Yemen and the Houthis

The Yemen Front

The Ansar Allah movement has lately attracted international attention by boldly defying major world powers, particularly the United States, through their military actions to support Palestine amid the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza. This decision comes at a time when even larger Arab nations refrain from such interventions, despite Yemen itself enduring a decade of US-backed Saudi-led aggression and grappling with a severe humanitarian crisis due to a years-long land, sea, and air blockade. In an attempt to thwart Yemen’s efforts and hinder Sanaa from enforcing its solidarity with Gaza, Washington and the UK launched a series of attacks on the country in recent weeks, with a plethora of media outlets shining their spotlights on the Ansar Allah, whom they call “Houthis.

The Houthis have continued to be a major thorn in the Empire’s side.  Not to mention that they continue hitting ships. Since November, they have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over the Israel-Hamas war. Despite over 3 months of U.S.-led airstrikes, Houthi rebels have remained capable of launching significant attacks. That includes the attack on the Rubymar and the downing of an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars. The Houthis insist their attacks will continue until Israel stops its combat operations in the Gaza Strip, which have enraged the wider Arab world and seen the Houthis gain international recognition.

To date, Yemen has struck 40 ships, with one sinking. Besides, a British warship has also been hit. To add insult to injury, the British warship had a limited or no missiles. It’s all bluff and no action. Typical British! After this fiasco, the British are using Cyprus as a base to launch airstrikes on Yemen. After many attacks by the US and its vassal states warships, Yemen has stated that these attacks have not enough scratched their military capabilities. The entire world is laughing at this US/UK operation, for its ineffectiveness.

However, there has been no slowdown in attacks in recent days. Between four to eight U.S. and allied warships now patrol the Red Sea on any given day.

While the Red Sea military operations of Yemeni resistance movement Ansarallah have shaken up geopolitical calculations of Israel’s war on Gaza, they have also had far-reaching consequences on the country’s internal political and military dynamics. By successfully obstructing Israeli vessels from traversing the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait, the Ansarallah-led Sanaa government has emerged as a powerful symbol of resistance in defense of the Palestinian people – a cause deeply popular across Yemen’s many demographics. Sanaa’s position stands in stark contrast to that of the Saudi and Emirati-backed government in Aden, which, to the horror of Yemenis, welcomed attacks by US and British forces on 12 January. The US–UK airstrikes have offended Yemenis fairly universally, prompting some heavyweight internal defections. Quite suddenly, Sanaa has transformed into a destination for a number of Yemeni militias previously aligned with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, now publicly declaring their allegiance to Ansarallah.

One such figure, Colonel Hussein al-Qushaybi, formerly with the Saudi–UAE coalition forces, announced in a tweet: “I am Colonel Hussein al-Qushaybi, I declare my resignation from my rank and my defection from the Legitimacy Army [army backed by Saudi-led coalition] that did not allow us, as members of the Ministry of Defense, to show solidarity with Palestine. My message to army members: Go back to your homes, for our leaders have begun to protect Zionist ships at sea and support the [Israeli] entity, even if they try to deceive, but their support has become clear and it is still there”. Qushaybi claims he was incarcerated in Saudi prisons for 50 days – along with other Yemeni officers – for his outspoken defense of Gaza, during which he endured torture and interrogation by an Israeli intelligence officer. Major Hammam al-Maqdishi, responsible for personal protection of Yemen’s former Defense Minister in the coalition-backed government, has also arrived in Sanaa, pledging allegiance to Ansarallah.

Simultaneously, a leaked ‘top-secret’ document from the Saudi-backed, UN-recognized Yemeni Ministry of Defense instructs military leaders to suppress any sympathy or support for Hamas or Ansarallah, as “this might arouse the ire of brotherly and friendly countries” – an implicit reference to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Defections and Dissent 

The wave of defections within the ranks of Saudi–Emirati coalition forces is not limited to officers. Many regular troops have openly rebelled against their commanders – abandoning their positions and pledging allegiance to Ansarallah – following the recent airstrikes on Yemen. Dozens of these soldiers have been arrested and detained for displaying solidarity with Gaza. 

