The Houthis | The Military Power and Sources of Support

18 May 2015

 The Houthis, or the Houthi militias is probably the second most repeated word in the media after ISIL during the few last months. The Houthis have been there in the Yemeni scene for over 10 years now, when the first armed clashes ...


        The Houthis, or the Houthi militias is probably the second most repeated word in the media after ISIL during the few last months. The Houthis have been there in the Yemeni scene for over 10 years now, when the first armed clashes erupted between the group and Yemeni government forces between June and September of 2004. Those early conflicts ended with the killing of the leader of the group, Hussein Badr AdDin al-Houthi.

It was an alarming transformation when the Houthis issue turned from a domestic Yemeni issue to a regional and international one, due to the dynamics of the movement itself and the strategies of the state supporting it, namely Iran.

On March 26, the forces of the Saudi-led Arab coalition targeted the militia, which marked a new turn in the events in region due to the Saudi stance regarding this group and its own one-time ally Ali Abdullah Saleh. The traditional policies in the region have changed, new alliances are formed and new enmities arisen in an already troubled region.

It is vital still to know who the Houthis are and what they represent and aim for, what are their strengths and weaknesses, and to determine whether they really possess significant powers and influence in Yemen or not. In this paper, we are dealing with such issues, in order to arrive at a better appreciation of the ideologies of the Houthis and the military and financial resources they have, and the areas in which they are present and active.

In this paper I shall discuss the different sub-groups within the Houthis community, and I shall introduce to the reader their most important and influential political and military leaders. This will help us understand the nature of the relationship between Iran and Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the true size of their military power.



One Origins and Basic Ideas

The Houthis: Who Are They?

The Houthis present themselves as the official representatives of the Zaidiyya sect, and this is a basic aspect that should be considered upon any discussion about the Houthis. They represent a religious sect that emerged within the Zaidiyya in Yemen and they are named after the founder of the sect, Hussein Bad AdDin al-Houthi[1].

The fact that the Houthis are of the Zaidiyya sect is no longer questionable, as confirmed by one of the most important intellectual authority among the Houthis, the brother of Hussein al-Houthi, who said that: “We represent the essence of Zaidiyya in terms of the beliefs, the culture, and the practice[2]. Still, the new interpretation of Zaidiyya stems from their belief that Zaidiyya is only related to Zaid bin Ali bin al-Hussein in terms of the organization not the jurisprudence.[3]

Looking at the details of the early beginnings of the Houthi group one could easily realize that Houthism is only an updated version of the historical Zaidism, a fact that has been elaborated at length in the study since it aims at studying the historical development of the “political sectarianism” and the impact thereof on the geopolitical transformation in the region.

It is necessary to tackle the transformations and developments this group underwent since its establishment and until this very day. The Houthis, according to a writer affiliated with them[4], are considered a revivalist extension of Zaidism, started by a group of Zaidi scholars in the 1980’s by revising the traditions and teachings of the Zaidi sect and teaching them to the young generation, in response to the increasing presence of the Wahhabi Salafism in Saa’da, the Chair of Zaidism as they describe it.[5]

In the early 1990’s and the rise of democracy as adopted by the republic of Yemen, which resulted in increased freedoms and intellectual and cultural pluralism, a group of Zaidi scholars and political activists decided to establish the Haqq party[6], as political wing of the Zaidis in yemen. A prominent figure in that party was Maj Addin al-Mu’ayyadi, and his deputy Bad Addin al-Houthi.[7]

Al-Haqq party failed in the first democratic elections in the country, winning only two seats in two electorates in Saada governorate, out of 301 seats of the Parliament. The two seats were held by Hussein al-Houthi, the founder of the group, and his partner Abdullah Eidah a-Ruzami.

The political Zaidis coincidentally established the Believing Youth Forum, as an intellectual and cultural arm, under the supervision of its founders, Moahammad Yahia Azzan[8], Abdulkareem Jadban, Mohammad Badr Addin al-Houthi, Ahmad al-Razhi, and Saleh Habra.

Some believe that Haqq party was only a passing experience for Hussein Badr Addin, the founder of the group, and he was aware of the probable results, therefore he decided to withdraw early from the party, and the parliament, along with his friend, Abdullah al-Ruzami, and they quit political work.

