Last summer, Ansarullah’s militia took over the governorate of Amran just north of Sanaa, after delivering a blow to local tribes and military units that had participated in previous wars against the movement in northern Yemen. Then, no one would have guessed the militia of the Zaidy revivalist movement would today be fighting side by side with the forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in the streets of Aden, the former capital of the southern People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.
The Yemeni civil war, which a few Yemenis claim has been going on for years, is becoming extremely unpredictable and complex, with conflicting tribal, military and territorial allegiances plus the intervention of the coalition of Arab states. Finding a negotiated solution to it will be increasingly hard. But however hopeless Yemen’s collapse might seem, this war is still in essence a contest for political power and almost every party involved has their own legitimate claims.
Apart from the terrible humanitarian crisis the Arab coalition will need to address with urgency, the big question at the moment seems to be how to find a basic point of understanding that can lead to serious talks.
There are at least two big obstacles to that. One is Ansarullah’s preference for a military solution and their revolutionary zeal clearly inspired in and influenced by Iran, a link that experts and many Yemenis are inclined to dismiss because it brings in a sectarian element largely alien to Yemen. The other related obstacle is the gap between the willingness to negotiate that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh displays while his forces wreak havoc.
However hopeless Yemen’s collapse might seem, this war is still in essence a contest for political power