Yemeni news reports claim the US government, in a missive to the coalition’s Chief of Staff Saghir bin Aziz, expressed “dissatisfaction” with the lack of solidarity among his forces and demanded action.

While this trend of defections in the Saudi–Emirati coalition is not entirely new, it has accelerated considerably since the onset of the war in Gaza and the recent US-UK strikes on Yemen. In February 2023, high-ranking coalition officers, including brigade commanders from various fronts, began a series of defections; this adds to the current rebellion. These earlier defections were primarily driven by financial conditions and dissatisfaction with Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their dismissal of military commanders associated with the Islah Party (Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen), who were replaced by members of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) militias and those commanded by Tariq Saleh, nephew of pro-Saudi former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. 

Most of these defections were by officer and troops associated with the Islah Party during a time when the foreign coalition began marginalizing the party’s military and political leadership, and dismantling several military sectors under their control – in favor of the UAE-controlled STC.

Now, the Gaza war has the Islah Party leadership fully breaking with its old alliances. As party official Mukhtar al-Rahbi tweeted upon the launch of US-UK strikes: “Any Yemeni who stands with the US, UK, and the countries of the coalition protecting Zionist ships should reconsider their Yemeni identity and Arab affiliation. These countries protect and support the Zionist entity, and when Yemen closed the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea to the ships of this terrorist entity, this dirty alliance struck Yemen and punished it for its noble stance towards Gaza and Palestine”.

In stark contrast, the UAE-backed STC and the Tareq Saleh-led National Resistance Forces expressed readiness to protect Israeli interests. On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, STC President Aidarus al-Zoubaidi reaffirmed his support for the British attacks against Yemen, conveying this stance to British Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

Following these statements, an entire battalion under Saleh’s command defected to Ansarallah, while many other fighters now refuse his authority because they reject supporting US–UK strikes against Sanaa and its resistance leaders. 

A Shift in Public Sentiment

In response to the latest western aggression against Yemen, media outlets affiliated with the STC and its supporters have launched a campaign against Ansarallah and the Palestinian resistance, casting doubt on the Yemeni resistance movements’ capabilities and motives. But, their efforts have backfired badly, instead leading to widespread public fury in the country’s southern regions controlled by the UAE and Saudi-backed government. 

Map of areas controlled by Ansarallah and Saudi-led coalition

Their anger is directed at the Aden-based government’s perceived alignment with Israel’s regional projects, sparking both protests and symbolic acts, such as burning pictures of UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed and the Israeli flag.

In the wake of this unexpected public outrage, the STC has experienced a further wave of defections within its ranks. Several leaders have joined the Southern Revolutionary Movement, and openly expressed their objective of liberating southern Yemen from what they see as “Saudi–Emirati occupation.”

Amidst the wave of military realignments, prominent tribal Sheikh Ali al-Huraizi – arguably the most influential figure in eastern Yemen – has come out to praise Ansarallah’s military operations against Israel-bound shipping in the Red Sea, hailing its actions as a resolute and national response to the suffering of the Palestinian people. Huraizi stressed that the US and British aggression against Yemen was launched to protect the Zionist state, because Ansarallah’s targeted strikes were negatively impacting Israel’s economy.

Countdown to the Coalition’s Collapse 

Yemen’s deteriorating economic conditions, currency collapse in coalition-ruled areas, and ongoing conflicts among southern militias have left many Yemenis disillusioned with Emirati and Saudi proxies, whom they had hoped would bring – at the very least – economic prosperity. 

