignored by forces on the ground — fighting continued through the weekend. Forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi claim they were not ordered to commit to the cessation of hostilities, though disrupted communications may have been partially responsible. Rumors suggest that new negotiations are being prepared but only if former Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah replaces Hadi as president. At the moment this remains an outside possibility. Even with serious negotiations or a more durable cease-fire underway, it is highly likely Yemen will simply move into another phase of conflict rather than achieve a peaceful resolution.
Saudi-led airstrikes against Houthi positions resumed July 13, killing at least 21 civilians and wounding 45 others in Sanaa, witnesses and medics said. Because of the paucity of Houthi targets outside of population centers, Saudi air power has been increasingly striking closer to populated areas, incurring higher levels of collateral damage as a result. Airstrikes also hit the Houthi stronghold of Saada in northern Yemen.
The Battle for Aden
Meanwhile, in Aden, Southern Resistance fighters made significant gains July 14, recapturing the port city's contested airport and an adjacent military base from Houthi rebels. The fighters were aided by Saudi combat aircraft and have continued to push farther south into Aden's Khormaksar district. Houthi opposition to the Southern Resistance is now reportedly weak, with many rebels surrendering or withdrawing from the city. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Republican Guard forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh removed their support for the Houthis in Aden, leaving them to deal with the Southern Resistance offensive alone.
A further boon to anti-Houthi forces in Yemen arrived in the form of a large delivery of modern armored vehicles, likely from Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. These protected mobility vehicles were used extensively in July 14 operations in Aden. In addition to improving the Southern Resistance's overall mobility, the RPG-protected vehicles can deliver personnel close to the fighting and provide intimate fire support from onboard heavy weapons. This improved capability, combined with the weakened position of the remaining Houthis in Aden, has significantly tipped the balance of power in favor of the Southern Resistance. Based on recent developments, the battle for Aden could be in its final stages. Following an anti-Houthi victory in Aden, Southern Resistance forces will likely be redirected toward the battle fronts in Lahj, Taiz and Abyan, where Houthi rebels have also faced severe resistance but have as yet remained unbroken.
An unnamed Saudi official said that the U.N.-backed humanitarian pause in the conflict in Yemen will be "useless" because Houthi rebels do not have full control of their forces. During a five-day truce in May, the Saudi-led coalition accused the Houthis of violating the terms.
Analysis: Following continued attempts by U.N. representatives to establish a cease-fire during Ramadan, Yemen's belligerents have finally reached an agreement. That the cease-fire is being enacted without a withdrawal of Houthi forces, something previously demanded by the government of President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi, indicates the minimal impact this cease-fire will have on a resolution of this conflict in the long term and Hadi's limited ability to force the issue with the Houthis despite the Saudi intervention. Read the full analysis here: Yemen's Cease-Fire Will Not Bring Permanent Peace.
The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced a humanitarian pause in the Yemen conflict set to begin July 10. The temporary truce will last through the end of Ramadan on July 17, allowing civilians in the country to receive humanitarian aid. Despite the announcement of the truce, warring factions in Yemen have so far failed to reach a permanent resolution to the conflict. The envoy held talks with officials from both the exiled government and Houthi rebel leaders in Sanaa.
An estimated 176 fighters and civilians were killed in airstrikes and clashes in Yemen on July 6, local residents and pro-Houthi media said July 7. This would make it the deadliest day in Yemen since the Arab coalition bombing campaign began in late March. Given the unwillingness of any side in the Yemen conflict to accept a compromise in negotiations, fighting continues across the troubled nation.
Yemen's internationally recognized government has said it expects to reach a deal on a cease-fire soon. Meanwhile, the Yemeni government staged more airstrikes in Sanaa. Thousands have been killed in airstrikes since March, and aid organizations have largely been unable to deliver supplies to the country. U.N.-brokered peace talks have been tumultuous.
Yemen's Houthi rebels said July 4 that they are in discussions with the United Nations about a humanitarian pause to fighting until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The cessation of fighting would allow deliveries of much-needed humanitarian aid in the embattled country. On July 2, the U.S. State Department called for a humanitarian pause to the conflict to allow aid groups to deliver food, fuel and medicine.
A U.S. drone strike killed four suspected Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants in southeast Yemen. The attack targeted a camp in militant-controlled Mukalla.
Negotiations between the major belligerents in the Yemen conflict have officially ended in Geneva. Representatives from the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi, Houthi militias and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh parted ways with little to show for their time. The failure to reach an agreement was expected, given the unwillingness of any side to accept compromise in any form.
