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Are the Huthis a Yemen or Saudi Problem? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Al-Qaeda organization was viewed in the beginning as a problem that concerned the Americans. Nine years ago when Osama Bin Laden and his sons started their activities in Africa and in the Arab region, many people insisted that Al-Qaeda was an American problem as was the Irish Republic Army to Britain, and so the Americans should themselves handle their problem with that organization. That view was grossly erroneous, because Al-Qaeda has caused great harm to most countries of the region and to other world countries, and it still poses great danger to the world up to this day.

The Huthist movement in north Yemen is a similar case in point. Most people who discuss this movement consider it a Yemeni problem or a thorn in Saudi Arabia’s side. It is indeed a thorn in Saudi Arabia’s side, and even more than that. The Huthists represent an extremist movement similar to Bin Laden’s. They use the same language as Bin Laden and uphold much of his ideology. The Huthists look beyond the Sa’dah mountains.

When I listened to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s speech a few days ago, I said to myself history repeats itself. President Saleh spoke of the Huthists as a movement instigated by Iran to strike Saudi Arabia. And he called on Iran not to use Yemeni territories to settle scores with Saudi Arabia. So even the man who knows so well the details of the current rebellion in north Yemen wants to believe that the Huthist movement is merely one that is instigated by Iran to disturb neighboring Saudi Arabia. While the Huthists may indeed represent a rebellious movement used by the Iranians, and earlier by Arab parties, to disturb Saudi Arabia as part of settling political scores, we are facing an extremist organization that is similar to Al-Qaeda and that has goals beyond Sa’dah and Riyadh.

I think that the Yemeni president is mistaken if he considers the Huthist movement as an Iranian tool being used to disturb Saudi Arabia, because the Huthists realize that their primary target is south toward Sanaa. Sanaa would be the easiest part of their war because, being followers of the Zaydi faith, they hope to win the sympathy of the Zaydi majority in the capital when the time comes to knock at its doors. In addition, it would be difficult for the Huthists to break through the Saudi border. Al-Qaeda had failed before to break through the Saudi border despite its success in recruiting a large number of Saudi youths and in focusing on an ideologically and politically suitable discourse to Saudi youths.

No one in the region believes that the Huthists are merely a Yemeni problem, because they represent a fundamentalist, extremist movement that looks beyond Yemeni border. If they succeed in Yemen, they will strike everywhere in the world. The Huthist ideology is fundamentalist, religious, takfiri [holds other Muslims s infidel] and is hostile to the status quo in the Arab region. The movement does not only target the Yemeni regime although that is what it says in its current discourse.

A chief part of Tehran’s policy is to employ and fund the extremist Sunni Al-Qaeda organization and the extremist Shiite groups in Iraq. And Tehran now supports the Zaydi Huthist movement in Yemen. By pursuing this policy, Iran gives justification to [regional countries] to support all Iranian opposition movements. However, none of the regional countries have so far resorted to such a course because they believe that setting up terrorist movements would serve no one, and would in most cases backfire. In fact, the Huthist movement in Yemen has quickly generated great sympathy with Yemeni President Saleh’s regime, which everyone in the region has discovered that this regime is at present a necessity.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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