The year 2014 has ended with a new situation in Yemen. Abdul Malik Badr al-Din al-Houthi, leader of Ansar Allah, announced the establishment of a system that replaces what was established in 1962, when the imamate ended. To him, the Sept. 21 revolution - the day the Houthis took over the capital Sanaa - destroyed the Sept. 26 revolution upon which the Yemeni republic was established.
The Houthis are frank and clear, unlike other factions. There will now be no Yemeni government without the approval of Ansar Allah, which is linked to Iran. There is a zone that has come under the complete control of the Houthis, who seek to expand in all directions. In the worst-case scenario, they can settle for their own territorial entity which they can turn into a state, with a naval port, a long border with Saudi Arabia, but no institutions.
Supporting Yemen without a master plan implemented by capable parties on the ground is similar to filling water in a leaking bottle.Khairallah Khairallah
What can Ansar Allah do for ordinary people? Is Iran willing to pump millions of dollars a year to support the Yemeni economy? Can Iran bear the burden of Yemen just because it has a coherent armed militia with similar slogans such as “death to America, death to Israel and damn the Jews”?
Supporting Yemen without a master plan implemented by capable parties on the ground is similar to filling water in a leaking bottle. What can be done now amid the collapse of the state? If Iran could build, it would have used its oil resources to serve its own people, half of whom, if not more, live below the poverty line.
There is no doubt that Tehran now has a presence in a strategic area on the other side of the Arabian Peninsula, and that the Houthis must not be underestimated. However, declaring victory is one thing, while reality is another.
Yemen is not an easy country. One need only ask the Egyptians, whose late President Gamal Abdel Nasser sent his best troops there in the 1960s. The Yemeni adventure cost him and Egypt a lot, and suggested an almost complete ignorance of the country and its complexities.
Iran used to think it controlled Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and that Bahrain would collapse, but it was wrong on all counts. Wherever Iran is present, there is resistance to it, its sectarianism and expansionism. Tehran is capable of imposing a new reality in Yemen, but it can only expand so far. The end of 2014 sees fierce resistance to the Houthis in central Yemen.
Has Iran discovered the limits of its capability to tame Yemen and turn it into a satellite state? Will it settle with having a base in part of the country, and let the center and south become statelets? Yemen as we know it is no more, but Iran’s control of the whole country is out of the question.
This article was first published in Al-Raya Newspaper on Dec. 30, 2014.
Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer who has previously worked at Lebanon’s Annahar newspaper, he then moved to London and began writing political columns in Arabic language newspapers, including Al-Mustaqbal and Rosa El-Youssef.