In contrast, the Ansarallah-led Sanaa government has managed to maintain a relatively stable economic situation in the areas under its control, despite the foreign-backed war aimed at toppling it. This disparity has led to a growing sentiment among UAE-aligned soldiers that they are merely pawns fighting for the interests of Persian Gulf Arab rulers, without receiving due recognition from these governments. The contrasting stances on Palestine between the coalition and Ansarallah have deepened the Yemeni divide since the events of 7 October. Sanaa’s support for the Palestinian cause has significantly boosted its domestic standing, while US–UK strikes on the country have complicated their Persian Gulf allies’ position by prioritizing Israeli interests over all other calculations. 

Disillusionment with the coalition will have profound political and military implications for Yemen, reshaping alliances, and casting the UAE and Saudi Arabia as national adversaries. Palestine continues to serve as a revealing litmus test throughout the Middle East – and now in Yemen too – exposing those who only-rhetorically claim the mantle of justice and Arab solidarity. 

Sayyed Hussein Al-Houthi, the founder of the Ansar Allah

So who are the Ansar Allah exactly, and what are they fighting for?

Who are the ‘Houthis’? 

The term “Houthis” refers to an indigenous tribal group in Yemen that originates from the Arab Hamdani tribe residing in northern Yemen, and is a subdivision of the larger Banu Hamdan tribe. Their main settlements are concentrated in the regions of ‘Amran and Saada.

Since the early 2000s, and after the group began explicitly voicing its anti-imperialist ideology, Western countries and think tanks, trying to demoralize them and alienate them from their population, labeled them as “Iranian proxies” and “terrorists” who should be eradicated.

However, it is essential to recognize that the “Houthis” trace their roots back to the eighth century to the arrival of Zayd ibn Ali ibn Hussein in Yemen. Zayd ibn Ali (695–740) was the son of Ali ibn al-Hussain Zain al-Abidin and the grandson of Imam Hussain ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib. He initiated a revolution against the Umayyad caliphate, leading to his martyrdom. Zayd ibn Ali’s revolution was meant to oppose injustice like his grandfather Imam Hussein, who was martyred at Karbala in southern Iraq on 10 Muharram 61 AH (680 CE) by the army of Yazid Ibn Muawiya, the Umayyad ruler at the time. Zayd ibn Ali is recognized as a significant religious figure not only among Shia Muslims but also by many Sunnis.. Zayd remains a pivotal revolutionary figure, with many Yemenis eventually becoming Zaydis

Over the years, the “Houthis” developed their own historical narrative and political movement known as Ansar Allah, which would grow to surpass the “Houthi” element. Labeling all members of the tribal confederacy in northern Yemen as “terrorists” or “Houthis” and advocating for their indiscriminate elimination overlooks the complexity of their history and political formation.

How Ansar Allah evolved into a Formidable US Foe

Ansar Allah, originating from Quranic principles laid down in 2001 by Sayyed Hussein, faced six wars initiated by Ali Abdallah Saleh’s authority, with the sixth involving Saudi Arabia. At that time, Ansar Allah had limited resources, armed only with AK rifles, while the government possessed advanced weaponry, most notably F-16 aircraft, tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft weapons.

Ansar Allah Resistance fighter Hammam Hassan said:  “The war’s cause was attributed to Ansar Allah’s ‘Death to America, Death to Israel’ slogan, and tensions escalated after a visit by Abdul-Malik to Saada, prompting Saleh’s declaration of war”. He went on to say that Ansar Allah, initially armed with simple capabilities, progressed from manufacturing primitive bombs in juice boxes to homemade landmines, later developing missiles like Zelzal and al-Sarkha, as per Hassan.

During the war with Saleh, Ansar Allah acquired and developed weapons to serve Yemen and other free Arab nations, he said.

Sayyed Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi laid the foundation for the Ansar Allah movement in Yemen in 2004. During that period, Sayyed al-Houthi described the early members of the Ansar Allah movement, before it adopted this name, as a community of believers guided by the principles of the Holy Quran. He refrained from associating the movement with specific sectarian labels, underscoring its Islamic affiliation and Quranic identity as inclusive principles capable of encompassing all Muslims.
The Ansar Allah movement stood out in its political aspect by advocating opposition to American and Israeli meddling in West Asia, especially in Yemen.