As a result, fighting continues throughout Yemen. The overall situation on the ground has continued to shift by small increments, but no significant gains have materialized on either side of the conflict, despite the best efforts of the Saudi-led air campaign, which continues at full strength.
Houthi fighters and former military personnel loyal to Saleh have exerted direct pressure on Saudi Arabia by carrying out cross-border raids, a major concern for Riyadh at a time when it needs to foster public support for military operations in Yemen. Several military positions in the Saudi provinces of Jazan and Najran were targeted over the weekend. In one particular attack near Abu Arradeef in Jazan province, Saleh loyalists managed to take control of a Saudi military base after a sustained bombardment from multiple launch rocket systems.
In Yemen, the Southern Resistance remains effective against Houthi forces in the city of Taiz, though the anti-Houthi group's most notable successes since the end of last week occurred north of Aden. After weeks of consistent but limited gains on the northern outskirts of Aden, Southern Resistance fighters finally reached the suburbs of Lahj, which are still under Houthi control. Lahj is the main Houthi anchor position between the port city of Aden itself and the Southern Resistance-controlled al-Anad air base to the north of it.
With the onset of Ramadan, Southern Resistance fighters revealed their intent to consolidate the liberation of Ad Dali and Aden governorates by the feast of Eid, which occurs at the end of the traditional Muslim period of fasting. Beyond wanting to secure its immediate gains, the Southern Resistance may have a more pressing motive. The group is allegedly receiving more Yemeni personnel with valuable foreign training to assist it in its attempts to recapture Aden. However, claims that the Southern Resistance is facing difficulties in paying its fighters casts some doubt over its ability to maintain its offensive operations.
A vehicle bomb detonated at Sanaa's Qubbat al-Mahdi mosque in the Old Town area of the city June 20, killing three and injuring an unspecified number of others. Islamic State bombed Houthi rebel political headquarters and two mosques June 17. Peace talks between the Houthis and representatives of President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi ended without a deal June 19.
Analysis: The Islamic State launched multiple suicide bombings in Sanaa aimed at Houthi rebels' political headquarters and two mosques June 17, the eve of Ramadan. According to the Yemeni Health Ministry, the attacks killed at least four people and wounded at least 50 more.
It was the Islamic State's fourth attack against mosques in Sanaa. The first and most deadly occurred March 20, when suicide bombers killed over 140 people in the bombing of two mosques during midday Friday prayers. Because al Qaeda has eschewed assaults on places of worship, the attack was unexpected and Islamic State suicide bombers were able to easily sneak into the mosques. Read the full analysis: The Islamic State's Pretense of Strength in Yemen.
A fistfight erupted on the sidelines of U.N.-mediated peace talks between Yemen's warring factions in Geneva. Yemeni opponents of the Houthi rebels that drove the government out of Sanaa interrupted a news conference held by Houthi officials, throwing shoes and shouting insults at them. Fights then broke out between Houthis and protesters, who were escorted out. Participants in the negotiations, scheduled to wrap up either June 19 or June 20, have reported little progress in the talks. Hamza al-Houthi, head of the Houthi delegation, stayed composed during the confusion.
In the battle for Yemen, forces opposed to the Houthi rebels appear to have the upper hand, at least for now. Indeed, over the past week, anti-Houthi fighters have made consistent, albeit limited, territorial gains against the rebels and against forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
In Aden, anti-Houthi forces expanded their territory in the northern and western outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, they have taken ground in the fight near the airport in Aden. In Dali province, the general appointed by President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi to lead the contingent of the 33rd Brigade that is still loyal to the government (most of it is not) has refilled his ranks by gathering former military officers. He has also recruited Southern Resistance fighters, who also oppose the Houthis and who have claimed some recent success of their own in Dali. Elsewhere, the counteroffensive against the Houthis in Marib city has proved effective, and the rebels' attempts to enter the city appear unrealistic.
All these gains were made in no small part because of the Saudi-led air campaign, which has degraded the capabilities of the Houthis and Saleh loyalists. But that air campaign is becoming more controversial as it causes more collateral damage. In fact, the campaign came under fire after it destroyed parts of the old city in the center of Aden — a protected World Heritage site. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has been unable to quell Houthi activity along its border with Yemen — attacks against military outposts and shelling into Saudi territory continue unabated.
Delegations from the different sides of the conflict have arrived in Geneva to discuss the conflict. The official talks begin June 14, but preliminary talks involving a smaller number of delegates will begin June 12. But because the Hadi delegation continues to insist on a Security Council resolution — something that would require the unconditional disarmament and withdrawal of Houthi forces — the talks will probably not bear much fruit.
