The American-Saudi success story continues in Yemen, where the successor to the government forced out by the partnership has had to change cities for the second time this year. President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi emerged a few days ago in Aden after escaping Houthi rebels who held him briefly in Sana’a. He’s back on the run today as Houthi forces have arrived in the port city:
Houthi rebels reportedly took over Yemen’s largest airbase Wednesday, located just 35 miles from the port city of Aden, where President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi set up a temporary capital last month. The president reportedly fled the city Wednesday, raising fears of an ever-quickening slide toward civil war.
Witnesses in Aden told The Associated Press they saw a convoy of presidential cars leaving President Hadi’s palace Wednesday. Officials told the AP that Hadi was supervising the government response to the Houthi advance from a secret location, though other news outlets say Yemeni officials deny the claims Hadi has fled.
And well he should. Hadi apparently has very little in the way of defense forces at his command, and the Houthis have captured Hadi’s defense minister. Needless to say, Hadi’s not terribly interested in getting captured again, especially with a $100,000 bounty on his head:
Presidential officials said Hadi was in an operations room overseeing his forces’ response. They declined to say where that facility was located. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Yemen’s state TV, now controlled by the Houthis, made an offer of nearly $100,000 for Hadi’s capture.
Also Wednesday, Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mahmoud al-Subaihi and his top aide were arrested in the southern city of Lahj, where fighting with Houthi forces was ongoing, and were subsequently transferred to Sanaa.
Later, the rebels and Saleh’s loyalists carried out three airstrikes targeting the Aden palace presidential compound and Hadi’s forces positioned there, officials said. No casualties were reported in the strikes, similar to ones carried out last week.
And once again, the Houthi advance has a familiar face behind it:
The advance of the Shiite rebels, empowered by the backing of the ousted Yemeni autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh and his loyalists, threatens to plunge the Arab world’s poorest country into a civil war that could draw in its Gulf neighbors. Already, Hadi has asked the United Nations to authorize a foreign military intervention in the country.
The takeover of Aden, the country’s economic hub, would mark the collapse of what is left of Hadi’s grip on power. It would also open a new chapter in the Houthi-Saleh alliance and possibly pave the way for more infighting.
If Hadi’s waiting around for a UN intervention, he’d better be prepared to wait a very long time. The Vatican has called for UN intervention against ISIS, which is committing genocides in Iraq and Syria. Yemen’s crisis is a civil war, which Hadi’s losing badly. He could ask for Saudi and American intervention, since they’re responsible for getting him in office in the first place, especially since he allowed both to go after al-Qaeda; they owe him, but Hadi will wait a long time to collect on that debt, too.
Let’s recap, then, the impact of Barack Obama’s foreign policy on Yemen. Prior to 2011, we had a dictatorship in place with a vested interest in fighting our AQ enemy, and who had at least some semblance of balance between the Sunnis and Shi’ites in Yemen. The US and Saudi Arabia forced Saleh out as part of the “Arab Spring,” and now we have Iran backing Shi’ite militias while AQ runs rampant, and no partner for counterterrorism operations at all. Saleh’s return will put Iran in the driver’s seat and have Saudi Arabia surrounded, and make the Gulf of Aden even more dangerous for global shipping than it is now.
Update: The AP reports that Hadi has gotten out of Aden by sea:
BREAKING: Officials tell AP that Yemen's president has left the country by sea, on a boat from Aden.
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 25, 2015
That’s not confirmed yet, and could be disinformation. But really, there weren’t many other options left to Hadi. If this is true, we’ll get Saleh back with none of the cooperation we had from him before, and plenty of reasons to align himself completely with Tehran. Nice job, President Obama.