Saleh and the Houthis' power grab in Yemen

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Toppling the legitimate Yemeni government, which is supported by the U.N. Security Council, was expected ever since the rebels entered the capital, Sanaa, three months ago. The rebels who’d already occupied Sanaa have now taken over power.

They will dominate it despite local and international rejection; however, their situation won’t stabilize without resorting to the first agreement. In my view the pirates of power are the Houthis and ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Houthis are a religious group and a political militia in support of Iran. Their partner, Saleh, is a leader whose time in power has expired and who has been eliminated in a wide popular and elit revolution.

What happened yesterday is a repetition of the scenario of invading Sanaa last September by the Houthi militias, supported by military and security leaderships who sympathize with the ousted president Saleh.

No major confrontations happened because during the past 15 weeks, Sanaa was semi-occupied. They had left President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi besieged in his palace. Yesterday, those staging the coup practically attacked the last of standing forts after they failed to convince the president of willingly handing them power.

Yemen yesterday entered a dark tunnel which will lead to breaking up the country's unity and to the separation of south Yemen

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

But the latest news is worrying even if there were no surprises. Regardless of how vague upcoming events will be, there are some expected possibilities. Saleh, the ousted president who rides the Houthi horse and uses the Houthis as a weapon and as a political front, will try to impose military and political leaderships affiliated with him to lead the transitional phase while he puts together a new political order that directly, or indirectly, brings him back to managing the state through forged electorial claims.

The second possibility is that the Houthis, who aspire to bring back the imamate and subsequently appoint Abdul Malek al-Houthi as an absolute leader, will try to dominate power until Saleh drags them into deadly wars against tribal and political groups, like he did in six previous wars.

Yemen entered a dark tunnel

Whether Abdul Malek al-Houthi declares himself imam or whether Saleh returns as president or someone else inherits the presidency, Yemen yesterday entered a dark tunnel which will lead to breaking up the country's unity and to the separation of south Yemen.

It will also push some northern areas and governorates to rebel. Some armed groups will also form amidst this chaos in order to fight the Houthis over power. History is almost repeating itself after the fall of Imam al-Badr bin Hamideddine.

The rebels won’t enjoy power and their control over Sanaa for long. Yemen mainly lives off foreign support and the country is based on tribal and regional balances, and it’s difficult to achieve security without tribes’ and local groups participation or approval.

We don’t know how the Houthis can possibly manage the government and honor their commitments towards citizens when they arrived broke to loot the capital and fund their operations.

Houthis are like Lebanon’s Hezbollah who wants to control state institutions to serve its own interests but without having to be involved in the government's obligation to provide services to the people. The situation in Yemen is not less difficult than Lebanon's management. Although they've been keen on not harming the president, the Houthis are making a major mistake by taking over the presidential palace.

This article was published on Asharq Al Awsat on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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