Friday, April 03, 2015

The Pivotal Battle for Yemen

For those following events in Yemen, one could wonder whether this has the potential to be the Sarajevo 1914 for the Middle East, turning into a conflict that could eventually lead to an uncontrollable cascade of events that would have whole region divided and actively hostile.  That is possible but unlikely, as the Saudis only want to huff and puff, and do not seriously want active conflict with anyone capable.

From this perspective the Houthis of Yemen had been viewed as much like the Kurds of Iraq.  That view was that they were a semi-independent Shiite region in the north of the country that was the strongest opponent of Al Qaeda in the entire country.  With the Sunni government of Yemen being corrupt and their military not remotely competent without U.S. advice and drones, the Houthis were a potential ally of the U.S., an experienced battlefield force, and if allowed to defend and even expand their territory they could ultimately act in the best interests of the region and themselves simultaneously.

Now Sunni Saudi Arabia has deemed the Houthis to be a pawn of Iran.  That has not been the case historically in any way, but in recent years they have accepted aid from Iran to defend themselves against Al Qaeda and the corruption of the anointed central government, now in a shambles as they have lost control of the capital, Sana, and the U.S. anointed President Hadi is believed to have fled to Saudi Arabia.

As a result of the Saudi offensive against the Houthis and the disintegration of central government, Al Qaeda has recently been reinvigorated and has taken control of the capital of an oil rich province in the east.

Yemen is now in a chaotic situation.  If the informative but muddled story in the New York Times today is any indication, there is no clear path out of this mess at the moment.

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