The tide of battle in Yemen appears to be turning in favor of the anti-Houthi movement. After a long period of stagnation, Houthi elements and supporters of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh are being gradually pushed back from a number of active frontlines. Though gains are taking time to materialize, progress is being made in places such as Marib, Taiz and Dali. Anti-Houthi forces pushed beyond the city limits of Dali proper, advancing in the direction of Ibb. This is problematic for Saleh, who was compelled to move fighters from Ibb to the city of Taiz, which remains split between Houthi forces and those opposing them.
The alleged success of anti-Houthi forces in Marib is notable because the Houthis had claimed to be diverting efforts to the eastern fronts, following offers of support from sympathetic tribesmen and after becoming gridlocked in the south. In Aden, Houthi offensives have been continually blunted against the opposition, which managed to recapture terrain on the outskirts of the city. In the Aden peninsula, centralized Houthi forces are maintaining their blockade on anti-Houthi fighters located in the Western point of the peninsula, allegedly by using artillery fire to turn away ships laden with much-needed supplies. Meanwhile, Saudi-led coalition aircraft have continued to pound Houthi positions from the air, focusing heavily on the vulnerable border areas.
On the diplomatic front, a new date for the planned Geneva talks was established June 1. Rather than negotiating a new political settlement, however, the Geneva talks scheduled for June 10-14 are being framed as an opportunity to discuss the implementation of an existing U.N. Security Council ruling. It is believed that 14 delegates from the various sides of the conflict will be present. Unlike previous negotiations, which ended up being postponed, ousted Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi and his Cabinet have already said they are ready to support the talks.
A humanitarian cease-fire began at midnight in Yemen, initially for five days but with the option of being extended. The call for a cessation of hostilities is the result of a confluence of factors that could edge the Saudi-supported anti-Houthi movement and the Houthis toward the negotiation table. Leading up to the cease-fire, the Saudi-led air campaign has maintained its punishing intensity, but it has not been able to overcome the gridlock on the ground. Riyadh also deployed additional ground forces to the border town of Najran to protect against Houthi cross-border incursions in the wake of last week's indirect fire attacks.
The air campaign has not been without its hazards. A Moroccan F-16 Fighting Falcon flying as part of the Saudi-led coalition crashed over Yemen on May 11. Initial reports said contact with the aircraft was lost after an unknown projectile hit it. Houthi fighters claimed to have shot it down, but there has been no confirmation of the exact cause of the crash. Imagery from the crash site shows no clear marks from enemy ground fire. On closer examination, however, the nature of the debris field indicates that the aircraft broke up in flight before plummeting to the ground. The Moroccan pilot failed to eject before the crash and recent pictures show his body among the wreckage. It is only the second documented case of a coalition aircraft crashing during Saudi-led air operations.
The first incident involved a Saudi F-15 that went down over the Red Sea in March, requiring the deployment of a U.S. Navy search and rescue helicopter to recover the two pilots. Losses are to be expected in this type of conflict, especially with the high tempo of sorties the Saudi-led coalition is maintaining.
The Battle for Aden
In Aden, Houthi forces made gains throughout the peninsula, despite being mostly dislocated from their immediate supply lines. As well as pushing deeper into Tawahi, the Houthis took full control of the Crater district. Just north of the Aden Peninsula, anti-Houthi forces seized control of the Dar Saad district, which further improves their position as well as their ability to lock Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces in the isolated peninsula. Intense fighting continues in and around Aden airport and it is unclear which side holds the terminal. Because of its location at the natural choke point before the peninsula widens, the airport is key terrain. Holding it enables the Southern Resistance fighters to isolate all the Houthi and Saleh fighters deeper in the peninsula, regardless of the territorial gains made in the Tawahi and Crater districts.
May 9 - Saudis and Houthis Reach a Decision Point in Yemen
Following several days of attacks by Houthi forces on towns just across the Saudi border, Riyadh has offered Yemen's Houthi fighters a humanitarian cease-fire. At the same time, rumors of a potential limited ground incursion into Yemen are growing louder. The Houthis have forced the Saudis to make a decision. With the option of either sitting down at the negotiating table under a cease-fire or being drawn into a ground incursion inside Yemen, Riyadh will have to carefully evaluate its strength and the risks involved in either situation.
While military operations in Yemen have significantly constrained the movement of the Houthis and their allies; the air campaign has not yet been able to reverse their earlier gains; and the threat along the Saudi border has not been eliminated. A humanitarian cease-fire lasting at least five days, allegedly to begin on May 12, leading to a negotiated settlement would offer Saudi military decision-makers both short-term results and a more sustainable long-term stability.
