On Tuesday, Houthi rebels had stormed and seized the presidential palace. It is unsure whether or not it is a coup. Houthi rebels, are a Shia insurgent group that has been battling the government and a reinvigorated al-Qaeda. When President Hadi came to power in 2012, the Houthi rebels seized upon his inability to fully establish authority and reached the capital, Sanaa in September of 2014. The two sides reached an agreement that would allow Houthi rebels to control parts of the city. On Saturday, January 17th, President Hadi’s chief of staff was kidnapped and Houthi rebels claimed responsibility.
Gun battles began in Sanaa on Monday and by Tuesday, January 20th, palace guards surrendered and the rebels took control of number of major institutions including a military base and the official news agency. Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the rebel leader made a statement that Hadi and other officials failed to create a national dialogue or combat al-Qaeda. The US embassy is still operating in Yemen, although on Monday night, unknown assialants shot at an embassy vehicle in Sanaa, no one was injured. Late Monday, the USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry moved into new positions in the Red Sea to be prepared for evacuations if necessary.
As of today, Yemen’s official news agency reports that the President and rebels have reached an agreement and the rebels have pledged to pull back from the presidential palace and other locations and to release the chief of staff. The news agency reports that President Hadi has agreed to redrafting the constitution to state that Yemen is a federal state and the redraft will also grant the Houthi’s more political power. The deal has not provided answers on who controls Yemen and how much power President Hadi still has. A power vacuum would greatly impact the U.S. and other regional allies in addition to setting the stage for a power grad by al-Qaeda. The U.S. greatly depends on President Hadi’s cooperation in the war on terror and in particular against al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.
Attached is a phone conversation between deposed Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthi leader leaked to Al Jazeera.
For more look at our Ramel on Skype interview with Yemen expert Farea al-Muslimi