The al Houthis issue deadline for Yemen’s political parties to find a solution to the current political crisis. The al Houthis will probably establish a presidential council in the coming week should negotiations fail.
An al Houthi-backed presidential council to fill Yemen’s executive branch is looking increasingly likely. The al Houthis released a final statement at the end of a weekend-long political and tribal meeting giving political actors three days to resolve the political crisis. The al Houthis reportedly want to form a presidential council and national unity government. The UN Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar began a sixth round of talks between al Houthis and political parties, but the General People’s Congress (GPC) party and the Southern Movement are now boycotting the negotiations. Their rejection of the process makes it unlikely that any agreement reached with the al Houthis in Sana’a will be accepted.
Opposition to al Houthi continued control over the government is growing. Hundreds of Yemenis turned out for anti-al Houthi protests on January 31 in Taiz and Ibb, south of Sana’a, and in Sana’a’s Change Square, the site of the 2011 protests. Al Houthis used live bullets to break up the Sana’a protests. Al Houthi local militias fought with Yemeni soldiers in Hudaydah governorate on the Red Sea. Three al Houthi fighters and three soldiers were killed in the clashes.
Southern Movement factions are having limited success in uniting the movement to push for secession. Thirteen Southern Movement factions last week formed a National Southern Body for Liberation and Independence under the leadership of former opposition leader Abdulrahman al Jifri. The organization received additional support from a number of pro-secession factions, although many other factions rejected the initiative. Southern Movement militias clashed with security forces on January 28 in Aden city. Militants also kidnapped seven soldiers in Lahij governorate on January 28 and attempted to storm a military checkpoint on January 30.
AQAP’s insurgent arm Ansar al Sharia is maintaining a steady pace of attacks on the military. Ansar al Sharia attacked the 135th Infantry Brigade in al Qatan, Hadramawt on January 29, killing one soldier. Ansar al Sharia attacked the 312th Brigade in Sirwah, Ma’rib on January 30. Ansar al Sharia also ambushed a military convoy in Lawder, Abyan, southern Yemen on January 31. Militants killed two soldiers on February 2 in an ambush in al Bayda, south of Sana’a.
An airstrike targeted a vehicle carrying AQAP militants in al Said in Shabwah governorate on January 31. The strike killed at least three suspected militants. AQAP often attacks the Yemeni military in al Said.
Continued opposition to al Houthi control of Sana’a and expansion into other governorates may drive some tribes in Ma’rib and al Bayda to work with AQAP. The U.S. appears to be continuing targeted airstrikes in Yemen, but intelligence cooperation is probably affected by the al Houthi control of Yemen’s intelligence organizations.