Yemen: A Civil or Proxy War?

The ongoing war in Yemen certainly warrants coverage on Global Voices Online, but I was really shocked when I realized that there weren't many bloggers interested in the conflict. Here are some scattered extracts from post written by bloggers from different countries.

Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabye keeps a dairy of his coverage on Blogspot. Last August, he wrote about the military actions between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels:

The Yemeni government said Thursday it would take a military actions to liberate schools and government buildings used as barracks by Al Houthi rebels in Sa'ada, north of the country.

He then continued:

The statement came after information about fierce battles between the rebels and government troops in which dozens were killed and injured from both sides over this week.
“Since President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered the halt of the military operations, the saboteurs and terrorists continued their attacks on the citizens and security forces, committing heinous crimes against everyone including elders, children and women, in addition to kidnapping, cutting roads, destroying houses,” the statement added.

But it seems that the Houthi rebels had a different point of view:

The Al Houthi rebels said, however, they were only defending themselves and they do not want a new war.

A few months later, no one was able to stop the ongoing war. But a new question was raised: Is it a civil war taking place in Yemen, or are there other parties participating in this war as well.

The Houthis claimed that the Saudis are participating in the on going war, and their troops are there to help the Yemeni government. The government, on the other hand, denied this. Nasser Arrabyee wrote:

A Yemeni military official denied Monday Al Houthi rebels’ allegations that the army used a Saudi base to attack them.
The Saudi authorities have “allowed Yemeni army to use a Saudi base in Jabal Al Dukhan from which it launched attacks,” said Al Houthi in statement sent through emails.
The military official, who asked not to be named, said Al Houthi tries only to cover his defeats by speaking about Saudi interference. “Jabal Al Dukhan is Yemeni not Saudi lands,” he said. This is not the first time Al Houthi rebels accuse Saudi authorities of intervening in the war.

But few days later Nasser Arrabyee wrote another post in his blog:

At least 5 Saudi soldiers and 15 Al Houthi rebels were killed in fierce confrontations between the rebels and Saudi forces in Al Khuba and Jabal Al Dukhan in Jaizan area south of the Kingdom, local sources said Thursday.
The leader of the rebels Abdul Malik Al Houthi said in a statement Thursday that the Saudi army is bombarding his fighters’ posts in Al Malahaid frontline far west of Sa'ada, “with all kinds of weapons”.

So the Houthi claims about a Saudi intervention were true, and that's what forced Gregory to raise the following questions:

I get the impression that the idea of wading into the muck that is the northern revolt is not something that has been well thought out in Saudi Arabia, which also gets at something else I have been asking for a while: who exactly is running Saudi Arabia's Yemen portfolio? It certainly is not Sultan. And although Muhammad bin Nayif clearly has charge of the AQ section, Saudi Arabia is not the US and is not only focused on al-Qaeda. It has a multi-faceted relationship with Yemen.
My impression is that no one individual is in charge, but that different individuals are taking turns steering the thing with little idea of where they are going besides bouncing from crisis to crisis trying to keep the crazy Yemenis and their problems from flooding across the border.

Sapphire then left a comment on Gregory's post, and tried to elaborate why Saudi Arabia decided to enter that war:

Now, why did the Saudis decide to step in with their military into Yemen? Word has it that after loosing Iraq on their northern border to the Shi'ats of Iraq, they cannot and will not tolerate another Shi'at state on their southern border too, assuming that is, that the Huthis defeat the central Yemeni government and win their independence.

The Egyptian blogger Zeinobia wasn't pleased with the Saudi intervention:

Officially Saudi Arabia has declared war on the Houthi rebels , I will not discuss if its right or not or if it a battle in a bigger regional war but I will discuss the fact that Saudi Arabia mostly will not win this war easily or hardly as it hopes with all that multi-million gadgets they have simply because this is a guerrilla war in the mountains!

She then continued:

I do not know why the Saudis are heading to the same swamp we went to in mid 1960s , of course it is an irony because they used to back up the Yemenis against us !!! In fact I read some news claiming that KSA used White phosphorus against the civilians there !! Is this a deja Vu ??!!??

But was it only the Saudis who have been involved in the war? An Iranian ship was seized near the Yemeni coasts. And that's what made Nasser Arrabyee write the following:

An Iranian ship laden with weapons believed to be on its way to Al Houthi rebels was seized on October 26th, 2009, off the coasts of the Midi harbour in the far north west of Yemen. The 6-member crew, five Iranians and Indian, are now under investigations in the Yemeni capital Sana'a. The Iranian embassy in Sana'a denied at the time that the ship was carrying weapons.

And hence Gregory wrote about a possible proxy war taking place in Yemen:

“So it is a Saudi-Iranian proxy war,” he said. (The he being: Simon Henderson, director of Gulf and energy policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington.)

The involvement of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sunnis and Shi'ats, rang a special bell in Abul Maali Fayek's head as it seems that what he was afraid of has happened:

وقع ما كنا نحذر منه من إشعال الفتنة الطائفية بين السنة والشيعة،وعلى شيوخ الفضائيات أن يسنوا رماحهم ويجلسوا ليتفرجوا على معارك المسلمين بعضهم البعض،ولعل الشيخ عرعور وقناته الطائفية “قناة صفا” لعلهم يكونو قد استراحوا قليلا بعد أن شاهدوا الحرب الدائرة بين دولة عربية مسلمةوكبيرة فى الحجم والمقام هى المملكة العربية السعودية وبين مسلمين آخرين فى اليمن الشقيق هم جماعة “الحوثيين الشيعة” واستمرار تلك المعارك ليس فى صالح أحد
What I warned you of has happened, a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shi'ats. And now it's the Satellite Channel's clerics turn to pour some gasoline on the sectarian conflict fire, and keep watching fights between Muslims. And may be then, Sheik Aarour and his sectarian channel “Safa”, may be then they will be happy watching the war between a big and respected Muslim nation, which is Saudi Arabia, and their Muslim brothers in Yemen, who are the Shi'at Houthis. The continuation of such fights isn't for the benefit of anyone.

And finally Zeinobia was wondering here if the Arab League of Nations still existed and why it wasn't taking any actions to stop this war:

I do not know if it is ironic or sad ; Arab and Muslim blood should not be spilled like this by the hands of another Arab and Muslim blood !! We are one by the end of the day.
I do not know where the role of the Arab league when you need it , Amr Moussa seems out of town , well guess out he is losing points as possible presidential candidate !!

***Also on Global Voices Online: Saudi Arabia: We'll Defend Ourselves – For The Right Reason


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