“Sayyed Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi, in several lessons given under the title ‘Lessons from the Guidance of the Holy Qur’an,’ emphasized the US’ active posturing against our nation”, Yemeni diplomat Yasser Mohesn Almohallil stated.

“Ansar Allah faced persistent harassment from the authorities during the rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The regime made multiple attempts to pressure Sayyed Hussein Al-Houthi into changing his well-known slogan.”

“Despite these efforts, when the authorities failed to deter him, they declared war against Sayyed Hussein and his supporters. The initial confrontation occurred in the Maran area in northern Saada after he [Saleh] returned from Washington with a shipment of weapons and U.S. trainers,” he further affirmed. After Sayyed Hussein’s martyrdom, the leadership was transferred to his father and then to his brother Sayyed Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the current leader of Ansar Allah.

Regular Yemeni Fighters

Regarding the weaponry possessed by the regular Yemeni Resistance fighters, Ansar Allah Resistance fighter Hammam Hassan detailed that the fighters are armed, first and foremost, with their strong faith in God and a commitment to the cause they are fighting for. “I have deduced a principle from the wars in Yemen, including the war on Gaza, and that is that when two armies meet – one with powerful weapons and another with weaker weapons – the one who will win the battle is the one with a strong cause, even if their equipment is inferior,” he said proudly. 

Regular Yemeni fighters have access to widely available weapons, such as the Kalashnikov rifle and machine guns, including anti-aircraft guns.However, these weapons need to be well-maintained as they are old, he explained.

He further stressed that a regular fighter typically carries a simple machine gun, RPG launcher, or Kalashnikov, but because they are guided by principles and a strong belief, God grants them victory. “You’ve witnessed the Yemeni fighter who, barefoot, climbed an Abrams tank – a U.S. industry icon – fearlessly captured it, and then set it ablaze with firewood back in 2016. You might wonder how such an event could unfold. It’s because the Yemeni fighter is driven by a cause, a principle, strong beliefs, and unwavering conviction, while the enemy lacks any equivalent,” he recalled.

Regarding the Americans’ ability to respond to Yemen’s attacks, he sarcastically remarked, “Let them respond. The fighters of Ansar Allah have over twenty-three years of experience and embody principles, strength, and determination. They excel in camouflaging and concealing weapons in warehouses unknown to anyone; even the fighter storing the weapons is unaware of the precise location or the name of that area. We maintain a high level of secrecy and confidentiality in such matters.”

Ground and Air Military Capabilities

As for the ground and air military capabilities, many advanced weapons have been revealed by the Ansar Allah, particularly on the anniversary of the September 21 Revolution in 2021 and 2023.

Regarding naval weapons, locally manufactured weapons include remotely operated explosive-laden boats (Unmanned Surface Vehicles) and lethal naval mines. These weapons have been also publicly revealed. However, Ansar Allah also owns undisclosed weapons and missiles that could be deployed from vessels or the coast.

“Each party in the war holds cards that should not be revealed until the right moment. We could have closed the Bab al-Mandab Strait in 2017-2018 when we were besieged by countries worldwide, but with God’s grace and the wisdom of our leader, the decision to close the Red Sea passage was not taken. If we had utilized the Red Sea option, we wouldn’t have had the current capability to launch even a single shot to support Gaza,” Hassan noted.

In the same context, he contended that Western media is trying to portray a balance in capabilities between Ansar Allah and the United States. Despite the US possessing superior capabilities, effectively countering Yemen’s tactics requires a precise military approach, an area where Washington has so far been unsuccessful.

The confrontation over the past nine years of aggression has yielded substantial benefits, he noted.

