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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #50 on: August 09, 2013, 10:50:03 AM »

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/08/06/how_we_lost_yemen_al_qaeda
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DougMacG
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« 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.
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http://www.hughhewitt.com/the-snake-den-a-primer-on-yemen-by-john-ford/
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
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Crafty_Dog
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« 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.


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Crafty_Dog
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« 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.

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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.
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Crafty_Dog
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« 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.
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Crafty_Dog
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« 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 »
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/10/world/middleeast/us-officers-kill-armed-civilians-in-yemen-capital.html?emc=edit_na_20140509

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #56 on: June 02, 2014, 04:47:31 AM »

http://www.funker530.com/al-qaeda-wipes-out-rival-militant-encampment-hd/
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G M
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« Reply #57 on: June 02, 2014, 04:58:27 AM »


An obscure YouTube video must be to blame.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #58 on: July 30, 2014, 10:35:00 AM »


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In Yemen, a Rebel Advance Could Topple the Regime
Analysis
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)
Summary

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.
Analysis

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.

Conflict Zones
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Al-Houthi Advance

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

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #59 on: August 21, 2014, 11:45:48 PM »

http://allenbwest.com/2014/08/monster-grows-al-qaida-yemen-announces-support-isis/
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #60 on: August 23, 2014, 09:06:20 AM »

 Yemeni Rebels Maneuver the Government into Talks
Analysis
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)
Summary

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.
Analysis

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.

Conflict Zones
Click to Enlarge

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
Click to Enlarge

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
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #61 on: August 27, 2014, 10:49:59 AM »


Yemen's Divides Could Lead to Shiite Power Gains
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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.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #62 on: October 02, 2014, 06:01:36 PM »

 Zaidis Re-Emerge on Yemen's Political Scene
Analysis

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)

Summary

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.

Analysis

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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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #63 on: October 16, 2014, 03:55:30 PM »

 Yemen's al-Houthi Rebels Seize a Strategic Port

Analysis

October 16, 2014 | 0430
Armed supporters of the al-Houthi movement gather against al Qaeda militants on Aug. 17. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary

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.

Analysis

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.

Al-Hudaydah, 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.
Challenges Ahead

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.

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