Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s interim President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi called on the Yemeni military to cooperate with the Ansar Allah group during a meeting on Monday, marking a major shift in his attitude towards the powerful Shi’ite movement, also known as the Houthis, which has taken control of large parts of the country.
Hadi, who also serves as commander-in-chief of the Yemeni Armed Forces, said that achieving a “national partnership” with the Houthis was a necessary step to maintain security and stability.
“Ansar Allah are today’s partners and we must work to normalize the situation,” Hadi told a meeting attended by the country’s top military leaders, including the newly appointed Minister of Defense Mahmoud Al-Subaihi. He described partnering with Houthis as “a necessary and urgent” step to ensuring Yemen remains united.
Some observers said the timing of Hadi’s comments were significant, coming only two days after the Emirati government added the Houthis to Abu Dhabi’s list of terrorist groups.
Composed largely of Zaydi Shi’ite fighters loyal to Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, the movement stormed key government and military buildings in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in mid-September after months of protests against what they described as marginalization by Hadi’s Sunni-majority government. Since then, the movement’s fighters have moved from its stronghold in the north towards central and southern parts of the country.
At the same time, Hadi urged the Houthis to halt their expansion to avoid bloodshed and the prospects of a sectarian strife breaking out in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.
The interim president also requested international donors “fulfill their pledges to help Yemen,” maintaining that his country is facing “tough economic conditions.”
He also called on the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states to invest in Yemen, maintaining that “the course of development is in a safe position now.”
In a separate meeting with ministry officials and chiefs of staff on Monday, Minister of Defense Subaihi vowed to “take all necessary steps to restore the prestige of the armed forces and [the level of] its combat-readiness.”
Subaihi explained that his ministry was set to “introduce a new package of reforms and measures aimed at addressing imbalances and negligence suffered by the armed forces.”
Meanwhile, in another example of the violent factionalism and unrest that continue to dog the country, fighting flared on Monday between army units and tribal gunmen over tractor units loaded with oil derivatives in the eastern Ma’rib governorate.
The clashes broke out in the Erkin area after a gang of bandits seized truckloads of gasoline on their way to Sana’a, local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. One civilian was injured as tongues of flames were seen rising from the burned-out vehicles.
Ma’rib provides more than 10 of Yemen’s governorates with oil and electricity, and armed gangs often resort to holding oil deliveries to ransom in order to secure financial and political concessions.