Yemen, and "Operation Scorched Earth"

Insurgencies: the Houthi fighters

Insurgencies: the Houthi fighters

For two months the government of Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, has been fighting an uprising from the Houthi fighters in an offensive called “Operation Scorched Earth.”

The Houthis are the fighting force of the Zaydi people, a Shia minority group that resides in the northern region of mostly Sunni Yemen. Two days ago, the leader of the Houthis, Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, announced that he would be amenable to dialog in order to end “corruption and injustice” in Yemen. The Houthis have said they are willing to speak with all of Yemen’s political groups, including the government, as long as there is impartial Yemeni or Arab mediation. The government insists that a ceasefire must precede any talks which could be difficult, they have called two ceasefires in this conflict, both to no avail.

The current bout of fighting between government troops and Houthi-led Shia rebels in northern Yemen is having the worst effect on civilians since intermittent clashes began five years ago, according to aid agencies.

The current bout of fighting between government troops and Houthi-led Shia rebels in northern Yemen is having the worst effect on civilians since intermittent clashes began five years ago, according to aid agencies.

The Houthi fighters take their name from their late leader Abdul-Malek’s brother, Hussein Badr Eddin al-Houthi, their former leader who was killed by the Yemeni army in 2004, which is when the group first took up arms against the government in earnest. A Zaydi imamate ruled Yemen until the 1960s. Saada (which means happiness in Arabic), a northern Yemeni province, was their main stonghold and since their fall from power the region has been largely ignored economically and remains underdeveloped. The current conflict has only served to create a conflict with over 50,000 displaced, and dramatic price hikes for necessities. Yemen’s government accuses Iran of funding the Houthis.

All of this means intense trouble for a country that has more than enough on its plate. Yemen has been an early ally of the U.S. “War on Terror” but must contend with the Houthis and another separatist movement in its southern region as well as al-Qaida. A group of U.S. Senators, including John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), visited Yemen in August to address issue including security, stability, and the over 100 Yemenis still held in Guantanamo Bay.

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