“The United States’ becoming deeply involved in the coalition led by Saudi Arabia offered valuable field experience to Ansar Allah. This experience involved dealing with an extensive, aggressive war where coalition forces utilized a range of advanced American weapons. Ansar Allah also gained insight into the strategy behind the aggression devised by Washington, allowing them to adapt their operations accordingly. This adaptation, in turn, led to a refinement in the course of operations based on an understanding of the tactics employed by the aggressors,” he added.

‘The Land Fights with Us’

The Yemeni terrain poses a formidable challenge for any invader, as it is widely known to be one of the most rugged and demanding landscapes on the planet. The topography of Yemen is characterized by steep mountains, deep valleys, and arid plateaus, creating a complex and difficult environment to navigate. The terrain’s rough nature not only complicates military operations but also hinders infrastructure development, making it a significant factor that shapes the strategic considerations of any foreign force operating in the region.

The Yemeni mountains present extreme challenges, making it difficult for US missiles or drones to reach their peaks, rendering such attempts futile, as per Hassan.

During the Saudi-led aggression, Yemen was closely monitored by satellites and spy drones, to the extent that if there were a stone in a certain area, a drone would come, capture an image of the stone, and if the stone moved, the drone would strike the location, he said.

“This illustrates the extent of aerial surveillance in Yemen. However, we successfully concealed weapons, tanks, and aircraft. We developed long-range missiles with a reach of up to 200, 300, 500, 700 kilometers, and even a thousand kilometers. We manufactured, stored, and launched these missiles—all by the grace of God and the skills of Yemeni resistance fighters, who possess high capabilities in concealing and camouflaging. The Americans cannot reach [find] us,” he further emphasized.

The US vs Ansar Allah

In response to Ansar Allah’s operations in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in support of Gaza, the United States pursued a dual strategy. Initially, the US attempted to entice the movement with financial incentives. However, when this approach proved unsuccessful, the United States opted for a more forceful response, resorting to bombing Yemen. 

On this issue, a member of the Ansar Allah political bureau, Mohammad Alfareh, described the American-British aggression on Yemen as “a blatant and unjustified act that lacks legitimacy.” He further stated that the aggression is taking place within the framework of the protection provided by the United States and Britain to the Israeli enemy, allowing it to continue its killings, atrocities, and brutal massacres in Gaza.

“In this regard, we urge all media outlets and activists on social media not to align with the American narrative, which portrays this aggression as self-defense and protection of global navigation, falsely claiming that it is a response to the killing of their soldiers. The reality is that America is an aggressor and an occupier that came from across the oceans to dominate, plunder, and destroy. The war has been ongoing since 2001 and did not start with the killing of their three soldiers,” he clarified.

Alfareh reaffirmed that Yemen’s stance towards Gaza remains unwavering, regardless of challenges and threats. “We consider it a humane and ethical position, seeking to achieve peace in Palestine and security in our Arab region and the world,” he said. We also assert that our people have every right to confront the American and British aggression that violates our sovereignty and independence. It is a foreign intrusion in our region. The Muslim nations have the right to support Gaza, which is witnessing the greatest massacre committed by the Zionists with American, British, and Western support, he further added.

The official questioned, “Why does the US grant itself the right to commit crimes and aggression, supporting the Israeli enemy, and then deny our right to stand by our oppressed brothers, who are championing a just cause connected to us by religion, blood, language, culture, and nationality, more than what connects the American to the Zionist?”

On the US’ attempt to lure Ansar Allah, Hammam Hassan divulged that the movement had the option to remain silent about what is happening in Gaza, as it was promised that employees would receive salaries that had been confiscated in the years passed by the coalition. Salaries have been cut for ten years now, and Yemeni citizens struggle to make ends meet.However, even the simplest Yemeni citizens, including those opposing Ansar Allah, if asked whether they’d prefer to receive ten-years’ worth of salaries in exchange for the movement’s silence on the genocide in Gaza, or participate in a demonstration condemning the genocide, they would say they do not want salaries, he further stressed.

“Let me die of hunger; I would rather not stay silent about injustice. This would be the answer. This is the Yemeni people—a proud, stubborn people,” he affirmed.