Hussein al-Houthi decided to engage in another activity, through becoming part of the Forum, although he was not among the founders. He strongly imposed his opinions and attitudes in the Forum and its activities[9],  which resulted in a division within the Forum into two groups, one affiliated with Hussein al-Houthi, known as the Houthis today, and the other with Yahya Salem Azzan, who decided to freeze his activities until this moment, due to the intense situation in Saada.

Hussein al-Houthi group led six consecutive wars with the Yemeni army, and scores of wars and conflicts with Yemeni tribes in Saada, Imran, and Jawf. The Houthis appetite for wars increased when Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted on February 11, when the Houthis sided with the peaceful revolution at first, then suddenly allied with Saleh, considering him part of the ruling Zaidi circle.

The main reason behind this shift in position is the sectarian nature of this group, which considers Mansour Hadi, who was installed as president in the transitional period, an outsider who does not belong to the Zaidi sect, which is considered a serious problem in the belief of the group and a test to the their very faith.[10]

Beliefs and Ideologies

Since Houthism is considered an updated version of Zaidism, it is vital to study the intellectual and cultural environment it emerged in. It is important to differentiate between the political trajectory of the Houthis which is known to be based on deception and evasiveness, and the beliefs of this group, which is rooted in the Zaidi political tradition.

The Houthis are considered Zaidis in their set of beliefs especially in relation to the issue of Imama and the Descendants of Ali as the bases of the Zaidi sect. In addition to this, they believe in a radical revival ideology which seeks to revive the sect and return to its early basics and pillars, with an attempt to develop radical ideologies and connect them with earlier roots in the tradition of their beliefs.

Houthism could not be detached from its Zaidi roots, especially in relation to the political fundamentals in the Zaidi sect and the conviction that a specific issue of the prophet has a divine right to rule the people. This is a basic condition in their faith, which dictates the right of the descendants of Ali bin Abi Taleb to religious and political authority.

These ideas are enshrined in a number of religious rulings and fundamental fatwas in their perception of the others, and their visions regarding the state and the society, and the regional and international relations.

Therefore, the claim that the Houthis are twelver Shi’a Muslims is unfounded, taken the many differences between the two sects. This does not mean of course that there are not common grounds between them, since obviously enough, Iran was able to contain all the other Shi’a groups in the region, such the Nusseiris, the Zaidis, and the Ismalites to a certain extent, despite the significant differences.

The Organizational Structure of Houthis

The Houthi group is definitely not governed by a strict organizational structure, and does not have a stringent organizational vision like some other organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, or Hezbullah in Lebanon, or the Daw’a party in Iraq.

The Houthis, for this reason probably, emerged in Yemen as a group named after its founder, and remains so until today, despite some attempts to change its name when the group joined the National Dialogue Conference after the revolution of February 2011, as this was their opportunity to change the image of the group from a rebel group to a legitimate body recognized locally, regionally, and internationally, under the name of Ansar Allah.[11]

The Houthis endeavored to adopt and publicize the new name, and they began to refuse to be called Houthis, insisting instead that they are named Ansar Allah (Supporters/Soldiers of Allah). This new name is also an attempt to transform from a group belonging to one man, to one that is based on a comprehensive concept, which is part of a number of improvements which seek to impose a new reality that is different from that preceding the revolution of February 2011.

Obviously though, the group was only trying to change its appearance as an intellectual and organizational trend that enjoys some self-supposed popularity within the Yemeni society as a whole, and not only in a limited geographical presence in Saada in the north of the country. Such attempts did not change much in the attitude of the group.

Some observers note that there actually were some attempts by the group to bring about some changes in its organizational structure and system, such as introducing a political wing, military wing, educational wing, and other wings in the media and sports and social service. This attitude is also explained by the attempts made by the group through its media campaigns and its mottos that became noticeable in its activities after the fall of Sana’a on September 21. For instance, some activities were held by the group to celebrate the graduation of the first 10 best students in Yemen for the years 2013, and the banners used by the group used phrases such as “Ansar Allah: Educational Department”. The same thing happened in some sports events, when the national Yemeni team returned home after the Gulf Cup games.

Nevertheless, this does not prove the presence of a clear-cut organization structure in the Houthi group, in as much as it indicates the absence of a clear vision when the group found itself in such a position it has never pondered nor imagined before, in a dramatical turn of events that affected the very structure of the country and the society. The group remained helpless, since the situation is too complex to be managed by its primitive tactics and organizational structure.

