Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Yemen and the Huthi Game | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Oversimplification in dealing with the Huthi problem is what led to this becoming a larger Yemeni crisis that now threatens the ruling regime. Whether the Huthi rebels number in the hundreds or the tens of thousands – estimates are uncertain – they are capable of doubling the numbers of their supporters if they win important victories on the ground.

There are a series of questions that we cannot ignore, for example why do the Americans repeat their denials of the existence of a relationship between Tehran and the Huthis?

Is there a threat to Sanaa from the southern Yemeni [political] star [and former Vice President] Ali Salim al-Beidh, who is calling strongly for the division of the country?

Everybody can see that the US is putting a spin on the Huthi rebels, and one phrase is being repeated on the lips of every US official when this question is asked and that is “we have no evidence of Iran having any ties to the Huthi operations in Yemen” and sometimes they go further than this and say “the insurgency is an internal Yemeni problem.” In reality, if there is one side that knows of the Huthi ties [to Iran] it is the United States, and this is by virtue of its specialization in monitoring Iranian activity and the magnitude of their capabilities in the region. This either means that Washington believes that the Sanaa government is lying by sticking to their accusations that Iran is involved in order to incite western public opinion against the Huthis, or that Washington itself is lying and is truly ware of the depths of the Iranian involvement [with the Huthis] but does not wish to expand the scope of its conflict [with Iran]. I am inclined to believe the second interpretation because the relationship of the Huthi leadership with the Iranian regime is confirmed by accurate information, and this relationship is more than 10 years old.

If we assume that Washington knows [the truth] then why are they covering up for the Huthis?

In my opinion, the Americans are pursuing two policies; a silent policy to provide important logistical support and information to the Yemeni army against the Huthis, and a public policy to reject the accusations against the Huthis, avoiding openly supporting the [Yemeni] regime. This is a different tactic from the usual US policies when supporting its allies.

Perhaps the US is being the most intelligent this time by maintaining – even faintly – their relationship with the Huthis, and thereby not pushing the rebels to ally with Al Qaeda. However this relationship, however faint, will collapse because the rebels – by the nature of their ideological beliefs – are most likely to become involved in anti-American operations, and evidence of ties with Al Qaeda and Iran will also appear in the future, and so Washington will not be able to remain silent on this issue [in the long-tem]. When this happens this will be good news for Sanaa, as the Yemeni regime wants to incite the world against the Huthi rebels.

We cannot put an end to this talk about an existing problem even if it is not [publicly] acknowledged by the two allies, Washington and Sanaa. The Yemeni regime has been accused of exploiting crises for internal purposes, and was accused of turning a blind eye to the presence of Al Qaeda on its territory, forcing US troops to carry out [military] operations on Yemeni soil themselves. President Ali Saleh is accused of inciting the Yemeni public to criticize the Americans, and occasionally even maneuver against them. He is also accused – despite his conditional support of them – of abandoning his pledges for economic and political reform.

Today the opponents of the [Yemeni] regime have increased and they have allied against the President despite the fact that they have nothing in common with each other except for their desire to weaken or even cause the collapse of the regime. From here, the profile of Ali Salem al-Beidh has appeared to plague the regime. It is true that he has taken advantage of the chaotic state of affairs [in Yemen] in order to impose his presence, but the blame for this falls upon Sanaa who made no attempt to contain him when the President decided on reconciling and absorbing the southern [separatist] leaders who lost the war, for if al-Beidh had returned [from exile] at that time there would be no threat to the Yemeni regime. Today the situation has become complex and this requires re-opening the door to those [separatists] in the south that remain to return and participate [in politics] for this is the least damaging of the available option. President Saleh launched a new reconciliation initiative in parliament, but this does not include any courageous concessions that may result in the required momentum. I do not want to exaggerate the situation by saying that the regime in Sanaa is under siege, but it is facing serious challenges by three rebel military fronts, and opposition activity from abroad, as well as the US backing away from supporting the regime, and regional considerations that are greater than the considerations of Sanaa.