April 30-May 5
Ground fighting continues in Taiz, Lawder, Lahj, Dali and Marib between Houthis and elements aligned with former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on the one hand and anti-Houthi forces on the other. Although no significant gains have been made by either side, the Saudi-led air campaign has limited the ability of the Houthis to project power across the country.
The battle for Aden is ongoing, with the heaviest fighting focused near the airport, which anti-Houthi fighters allegedly still control. Coalition aircraft have been pounding Aden heavily, dropping ordnance on Houthi and Saleh positions in the Maala port district, around the airport and in the northern Dar Saad district of the city. Over the weekend, anti-Houthi fighters in Aden received a much-needed uplift in manpower. If observers on the ground were correct, these reinforcements reportedly came from the United Arab Emirates and are soldiers of Yemeni descent. The new troops were involved in fighting adjacent to the airport, likely in an attempt to exploit the recent gains made by the Southern Movement militia.
Although there is no hard evidence that Saudi or UAE special operations forces are accompanying the new fighters, it is probable that coalition specialists are present in Aden in some form, helping organize anti-Houthi forces as well as coordinating air assets. The deployment of reinforcements to Aden illustrates the Saudi intent to directly influence ground operations. The air campaign is doing a good job of interdicting the movement of Houthi and Saleh forces, and increased cooperation between local resistance groups and periodic uplifts in combatants will be instrumental in staging further counteroffensives. Houthi forces have made some gains, however, mainly around the port district, but the loss of the airport imposes a huge barrier to their attempts to take control of Aden.
On Yemen's northern border, Houthi fighters conducted several more incursions into Saudi Arabia. Saudi forces have allegedly been forced to abandon several border posts, and in the city of Najran, flights to the airport were suspended and schools closed because of shelling by Houthi mortars and rocket artillery. These incursions into Saudi Arabia by the Houthis are not isolated, but it is the first time a population center has been directly targeted. Riyadh will continue to have problems closing down its porous border with Yemen, but Houthi fighters are likely to remain a threat only in the immediate vicinity of the border, lacking the ability to conduct deep cross-border operations.
The battle for Aden is becoming increasingly desperate for the remaining Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces on the peninsula. In a bold move, opposition fighters from the ardently anti-Houthi Youth Resistance made a significant push from the Mansoura district of Aden toward the airport. Houthi and Saleh fighters are now completely cut off from their supply lines, though they still control the Badr Air Force Camp south of the airport, along with the control tower and surrounding buildings. Despite losing ground to the north, however, the Houthis were able to recover territory along the eastern coastline of the Aden Peninsula, including the disputed seaport. They were also able to take and hold the Russian consulate, a key defensive node.
Buoyed by success, the Youth Resistance is calling for all able-bodied fighters to flock to the front line. Because of the rapid gains made against them, Houthi and Saleh forces in Aden city have now become trapped between the Khormaksar, Maala and Crater districts. It is a position that will be difficult to maintain, so long as they are wedged between the offensive coming from the north, and the anti-Houthi contingent in the Tawahi and Crater districts that continue to hold their ground. If the Houthis are unable to receive supplies or reinforcements soon, the battle for Aden may well be in its final stages. The sustained interdiction of Houthi supplies and reinforcements, resulting from previous successful offensives near Lawder, Lahj and Taiz, has given the anti-Houthi forces a tactical advantage on the ground.
Elsewhere in Yemen
Fighting in Taiz governorate continues, though interruptions have periodically occurred as a result of local humanitarian cease-fires. The Saudi-led coalition parachute-dropped supplies and weapons to resistance fighters opposing Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces in and around Taiz city.
In Abyan governorate, anti-Houthi forces continue to make substantial gains near Lawder. The coalition air campaign is showing no signs of abating, causing attrition to Houthi and Saleh targets around Sanaa, as well as in Marib, Aden and other locations around Yemen.
Despite the transition from Operation Decisive Storm to Operation Restoring Hope, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes continue with no reduction in intensity, targeting Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces across Yemen.
Fighting endures in Taiz and Lahj governorates as well as along other main supply routes and logistic corridors. In the ongoing battle near Lawder, abutting the northeastern Houthi supply lines into Aden, Southern Movement fighters have been making significant gains. They have established control over key locations and severely damaged a Houthi convoy attempting to move through the area.
By blocking essential supplies, the fight for Aden has turned into a mutual starvation war of sorts. Houthi and Saleh forces inside Aden are isolating pro-Hadi and other anti-Houthi fighters in several districts at the bottom of the peninsula, while Southern Movement fighters that have fought their way into Aden from the north are isolating those Houthi and Saleh forces by complicating their resupply and reinforcements. The Houthi and Saleh forces have in turn taken control of the banking sectors in the governorates surrounding Aden and are preventing the local population from accessing essential funds and salaries.
