Saudi-backed al-Ahmar Paving the Way for ‘Iraqization’ of Yemen

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Yemen
Wednesday, 14 January 2015

here is a very thin line between peace and partnership, war and separation. It is a fine thread that has so far not been cut in Yemen. Carrying out occasional bombings to upset the Houthis is fine. There is nothing wrong with mobilizing some tribes in various areas against the people’s committees affiliated with Ansar Allah. The Houthis are aware that they will soon come under fire. Their swift seizure of the capital Sanaa and most of the northern governorates will certainly be followed by security repercussions. So how will they respond?

The occasional attacks against some neighborhoods of Sanaa and other Yemeni cities are a clear message addressed to Ansar Allah. The language of violence has become an essential card employed in any dialogue in Yemen and it has cost the country more than 200 deaths in the past months, and it appears that the bloodshed will not end anytime soon. The plans underway by more than one party against the Houthis and the people’s committees bode an endless cycle of infighting.

Sources have confirmed to Al-Akhbar that Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the former commander of the First Armored Division of the Yemeni Army, resides in Saudi Arabia, not in Turkey or Qatar as has been rumored. It is true that al-Ahmar has lost his standing as the most powerful military man in Yemen after his defeat in Sanaa against the Houthis, but the man continues to have many followers, including officers, soldiers, as well as leaders and members of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al-Islah) party.

According to the sources, al-Ahmar, in coordination with Saudi intelligence, is preparing for a confrontation with Ansar Allah. He is rallying his supporters from across the country, distributing money, setting up training camps, and providing them with weapons, which are widely available in Yemen.That’s not all. He is also recruiting takfiri elements and sending them leaders and militants to achieve one goal: fighting Ansar Allah.

He [al-Ahmar] is also recruiting takfiri elements and sending them leaders and militants to achieve one goal: fighting Ansar Allah.
Al-Ahmar is doing all of this with the approval of Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is reinforcing its role in Yemen, or rather establishing itself as the major player in the country. Saudi Arabia is known for its soft policy and for not folding its cards too quickly. It knows that Yemen has been taken by the storm of change launched by Ansar Allah. It subsides or rides the wave, weighs the events, reconsiders its priorities, and reshuffles its cards.

Al-Ahmar’s plan is not new, but is rather a reproduction of what happened in Iraq. According to sources, al-Ahmar seeks to turn the governorates of Ma’rib, Hadramout, and Shabwah into Islamic emirates similar to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s state. Construction of the camps is underway in the oil-rich Ma’rib Governorate, specifically in al-Sahil and al-Nakhla.

Ansar Allah is not oblivious to al-Ahmar’s schemes. The group knows that the man has enough money and supporters to take over the country. It has exposed sealed documents obtained from his camps, proving that he used to receive from the Yemeni state the salaries of about 20,000 fake soldiers allegedly enrolled in the camps. It also realizes that the al-Ahmar clan has influence over the oil companies operating in the country, and has attempted to pressure them by setting fire to oil pipelines in order to halt their operations and plunge the country in a fuel crisis. Ansar Allah is also aware of the thefts and sabotage perpetrated by al-Ahmar clan in Sanaa, for which the blame is laid on the people's committees affiliated with Ansar Allah.

Thus, a confrontation seems to be inevitable. But before engaging in political activity, Ansar Allah demands the government and President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to assume their responsibilities. It has warned them against delaying the implementation of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement and its security supplement, and is preparing to fight these battles with the people's committees and their supporters. It appears that the countdown to recapturing Ma’rib from the militant groups has begun, according to sources in the movement.

The real threat is not in northern Yemen, but in the south, where some areas are like a time bomb. The people of the south have failed to find a common denominator with the north. They are not concerned with the changes taking place in the northern political arena, though they are glad to see the end of the domination of the al-Ahmar clan over the country. They are convinced that their misfortunes came from the north; al-Qaeda was planted by President Ali Abdullah Saleh in their areas to drag them into a war of attrition. The poverty they suffer from is due to the neglect of the authorities in the north of their areas. About 80 percent of Yemen’s natural resources, specifically oil, can be found over and under their lands, and of which they only receive a tiny share. Why, then, should they maintain unity with the north?

The Southern Movement and Ansar Allah have no major differences. The two groups converge at the injustice and marginalization they endured for decades under al-Ahmar's authority.
The Southern Movement and Ansar Allah have no major differences. The two groups converge at the injustice and marginalization they endured for decades under al-Ahmar's authority. They both seek change and reject the status quo. Ansar Allah leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi explicitly warned of the possibility of the country’s division into six regions. His statement is reassuring to the southerners and allows further convergence with them.
Reliable sources told Al-Akhbar that several meetings were held between the two parties on various occasions. They met in Beirut more than once, as well as in Saada. In Aden, the Southern Movement hosted members of the Ansar Allah politburo and a number of southern dignitaries, including Mohammed Ali Ahmed, head of the People of the South current, which withdrew from the national dialogue conference when the participants refused to approve the establishment of a federal system of government between the north and south, and recognize the south’s right to self-determination.

The two sides did not reach an understanding with outlines of a historic alliance or settlement for the country, but they agreed on the following points:

To boost security coordination between the Southern Movement and The Houthis, and exchange information about al-Qaeda cells and militant groups.

Ansar Allah made a pledge to the Southern Movement that it will not invade any area in the southern governorates.
To provide financial compensations to the affected people, families of the victims, and personnel discharged from the Yemeni army in the south after the 1994 war.
Ansar Allah rejected the division of the south into two regions, and the two parties agreed to approve the concept of establishing a federal system between the north and south.
The two sides did not reach an agreement with regard to the south’s right to self-determination.
Ansar Allah and the Southern Mobility continue to hold regular meetings. Acknowledging their southern particularity is a precondition for any northern political force that wishes to win the trust of the southerners. They were independent and had a separate entity, but were forced under the threat of arms to accept unification with another country. This is how all Southerners, people and leaders alike, think. Their only solution may be a federal system of government that preserves their identity.

This is not the difficult part. It's easy to grant southerners a federal system of government and
autonomy that would safeguard their governorates. Perhaps, in return, they could concede their demand for self-determination. The challenge lies in determining the structure of the state and its reorganization. Will it be modeled on the Iraqi system of government, whereby the southerners would enjoy semi-autonomy from the central government as is the case with the Kurds in Kurdistan? What about the foreign and defense policies? Will Yemen rebuild a national army? More importantly, what about the country’s oil wealth? Will they accept to share it with the northerners after they had been deprived of it for years? The devil is in the details, and there are many seeking to demonize and destabilize the country.

Ansar Allah is not in an enviable position. To compromise with a tribal society whose members continue to strap daggers to their waists and carry weapons could a miracle.

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