At the same time, it could be said that there is a limited organizational structure within the group where the foreign connections of the group with Iran and its allies in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Da’wa party in Iraq, especially Hezbollah which is believed to be responsible for running the Houthis in Yemen and responsible for arming, organizing, and training them.

I believe that the organizational structure in the Houthi group is very elite and limited in scope, including only second, and maybe third levels of leadership, and the rest of its influence depends on popular and sectarian propaganda, exploiting at the same time the situation of poverty and need to recruit people and gather supporters.



Two: Financing and Military Strength

Main Financing Resources

Similar to every armed group, the Houthis do not clearly state their financing resources, but this could not remain a secret for so long, especially in light of the group political moves and military activities, which become even more evident after the February 2011 revolution.

Throughout the period expanding the first war between the group and Yemeni government in 2004, and until the 2011 revolt, there had been significant obscurities regarding the group’s sources of money and support, but after the revolution, it became clear that Iran leads the way and most of the official and non-official financing for the group come through Iran.[12]

But the Iranian support is not the only source of money for the group, since it also has private sources of support by the Houthis themselves, through some sort of religious duties, especially in the notion of Khoms (One Fifth). There are also other sources related to the circumstances of wars and conflicts, related to arms, drugs, and smuggling, and other practices related to the war economics.

For example, Saada is on the Southern borders of Saudi Arabia, and it is known that the Kingdom and all the Gulf states are luring markets for drug lords all over the world. Drugs coming from Afghanistan and Iran could only pass to the Gulf states through Yemen which shares very long borders with the Gulf countries, and that made smuggling drugs to the Kingdom in specific through the border crossings with Saada easier.[13]

Semi-official funding for the group fall into two categories, the first is related to semi-official funding, limited in scope, in terms of training the cadres of the group in politics, media, and providing military training for its fighters. This is done semi-officially, but through Hezbollah which is responsible for this mission that is undertaken bu Abu Mustafa, a prominent figure in Hezbollah supervising the Yemeni situation.

The second level of funding is through the Hawzas of the Shi’a in the Gulf, especially Bahrain, SA, UAE, Oman, and Qatar, and this funding is considered the most important source of support to the Houthi group, second only to the sources the group get from its supporters through the Khoms.

The Military wing and its leadership

It is difficult to state the Houthi group had a militia since it was established, since one oculd not determine with absolute confidence the presence of several wings and sub-groups that undertake separate missions and responsibilities within the group. It is difficult, and also not objective, to talk about the presence of a political, civil division of the group, and another one that is military, since the Houthi group is an ideological militia by its very nature.

It is true that the Houthis use some phrases for media consumption, such as “the political council”[14]which appeared after the group had decided to participate in the NDC. Such names proved to be misleading in terms of the final and critical decisions of the group, which are ultimately referred to one person, namely, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the leader of the group after the death of the founder, Hussein Bad Addin al-Houthi in the first round of the 2004 war.

Therefore it is difficult to suggest the presence of an independent military wing for the group that could take independently take decisions away from the control of the centralized decisions by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi. This means that it is inaccurate to suggest that Abu Ali al-Hakim or Abdullah Ali al-Hakim are leaders to the military wing, due to the fact the political and military decisions of the group are taken by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, and his younger brother Abdul-Khaliq al-Houthi.[15]

What concerns is here though is not the decision-making process within the Houthi group. We are concerned with understanding the nature of the military wing and its various leaders in the areas under the Houthis control, in Sana’a, Hudyada, Taiz, and other areas.

The formation of the military wing is also of two levels, one is used publicly where a leader is known for one of the areas, and the other is the real leadership that is connected directly to Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.[16]

It is clear that the so-called Hussein Army, or the Hussein militia, is the kernel of the well-trained Houthi militias which were trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. These forces were trained in two phases, the first is a special training for the senior and middle leadership during 2011 and 2012 and the training took place in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. The second phase of training was conducted in the Saada training camps, and the training was offered by Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Some analysts believe that these militias received training in Eritrea and maybe in the east of the Sudan, but the truth is that the  Eritrea camps were just one stage in the training, as mentioned by Mohammad Qashqosh in a talk with the Majalla magazine in London.[17]

The other side of the Houthis military power is their dependence on the tribal alliances they forged with the help of Saleh’s supporters and those affiliated with him in the army, in addition to the tribes that allied with the Houthis, such as Hamadan bin Zaid tribe in Saada, and some families of Kayl tribe in Imran and Sana’a.