Inside the city of Aden itself, Houthi and Saleh forces have been trying to hit back against the Southern Movement offensive from the north, which occurred last week. They have taken positions at the University of Aden and the hospital (both in Khormaksar district) and have been engaged in heavy fighting with Southern Movement fighters there. Coalition aircraft and ships also continue to strike Houthi and Saleh positions in Aden.
Just north of the Aden Peninsula, Houthi forces have pushed west, trying to recover key terrain they lost earlier to local militias, exposing them to the risk of being cut off from their supply lines from the north.
In an effort to prevent aid getting through to Houthi and Saleh elements elsewhere in Aden, Saudi aircraft bombed Sanaa International Airport, preventing an Iranian cargo aircraft from touching down. It was believed that the aircraft contained aid for the Houthis, but could also have contained weapons or military equipment. Sanaa airport remains closed to air traffic. Bombing the runway was a creative solution to preventing Iran from landing supplies — without shooting down the plane — but it also means than any other humanitarian flights will no longer be able to use the airport as long as it is closed, or Saudis prevent aircraft from landing.
A Saudi military spokesman said the Iranian aircraft did not coordinate with coalition authorities and the pilot ignored a warning advising him to turn back. The denial of supplies fits into the larger picture of preventing Iranian-facilitated logistic support from reaching Houthi and Saleh fighters. A convoy of Iranian cargo ships, allegedly carrying weapons, was diverted April 23, following multiple statements saying that they would not be allowed to dock in Yemen. The United States even diverted an aircraft carrier from the Persian Gulf to track the convoy. As well as Saudi and Egyptian vessels, there is a sizable U.S. Navy presence in the Gulf of Aden.
A shift occurred in the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen; interpreted by some as a cessation of hostilities, or an end to the Saudi-led air campaign. In reality the change is much more nuanced and indicative of Riyadh's broader strategy. The interplay of consecutive operations in a military campaign and the efforts to achieve a negotiated solution to the crisis are driving a change in focus, not an actual end to military operations.
Read the full analysis: The State of Play in Yemen
Iran dispatched a naval convoy of freighters to international waters near the border of Oman and Yemen, raising new fears of a potential confrontation in the region. The convoy, last reported to be stationary, is assumed to be a possible attempt to support Houthi fighters and forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. It comes in spite of a blockade implemented by Saudi, Egyptian and UAE ships. U.S. officials, as well as the Saudi-led coalition, suspect that the convoy contains arms. Consequently, the United States has rushed an aircraft carrier and a guided missile cruiser to the area. Overall, Iran has a weak military hand to play in Yemen. Deploying the convoy there may be more about shaping a political narrative than achieving a military objective on the ground.
Read the full analysis: Iranian Naval Presence Raises the Odds of Confrontation
In an effort to support the offensive to capture Aden, Houthi militias and forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh have fought hard to maintain supply lines to the southern port. This has been no easy task, with the opposition continually interdicting and harassing vulnerable logistic chains. Over the weekend, the anti-Houthi Southern Movement succeeded in isolating Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces in Aden, making a push to the west of the city and taking ground adjacent to the Imran port area, cutting off several supply routes.
Not only does this — combined with the other operations in Lahj and Lawder — leave Houthi and Saleh forces stranded in Aden with finite supplies of ammunition and fighters, but it also cuts off their withdrawal route. Further compounding the Houthi position, Southern Movement fighters located at Lahj and al-Anad air base made a bold push south, handrailing the eastern coastline of the peninsula. Maintaining their momentum, they succeeded in taking control of Aden International Airport and the Russian Consulate, effectively insinuating themselves in the Houthi rear. The Houthis and Saleh-aligned forces remaining in Aden attempted to retake the ground lost over the weekend but with no success. Reports indicate the Southern Movement militia consolidated in the Russian Consulate and is continuing to push further south.
Though fighting continues along static lines in the Maala and Crater districts of Aden, the opening up of a second front is a serious diversion for Houthi and Saleh fighters. Committed in both directions, facing an aggressive enemy with ready access to fresh manpower and supplies, the Houthis run a considerable risk of becoming fully encircled in the geographically isolated Aden Peninsula. If the Southern Movement continues to push home its advantage, the battle for Aden could take a rapid turn in favor of the anti-Houthi militias.
