Shia Houthis in Yemen face a new threat: Forces loyal to Saleh are open to Saudi-led coalition

Shia Houthis in Yemen face a new threat: Forces loyal to Saleh are open to Saudi-led coalition

Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Saudi Arabia is witnessing a new shift in Yemen after forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president of Yemen, began to clash with Shia Houthis. This will be music to the ears of the Saudi-led Sunni Muslim alliance because rival sides were bogged down respectively in various parts of the country. On top of this, the humanitarian disaster and the reality of cholera meant Saudi Arabia received a bad press – but much less than it should be based on the power of Gulf petrodollars. Therefore, Saudi Arabia is hoping that Saleh will change tract and that Shia Houthis will lose ground in parts of Yemen based on being overstretched.

Of course, the conflict is nigh impossible to predict because outside nations are meddling in the internal affairs of Yemen. At the same time, Shia Houthis, despite appearing to be in a weakened position outside certain strongholds, have fought tenaciously in areas outside their natural base.

However, if forces loyal to Saleh turn against the Shia Houthis and are bombed by the Saudi-led Sunni Muslim alliance, then this new dynamic will test the Shia Houthis to the hilt. Equally important, outside nations will watch the response of Iran carefully. After all, in Bahrain, the Shia feel oppressed and the same applies to certain areas of Saudi Arabia. Despite this, Iran did not involve itself militarily or via proxies in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. Therefore, if Shia Houthis come under extreme pressure – and Iran remains distant – then the role of Iran outside of Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria will show the shortcomings of Tehran in relation to Riyadh.

Reuters reports, In a speech on Saturday, Saleh appeared to indicate the end of his loyalists’ alliance with Houthi fighters. He said he was ready to turn a “new page” in ties with the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis, if it stopped attacks on Yemeni citizens and lifted a siege.”

Since the above was reported fresh clashes in Sanaa have erupted between Shia Houthis and forces loyal to Saleh. Of significance, when fresh clashes emerged in Sanaa, the Saudi-led Sunni Muslim alliance began helping forces loyal to the former president of Yemen. Hence, more weight is being added to the split between former allies and this bodes ill for the Shia.

Iran is extremely worried by the emerging shifting sands in Yemen because Saudi Arabia is currently bogged down. Yet, if the Shia Houthis become isolated by forces loyal to Saleh combined with attacks by the Saudi-led Sunni Muslim alliance, then not only will the sectarian angle worsen but Iran’s hope of Saudi Arabia cutting its own throat will be reduced dramatically. If this happens, then Saudi Arabia may become more emboldened in Lebanon despite the confessional dynamics being even more complex given the Maronite Christian and Druze angle.

Bahram Qassemi, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of Iran, said, All internal disputes should be resolved through dialogue to block the grounds for any abuse by the enemies of the Yemeni nation.” 

Of course, the above statement is a travesty because it is abundantly clear that the Saudi-led Sunni Muslim alliance is abusing the nation of Yemen. The same applies to America, France, and the United Kingdom supporting the Saudi-led Sunni Muslim alliance based on the role of Gulf petrodollars. Hence, long-held murky ties remain detrimental for the people of Yemen based on outside nations seeking either compliancy at the least – or hegemony at worse. Therefore, these are dangerous times for the Shia Houthis in Yemen.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security/saudi-led-air-strikes-support-yemens-saleh-as-he-shifts-against-houthis-idUSKBN1DX07O

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