First, a brief primer.
The main players in the Yemen Civil War are the Houthis fighting mostly in the North of the country, the recognised government, with an exiled president, Abdrabbuh Mansur, in KSA, fighting against the Houthis and the newest faction, the Southern Transitional Council (STC) who seem to be fighting the Houthis (but, not really!) and Hadi’s government. Confused? So are the Saudis.
The Saudis four year long campaign to wrestle power out of Houthi hands and transfer power to the more malleable president Hadi can only be described as a monumental failure. We’ve seen homes, schools and government buildings reduced to rubble, millions displaced and killed, and the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
As for the Houthis, they have as much control of Sana’a now as they did in 2015, except now they have become emboldened, having survived Saudi jets and rockets, and gained supporters in the process.
Bin Breik, vice president of the STC, has gone further asking listeners to “persevere just as the Houthis persevered for 5 years”. So, what does the new political power in South Yemen want? Nothing less than separation. From the 9th August 2019 to the 14th, this relatively small group were able to take over all military camps in the South, the presidential palace, and Aden, the temporary capital of Yemen.
The STC was always a distinct group from President Hadi’s government, which supports a united Yemen, but agreed to fight the Houthis alongside Hadi’s troops. The Houthi enemy was perceived as the common enemy. That was until Monday when it became apparent that Hadi’s government was hoarding weapons and using said weapons against the STC and separatist supporters, going as far as collaborating with Houthis.
In four days the STC swept through the South and made their demands for a separate country known to their former allies: the UAE and KSA. The UAE is said to have supported the STC in their military attacks. Analysts, however, believe the KSA will oppose the creation of a democratic country so close to it’s border. President Hadi, it is said, was the perfect puppet; a staunch supporter of KSA with the right amount of showy democracy to appease Yemenis.
The KSA have indicated their disapproval of the STC with an airstrike, but this has had little effect on the STC. In his Eid address, the president of the STC, Aidarus al-Zoubaidi, spoke of his willingness to negotiate with his allies, but emphasised no amount of violent coercion would bring him to the table.
When Operation Decisive Storm (عاصفة الحزم) was launched four years ago against the Houthis, not even those with highest political acumen or foresight could have predicted the repercussions. Legitimising and strengthening the Houthi’s hold of North Yemen and Southerners finally getting what they have dreamed of since 1994: a South Yemen. Bravo, KSA.