A victory in Aden would not only boost morale among the populist militias, but it would also provide a staging post from where the anti-Houthi Southern Movement, backed by several military units still loyal to beleaguered President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi, could expand. Previously committed forces would be freed up to reorient toward Lahj, Lawder and potentially further afield in places such as Taiz province, where anti-Houthi forces have already made gains. By focusing outward, the Southern Movement can open up new offensives, support existing ones, or expand captured areas. Besides securing the fallback refuge of Hadi — currently residing in Riyadh — holding Aden provides the anti-Houthi forces with a bridgehead that could be used to receive supplies or even reinforcements from the Saudi-led coalition.
Outside of Aden
In another turn of events, the U.S. Navy carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is steaming toward the coast of Yemen, reportedly to assist in the operation to interdict Iranian supply shipments to the Houthis. The carrier, which replaced the USS Carl Vinson on April 17, was intended to support coalition operations against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The very fact that the carrier is being reassigned is a good indication of Washington's priorities in the Persian Gulf. The USS Theodore Roosevelt will join the amphibious readiness group already operating off Yemen's coast, led by the USS Iwo Jima.
Also of note, a huge explosion occurred in the Fajj Attan hill district of Sanaa on April 20, following a Saudi airstrike on a Republican Guard military base. The detonation was reportedly so large that blast damage was recorded well over a kilometer away. Scores of buildings were severely damaged, and a Yemeni official from the Health Ministry reported 25 fatalities and over 350 wounded as a result of the explosion, many injured by falling glass. Several foreign embassies were also damaged.
The Republican Guard base was occupied by troops loyal to Saleh and had been hit repeatedly following the commencement of Saudi coalition airstrikes. It appears that the target of the April 20 airstrike was a Scud missile storage depot. Examining footage of the strike, it appears that the outsize explosion may have resulted from a direct hit on the fuel storage facilities. Scuds are liquid-fueled missiles, and the fireball and black smoke immediately after detonation are consistent with petroleum tanks igniting. It is not known how many Republican Guard personnel were killed, but gauging from the number of civilian casualties, the death toll inside the base must have been heavy. If usable Scud warheads remain at the Fajj Attan location, the base will likely receive further airstrikes. At present the location of Saleh is unknown, but the assumption is that he is orchestrating his forces from a well-defended bunker.
The Saudi-led air campaign is continuing at a high tempo, but the target set is shifting from high-grade targets to objectives with a lower payoff. This is partially thanks to the successful targeting of large-scale weapons depots and specific materiel. With the majority of high-value targets engaged, bombs are starting to fall on opportunity targets. The airstrikes are also becoming more discriminating through necessity; with their mobility reduced, Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh are embedding themselves in population centers. The Houthis are also exploiting Yemen's difficult mountain terrain to avoid airstrikes. The constant threat of close air support — and its particular effectiveness on ground columns, massed vehicles and personnel — has slowed Houthi ground offensives on the whole, while keeping anti-Houthi forces in the game.
As an additional boost to the forces opposing the Houthi and Saleh onslaught, large numbers of previously neutral military units have, in the past few days, confirmed their allegiance to embattled President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi. The perceived success of the air campaign, coupled with the fact that to do nothing is to eventually become a target, either from the air or on the ground, are likely explanations. Notably, even a number of previously pro-Saleh units have come out in recognition of Hadi's right to rule, pledging their allegiance in the process.
Capitalizing on Chaos
Taking advantage of the tumultuous situation in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been pressing its advantage, consolidating control in the coastal region of Mukalla. Al Qaeda fighters successfully took control of the Mukalla seaport, Riyan air base and the al-Dhaba oil export terminal on April 16. Riyan air base was home to both the 27th Infantry Brigade and the 190th Air Defense Brigade, both loyal to Hadi. The brigades initially refused to hand control of the facility to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but after brief clashes the military units withdrew. Not only does al Qaeda control the air base, it allegedly has access to the remaining air defense equipment not removed or disabled.
The two military groups were in a difficult position to begin with. By opposing the Houthi and Saleh militias, the pro-Hadi forces found themselves inadvertently aligned with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is vehemently anti-Houthi and supports combat operations against them. This tension was likely a driving factor in the withdrawal of the military; an engagement with al Qaeda would have been detrimental to both, diluting combat power at a time when the Houthis present the biggest threat.
To some extent, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula already controlled Mukalla, Riyan, Ghayl Ba Wazir and Ash Shihr. The significance of the group's April 16 move is in the consolidation of control over the area, as a result of taking direct ownership of critical infrastructure. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is actively blunting the Houthi offensives. A good example of this is the sustained vehicle-borne improvised explosive device campaign against Houthis in the Lawder area over recent days. Despite its anti-Houthi stance, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is gladly using the situation in Yemen to expand its actual control in different parts of country, where no one is capable or willing to oppose it.
