The situation in Yemen is unclear and, at the time being, very confusing. Although it has become evident that, as regards the military tendency, the Houthis are pushed back from the occupied regions towards the North there is no central political authority and no administrative structure pointing the way ahead for the entire country or, at the very least, for larger areas. In the South the Houthis have been waging war above all against the “opposition” (muqawama), composed of different, often oppositional groupings most of which have no military standing: Haraka clusters having assembled during the revolution movement, moderate but also radical secessionists, more or less fundamentalist Shafi´i, and alQaida, the biggest armed opponent of the Houthis.
A characteristic feature of muqawama – originating in the people committees during the revolution – is their concern to pursue their goal of protecting the family, the home and the living quarter from Houthi attacks exclusively on local basis. Members of muqawama in general have no military training, have “poor” weapons and refuse to be motivated to enter into combat with Houthis outside their own catchment areas. Following the expulsion of Houthis they immediately took over the distribution of relief supplies to the starved and suffering population. This proved relatively successful in, for example, Aden although some consignments were still sold on the black market.
President Hadi issued a decree that the entire army and the security forces should be completely composed anew and restructured and that muqawama members are entitled to be recruited. This has been a very clever policy stroke since this decree ties muqawama to Hadi – which had so far not necessarily been the case – and offers those ready to be engaged a secure livelihood in the present extremely unsecure situation. However, this move will result in members of alQaida also joining the armed forces of the state.
Muqawama represents a rather urban phenomenon and is differently aligned in the individual towns. What unites them at the time being is their position as the only reliable police force, having taken over also the tasks of waste disposal, emergency repairs and social services. Schools remain closed, however, and hospitals can function insufficiently only because of damage and shortage.
This function on the part of muqawama is of particular importance at the time being since alQaida, upon having fought arm in arm with the opponents´groups, now wish to usurp the leading role and dominate. The speedy expulsion of the Houthis from Aden, alAnad airforce basis and the Southern provinces Abyan, alDhale and Lahij, and, subsequently, Taizz and Ibb was possible only with the assistance of alQaida and Saudi air strikes and Emirate ground troops equipped with vehicles and arms. The frontlines run at the height of Taizz and in the East in Marib. However, backlashes also occur. Houthis assemble in some places, build up an army again and recover lost territories. The situation is thus very volatile.
Following the successive move of the war zone to the North the different groups in the South drift apart – to the extent of armed conflicts among them. Simultaneously, local leaders start gaining influence at the expense of a missing central government.
Ex-president Hadi postulates – from Ryadh – that he will assert himself as strong leader with decrees and draconic strength vis-à-vis the Houthis and the entire Yemeni population. His Red Lines include the fulfilment of Resolution 2216 of the Security Council, indicating – in actual practice – the defeat and complete withdrawal of the Houthis. Moreover he insists on the federal division of Yemen into six regions, prematurely promulgated in February 2014 and provoking the conquest then initiated by the Houthis. Still excluded remains the question of the future in store for Sana´a.
While Nadia alSakkaf inter alia proposes to transfer the seat of the government for some years to Aden, Hadi insists on the quick retreat of the Houthis from Sana´a, where they have considerable backing and followers whereas Hadi is not very popular.
Many Sana´anis are extremely worried about the near future. If the Houthis will not leave the city voluntarily, the population will be exposed to further acts of violence, if not a bloody massacre and further misery.
The Saudi air strikes are continued on the one hand, the deployment of ground troops of the allied forces and, consequently, urban warfare is to be anticipated on the other. Hadi envisages the method already applied in Aden:
Total besiegement of the city of Sana´a, starving out the population, blocking electricity, water, gas, fuel and telecommunication. This will, as has happened in Aden, immensely afflict the suffering population and bring about a large enrichment for war profiteers on the black market.
As a preparatory measure for the besiegement air strikes of the allied forces have completely destroyed the harbour of Hodeidah to prevent ships from unloading. At a recent meeting with president alSisi in Cairo Hadi has asked for his assistance when blocking Red Sea harbours.
Although secret peace negotiations are under way under the patronage of Oman, and Algiers is said to participate too, it appears to be pretty obvious that neither Hadi nor his Saudi patrons wish to enter into such negotiations (as already happened in Geneva) before the entire western part of Yemen has not been razed to the ground.
It is somewhat intriguing that representatives of Moutamar (GPC) participate in such negotiations as stakeholders. Intriguing because Moutamar is not a political party in the usual context but an interface organisation of ex-president Saleh who, upon the withdrawal by stages of divers leading members, has become a shadow of himself. His little remaining influence is granted by those negotiating. Judging from the present situation the winners of war and crisis will be the Islah party, pulling the strings from Ryadh, and alQaida upon having succeeded taking roots in the population.