The numbers of the Houthi militias are around 10 to 15 thousand people, while the other fighters belong to their own tribes, and lately a number the Yemeni soldiers and revolutionary Guard who are loyal to Saleh joined the Houthi militias.

Additionally, the Houthis have what they call the Imama project of Yemen, which remained present within some bodies of the Yemeni state since the national reconciliation in 1970. This allowed most of the senior cadres to work through such official bodies in the republic of Yemen, and they were also able to form lobbies that helped them manipulate recruiting processes, promotions, training, and employment in a number of these bodies.

Sources of Arms

I believe that, considering the current situation in Yemen, the Houthis armament is so clear. There are three main sources of arms for the Houthis. The first one is the self-armament in the beginning of the fights, since the arms the Houthis used in the beginning were the same as those used by the tribes, such as AK-74, grenades, and RPGs After each war, the Houthis used to gain more of these arms, in addition to M2 Browning, recoilless rifles, and M252 and G3, and light anti-aircraft weapons which were modified by the Houthis in order to be used against tanks and armored vehicle. They also own a number of M-113 and T-55 which are lightly armored, and they obtained such arms after fights that erupted with Saudi forces in 2009.[18]

The second source of arms is of course the extended conflict in the country, from 2004 until today, since local markets of arms trade and smuggling thrived[19], and the support and funding of the Houthis by Iran continued, especially the arms shipments in Gehan I and Gehan II, or through Hezbollah in Lebanon and its various connections in the region.


The most dangerous yet, is what has been recently revealed in a secret report  by the UN sanctions committee that Iran has been directly arming the Houthis since 2009.

In addition to Jihan ships, experts talk about five instances of Iranian arms shipments to Yemen.

The report says that in 2009 a crew of an unknown Iranian ship moved arms containers in international water to Yemeni boats, then these containers were moved to a farm in Yemen to be used by the Houthis.

The report also reveals that in February 2011, an Iranian fishing boat was seized by the Yemeni authorities, and was found out that it was carrying 900 Iranian-made anti-tanks and anti-aircraft missiles for the Houthis. [20]

The third source of weapons is the alliance between Ali Saleh and the Houthis, which became the most important source for weapons and arms, in addition to training by the officers of the Republic Guard who were loyal to Saleh.

The Houthis were able, thanks to this alliance, to defeat  the 310th Armored Brigade, which is considered the strongest brigade in the Yemeni army. The fall of the 310 Brigade was a result of a plot and collusion by president Hadi and his defense minister, Mohammad Naser Ahmad. This defeat enabled the Houthis and Saleh to control the heavy arms of the Brigade on June 2014, which were used afterwards to control Sana’a on September 2014.

When the Houthis entered Sana’a, they also controlled a number of arms warehouses and camps, and the group eventually had its hand over the weaponry of the country. Abdul-Karim al-Iryani says: the Houthi is better armed than the state army itself[21], and this was even before the coup on Hadi’s government on January 2015. Right now, the group is in control of almost everything in Yemen, along with its main ally, Ali Saleh, which means that more than 70% of the Yemeni army’s weaponry is under the Houthis control, especially the heavy arms.[22]


Three: Mutual Interests

The Houthis and Saleh

Some would look at the alliance between Saleh and the Houthis as a relationship driven by pure interests[23]and that this alliance won’t last for a long time. But a closer look would reveal that this alliance is firm and deep, since both parties consider the revolution of February 11 a popular uprising that threatened the control of the Zaidis, represented by president Saleh and his tribal affiliations, and the Houthis who belong to the Zaidi sect.[24]

Politically, the mutual interests between Saleh and the Houthis could be valid as well, but the dramatic change in events proved the strength of this alliance, and its resilience even if threated by a direct war, such as the war launched against them by the Saud-led coalition. After six rounds of previous conflicts and wars between Saleh and the Houthis between 2004 and 2010, they form now a very solid and extraordinary alliance, which is not, considering the historical background of the conflict, very surprising. This alliance has been building up since the 1990’s when Saleh supported the Houthis in an attempt to weaken the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movements in Saada.

More significantly though, Saleh chose this alliance when he decided to fight against Ali Muhsen al-Ahmar, who was considered a hurdle that would not materialize Saleh’s ambitions to make his son, Ahmad, succeed him in power.

