Frederic Wehrey writes: Citing a request for outside intervention by Yemen’s deposed President Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and Jordan have launched an aerial intervention against the so-called Houthi movement in Yemen. Egypt has four warships en route to Aden in southern Yemen and has expressed willingness to “send ground troops if necessary,” while Turkey is considering providing logistical support. Sudan and Pakistan are also reportedly joining the operation.
The Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah in Arabic, or God’s Partisans, are a Zaidi Shia movement that began a rebellion in northern Yemen in 2003–2004. In the chaos following the Arab Spring revolutions and the internationally overseen removal of Yemen’s long-serving authoritarian ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012, the Houthis expanded their power base—apparently with Iranian support—to undermine the Saudi-backed Hadi government.
In 2014, the Houthis linked up with allies of the Saleh family, which is still angling for a way to recapture power, and rapidly pushed south, capturing the capital, Sanaa. They then moved on to Aden, where Hadi had fled before leaving the country by sea on March 25 (it was announced that he arrived in Riyadh on March 26). Meanwhile, a separate Salafi-Sunni insurgency led by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continues to rage in the south and east of the country, with the self-proclaimed Islamic State having recently raised its own profile in Yemen by publicizing a string of gruesome massacres. [Continue reading…]