OP-ED

What’s up with those Houthis in Yemen?

National Yemen

The Yemen-based photojournalist Alex Potter posted this striking picture of Houthi fighters in Sanaa’s Tahrir Square last week.

The Houthi advance into Yemen was as shocking in its own way as was the Iraqi army’s collapse against ISIS in Mosul. But just as in Iraq, the long-developing problems which might explain the surprising turn of events were well-known to those who had been paying attention.  The shortcomings of the National Dialogue process, the fracturing of Yemeni state institutions, and the rising power of both the Houthi and the southern insurrections were all amply detailed in POMEPS Briefing #19  Yemen’s National Dialogue, with contributions by Danya Greenfield, Holger Albrecht, April Alley, Stephen Day, Peter Salisbury, Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Silvana Toska, Adam Baron, Lisa Wedeen and more. In June, April Alley of the Crisis Group published an extremely prescient report, “The Huthis: From Sadaa to Sanaa.”

I was a bit perturbed by the initial lack of coverage and analysis of these events. A lot of what was published fell into a simplistic (or politically expedient) sectarian framing around “Iranian-backed Yemeni Shi’ites” or tedious U.S. political framing around “the failure of Obama’s success story.” A much more useful round of analysis has now started to emerge to help make sense of these new developments.

Here are some of the recent pieces which I’ve found helpful for understanding the Houthi movement and Yemeni politics, including two which I was delighted to be able to publish on the Washington Post’s  Monkey Cage:

Stacey Philbrick Yadav, “The limits of the sectarian framing in Yemen.”  The Monkey Cage.

Silvana Toska, “Shifting balances of power in Yemen’s crisis.”  The Monkey Cage.

Charles Shmitz, “The Huthi Ascent to Power.” Middle East Institute.

Iona Craig, “What the Huthi takeover of Sanaa reveals about Yemen’s politics” Al-Jazeera America.

Peter Salisbury, “Yemen’s Huthis redraw political map, upend transition.” World Politics Review.

Gregory Johnsen, “Yemen’s bloody weekend.” Buzzfeed.

 + Danya Greenfield, “President Hadi’s Gamble.” Atlantic Council.

 I’ll update this list as appropriate, with a + to indicate the new ones!

  Note: photo comes from Alex Potter’s excellent and highly recommended Instagram page.