The fate of Yemen is up in the air after Houthi rebels held Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi a virtual prisoner in his home before he and the rest of his pro-western government resigned. Many are also wondering how the United States will battle against AQAP, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula, inside Yemen.
The Houthis are a Shia militant group based in the northwestern providences of Yemen who emerged from other groups in the 1990s and early 2000s and took their name from their leader Hussein al-Houthi — who was killed by government forces in 2004. His brother now leads the group. Over the years there have been periods of fighting and ceasefires between the Houthis and the Yemen government.
Houthis are part of a branch of Shia Islam that is seen as being somewhat closer to Sunni Islam than most Shiites. So there’s certainly a sectarian component but the conflict is also about claims of government corruption, elitism and incompetence.
Iran has been accused of backing the Houthis but it’s not clear if that is the case or to what degree Iran is involved. The government in Sana has been cooperative with U.S. anti-terror efforts against AQAP, which mostly had been fought by drone strikes. The Houthis also oppose AQAP, but are against U.S. involvement in the country.
The Heat spoke with CCTV America’s Jim Spellman about the latest.
On Monday the U.S. launched the first drone strike against AQAP since the resignation of President Hadi and his government. The strike killed three men the U.S. said were al-Qaida operatives. AQAP are a top priority for U.S. counterterrorism efforts, especially after the terror attacks in France a few weeks ago, which were linked to the al-Qaida offshoot. Speaking in India, President Obama said the U.S. will continue to go after targets inside Yemen — so it doesn’t appear the drone strikes will stop regardless of who ends up leading Yemen.
The Heat interviewed Paolo Lembo, United Nations resident coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Yemen, about the future of the country.
The Heat also spoke to a panel of experts about the future of Yemen:
* Abubakr al-Shamahi, a journalist with al-Araby al-Jadeed English who covers Yemen.
* Stephen Seche, a senior analyst at global law firm Dentons, and the former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen from 2007-2010.