The al Houthi leadership is beginning to back down on some of its anti-government rhetoric, indicating the group may be open to negotiations. Southern governorates continue to agitate for secession.
Some progress has been made in negotiations to reach a political settlement. Al Houthis released on January 27 the president’s Chief of Staff Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, whom militants had held hostage since January 17. Al Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi gave a televised address on January 27 calling for a tribal gathering on January 30 in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, to discuss the political crisis. While Abdul Malik denounced President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s resignation as an attempt to blackmail the group, he noticeably backed down on some of the harsher rhetoric used in previous speeches. Negotiations between various political actors overseen by the UN Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar are ongoing in Sana’a.
Political factions throughout the country continue to protest al Houthi control. Al Houthis shut down Change Square, the site of the 2011 protests in Sana’a, on January 27 as youth activists prepared protests for the fourth straight day. Anti-al Houthi protests also occurred in Taiz for the sixth straight day. Clashes broke out on January 27 between armed tribesmen and al Houthi militants north of al Hudaydah after al Houthis tried to enter tribal areas.
Southern governorates persist in calls for secession but have made no formal attempts to secede. Southern Movement militias clashed with security forces in Aden, the former capital of South Yemen, on January 25. Three soldiers were killed. The governor of Aden also stated that the South will vote to secede if the UN Security Council approves the move. Southern Movement militias continue to be deployed throughout major southern cities.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) keeps up its attacks on military targets. AQAP’s insurgent arm Ansar al Sharia detonated an improvised explosive device in the capital of Hadramawt, al Mukalla, on January 27. Militants also killed four soldiers during an attack in Khanfar, Abyan the same day. Ansar al Sharia attempted to attack a site manned by the 115th Infantry Brigade on January 26 in Khanfar, Abyan.
The U.S. signaled its willingness to talk to al Houthis. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby stated on January 27 that the U.S. is not sharing intelligence with al Houthis, who remain in control of Yemen’s intelligence organizations, but U.S. officials are communicating with various parties in Yemen. He added that al Houthis will most likely want to speak to the international community.
Delay in reaching a political solution in Sana’a increases the chance that southern governorates will push for secession. Continued al Houthi control of Yemen’s intelligence organization will significantly undermine U.S. intelligence gathering capabilities in Yemen.