The War in Yemen Rages On
The Houthis, a Zaydi tribe in the north of Yemen, at war with Yemen’s central government since 2004, have now taken the war to Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. What happens in Yemen will have an impact on the balance of power between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Yet, America is really being overwhelmed with all this Islamic related sectarian war. As each war has its own "value" for American attention, Obama seems to have placed ISIS in Iraq and Syria on the hit list, while, the Yemen war between tribes of the North and those in the South (which are partly funded by Iran) has not become serious enough. The Southern tribes, composed of Sunni Salafis from Sana’a, and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). This is called the Islah party and has little representation in the new government.
The Houthis do have military power, they repelled a Saudi armed incursion in 2009, pushed back the Islah Party fighters and Yemeni armed forces, which reached the outskirts of the capital, Sana’a, practically surrounding it after 2011. Stuck in the middle is the Yemeni government, supported by the USA. Yemen's President Hadi responded diplomatically to the Houthis’ advance on Sana’a, accepting their demands and promising to launch political and economic reforms. Not much happened and the Houthis adopted the tactics used by Hezbollah in Lebanon to gain power.
The Houthis have recently fought their way back into the streets of Sana'a forcing the Yemeni 1st Armored Division to be activated to control the mayhem, however, the fighting also spread to Iman University operated by the Sunnis. Meanwhile, the Yemeni 111th Brigade fought dissension from within when many of its soldiers sided with al-Qaeda, when the unit was deployed in southern Yemen. The workers of the current Yemen government are beginning to protest about their well being, many refuse to go to work.
This low scale war between the armed Shia Houthi movement, the tribal factions, and Sunni Islamist militias. For the Houthis, they demand a re-instatement of fuel subsidies and calling on the country's transitional government to step down, which refused to do so. Many locals think the Houthis real goal is to completely seize democracy from Yemen, which has had it only for a little while.
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda has been exploiting these internal divisions by infiltrating more than 60 of its members into the capital, Sana'a, to conduct their own attacks that could be misinterpreted as from one of the warring Yemeni parties to continue to war spiral. However, in a public statement there, al-Qaeda announced their men in the capital are enemies to anyone with the Yemen government or Houthis, who are trying to overthrow them and control two provinces already. They are allied with any Sunni tribe. In fact, al -Qaeda and the Houthis have been clashing for the past month in the two northern provinces, Jawf and Amran. Yet, the US support of Yemen, some $350 million dollars to fight the terrorists, the Yemen Army did not make an attack upon them in all of 2013, they prefer US drone strikes to do the attacking.
So far, the only success the Yemen Army has had against al-Qaeda was in the 2011 battle of Zinjibar, which last a month with US air support. The terrorists finally fled to pick another day to fight.
A real but remote danger would be if al-Qaeda and the Houthis join forces. Odd things happen, look at the US and Iran joining forces to fight ISIS the one and only time in Iraq. If the alliance occurred, even for a short duration, the Yemeni army and government would probably collapse and run. But for now, al-Qaeda considers them heretics and need to be killed.
Yemen is just waiting to blow up in a bad way. Too many warring factions want the power all deeply rooted in some form of Islam.