A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, February 6, 2015

Will Houthi Takeover Provoke Yemen's Southern Separatists?

 Now that Yemen's Houthi rebels have reacted to the failure of UN-brokered multi-party peace talks by taking over the government and dissolving Parliament, the already restive non-Zaydi south may grow more rebellious. We've talked before about secessionist tendencies in the former South Yemen, which tried to secede in 1994, and last year there were hints that Saudi Arabia, which sees the Zaydi Houthis as allies of Iran, might approve a southern secession.

Last month four South Yemeni provinces, Aden, Abyan, Lahej, and Daleh, said they would take no military orders from the Houthis after President al-Hadi resigned, and today Shabwa has apparently done the same. Shabwa, along with Marib (in former North Yemen) is the center of Yemen's oil resources.

There are also reportedly anti-Houthi demonstrations in Ta'izz and Marib, both in former North Yemen but overwhelmingly Sunni, suggesting the fracture is not just on the pre-1990 borders, but in many areas with substantial Sunni populations. The Houthis may control Sana‘a' and the heavily Zaydi mountains, but the Sunnis of the seacoast and the former South Yemen still oppose them. And Yemen's continuing economic crisis will undermine Houthi control if they lose controlof the oil in Marib and Shabwa, as well as the critical port of Aden.

Yemen's original transition plan was brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council, and most of the GCC states (and especially the Saudis) oppose the Houthis.

1 comment:

David Mack said...

Unlikely as it would seem, we may seen a collaboration of mutual interest between the Houthis and South Yemenis. I see that two time South Yemen (PDRY) President Ali Nasir Muhammad is getting into the game. I had many hours of conversation with him at his exile home some years ago. His ambition to stage a comeback was undimmed by what some believed was the end forever of his Stalinist brand of rule. He told me that he was the only Yemeni leader who could find a way to bring all the parties together. He believed that if he was at the head of the table, South Yemeni leftist secularist could find common ground with tribal Zaydis.