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Saudi Arabia decides to turn the tables on the Houthis

Yemeni political sources have confirmed that Saudi Arabia is determined to change the balance of power in Yemen, as it conducted extensive talks last week with political and tribal players in the country. This provoked the fear of the Houthis who live in internal and external isolation.

These political sources told Arabi21 newspaper that “Riyadh decided to turn the tables on the Houthi coup authority. This was manifested in its call on the political and tribal leaderships that are highly influential in the various areas of Yemen. The most prominent of these forces are the senior leaders from the General People’s Congress led by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, considered part of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Three days ago, the Secretary-General of the Popular People’s Congress, Arif Al-Zoka, and the Secretary-General of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah), AbdulWahab Al-Ansi, arrived in Riyadh. This visit coincided with talk about the imminent rapprochement between the two parties under the auspices of Saudi Arabia due to their ability to change the political map in a manner that ensures the defeat of the Houthis on a political and military level.

According to these same sources, the meeting held by the Riyadh authorities with the leaders of the two parties was days after it summoned tribal sheikhs from different Yemeni region, specifically from areas experiencing challenges in facing the armed Houthis, including Al Bayda’, Ma’rib, central and eastern Yemen, which is considered the belt obstructing the expansion of the Houthi forces into the remainder of the Yemeni cities that are still outside the control of the Houthis.

Tribal sheikhs from Ibb and Shabwa, in central and southern Yemen, were summoned to discuss the means of stopping the expansion of armed Houthi forces and defeating them in these areas.

Saudi Arabia arms tribes

Arabi21 newspaper discovered from tribal sources that the tribes from Ma’rib and Al-Jawf received various types of aid from Saudi Arabia, most notably war supplies that would guarantee the tribes’ domination in any future battle with the Houthis who possess weapons arsenals stolen from Yemeni army stores and camps.

Houthi confusion

In a related context, an informed political source revealed that “the Houthis have become confused and are stumbling after they received information that Saudi Arabia’s new rulers decided to change the rules of the game with them, despite the fact that the Houthis sent reassuring messages to Saudi Arabia through an Omani mediator over a week ago. However, Saudi Arabia does not seem to trust the Houthis, who they see as an arm from their enemy Iran.”

The source, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Arabi21: “The Houthis are afraid that their ally, the General People’s Congress Party led by former President Ali Saleh, will stage a coup against them, especially after the Secretary-General visited the Saudi capital Riyadh.”

The Yemeni source said: “Saudi’s actions coincided with the absence of any signs that the crisis of the political vacuum in the country will be resolved due to the failure of political negotiations sponsored by the UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar. This gives the Houthis one of two options; executing the provisions of the Constitutional Declaration without the participation of Yemeni political forces or to back down from the declaration.” According to the source, both options are difficult.

Fifteen members of Saleh’s party in Yemen’s parliament have signed on to join the National Council last week, but they backed down last Monday and refused to attend the meeting held in the Presidential Palace in Sanaa.

In the same context, but perhaps not in the context of the Saudi understanding with the General People’s Congress Party, a Yemeni news site confirmed that a senior political source revealed that an agreement was made between former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and head of the Houthi insurgencies Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi to manage the next phase in Yemen.

Alsahwa Net, closely tied to the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, reported that this agreement and alliance will occur between Saleh and Al-Houthi under the sponsorship of Iran, and it will act as the reference and guarantor for implementation.

The source also added that Saleh and Al-Houthi’s agreement, under Iran’s auspices, provides for sharing power during the new transitional phase, equally distributing the military and civilian positions, and excluding any partners, as reported by the site.

If this narrative is true, then Saudi Arabia will only find the Islah party and the tribal leaders able to face the situation and change the balance of power in the country. According to those observing the situation, Saudi Arabia may try to attract some activity from Saleh’s party, out of the context of his deal with Al-Houthi.

Yemen has been living through a constitutional vacuum since the resignation of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi minutes after his government resigned last January when the Houthis seized control of the presidential palace in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

The “constitutional declaration” issued by Ansar Allah (i.e. the Houthis) on 6 February complicated matters even more. It was met with rejection from various Yemeni political forces as well as regional and international rejection, considering it a coup against the legitimate state institutions.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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