How Al Qaeda’s Biggest Enemy Took Over Yemen (and Why the U.S. Government Is Unlikely to Support Them)

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How Al Qaeda’s Biggest Enemy Took Over Yemen (and Why the U.S. Government Is Unlikely to Support Them)

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Casey L. Coombs and Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept

The political crisis opens the door to an all-out war in Yemen. (Photo: EPA/Landov)

Sanaa – Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, his prime minister and entire government cabinet resigned en masse today, just 24 hours after Houthi rebels occupied the presidential compound in Sanaa. The resignations give unprecedented power to the Houthis, a Shiite minority from the country’s isolated northern highlands.

The political crisis also opens the door to an all-out war over control of the Yemeni capital, involving Sunni political factions and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. The conflict could also draw in Saudi Arabia, the United States and Iran.

The streets in Yemen’s capital are now a maze of checkpoints, a few still manned by government forces wearing military uniforms, but most these days are controlled by Houthis. Unlike government forces, the Houthis are typically dressed in tribal garb–a shawl wrapped around their face and a skirt known as a ma’awaz.

Armed with AK-47s, the Houthis are primarily looking for members of AQAP.

The Houthis, however, are quickly proving that the old adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is not always true. While they are bitter enemies of AQAP, the Houthis manning the checkpoints often adorn their AK-47s with stickers bearing the group’s motto: “Death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews, victory to Islam.”

For the West, this labyrinth of Yemeni politics underscores the complexity of trying to find a reliable ally to fight Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate, which claimed credit for the deadly attack earlier this month against the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. While the U.S. government had continued to back Hadi as a close partner in the war on terror, it’s the Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah, who have been battling AQAP on the streets of Sanaa.

Read the full article at The Intercept.

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