The Future of Yemen

Summary: Chapter 13 of new Arab Digest / Global Policy Journal e-book looks at the future of Yemen and finds that when the war ends the country could break up into a multiplicity of entities.

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1 thought on “The Future of Yemen”

  1. I’d agree with much of what Helen writes, in particular to do with the issue of water: the last time there was a catastrophic failure of the water system in Yemen, the armed tribes marched North and East, occupying much of what is now the GCC countries and parts of the Levant. In terms of desalination, the Red Sea – being mostly enclosed – is far more saline than most seas and thus desalination is far less productive / more expensive. The tourist potential of Yemen is also likely to be greatly reduced by the +/-2000 archaeological sites hit by (mostly) Coalition airstrikes, and the extensive detritus of war which will contaminate the land for decades to come.
    I do, however, disagree with her statement “the Huthis’ support is more based on status ascribed by birth, i.e. it is widely supported anywhere in Yemen by sada or descendants of the prophet.” The al-Huthi family lead a Zaydi-revivalist movement pushing back against the Sa’udi-funded Salafi propagation programme, centred on the al-Dammaj complex near Sa’ada. The Huthi movement has a strong nationalist identity (as well as a religious one) in that Zaydism is almost unique to the North of Yemen and strongly bound up in its culture. Were the Huthi da’wa attractive only to the Sada, there would be few tribesmen fighting for the Huthis; most Sada are non-combatants. There are also no few Shafa’i Sunni Sada who do not support the Huthis, and, indeed, some Zaydi Sada who disagree on either political or (a few) on doctrinal grounds. There is also some evidence that the Huthis – although not Bakilis – were supported and enabled by the Bakil confederation as a means of redressing the political balance which had been tipped in the Hashid confederation’s favour under the long partnership of Pres Ali Abdullah Salih and Speaker Abdullah bin Husayn al-Ahmar (both of Hashid.)
    I’d also disagree that “None of these allegiances prevent the vast majority of Yemenis from fury at the widespread corruption of political leaders, something on which no faction has a prerogative and all share in the disgrace.” The Huthis were a politically insignificant grouping under Ali Abdullah Salih, but ones who had been seen to resist an unjust ruler (the central Zaydi tenet) and his corrupt clique in six rounds of conflict. They were thus seen as not being part of the Sanhani-dominated elite and so had considerable “Street-cred” for being uncorrupted. (It will be interesting to see if this reputation for probity survives their collaboration with Ali Abdullah.)

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