20.02.2015 Author: Viktor Titov

The Houthis in Yemen have Taken Power into their Own Hands

377475Houthis confidently continue strengthening their positions in Yemen. On February 6, they adopted a constitutional declaration, which strengthens, politically, their power established by means of force. In the opinion of western countries and members of the GCC, these steps by Houthis interrupted the political dialogue with other political parties, which was just about to be completed. Clearly, this had all been planned long ago, but the insurgents were simply waiting for a convenient moment. Leading political organizations in Yemen, the GPC and the ISLAH movement, rejected the declaration, but expressed willingness to continue contacts to achieve national reconciliation. However, the Houthis are willing to conduct a dialogue only on that basis.

Under these conditions, the West used the United Nations and their representative, Jamal Benomar, to put pressure on the Houthis, and accused the latter of disrupting the negotiation process by adopting the constitutional declaration, dissolving parliament, and establishing external control over state institutions. However, in response, the rebel leader Abdul-Malik Houthi came out with an open message, in which he urged foreign governments “to be guided by the interests of Yemen, and to welcome the declaration as “historic, and the only right step.” At the same time, he threatened a number of countries with “the loss” of relations with Yemen.

In confirmation of his words, he got down to actual business. On February 7, the Houthi Revolutionary Council adopted a decree to form the Supreme Security Committee, headed by the former Secretary of Defence, Mahmoud al-Subaihi. It incorporated the military, and also the Minister of the Interior. The second decree appointed both ministers (who had resigned) as acting heads of their same ministries. With this, the question arose of recognizing the new authorities, especially since the Houthis promised to create a presidential council and a government.

On February 10, a new declaration from Abdul-Malik Houthi came out, in which he harshly attacked the actions of “external and internal forces,” discontent with the proclamation of the constitutional declaration. According to his words, these “forces” seek to destroy Yemen’s economy. He also criticized a number of foreign embassies, which spread calls to foreign diplomats to leave Sana’a, although the situation in the capital, in terms of security, had improved significantly. He obviously meant the Americans, the British, and the Saudis. After that, and without formal notice, on February 11, the embassies of the US, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, as well as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, stopped working in Sana’a. With this, the West and the GCC countries took an open course of political and economic isolation of Yemen, with the ultimate goal of radically undermining the leadership of the Houthis in Sana’a. However, such a policy almost immediately caused the opposite effect, leading to a hardening of the Houthis’ positions, and substantial degradation of the situation.

Subsequently, Turkey and Japan decided to close their diplomatic missions. The West and the GCC unanimously began to insist that their faith in the success of the negotiations, under the auspices of the special adviser to the United Nations, Assistant Secretary General Jamal Benomar, between Yemeni political forces to achieve national reconciliation, was completely lost. Although negotiations still resumed outside the framework of the constitutional declaration. Moreover, having become the only rulers of Sana’a, the Houthis confidently control the security situation in the Yemeni capital. Consequently, Western countries and the GCC decided to sever ties with the Houthis, and began to implement the line to undermine Yemen’s stability, creating problems in the country and its external insulation.

It is obvious that behind all this is Washington, which practically gave the order to its Western and Arabian allies to follow. And they quietly followed the order, as they do in Ukraine. It is possible that the Americans went along with the closing of their embassy under pressure from the Republican majority in the Congress, where they are utterly afraid of repetition of the incident in Libya, with the murder of the ambassador of the United States, with all the ensuing consequences for the image of Washington, which will not be able to adequately respond to such things. Having destroyed Libya, the US lost the opportunity to influence the situation there. The same thing in Yemen: having organized a colour revolution, Washington simply lost its influence there.

Many call the current situation in Yemen a power vacuum, although it is far from it. The Houthis confidently control the central and northern provinces of the country. Only the southerners do not obey their instructions yet, but at the same time, do not meddle in the conflict. Is not impossible that the Houthis, through contacts with those southern provinces and by methods of creeping takeover of power, could subdue the entire country. All the more so as behind them stands a powerful country; Iran. And the GCC countries, first of all Saudi Arabia as Yemen’s nearest neighbour, cannot influence the situation at all. If they try to intervene, it is likely that the Houthi troops and their supporters, among them Shiites in neighbouring Saudi provinces, will simply cross the border. And Riyadh does not need this, considering that their king recently died, and the new king is practically implementing a coup scenario, pushing aside key figures from the former monarch’s circle. From all appearances, it will take somewhere around 2-3 months to understand where the situation in Yemen will head, and whether or not the Houthis can hold on to total victory. Right now, at least, they are riding tall in the saddle, and are confidently moving ahead. And it is not impossible that they will soon create a presidential council and a new government. And the US will suffer another defeat in the region.

Viktor Titov, Ph.D, is a political commentator on the Middle East, exclusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.

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