Ahmad was practically working to form such alliance, using his swaying influence in the army, especially in the elite republican Guard, the special forces, and the anti-terrorism forces, which were exclusively manned from the Zaidi areas in Sana’a, Dhimar, Imran, and Saada.

The alliance went further than that in the relations with the senior leaders who belong to the Hashemite group, which is represented by the Houthis, when a number of the leaders in the elite forces were chosen from those belonging to the Houthis and are loyal at the same time to Saleh and his son, Ahmad.[25]

The Houthis under Disguise

Some people might be puzzled by the Houthis and their successive victories in Yemen against the Yemeni army, which is considered the sixth strongest Arab army, but they probably fail to recognize the complex reality of the current crisis in Yemen, and its historical, social, and sectarian roots.

Houthism is the semi-final version of political Zaidism established by Imam Al-Hadi Yahia bin al-Hussein al-Rassi in the middle of the third century A.H, as a pure political theory. It remained powerful in the north of Yemen, in Saada and other areas, for almost 11 centuries. Then this ideology remained powerful at times, and at other times it almost dispperaed or concealed itself in Saada, reaching areas of Samara mountain, separating the upper right and the lower right according to the classification of political Zaidism for Yemen.

Following the revolution of September 1962, which resulted in a destructive civil war between the republican revolutionaries and the Imamis, and only ended by a national reconciliation mediated by Saudi Arabia, there were demands that authority should be divided in a republican system, and the royalists could return to Yemen as partners in the authority.

Nevertheless, what took place was extremely dangerous. It meant that the royalists shall come back to Yemen as rulers, but this now within a republic not a kingdom, which eventually led to the current situation in Yemen. The Imamis now have control over all the bodies of the state, due to the fact that they were qualifies, in terms of literacy at least, and that some of them had better education, unlike the republicans who were a small group of a military elite.

In this way, the Imamis assumed control in the country and they endeavored to manipulate its institutions, especially the administrative ones, such as the security apparatus, the army, the intelligence departments, the foreign affairs, higher education and others.

More alarming still is their involvement with civil society organizations, diplomatic missions, and other areas where they able to create an effective lobby through which they reached international arenas and institutions, using this in their project to control Yemen for their interests and agendas.

They also succeeded in creating a wide network of connections to penetrate other Yemeni parties, such as the GPC, and the Yemeni Socialist Party, and other important parties in Yemen. Some of the leaders played essential roles in these parties, enabling them to steer their political decisions to serve their Imami project.[26]


The Houthi and Iran

Undoubtedly, Iran has worked hard to exploit any opportunity that would increase its presence and influence in any Arab country. What makes it easier on Iran to do so is the absence of any clear strategy by the Arab states to deal with the Iranian threat, and of course other threats in the region.

The absence of such strategy, especially among those states that share the same geography, race, sext, and future, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states, resulted in increasing influence of Iran in that region, with an obvious American collision, reminding us of the Iraqi scenario, where the situation now is almost exclusively controlled by Iran.

Even before the Iranian revolution in 1979, Mohammad Reza Shah Behlevi sided with the royalists in the 1960’s, who belong to Hamdi Addin family, the last leaders of the Zaidiyya in Yemen, and after the Revolution in Iran, Yemen supported Sadda Hussein in the Iraqi-Iranian war (1980-1988).

In that specific period, Iran showed its early attempts to have presence in Yemen, through some activities. The Iranian embassy in Sana’a for instance communicated in the 1980’s with several young people in Yemen, giving them books and other printed materials, and these people were arrested and persecuted by the state, since it was in the Arab bloc with Iraq against Iran.

In 1986, in the embassies celebrations of the eighth anniversary of the revolution, it invited a number of religious and tribal figures to participate in the event, and they enjoyed the Islamic and cultural activities they saw, and they started thinking of imitating the experience in Yemen with changes in the content.

Such attempts marked what could be described as exporting the principles and ideals of the Iranian revolution, but such activities in Yemen remained limited in scope and impact due to the nature of the situation between Iran and Iraq at that time, where Yemen sided with the latter and sent 10 military brigades to support the Iraqi army. Therefore, the Yemeni-Iranian relations were very strained.