Yemen's Contested Battlespace
The situation in the southern port city of Aden remains largely the same. Houthi and anti-Houthi forces continue to fight for key terrain, though the Houthis have the advantage of holding the high ground, occupying positions in the mountains around Aden as well as the Crater district. They are using these elevated fire positions to good effect, engaging the anti-Houthi forces in the city with sniper and harassing fire. Nevertheless, anti-Houthi fighters managed to clear some of the Houthi positions on the Crater slopes, but the high ground is heavily contested.
Northwest of Aden, the battle for Taiz continues in the mountainous province. The pro-Hadi 35th Armored Brigade narrowly escaped encirclement by Saleh loyalists, mainly thanks to the efforts of rural militias. These militias are fighting in support of the 35th in opposition to Houthi and pro-Saleh forces.
The offensive by Saleh forces in Dali, 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Aden, has effectively been halted. The fighting has further diminished the pro-Saleh 33rd Armored Brigade, which was already depleted by Saudi airstrikes earlier in the campaign.
Near the city of Marib, 120 kilometers east of Sanaa, the Houthis continue to push from the west. The fighting has yet to reach the city, however, because tribal militias are throwing everything against the Houthis in an effort to stop their advance, sustaining heavy casualties in the process. Given the intensity of the close combat, it is uncertain how long the militias will be able to hold out.
The conflict in Yemen shows no sign of abating. Intense fighting continued throughout the weekend, and now, a number of distinct battlefronts have emerged. Houthi militants and forces aligned with Yemen's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, are fighting for control of a number of key localities in the south of the country. At the same time, they are expanding east into Yemen's oil-rich territories, which brings Houthi and Saleh forces into direct conflict with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as well as other opposing forces.
In the mountainous province of Taiz, the 35th Armored Brigade, a unit that swore loyalty to Yemen's incumbent president Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi, is assaulting the 22nd Armored Brigade, which is loyal to Saleh. The pro-Hadi formation is greatly supported by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, and heavy fighting is taking place across the undulating, close terrain of Taiz. In Ad Dali province, tribal fighters are heavily engaging Houthi militias in the town of the same name, and reports from the ground indicate that the tribes are inflicting significant casualties on their opponents. Elements of the Saleh-aligned 33rd Armored Brigade have repositioned to assist, having suffered heavy attrition from the Saudi air campaign in Bayhan district.
Houthi and Saleh reinforcements from Ibb are moving through Taiz toward Aden, potentially to fight anti-Houthi forces around Lahj and al-Anad air base on the way to the port city. The anti-Houthi forces have successfully interdicted Houthi supply lines to the south and have isolated the remaining Houthi and Saleh forces in Aden, severely threatening the offensive. Despite this, the fight for Aden's port remains fierce, particularly around the Hadjiv traffic circle. The Saudi-led air campaign, supported by naval artillery fire, continues to strike Houthi and Saleh positions throughout the city, including the presidential palace. Immediately northwest of Aden, in Sheikh Othman, anti-Houthi militias and forces loyal to Hadi continue to attack.
Aside from the fight for control over Aden, separate offensives are ongoing in the east of the country, where the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula heartland and Yemen's main oil infrastructure are located. Remaining military units have been preparing themselves to face the Houthi advance, including the 2nd Naval Infantry Brigade following its declaration of loyalty to Hadi. The brigade is cooperating with local tribes to set up the defense of the town of Belhaf and its liquefied natural gas facility operated by Total. In addition, local tribes in Hadramawt province have stated their intention to raise an army of 20,000 fighters to oppose the Houthi movement. So far, the Houthis have been able to make significant advances in the east. They captured the capital of the Shabwa governorate, Ataq, last week and are beginning to push into the town of Marib. The Saudi-led coalition has targeted them at both locations to disrupt their advance.
Finally, to the north, the Houthis conducted another border incursion into Saudi Arabia over the weekend. The move comes at a time when Riyadh is actively trying to clear civilians from villages along its southern border. Conventional Saudi ground forces have yet to penetrate south, but Egypt reportedly deployed troops to Perim, and island in the Bab el-Mandeb strait, to conduct a battle damage assessment following airstrikes against Houthi forces.
Fighting across the Aden Peninsula has stagnated in recent days but remains focused on the Maala and Crater districts. Reports indicate that the tide is turning against Houthi militants and forces loyal to Yemen's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. In Sheikh Uthman, a satellite city that is effectively a northern suburb of Aden, anti-Houthi forces and elements of a brigade still loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi are threatening to cut off opposing forces inside Aden.
