March 22, 2015

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

Yemen is a battlefield for Saudi Arabia and Iran (Con Coughlin, 3/21/15, The Telegraph)

[R]iyadh demonstrated its stranglehold over Yemeni politics by supporting the rise to power in 1978 of Ali Abdullah Saleh as the country's powerful president, and then helping in 1990 to negotiate the second reunification of a country that includes the former British protectorate of Aden.

Under Saleh's rule Riyadh generally enjoyed cordial relations with the Yemeni government in Sana'a. But two key developments have dramatically changed this cosy arrangement during the past decade. The emergence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an off-shoot of Osama bin Laden's original terror Sunni-based movement which was founded by a group of Saudi dissidents, helped to provoke ethnic, tribal and social tensions that quickly returned the country to a state of open civil war.

These tensions, moreover, were further exacerbated by Iran's decision to support the Houthi rebels, the Shia minority in the north of the country, a decision that has helped to further destabilise the country after President Saleh was forced from office in the wake of the original Arab uprisings in 2011.

For the past four years the Quds force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards have been smuggling weapons to the Houthis, as well as providing expert military training, with the result that the Shia Houthi militia finally succeeded in seizing control of the capital Sana'a last year, forcing the Western-backed president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, to seek refuge in Aden.

Last week it was claimed that Tehran was increasing its support for the Houthis with the delivery of a 185 ton shipment of weapons and other military equipment.

The Iranian-backed takeover of northern Yemen certainly represents a major setback for the Saudis, who have a 1,000-mile porous southern border with the Yemenis to protect. The establishment of a pro-Iranian, Shia regime in Sana's has also been met with deep resentment by the country's militant Sunni population, which in recent months has seen AQAP - once regarded as the region's most deadly terrorist organisation by Western intelligence agencies - being replaced by supporters of the Sunni fundamentalist Islamic State (Isil) movement, which in the past year has seized control of large swathes of northern Iraq and Syria.

While there have been reports of tensions between Isil and Aqap, there can be little doubt that Sunni extremists were behind this week's deadly suicide bomb attacks in Yemen, which were deliberately targeted as Shia mosques in the country frequented by Houthi militiamen, who comprised the majority of the victims.

The Houthi are ea nation

Posted by at March 22, 2015 7:59 AM
  

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