“By Allah, even if our bodies are scattered in the air, we would not abandon Palestine and Gaza.” 

Hassan went on to say that Yemen has nothing to lose, as essential infrastructure like schools and hospitals has been decimated due to the Saudi-led aggression. He asserts that the only thing Yemenis have in their possession amid all this destruction is their dignity.

In response to US strikes, Hassan reiterated that Ansar Allah is ready to face the United States directly, expressing weariness from engaging with the US’ proxies since 2002, accusing Ali Abdullah Saleh and Saudi Arabia of being American puppets. He states that the Yemenis were praying that God make it such that Yemen confronts the Americans DIRECTLY, instead of through proxies. He says that God answered his prayers! Ansar Allah underscores its resistance as a matter of pride and honor, confidently stating that the US will not be able to harm them, he said.

As for the US’ ability to achieve its objective to stop Ansar Allah’s operations, Yemeni Diplomat Yasser Mohesn Almohallil commented by saying, “Drawing from this experience and considering the substantial popular support that has become a significant factor in the struggle, the United States currently seems to be struggling to develop new strategies to handle a resilient and self-directed uprising force.” This force has proven its ability to stay steadfast, shift the balance of the battle in its favor, and adapt military tactics to achieve its goals, he further added.

“The US has found, among its diverse military options, only futile attempts in imitating the tactics utilized by Ansar Allah. These attempts appear to be aimed at creating a perception of parity to restore its strategic equilibrium,” Almohallil concluded by saying.

In short, the strength and endurance of Ansar Allah as a unified movement from its entrenched ideological principles and strategic goals adheres to an anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist agenda, centering around the Palestinian cause. Presently, the Resistance movement is united in its pursuit of two main objectives: compelling “Israel” to agree to an unconditional ceasefire in Gaza, and ending the blockade on Gaza. In the pursuit of these goals, Ansar Allah operates based on its own political convictions and strategic interests, rather than adhering to external directives. This autonomy is a key factor in why Yemen is renowned as the graveyard of its invaders.

The US, UK, and “Israel” persistently describe Ansar Allah as an Iranian proxy, disregarding the movement’s autonomy and independence. This misunderstanding of this revolutionary movement may escalate the risk of a full-blown war in the region, with the West paying a high price, ultimately leading to its defeat in West Asia.

The Houthis had successfully tested a hypersonic missile, Sputnik reported on March 14, citing a source linked to the Iranian-backed group. Hypersonic missiles travel and maneuver at least five times faster than the speed of sound at low altitudes in the atmosphere, which makes them extremely difficult to track and intercept.

“Missile forces of the movement have successfully tested a missile that can reach speeds of up to Mach 8 [over 9,800 kilometers per hours] and is powered by solid fuel,” the unnamed source told the Russian news agency. “Yemen plans to begin manufacturing it for use in attacks in the Red and Arabian Seas and the Gulf of Aden, as well as against targets in Israel.”

Such a missile would reach Israel, which is more than 3,200 kilometers away from Yemen, in just ten minutes. Israel’s existing anti-missile systems were not designed to deal with such a threat. The source also told Sputnik that the Houthis had upgraded their existing missiles and drones to carry more powerful warheads.

The Houthis have targeted dozens of Israel-affiliated vessels and others owned by the U.S. and the United Kingdom in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November 19 in response to the ongoing Israeli war and siege on the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The group may have managed to develop a hypersonic ballistic missile with help from Iran. Last year, Iran unveiled its first hypersonic missile, the Fattah.

The U.S. and UK launched hundreds of strikes against Yemen in recent months in an attempt to deter the Houthis. All to no avail.

Lastly, the Houthis have broadened their strike zones to include US, British and Israeli shipping in the Indian Ocean. Many ships have been hit by Houthis drones and missiles, and this, at far greater distances than imagined before. The pressure on the West is unrelenting.

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