Elsewhere in Yemen, anti-Houthi forces continue to disrupt the supply lines of Houthi and pro-Saleh militias north of Aden. By holding al-Anad air base and interdicting the flow of arms and personnel in Lawder province, anti-Houthi forces have impacted the success of the offensive against Aden.
In Shabwah province, however, the Houthi offensive is proceeding largely as planned, with the town of Ataq falling to the militants. Although resistance was reportedly scant, the success of the offensive was in no small part thanks to the presence of the 21st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, a formation based in the area that aligned with the Houthi and Saleh movement when Ataq came under pressure.
Al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula has already begun a guerrilla campaign against Houthi and Saleh forces near Ataq, using at least one vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in what is likely to be a campaign of continued resistance. In Ibb province, located halfway between Sanaa and Aden, al Qaeda fighters have been taking over positions previously abandoned by Houthi forces.
Heavy fighting continues to define the battle for Aden. Coalition airstrikes and naval gunfire from Saudi and Egyptian vessels have persistently engaged Houthi and Saleh-held areas of the city. The frontline has not shifted significantly and fighting remains focused predominantly on the edges of the Maala port locality and the Crater district. In a blow to the Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces in Aden, however, essential supply lines linking the city with other concentrations of fighters and resources have been effectively severed.
Further north, anti-Houthi militias are fighting to keep control of the al-Anad air base (which they captured April 6), heavily buoyed by Saudi close air support. Besides attempting to take the air base back, the Houthis are trying to re-establish control of the road linking Aden to Taiz, but so far they have not been able to do so. To the east, units of the 111th Infantry Brigade, which remains loyal to President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi and was originally stationed in Ahwar, are closing down the town of Lawder, blocking nearby roads. Troops from the Saleh-aligned 15th and 117th infantry brigades are fighting resistance battles around Lawder district itself, attempting to reconnect with Houthi and Saleh forces in Aden.
While the Saleh-aligned units in Lawder are reportedly still receiving supplies from Bayda to the northwest, if Houthi forces and their affiliates in Aden are separated from their supply lines for an extended period of time, it could damage their ability to continue the Aden offensive. Being logistically isolated will also dampen their resistance to smaller counteroffensives by tribal militias and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters in other locations across what is an increasingly disconnected pocket.
Elsewhere, however, Houthi forces continue to advance where they can. They are moving on the town of Ataq, capital of the Shabwa region, and could push even further east into the areas of Yemen where critical energy facilities are located. The presence of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in these locations could yet slow this advance, however.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is exploiting the divisions within Yemen for its own ends, extending its reach across the country. Most recently, the terrorist organization took control of a border post near Manwakh, on the Saudi border. The group has also been active near Lawder, but rather than showing loyalty to forces aligned with Yemen's erstwhile president, their main interest is in combating Houthi influence in the region. This has resulted in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula coming into conflict with local anti-Houthi militias, and at Mukalla, tribal fighters are still attempting to mount an offensive to push al Qaeda out of the area.
Over the weekend, Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces recovered ground they were forced to abandon April 3 under pressure from Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. Aside from retaking the presidential palace in the southeast corner of the peninsula, militants also occupied positions on Mount Shamsan overlooking Aden's Crater district, an area that remains strongly contested. On the northern edge of the Aden peninsula, Houthi fighters are pushing hard into the Maala district, where the seaport is located. Although the strategic port remains disputed for now, the security situation is rapidly deteriorating.
On April 4, gunfire from the shore forced a pair of rigid inflatable boats operated by the French navy to turn away from their approach. The French government was attempting the evacuation of 44 civilians of various nationalities from Aden but was forced to enlist the help of the self-proclaimed Yemeni coast guard to shuttle the civilians to ships waiting in open water. Successful evacuation attempts had been carried out days earlier, but as the French effort on April 4 proved, negotiating the port is increasingly treacherous. This creates a problem for fighters opposing the Houthi and pro-Saleh forces in Aden because resupply by sea is now increasingly difficult. Although some supplies were delivered by guided parachute last week, urban fighting is notoriously ammunition-intensive.
Besides placing a burden on logistics and making the extraction of personnel increasingly hazardous, a contested port means that there is now an increased risk to any forces seeking to dock and disembark troops to help secure the peninsula. Though the Houthis and Saleh-aligned militants have made gains, including taking control of al-Ummal island, the forces opposing them continue to put up strong resistance, backed by close air support and supply drops from the air. So far, they have not suffered a defeat that they cannot recover from.
To the north of Aden, tribal militias opposing Houthi fighters are staging a number of different offensives. At least some o
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