Houthis advance in Yemen despite power-sharing deal

Supporters of the Yemeni Shiite Houthi movement guard a funeral procession, for members of the movement killed in a suicide bombing last week.

Supporters of the Yemeni Shiite Houthi movement guard a funeral procession, for members of the movement killed in a suicide bombing last week.

Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels who shocked the region with a surprise takeover of the capital Sanaa last month are forcing their political choices on the government and expanding their control in other parts of the country despite signing a power-sharing deal with the president last month.

Last week a presidential nominee for prime minister’s job, Awad bin Mubarak, stepped down following mass protests by the rebel group.

This week the president appointed another name, Khaled Bahaa, for the job. So far Bahaa appears to have the Houthi rebels’ blessings.

“Currently the Houthis impose the reality in the capital of Sanaa, they also impose it on the president himself,” Yemeni political analyst Abdul Fattah Haydara told Al Arabiya News.

But Ahmad al-Dougshi, an academic researcher and analyst on Yemen’s political affairs, said the rebels would not be able to continue running the country behind the curtain outside of a genuine power sharing agreement with different parties in the country.

“Yemen cannot be handled except through an authority based on partnership since Houthis now control large parts of Yemen and can impose their conditions,” Dougshi told Al Arabiya News.

He said the new prime minister might help bring stability to the country if the rebels do not interfere in his job.

London-based Yemeni academic Mohammed Jumeh told Al Arabiya’s Panorama program this week that the political process between Houthis and the presidency under U.N. supervision is a “political cover” for a major plan by the Iran-backed rebels to take over the country.

“They took over Sanaa by force and all what is happening now in Yemen in the political process is under Houthis control and it aims to give political and legitimate cover for Iranian interference,” Jumeh said.

“Unfortunately we now have a new Hezbollah south of the Arabian Peninsula, just like we have one in the north, both getting their orders from Iran, while the whole political process including the government’s formation and the presidency are nothing but a cover-up for actions carried out by this armed rebel movement,” he said.

Despite a power-sharing deal with the president last month, the Houthis have continues their military advance in the country, clashing with Sunni tribes and fueling extremist groups like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which now claims to be defending the Sunnis.

This week the rebels seized the strategic red city of Hudaydah, 226km west of the capital Sanaa.

On Friday, they overrun the city of Radda, in the province of Bayda and advanced in to the southern province of Ibb where they clashed with heavily armed tribesmen amid reports of at least 20 people killed.


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