The international community was hoping for democracy in Yemen after President Mansour Abdrabbuh Hadi took over in 2011 following the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ unrest, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
He took the presidency, with support from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, following the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh who had ruled Yemen since unification in 1990. The former British protectorate of Aden and then the state of South Yemen merged with the Arab Republic of Yemen in 1990. Yemen's majority population is Sunni Muslim with a strong 40 per cent Shia minority living mainly in the northwest.
The Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa and put President Hadi under house arrest in January 2015 and declared a new government in February. The Houthis have homelands in the north and belong to the Zaidits section of Shia.
The UN Security Council asked the warring parties to negotiate, hold a referendum on the constitution and prepare for a new presidential election. It also asked the rebels to leave the government buildings they had taken over and release President Hadi.
But the Houthis, who claim the right to self-determination and reject foreign influence, have refused. They claim that President Hadi’s regime continued the corruption which led to former President Saleh being ousted.
GIS has warned of the dangers of Yemen's destabilisation in two previous statements because Yemen holds a key strategic position.
Saudi Arabia is also preoccupied by the Houthi success in Yemen as it fears Iran’s influence through its Shia connections.
The UN Security Council’s intervention will probably prove ineffective. It looks as though Yemen could fragment.
The Houthis are successful and have a cause, but the Sunni tribes in the south and east may resent a Zaidit Houthi dominated government.
GIS said on October 23, 2014, in a statement headlined ‘Yemen's turmoil poses wider threat’ that the former Aden might want to split from Yemen.
Saudi Arabia would not like this outcome as it could result in a Shia-dominated state in the north. Yemen could become a major threat to overall Middle East stability as it sees a proxy war on its territory yet again.