A minister of the UN-recognised government of Yemen has called on US Congress to designate the Ansar Allah movement, known as the Houthis, as a “terrorist organisation”.
Moammar Al-Eryani, who acts as minister of information under the Riyadh-based government of exiled Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, tweeted yesterday: “We call on US House to designate Houthis militia as a terrorist organisation as one of Iran’s dangerous arms in region, for killing, abduction & displacement for mill.of Yemenis, target neighboring countries, planting marine mines, &launch booby-trapped boats to threaten int’l shipping”.
The statement accompanied footage of Republican Congressman Adam D. Kinzinger’s remarks made during a hearing for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House in which he blamed the “Iranian regime” for overthrowing “the legitimate government of Yemen”, accusing the Islamic Republic of destabilising the region.
“We affirm on pivotal role of White House admin. in curbing Iran expansion ambitions in Middle East, curb its sectarian militias and reduce its terrorist threats, &importance of continued political and economic pressure on Tehran regime to protect security and stability of region and world,” Eyrani added.
Faced with popular protests during the so-called Arab Spring, the Yemen Revolution in 2011 led to the late former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepping down after three decades in power, succeeded by his Vice President Hadi in 2012 on an interim basis. However, Saleh returned before this transition took place and with loyalist forces in the army, formed an alliance with one-time foes, the Houthis. He would be killed at the hands of the Houthis in 2017 over claims he sought to switch sides again with the Saudis and betray the Houthis.
In 2014, the Houthis rejected a controversial six-region federation proposal by the interim-government on the basis that it would not distribute wealth evenly. In particular, it would have marginalised the Houthi heartlands in the northern province of Saada, which lacks both natural resources and access to the sea. “We have rejected it because it divides Yemen into poor and wealthy,” official Houthi spokesperson Mohammad Al-Bukhayti said at the time.
After a month of protests along with supporters of Saleh and with the support of the Yemeni armed forces, they seized the capital Sanaa. Saleh’s intelligence and military networks helped facilitate the Houthi advance as they fought with tribal militias aligned with the Islah Party, a Yemeni affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, in addition to some military units loyal to General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar who was once close with Saleh and has alleged ties to Al-Qaeda currently serving as vice president in Hadi’s government.
In 2015, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia after resigning from his position as president, only to retract this, leading to the Saudi-led coalition militarily intervening in an attempt to overthrow the Sanaa-based government to reinstate Hadi.
Also, in 2015, the Houthis established an interim body – the Supreme Revolutionary Committee – which handed power a year later to the Supreme Political Council, an executive body formed of an alliance between the Houthis and remnants of Saleh’s political party, the General People’s Congress (GPC). This led to the establishment of the National Salvation Government, which currently administers the capital and much of northern Yemen. Despite controlling most of the densely populated parts of the country, it is presently not internationally-recognised, but does have diplomatic relations with Iran and Syria.
Recent developments have seen the joint forces of the Yemeni army and the Houthi forces seizing control of the Al-Jawf province which shares a border with Saudi and had been in the hands of Saudi-backed forces since 2015. There are reports that the Houthis have now secured at least two districts in neighbouring Marib province by neutral tribes who have offered their allegiance. Marib is the last bastion of Saudi-backed forces on the ground and should it fall, will change the course of the war rendering the Saudis with air power superiority and their own troops currently based in the eastern province of Mahrah. The local tribes there fear Saudi plans for annexation and have already clashed with Saudi forces and may lead to further escalations there. The Houthis have also recently unveiled what they say are new air defence systems, describing them as a game-changer in the conflict with Riyadh.