Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his government resigned Thursday in the face of attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The Washington Post reports:
Yemen’s Western-backed president and his cabinet resigned Thursday amid deepening turmoil that left Shiite rebels in effective control and threw into question this nation’s continued participation in the U.S. fight against terrorism.
As President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi succumbed to an apparent coup attempt by the rebels, a government official confirmed that Hadi had lost control over the military and intelligence agencies that coordinate with the United States in operations against al-Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate.
After a week of fierce battles that led to his being surrounded by armed rebels and his chief of staff being held hostage, Hadi forged an agreement on Wednesday with the Houthi Shiite rebels to end fighting in the capital city, Sanaa. According to the deal, the Yemeni government obligated itself to make amendments in its constitution and cancel the proposal to divide the country into six federal regions, a move the Houthis opposed.
The deal also gives the Houthis greater representation in Parliament and other political institutions in Yemen. The state news agency Saba reported that the agreement also pledges to treat the Houthis equally in the allocation of public posts.
In return, the Iran-backed militia agreed to withdraw from government buildings they seized this week and free Hadi’s chief of staff, Ahmed bin Mubarak, Agence France-Presse reported. But as the Post reports, the Houthis did not hold up their end of the deal, “refusing to pull back from positions they had taken around the presidential palace and residence, and continuing to hold a Hadi aide who was kidnapped by the group Saturday.”
According to a report in the Emirati newspaper The National, the Houthis claim to have taken over Hadi’s security detail.
On Tuesday, the Shiite militia stormed and seized Hadi’s offices at the presidential palace and attacked his residence. At least 30 people were killed in the clashes between the two sides.
The UN Security Council condemned the attacks, backing Hadi as Yemen’s “legitimate authority.” The Arab Gulf states accused the Houthis of a staging a coup after taking over Yemen’s presidential palace.
Mshari Al-Zaydi, a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, wrote at the A-sharq Al-Awsat website on Thursday:
“What the Houthi militia—or Ansar Allah as they like to call themselves—has done in Yemen amounts to a fully-fledged coup d’état. It is a coup against Yemen’s constitution and people; above all, it is a coup against the historical and cultural identity of Yemen…
With the rise of the Caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the [Houthi] Imam of Sana’a and the so-called Caliph in Constantinople [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan], one does not know where this obsession with reviving our political Islamic heritage is coming from.”
Last April, the Yemeni government accused Iran of supporting the rebels and destabilizing the region. In October, the Houthis blocked the formation of a national government and Iran acknowledged its support of the rebels. Shortly afterwards, Iranian officials boasted that with the capture of much of Sanaa, Iran had control of its fourth Arab capital. The growing power of the Houthis led Saudi Arabia to suspend aid to Yemen in December.
A website associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) posted a plan for Iran to take control of Yemen, which included claiming that it is fighting “economic corruption.” Control of Yemen also appears to be part of Iran’s naval strategy of gaining control of the Red Sea region.
[Photo: K. Aksoy / Flickr]