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Riyadh delays the inevitable; the Houthis have the power in Yemen, Hadi has no authority

19 16 0

This week saw the signing of the much-delayed Riyadh Agreement between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government of exiled President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and the UAE-supported Southern Transitional Council (STC). The Saudis hope that this power-sharing initiative will quell the dispute between the rival factions so that their coalition can focus on pushing back the Houthis in the north of Yemen to re-instate Hadi in the capital Sanaa. The problem with this is that it remains to be seen whether the agreement can be realised in full on the ground, because it merely delays the inevitable, which is the looming failure to defeat the Houthis. This is partly because they are arguably legitimate and, practically speaking, they have the real power, which is what politics is all about in the end.

Adding to the challenge of understanding the complex situation in Yemen, is the language often used to portray the Houthis as “rebels” in the north and the STC as “separatists” in the south; even MEMO is guilty of this. Thus we get a false image of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government in exile as being legitimate and authoritative, while the Houthis are a militia acting as “Iranian proxies”. The reality is much more nuanced.

READ: Yemen government, separatist council sign Riyadh deal

Contrary to the simplistic portrayal of the Zaydi Houthi movement, who refer to themselves as AnsarAllah, they have been in an alliance with some 60 per cent of the Yemeni army loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who was killed in 2017 by his erstwhile Houthis allies after seeking to defect to the Saudis. The 2014 Houthi takeover of Sanaa simply could not have happened without the support of the Yemeni army and Saleh’s intelligence networks, nor could it be maintained without the experience in government of Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC), as corrupt as it was.

It is worth reminding ourselves that Hadi was brought to “power” after Saleh was ousted, by winning an “election” where he was the only candidate. He was supposed to be there for a........

© Middle East Monitor