Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Houthi movement is not moving to attack and seize the capital Sana’a, according to Yemeni presidential advisor Dr. Fares Saqqaf, who described any such attempt as “would-be suicide” in comments to Asharq Al-Awsat.
Members of the Yemeni Shi’ite Houthi movement have advanced towards Sana’a over the past couple of weeks, sparking fears of sectarian violence breaking out in the capital.
Yemen has mobilized its military, deploying troops around the capital after at least 40 people were killed in clashes between Houthis and Sunni tribesmen this week. At least four Yemeni soldiers were killed and five others injured on Thursday after Houthi rebels attacked a military convoy in the Hamdan area west of Sana’a, escalating the conflict.
Fares Saqqaf, an adviser to Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “This concern [about the Houthis] may seem exaggerated, but it also contains some truth because the events in Northern Yemen are moving closer to Sana’a following a media frenzy saying that the Houthis have plans to seize the capital.”
“I know that the Houthis will not attack the capital, Sana’a, as this would be suicide,” he said.
As for why the Houthis are marching on the capital, he said: “The Houthis want to present themselves politically, tipping the scales in their favor and imposing a fait accompli on the ground in light of the outputs of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference. They are seeking to obtain political gains in the new state institutes.”
He stressed that the Houthis attempting to seize power in Yemen would be “unacceptable domestically, regionally and internationally.”
Saqqaf added that the biggest question on the Yemeni political scene is: “Just what do the Houthis want?”
“This question is being asked on the domestic and regional scene, and has been asked by the Group of Ten Ambassadors and the UN special adviser on Jamal Benomar, particularly after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia designated the Houthis as a terrorist group,” he added.
The Group of Ten Ambassadors, representing the five permanent members of the Security Council, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Union, issued a statement on Friday expressing concern about the escalating violence involving the Shi’ite Houthi Movement.
“The Group of Ten Ambassadors is deeply concerned in particular by the violence in the North, which is now threatening to draw in yet more of the country as armed groups move towards the capital, Sana’a,” the joint statement said.
“We call on all parties involved in the ongoing violence throughout the country to work together with President Hadi to establish a meaningful political dialogue in order to resolve their differences. Such dialogue is a critical element in the political transition as set out in the GCC Initiative and Implementation Mechanism and is required if National Dialogue Conference conclusions are to be effectively implemented in a timely manner,” the statement added.