The concept of exporting the ideals of the revolution remained largely ineffective on the popular level in Yemen, except among some Shii’a groups. This prompted Iranians to develop a strategy to attract Yemeni students to study in Iranian universities and Hawzas in Tehran, Damascus, and Beirut during the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Despite these efforts, Iran didn’t succeed in spreading the Twelver Shi’a belief among these students, which could have several explanations, such as the hostility between Yemen and Iran due to Yemen’s stance regarding the war between Iraq and Iran, and the serious differences between the Zaidi sect and the Twelver sect.

Iran still had a better change in achieving its aims in Yemen and the region, and that happened after the 1990 in Yemen, when the country witnessed several political and cultural transformations. It was a period of increased cultural and political diversity which was exploited by Iran to extend its influence in Yemen.

The period between 1994 and 2004 was the most significant in this regard, where the relations between Yemen and Iran were good, and Iranians succeeded in spreading their ideologies and beliefs in the Yemeni society through Iraqi Shi’as who belong to the Da’wa party in Iraq and living in Yemen as refugees.

These efforts were in two main streams, the first one was spreading the Twelver belief in the Yemeni society, and the results in this regard were not encouraging, and the second is establishing good relations with the Zaidis in Yemen, which eventually resulted in the rise of the Houthis.

Nevertheless, the Iranian role was not the main thing that led to the emergence of this group in Yemen. There are a set of different reasons for this, most importantly the historical presence of the Zaidi sect as a political “idea” that is very inspiring for its followers who try to rearrange themselves and reemerge whenever possible.


Four: Houthi and Operation Decisive Storm

Operation Decisive Storm which was launched by a Saudi-led Arab coalition against the Houthis and the ousted president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and it represents a serious development that would change the political dynamics and alliances in the whole region.

The Houthi group is the main target in this operation, and the aim is to weaken the Houthis through airstrikes that target their positions and those of Saleh to dismantle their military power, especially in the ammunition factories and the military headquarters that they seized in Sana’a[27] or the factories built by Iran in Saada.

The fall of Sana’a was a very critical event that helped the Houthis with huge amounts of arms. In every military camps they controlled they seized all of its weapons and moved them to Saada. Operation Decisive Storm is meant to destroy this military power of the Houthis.[28]

After of month of the military operations by the Arab coalition, it was clear that the main objective is to restore peace and legitimacy in Yemen and preventing the destruction of the state, therefore it was renamed as operation of restoring hope, which keeps the door open to a political solution.[29]

It is clear today that the Houthis, who obviously prefer war and conflict over peace, could lead the whole society to chaos and civil unrest, such as the case in Iraq and Syria, in a similar scenario set and funded by Iran that support the sectarian minorities in the region in order to disturb the very fabric of the Arab societies, so that they would become easier to control and manipulated.

The danger essentially lies in the absence of a clear vision by the Arab coalition in relation to restoring legitimacy in Yemen, which of course could negatively affect the military, political, and security-related positions of the Arab states. The airstrikes of the Saudi-led coalition are significant and achieved important results on the ground, but the Houthi militias are fighting in vast areas of lands even outside the Northern parts of the country, which are considered to be their domain of influence.

It is important to give special attention to agreeing on basic object for the operation, which should be restoring legitimacy and ensuring peaceful transition of power in Yemen. This should be done through a real democratic process with the participation of all Yemenis. On the other hand, accepting the Houthis as a new status quo in the country would definitely lead to political and military disasters and chaos similar to that in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.

Reconstructing the state of Yemen should begin by formulating a new social contract based on the principles of democracy and civil state where human freedoms are protected and the political will of the people are guaranteed. This could be achieved through helping Yemen overcome its economic difficulties, which could be accomplished by the accession of Yemen in the GCC. Yemen enjoys huge human resources, and only a stable political system could achieve the full potential of the human capital of this country.

Otherwise, Yemen will remain a hotspot of sectarian conflict, and this will be a constant source of worry not only to the Gulf region but to the whole world, due to the geographical and geopolitical position of Yemen.

The solution in Yemen requires all parties to participate in an open dialogue to reach an agreement based on national participation and reconciliation where theocratic principles such as Zaidi Imama and other ideas are abandoned in favor of a brighter future for the country based on human development and freedoms.



[1] نبيل البكيري، جماعات الزيدية السياسية، الحوثيون، موسوعة الحركات الإسلامية في الوطن العربي، الجزء الثاني، صـ 2385

[2] Ibid. p2387


[4] عبد الملك العجري، باحث متخصص بالجماعة الحوثية ومقرب منها، يُنظر لموسوعة الحركات الإسلامية في الوطن العربي، صـ2387.

