T. Belman. When the overthrow was announced, I wondered why the US didn’t stop it. Apparently the Sunnis are now their enemies and the Shiites their friends.
The strings of the pro-Iranian Houthi rebels’ coup which toppled the Yemeni government in Sanaa were pulled from Tehran and Washington. US intelligence and shared US-Iranian support helped the Houthis reach their goal, which is confined for now to parts of central Yemen and all of the North.
Friday, Feb. 6, the rebels dissolved parliament and seized power in the country of 24 million. They propose to rule by a revolutionary council. President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his cabinet who were forced to resign last month are under house arrest.
DEBKAfile’s Saudi intelligence sources reveal that the dominant figure of the uprising was none other than Ali Abdullah Saleh, president of Yemen from 1990 until he was ousted in 2012.
A member of the Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam like the Houthis, he led them to power with the same enthusiasm with which he fought their insurgency during his years in power. By rallying his supporters in the army, intelligence and security services, he enabled the rebels to take over these departments of government and overpower the Hadi regime with only minimal resistance.
They were also able to commandeer $400 million worth of modern American munitions.
The Houthis secretly call themselves “Ansar Allah” and have adopted the “Death to America, Death to Israel” slogans routinely heard in government-sponsored parades and demonstrations on the streets and squares of revolutionary Tehran.
Amid the political turmoil in Sanaa, the US Sunday resumed drone strikes against AQAP.
The six Arab countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, issued a statement Saturday, Feb. 7, calling for the UN Security Council to “put an end to this coup, an escalation that cannot be accepted under any circumstances.”
The Iranian-US gambit has resulted in different parts of Yemen falling under the sway of two anti-American radical forces – the pro-Tehran Houthis and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The new Saudi King Salman starts his reign with a double-barreled threat facing the kingdom from its southern neighbor, Yemen – posed by an Iranian pawn and a proactive branch of Al Qaeda.
Ten days ago, when US President Barack Obama visited Riyadh, the Saudi monarch voiced his concern about the alarming situation developing Yemen. However, Obama replied noncommittally with general remarks.
In Washington, administration spokesmen Saturday tried pouring oil on the troubled waters roiled by US support for the Iranian maneuver in Sanaa and the return of Abdullah Saleh to the Yemeni scene.
“We’re talking with everybody,” one US official said, explaining that the United States was ready to talk to any Yemeni factions willing to fight Al Qaeda.
His colleagues tried to downplay Tehran’s hand in the Houthi coup. “The Houthis get support from Iran, but they’re not controlled by Iran,” said another official in Washington.
Our military and intelligence sources report that Yemen is not the only Middle East platform of the joint US-Iranian military, intelligence and strategic performance. The second act is unfolding in Iraq.
Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Jordan and Israel are therefore watching the evolving US-Iranian cooperation in fighting al Qaeda’s various affiliates in the region with deep forebodings, lest it is merely a façade for the Obama administration’s espousal of Tehran’s regional ambitions.
It is hard for those governments to make up their minds where to look for the most acute menace to their national security – the US-Iranian nuclear deal taking shape, or the give-and-take between Washington and Tehran in Yemen and Iraq.