Huthis and the Media
Two new articles – in English – today give me an excuse to write on the Huthi conflict and also discuss some new media outlets that are publicizing their side of the conflict.
But first the articles. Nasser Arrabyee, a good friend and smart journalist, has this piece in al-Ahram weekly – a favorite paper for both Brian and I from our undergrad days in Cairo.
Nasser points out: “Despite the escalating violence, for the time being at least the Yemeni government seems to have the necessary internal, regional and international support for its campaign to crush the rebellion. In addition to internal tribal support, religious figures have also announced their support for the government’s military campaign against the rebels.”
But it doesn’t seem as though the government has the military strength, political unity or know-how to crush the rebellion.
Nasser’s article also brings up a good point with regards to the role of the opposition in the conflict.
“Observers, however, say that the opposition parties do not have a wide following in Yemen, which remains largely tribal and conservative. ‘The opposition parties want to rescue themselves from their crises, yes, but they do not necessarily want to rescue the nation,’ commented Ahmed Al-Sufi, a political analyst.”
This is something that stood out to me on my recent trip to Yemen – how both the government and the opposition are eager to consolidate or acquire power but neither has a very good idea of what to do with it once they get it.
The other article on the conflict is this one from the Economist. Now I like the Economist, well, I generally like the Economist. And the article is actually better than I thought it would be once I saw the Cairo dateline, but we demand more than mediocrity. There are a few errors that make it seem as though the reporter is playing catch-up more than he or she (I have no idea who wrote the piece) actually has a firm grip on what is going on in Yemen.
The roots of the conflict pre-date the expulsion of Yemenis from Saudi Arabia in the early 1990s, although this certainly contributed to the clashes. One would be better off dating it to the expulsion of Shaykh Muqbil al-Wadi’i from Saudi Arabia after the failed takeover of the Great Mosque in 1979.
It is also unclear to me if the Believing Youth was even in existence at that time – and to call the group a “radical cult” seems a bit much. Just ask Muhammad al-‘Azan, now co-opted by the regime, what the group was.
It also seems a bit much to claim that the aid of western donors has long propped up Salih’s regime. It is unclear to me how much Salih depends on this money – I think he is much more interested in political recognition and this, I think, gets at a common misconception that I tackle in a forthcoming article, regarding the leverage and diplomatic influence that western governments, particularly the US, have in San’a. Spoiler alert: I think the impression the US has of its own influence in the country is greatly exaggerated and comes nowhere near to matching reality.
Finally, for those interested in following the Huthis without the filter of Waq al-waq – we bring you three on-line resources, all of which are in Arabic. First is the group’s main webiste: www.almenpar.net (it should be al-Minbar, but who am I to quibble with their transliteration).
Next is the relatively new Sa’dah Now and finally the group’s own You Tube channel – Sa’dah Online.