yemenjan19battles
Zero Hedge

In what Yemen’s information minister described as an “attempted coup” Shia Houthi rebels (backed by Hizbollah and Iran) have surrounded the Yemeni Presidential Palace putting them, as The Telegraph reports, in direct confrontation with al-Qaeda and the Yemen government. Amid hopes of a compromise deal or cease-fire in the conflict that has been under way since September when the Houthis swept into Sana’a, the latest reports are the nation has gone from bad to worse…

  • YEMENI PM SAID SURROUNDED BY HOUTHI MILITIAS: CNN
  • YEMEN INFORMATION MINISTER SAYS GOVERNMENT HAS LOST CONTROL OVER COUNTRY — CNN

Oil prices, interestingly, fell on the increasing tensions today – as we pre-suppose the market is pricing in a successful coup – and the ensuing pump-fest of supply (at any price – just give us revenues) will trump Yelemni tribes threats to cut off supply if the President is harmed.

*YEMEN HOUTHI REBELS SEIZE STATE NEWS AGENCY, TV STATION: AP

Yemen official says Houthi rebels seize state news agency, TV station in ‘step toward coup’

  • *YEMENI MINISTER SAYS SHI’ITE MILITANTS ATTEMPTED COUP: ARABIYA

*YEMENI TRIBES TO CUT OIL SUPPLY IF PRESIDENT HARMED: JAZEERA

Tribes in Marib say will cut supplies if Shiite rebels harmed President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, Al Jazeera reports without saying where it obtained the information.

Then this…

  • *YEMEN CEASEFIRE IN CAPITAL TAKES EFFECT, AFP REPORTS

Which didn’t last long…

  • *YEMENI PM SAID SURROUNDED BY HOUTHI MILITIAS: CNN
  • *YEMEN PM’S CONVOY COMES UNDER FIRE FROM HOUTHI FIGHTERS: AFP
  • *EXPLOSION HEARD NEAR PRESIDENTIAL COMPOUND IN YEMEN: ARABIYA





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And then as CNN confirms,





As Bloomberg reports,

Yemen’s Houthi gunmen have laid siege to the residence of Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, Information Minister Nadia Sakkaf said, in the latest escalation between the Shiite group and authorities backed by Sunni Gulf Arab states.

 

The fighters have taken positions on buildings surrounding the palace in Sana’a, Sakkaf said on Twitter. Earlier, clashes broke out between Houthi fighters and presidential guards outside the compound of President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, prompting his intervention to broker a ceasefire. Eight people were killed in the fighting, Sakkaf said.

 

 

Tensions rose in Sana’a after Houthi fighters kidnapped Ahmed Bin Mubarak, the president’s chief of staff, on Jan. 17. Sakkaf said Hadi and the Shiite group were holding talks to agree on Bin Mubarak’s release. She didn’t elaborate.

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In case you are confused, here is a quick glance at the Middle East relationships mosaic…

Click here for The Slate’s full interactive chart.

 

As The Telegraph explains… Who are the Houthi rebels?

While the West was transfixed by jihadi beheadings of hostages in Syria last autumn, another history-shaking episode in the breakdown of the Arab world was playing out 1,500 miles away.

 

Western leaders hardly seemed to notice. But a once obscure Shia Muslim rebel movement known as the Houthis swept from the north into Yemen’s picture-postcard capital Sana’a, barging aside the US- and UK-backed army, and seized effective control.

 

Any thought that this was a random event in a country whose politics and feuds have always had the capacity to baffle its own people, let alone outsiders, was set aside with a single statement.

 

An Iranian politician close to that country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, could not contain himself. Ali Reza Zakani, an MP, boasted that Sana’a was now the fourth Arab capital in Iranian hands – after Beirut (through Hizbollah), Damascus (through President Assad) and Baghdad (through Iraq’s democratically elected Shia-led government).

 

The extent to which Iran physically armed the Houthis is disputed, though a ship carrying weapons apparently from Iran was seized in Yemeni waters two years ago.

 

However, the Houthis have close ties to Hizbollah, and the fact remains that Shia militias or armies now control parts of both Saudi Arabia’s southern border, with Yemen, and northern border, with Iraq.

 

That is a stunning blow for Saudi Arabia, a hardline Sunni absolute monarchy which regards Iran, a Shia theocracy, as its mortal enemy for historic and political as well as religious reasons.

 

Read more here…

Who are the competing factions?

The government: still the government, in theory, through the ceasefire negotiated with the Houthis after they took Sana’a. Pro-western and with some electoral legitimacy after Mr Hadi won an election in 2012. Admittedly, he was unopposed – but he had the support of both the parliamentary majority and opposition.

 

Houthis: the Houthis’ adherents are Zaydi Muslims, followers of the Shia religious school historically seen as closest to Sunnis, which made it easier for a Zaydi caliph to rule much of present-day Yemen for many centuries until the 1962 revolution. However, the sect has come to be dominated by a clan that owes allegiance to a now dead rebel leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, who declared war on the government in 2004. The Houthis’ Shiism has led them to a pro-Iran, anti-Western position – its adherents carry flags saying, “Death to America, Death to Israel”.

 

al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: the settlement that brought Mr Hadi to power was also supposed to provide Yemen with a common front to take on al-Qaeda’s jihadist insurgency, backed by American air-power. Unfortunately, military success on the ground was countered by more attacks by AQAP on sectarian rivals like the Houthis, giving the latter a further pretext to oppose the government.

 

Al-Islah: a Sunni Islamist political movement which is Yemen’s version of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is the main constitutional opposition to the government. Its leaders have been targeted for reprisals by the Houthis, as the two represent the rival sects of political Islam.

 

Al-Hirak: just to complicate matters further, southern Yemen – centred on the part of the country once run by the British Empire and then by the Soviets – has a strong secessionist movement. Socially more liberal, even non-secessionist southern sheikhs occasionally surprise visitors by lapsing into fond memories of both British and Soviet colonialism.

 

Former President Ali Abdullah al-Saleh and General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar: the eminences grises of Yemeni politics, these two distant cousins ran the country for decades, Mr Saleh as president and Gen Mohsen as effective security chief.

 

The two men fell out in 2011 as Mr Saleh refused to quit in the face of an “Arab Spring” uprising. In a strange twist, Mr Saleh, who fought the Houthis for years, is now said to be in such a sulk at having been forced from office that he is backing them with those parts of the army apparatus controlled by his many relatives, partly out of revenge against Gen Mohsen, who has retained power over a rival army faction.

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Zero Hedge

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