President Hadi equates Houthi movement to al-Qaeda to please Saudis

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Articles
Wednesday, 26 February 2014

hadiWith Yemen stuck in political limbo, its state officials unable to materialize any of the NDC resolutions on the ground for a lack of political traction and ultimately, legitimacy; embattled President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi once again leaned on Yemen’s Sunni radical faction, Al Islah, in the hope its high ranking officials will offer his office some solace

and more importantly, some much needed support. Caught in between two of Yemen’s fastest growing parties: Ansar Allah in the north and Al Harak in the south, President Hadi has found both groups in opposition of his new federal map, thus putting him in a rather uncomfortable position.

Keen to move forth his agenda and avoid the further weakening of its central government’s dwindling authority, President Hadi once again reverted to supporting Al Islah, and through it, the powerful Al Ahmar tribal clan against the Houthis, Yemen’s most prominent Shia group, which political arm, Ansar Allah has single-handedly transformed Yemen’s political map over the past three years.
Ever since last October, both the Houthis and Al Ahmar have been engaged in a bitter fight for control over Yemen’s highlands. Having managed to exploit 2011 uprising to their advantage by capitalizing on the disintegration of the state and its repression apparatus, the Houthis, under the leadership of Sheikh Abdel-Malek Al Houthi successfully expanded their territorial and political influence by setting up a network of tribal allegiances across Yemen’s northern provinces as well as organize itself under a new political denomination, Ansar Allah, thus asserting its movement as a legitimate political expression of Yemen’ Shia community. But unlike Al Islah, which is by definition partisan, Ansar Allah has positioned itself as the voice of Yemen, basing its core values on mutual respect, national interests and social justice, which principles are shared by an overwhelming majority of Yemenis, across the “sectarian divide.”
But if the Houthis chose to stand against Al Islah and Al-Ahmar’s tribesmen, it is because the group sought first and foremost to oppose Islamic radicalism and the promotion of “Jihad” as a political weapon against the state. A buffer to “Saudi Arabia’s radical and sectarian expansionist policy,” the Houthis have been the only force capable of defeating Al Ahmar in their quest for ultimate power.
After standing on the line for months on end, President Hadi, who initially opted for neutrality as the Houthis took on Al Ahmar’s Salafis head on, decided to shift his support back to Al Islah in a bid to garner traction for his presidency, regardless of what it entailed.
Embattled Yemeni President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi once again flipped his narrative in favour of Yemen’s Sunni radicals for fear the Houthis will fail in destroying the country’s most prominent tribal clan.
Only President Hadi underestimated not only the Houthis’ resolve but Ansar Allah’s political influence.
In a move which will likely carry many repercussions, President Hadi demanded at a tribal meeting held in the capital, Sana’a, this Sunday, under Al Ahmar’s leadership, that the Houthis surrender all their weapons. He warned that any defiance to his presidential will, would lead to an immediate military intervention.
Equating the Houthis to al-Qaeda, President Hadi gave Al Islah and Al Ahmar everything they wanted: a public condemnation and rejection of the Houthis as well as a stern promise Yemen armed forces will stand on the side of the Salafis.
While one can understand the fickle nature of politics, with alliances shifting as easily on their axis as wind blows on a mill, President Hadi’s change of heart is to be understood from an economic and geo-strategic standpoint.
Last week, the Safer Exploration & Production Operations Company announced it had successfully completed the drilling of five test-wells in Al Jawf (Block 18). In a statement carried by Saba news agency, Safer confirmed that preliminary reports estimated the well’s capacity at 6 million cubic feet of gas per day, notwithstanding oil output.
And while so far it looks as if there is more gas than oil to be extracted from Al Jawf’s belly, such vast natural resources are capable to sustain not only the province’s economic growth but that of the state. Should Al Jawf’s riches be entrusted into the right hands, Yemen highlands could be restored to their former glory, its arable lands developed, its pastures reclaimed by farmers and its people given back the dignity which was once stolen from them by “Al Saud’s greedy paws.”
Directly located south of the Saudi borders, Al Saud has fought tooth and nail over the past decades to prevent Yemeni officials from ever exploiting Al Jawf’s natural resources. Should Yemen ever be allowed to prosper, “Al Saud’s hegemony” over the Arabian Peninsula would be put in contention.
If Saudi Arabia has been unable to prevent a financially starved Yemen from pushing for new economic prospects by utilizing its natural resources, Al Saud royals were not going to allow Al Jawf from falling into the hands of their most direct opponents, especially when such threat lied directly at its southern border.
Since the Houthis’ influence now spreads across four northern provinces – Sa’ada, Al Jawf, Hajj and Amran – Saudi Arabia was left with no choice but to “back” Al Islah in the hope its legions would once again act a buffer “against Shia Islam in Yemen.”

Saudi Arabia’s new found distaste for the Muslim Brotherhood, a sub-group within Al Islah, was overcome over the past weeks by its growing fear of the Houthis and their ever growing popularity.

Hailed Yemen’s freedom fighters against Al Islah’s dictatorial rule, many in the impoverished nation are rooting for the Houthis, hoping they will weather this last storm and help a nation reclaim its future over political tyranny.

atherine Shakdam is a commentator and political risk consultant. Her writings have appeared in Foreign Policy Association, the Guardian and Majalla among many others. Based in the UK, she worked in collaboration with Yemen Human Rights Minister on shaping new policies to protect women rights.

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