[5] نبيل البكيري

[6] It is a political party with a Zaidi religious framework. It was established in the early 1990’s after the declaration of unity in Yemen between the north and the south. The party participated in the first elections in 1993, but it only won two seats in Saada, one seat for Hussein Badr Addin al-Houthi, and the other for his friend, Abdullah al-Rzami. They later left the party and concentrated on educational activities to revive the Zaidi teachings in the Believing Youth Forum, which eventually resulted in forming the Houthi group that we know today.

[7] Badr Addin al-Houthi, one of the most important Zaidi figures in Yemen, the father of the founder of the Houthi group, Hussein al-Houthi. He died in an unusual accident in 2010 in Saada.

[8] Mohammad Yahya Azzan, the founder of the Believing Youth Forum, who wrote several books and articles that were aimed to revive the Zaidi teachings and reforming them, especially in relation to its political theories that connect the sect to the presence of a specific family or descendants thereof. Later on, Hussein al-Houthi controlled the forum, since he is a Hashemite, who believe that knowledge is like ruling, should only be reserved for those descending from the Hashemite family, and that the influence of Azzan should therefore be curbed.

[9] Mohammad Yahya Salem Azzan, in a talk with him in 2014

[10] In a conversation with a colleague regarding the Houthis in Yemen he told me that he asked a leading figure in the group about their disagreement with Abdrabbu Hadi Mansour, and their alliance with Saleh although the latter is the one who fought with them in six consecutive wars, while Hadi tried to engage them in the political life in Yemen. That leader told him “our difference with Saleh is political, it could be settled, but our difference with Hadi is religious” meaning that Hadi doesn’t belong to the Zaidi sect, and he could not be president, unlike Saleh who believe in the Zaidi sect.

[11] The Houthis call themselves “Ansar Allah” (Supporters/Soldiers of Allah) which indicate the Iranian influence in even the names they choose for themselves.

[12] Officially, Iran only trains the leading figures in the second and third levels of leadership, in addition to logistic aid. The main source of support comes from the religious Hawzas (religious institutions) in the Gulf in specific, according to several official sources in Yemen and the Gulf

[13] In a conversation by the researcher with one of the officers concerned with the drugs issue, he confirmed that this issue is the main security issue between Yemen and the Gulf, and that Saada is one of the main areas used by smugglers, especially that some Yemeni officials are involved with the Houthis in this business.

[14] The political council is a political body for the Houthis that include all the supporters of the group from outside its organizational or geographical framework. The council is headed by Saleh al-Samad who was appointed as a political advisor by president Hadi.

[15] Abdul-Khaliq al-Houthi is the military leader of the Houthis, and he was placed under international sanctions along with Abu Ali al-Hakim and Ali Abdullah Saleh

[16] For instance, the Houthis leader in Taiz is Salim Mighlis, while the real leader is Mohammad –alShami, and in Ibb the leader is al-Morou’I while the actual leader is Khalid al-Syaghi


[18] See Wikipedia

[19] Weapons in Yemen are rampant, and some reports say that there are more than 60 million weapons in Yemen. Additionally, arms trade in Yemen is thriving especially that it is an open market for this kind of trade where weapons are exported to neighboring countries, especially Africa. Yemen is home to a number of the most notorious arms lords, such as Faris Manna, the former governor of Saada, who is considered the most notorious in the whole Arab region.

[20] On January 23, 2013 the Yemeni authorities seized two Iranian ships carrying arms for the Houthis in Yemen. This was before the Houthis’ coup in 2014.




[24] International crisis group website


[26] This explains how the capital Sana’a was controlled so easily by the Houthis within only some hours. Sana’a was handed to the Houthis without resistance, and a chain of developments evolved afterwards upon the arrival of the Houthis.

[27] Such as the member of the revolutionary committee of the Houthis, Mohammad al-Mqalih who is a member in the Yemeni Socialist Party, and his friend, Talal Aqlan, whose memberships are both suspended in the party.

[28] SA decided as the leading country in the coalition to consider Saada a military area that could be subject to airstrikes by the coalition forces, and that happened after some intelligence on the presence of missiles in Saada aimed at Saudi targets

[29] All parties agree on the importance of a political solution, which is rejected on the other hand by the Houthis and Saleh.

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