Saleh, the Houthis and taking over Sanaa

Yemen’s capital Sanaa was attacked from the outside and backstabbed by insiders

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Yemen’s capital Sanaa was attacked from the outside and backstabbed by insiders. The prime minister and the interior minister staged a coup against the state in favor of the assailants while Houthis shelled it from all sides. Sanaa went through a sad and difficult night, signifying a dangerous beginning that places the entire country on the verge of danger. As to why and how such a situation is taking place, there are many details which led to this siege and collapse.

First of all, let’s keep in mind that overthrowing Yemen’s long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh was not going to easily pass. Two years on, he has succeeded in disrupting the country’s domestic situation via remote control. Among his allies are the Houthis and the Ansar Allah organization, which share some traits with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which rejected reconciliation and insisted on declaring its leader a caliph. The objective of ousted President Saleh’s supporters is to sabotage any alternative to their rule in the hope that they will return to power. The Houthis’ plan is to control the northern strip of Yemen with Iranian support. They have thus triggered the crisis by attacking cities and resorting to protests and confrontations to obstruct government services in the capital.

Keeping silent over the Houthis’ takeover of Sanaa is similar to accepting the ISIS takeover of Iraq’s Mosul

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Although evil powers have their marks everywhere, we must note that in Yemen there are rivals – northern, southern, tribal and civil parties - who cannot easily come together in one government. It seems that Ali Saleh and the Houthis - the new Yemeni regime’s biggest enemies –succeeded in taking over most of the capital yesterday. They may later succeed in controlling the rest of Yemen. However, their success will only be temporary as those parties which accepted reconciliation will later reject any Saleh-Houthi-ISIS domination.

Sabotaging change

Former President Saleh was removed from power upon massive popular demand and following a semi-consensus by most political parties and tribes in the country. Ever since his removal, he hasn’t stopped trying to sabotage the Gulf initiative which united different parties within the context of reconciliation and under a transitional phase. This may not be perfect but is only temporary, until the transition is completed and crises are overcome.

United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar has sought a political exit from current disputes and managed to attain many concessions to satisfy the Houthis and those who stand behind them. He can now see that their aim was not to reach a solution as much as it was to pave the way toward forcefully taking over governance. The question here is directed to the United Nations which sponsored the transition and reconciliation. It reassured the southerners and prevented the division of the country and urged regional countries and superpowers to help protect the state from collapsing to prevent a political and humanitarian crisis. The question is: What will U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar do after the Houthis and their supporters betray him?

Keeping silent over the Houthis’ takeover of Sanaa is similar to accepting the ISIS takeover of Iraq’s Mosul. The Houthi Ansar Allah is a religious extremist group which wants to impose its control and doctrine and eliminate most Yemenis. Its presence in Yemen will inevitably mean that disturbances will last for many years. This is the aim of Iran, the Houthis’ foremost funder. The same goes for Saleh’s supporters who spread chaos and benefit from the naivety of the Gulf initiative which left the door open for him to leave with all his money and men even though he is well-known as the fox who slyly ruled Yemen for three decades and kept the state’s funds stored outside the country. One of the Gulf initiative’s mistakes is that it accepted one of Saleh’s men to succeed him - Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a man with no character, skills or political knowledge that could qualify him to manage a country with complex disputes.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on September 22, 2014.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the 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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