Regional factions are beginning to mobilize and refuse to recognize the authority of the Yemeni central government. It is not clear what will resolve the political crisis in Sana’a
The Yemeni government is still in crisis as efforts to reach a political agreement to fill the presidency and premiership fail. Yemen’s parliament canceled a planned vote on President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s resignation and al Houthi officials failed to convince Prime Minister Khaled Bahah to rescind his resignation. The UN Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar announced talks between al Houthis and political parties, but Yemen’s Socialist Party, led by southerners, and the Sunni al Islah party refused to participate, citing continued al Houthi besiegement of the president’s, prime minister’s, and cabinet members’ homes in the capital.
The U.S. suspended some of its counter-terrorism operations in Yemen. Anonymous senior U.S. officials told the Washington Post on January 23 that certain counter-terrorism operations were suspended after al Houthi militants gained control of the Yemeni intelligence organizations with which the U.S. partnered to track al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). President Barack Obama insisted on January 25 that the best counter-terrorism strategy remained a partnership with Yemeni intelligence organizations and that the U.S. continues its targeted airstrike campaign against AQAP.
Unconfirmed reporting indicates local tribes in Hadramawt are mobilizing to maintain security in the eastern governorate. The governor of Hadramawt met with tribes to discuss security cooperation on January 24. Hadhrami officials indicated that they will reject all orders from the capital, Sana’a. Southern Movement activists deployed local civilian militias in the capital of Hadramawt, al Mukalla, on January 23. Along Yemen’s Red Sea Coast, the Tihama movement, based in al Hudaydah governorate, also announced its rejection of al Houthi authority in Sana’a and may be mobilizing militias.
Southern Movement leaders continue to call for full secession, though the South has not officially seceded. Aden, Lahij, Shabwah, and Abyan governorates still refuse orders from the central government. Southern Movement leaders met in Aden on January 23 to discuss the need for a unified effort for independence. Local Southern Movement activists deployed patrols in Ataq, the capital of Shabwah, on January 24. Similar patrols are also active in Aden where militias have taken control of local police stations.
Anti-Houthi protests continued for a second day throughout Yemen. Massive protests took place on January 24 in Sana’a, al Hudaydah, Taiz, al Bayda, and Ibb. Sana’a witnessed the largest protest, where al Houthis arrested an estimated eight protesters. Al Houthi militants also shot and wounded four protesters in the port city of al Hudaydah.
The political crisis and al Houthi control of Yemeni intelligence organizations will continue to affect U.S. counter-terrorism operations against AQAP. It may also affect the Yemeni military’s counter-terrorism operations if units are recalled back to Sana’a. AQAP took advantage of the security vacuum in 2011 to strengthen its presence in Yemen’s southern and eastern governorates.