February 7, 2015

A Little History of The Houthis And What They Want

I knew their fathers or perhaps now their grandfathers well. Spectacularly gifted in field craft, endowed with a wry, dry sense of humor and fiercely independent among the clans and against whatever government might be, these perpetually armed little hill men make good friends but bad enemies. 
They fought the internationally sponsored Sunni based government? For me there was never any doubt that they would do anything else. They fought the Egyptian Army for five years in the early sixties when Nasser sought to dictate the course of events in Yemen. There is a large and well "stocked" Egyptian military cemetery in Sanaa. The mountain road from Sanaa to Hodeidah on the Red Sea coast is marked every few miles with the carcasses of Egyptian armored vehicles where desperate men from Cairo and the Nile Delta fought to save themselves from Zeidi Shia tribal ambushes. They still sang of these battles when I lived in Yemen. 
Now they have deposed the government. IMO there should never have been a unified Yemen government. . . . The Houthi descendants of my old acquaintances are not servants of Iran. They are not dangerous to Western interests. They are dangerous to AQAP. Get it? Salih will return.
An excerpt from, "The Rise of Yemen’s Houthis" by Michael Horton, Counterpunch, Feb. 3, 2015:
So what would a Houthi led government look like? It might be surprisingly diverse. The Houthi leadership has cultivated relations with segments of Yemen’s southern leadership, with youth groups, and of course with those power blocs associated with the Saleh regime. While the Houthis have never clearly articulated their political agenda, the leadership does back the strong federalization of Yemen. The federalization of Yemen has been demanded by southerners for nearly twenty years and is likely the only viable solution for keeping south and north Yemen together. One of the Houthis’ demands issued to the government of President Hadi was for the government to include more representatives from the south as well as more Houthi representation.
An excerpt from, "Is Iran the Leader of a Shia International" by Shireen Hunter, Lobe Log, Feb. 4, 2015:
In Yemen, the Shia’s goal is to gain what they consider to be their basic rights. Here, again, Iran did not instigate a Shia movement. Furthermore, the Yemenis, who were forced to surrender part of their lands to the Saudis, resent Saudi overlordship. The Saudis have bought the loyalty of various Yemeni tribes and have tried over the years to keep them disunited, so as better to control them. Yemen is a relatively big and populous country whose oil boom in the past had the potential to boost its economic profile. Before its recent troubles, it was an up-and-coming country. Yet the Saudis dislike any country in the region that can be a potential rival.
An excerpt from, "Who Are The Houthis, Part One: What Are They Fighting For?" Al Akhbar:
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The Houthis' objectives have evolved since the first Sa'ada war began in June 2004, when the Houthis were a small group of fighters defending a member of their family, MP Hussein al-Houthi, from arrest. (Note: Hussein al-Houthi was reportedly one of 21 brothers, including current leaders Abdul-Malik and Yahya. End Note.) For almost three months Houthi and his supporters, who at that time claimed allegiance to the state, fought off government troops from his stronghold in the Marran Mountains, until he was killed on September 10, 2004. In the years since, as the Houthis have gained supporters and territories, the group's objectives have expanded while becoming even murkier. According to the International Crisis Group, there is no evidence of a coherent ideology or political program: "Some groups fighting the government, though referred to as Houthis, appear motivated by multiple, mostly non-ideological factors having little in common with the leadership's proclaimed grievances." These factors include disenfranchisement with the ROYG and the need to avenge the killings of family members or tribesmen unless blood money is paid.