The Middle East is still in flames in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
As the bloody onslaught of the so called “Islamic State” continues in Iraq and Syria, it is slowly expanding to other countries.
Yemen, located in the southwest part of the Arabian Peninsula, is the scene of a chaotic civil war.
Yemen is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, Oman to the east, Djibouti across the Red Sea to the southwest, Somalia across the Gulf of Aden toward the south, and the Arabian Sea to the southeast.
The two major players vying for power are the previous regime and its supporters, whose stronghold is the southwestern city of Aden, and the Houthi rebels, who are in control of the western capital city of Sanaa.
To make things more complicated, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is also actively fighting for territory.
The “Islamic State” has carried out bombings in the capital and there is a separatist movement calling for secession of south Yemen. Tribal allegiances also continue to play a role in the conflict.
Yemenis were some of the first people to start protesting in the 2011 Arab Spring.
At the time, their president was Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had held power in the country for decades.
After much of his own regime and political party resigned and much of the military defected and after an assassination attempt left him injured, he left his post and gave the government to his vice president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Saleh later reclaimed his presidency.
That was the end to the revolution and the beginning of the civil war going on until today.
Amid unrest with the new Hadi government not making enough progress, Houthi rebels managed to win the people over and take control of Sanaa after a successful coup, forming an interim council in place of the presidency.
After losing support from the People’s Congress party, Hadi fled to his hometown and support base of Aden, and then appeared in Saudi Arabia where he reclaimed his presidency.
Saudi and other countries’ militaries started a bombing campaign over Yemen to oust the Houthis and other opposition groups.
With the Houthis and their former adversary the Congress party against any form of unity or coalition government, and evidence of former president and rival Saleh now collaborating with them for control of the capital, those aligned with Saudi Arabia are wetting their thobes, or Arabian robes.
At this point, it is important to look at alliances to know who is who and what is really going on.
The Sunni Islamist Islah party is the largest opposition party to the General People’s Congress party. The Congress party is aligned with Saleh and the Houthis. The Zaydi Shi’a Houthis, religiously between the mainstream Shi’is, and the majority Sunnis, are backed by Iran.
The southern separatist movement wants to go back to having a South Yemen and a North Yemen, as is was before 1990. Various tribes are aligned with different factions. Al Qaeda and the “IS” hate everybody, including each other. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia want Hadi or any malleable, non-Iran backed leader in power.
Zooming out, it seems that this civil war is another victim to being a proxy war with the Arab monarchies, backed by U.S. oil interests, wanting to keep their monarchies in power from Iran’s revolutionary winds.
The hypocrisy of the situation is that our country, “the land of the free,” is supporting a monarchy. The Houthi group who at least claim to be fighting to mitigate decades of unequal social treatment and educational and economic distribution, which were the initial qualms of anti-government protestors.