Yemen’s Houthis pose a threat to the region

What Arabic-language writers say about recent events in Sanaa

Protesters shout slogans against the Houthi movement in the southwestern Yemen city of Taiz. (Mohamed al-Sayaghi / Reuters)
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The Houthi takeover in Yemen has marked the country’s collapse in the eyes of the world, driving some countries to close their embassies in Sanaa and recall their diplomatic staff. While the Houthi rebels have turned down a United Nations call to cede power, several Arab countries have warned that they will move to protect the security and stability of Yemen if necessary.

In the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan, Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor wrote that “the Iran-backed Houthi rebels achieved a long sought-after goal while the Arab world was in a deep slumber”.

The writer noted that the Houthis took over Sanaa under the pretext of seeking of establish a government that is more representative.

After former president Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi was ousted, the Houthi militia dissolved the parliament and replaced it with a “revolutionary council” comprising five members, he explained.

“All Yemeni political parties have condemned this step, which is likely to lead to a full-scale civil war and the disintegration of the country.

The real danger is that political vulnerability and sectarianism may leave the doors wide open for Al Qaeda, Ansar Al Sharia and other terrorist groups, helping them impose their presence throughout the country, the writer said.

He said that these events not only threaten the unity and sovereignty of Yemen, they have broader repercussions for the entire region.

“Clearly, member-states in the Gulf Cooperation Council are very concerned about this situation,” wrote Al Habtoor. He said the Council had warned that “this coup aims to plunge the country into a dark tunnel”, and that it had appealed for international assistance.

“Though the damage may be done, we should not raise our hands in surrender and let things go from bad to worse, nor sit back and sip on our tea, hoping that American knights will suddenly appear and save the day.

“The United States and its friends have affairs of their own to tackle, which may greatly conflict with our interests,” he concluded.

In the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat, Abdul Rahman Al Rashed asked: “If the game that the Houthi invaders are playing has allowed them to effectively take over the main reins of power, would ousting them not require an international military solution?”

He noted that the situation in Yemen had resulted from a political vacuum between the ousting of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the establishment of a new regime.

“Though backed by Iran ... the Houthis are not capable of ensuring the simplest needs of the Yemeni people, who have been suffering since the outbreak of the revolution in 2011,” Al Rashed wrote.

In the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, Hazem Saghiyeh remarked: “It was with a very pale face that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that ‘Yemen is collapsing before our eyes’.

“No sooner did we hear these words than we rushed to our maps, to pinpoint the locations of the Houthis and Al Qaeda, the Sunnis and the Shia.”

Saghiyeh concluded: “Now that Yemen is collapsing and the world is disintegrating, we realise the extent of our noble ignorance.”

Translated by Carla Mirza