2 thoughts on “Yemen: the people, the warriors, and the war”

  1. The discussion was enlightening like the last one, and we needed (at least I do) more information on the Houthis and what is driving them. Dr Kendall was implying that they were becoming – to use a Christian metaphor – somewhat messianic in their Shi’ism. But their original complaint was that they were a neglected minority. So what do they seek now?

    1. This is a good question: what is driving the Houthis? First, it’s important to recognise that the Houthis encompass different shades of opinion, commitment, and ambition. But currently, hardliners appear to have the upper hand. There is no doubt that the Houthis have legitimate grievances (decades of political and economic marginalisation, cultural and religious harassment, government corruption). However, the movement has shifted from defensive to aggressive over the years, and with this has come an increased focus on the ideological underpinning needed to justify hardline measures.

      Houthi ambitions and motivation are laid out very clearly in an excellent paper by Helen Lackner and Raiman al-Hamdani, “Talking to the Houthis”, published last month by the ECFR. Especially pertinent to Alan’s question are pages 13 to 23.

      For a sense of the Houthi position earlier in the war and how it was changing, take a look at my 2017 paper for the Atlantic Council, “Iran’s Fingerprints in Yemen: Real or Imagined?” If pressed for time, just head straight for the conclusion.

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