Adam Baron writes: The latest political developments in Yemen — which culminated in the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, his Cabinet and President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Jan. 22 — have left even the most politically consummate Yemenis struggling to put the pieces together.
The country’s widening fault lines are now on full display. Political officials are no longer identified solely by their position but also by their geographical origin, religious background and political history. While many continue to cling to Yemeni nationalism, any remaining sense of unifying links among the country’s various stakeholders appears to be dissipating. If there was any doubt, the succession of local governorates announcing that they will no longer take orders from Sanaa confirmed it.
The roots of the current crisis date back more than a decade before last week’s events. In June 2004 then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh dispatched government forces to arrest Hussein al-Houthi, a charismatic cleric and former member of parliament. Saleh felt increasingly threatened by Houthi’s soaring popularity, due in large part to his sharp critiques of the Yemeni government’s alliance with the United States, the marginalization of the his native province of Saada and the capital’s rampant corruption. He was killed along with more than a dozen followers in the rugged mountains of Marran, according to a statement the government released on Sept. 10, 2004. But his Ansar Allah movement — better known as the Houthis — soldiered on under the leadership of his younger brother, Abdul Malek al-Houthi, as Saleh’s regime waged a series of brutal wars that devastated much of northern Yemen over the past decade. The military campaign further intensified the feelings of marginalization and resentment that laid the seeds for the Houthi rebellion. [Continue reading…]