Iran-backed Yemen’s Shiite rebels just announced they are taking over the country and dissolving parliament.
Reuters reports that a new assembly will elect a five-member interim presidential council to manage the country’s affairs,.
Yemen has been in political limbo for the last month after President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the government of Prime Minister Khaled Bahah resigned after the Houthis seized the presidential palace and confined the head of state to his residence in a struggle to tighten control.
“This is a coup. There is no other word to describe what is happening but a coup,” Saleh al-Jamalani, a Yemeni army colonel, told The Associated Press after rebels attacked the presidential palace. He added that the rebels likely had the assistance of elements inside the deposed government, headed by president Abdu Mansour Haddi.
Houthi rebels have been stripping down Yemen’s existing state apparatus ever since marching into the capital of Sa’ana in September.
The gloves are fully off. The Houthis are running the show in Yemen
— Hugh Naylor (@HughNaylor) February 6, 2015
Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia to the south and is home to nearly 25 million people, was one of four countries to replace its leader during the “Arab Spring” uprisings, along with Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia. Now, it threatens to become another one of the region’s violent political and military vacuums — with the added complication of Yemen’s desert periphery being home to Al Qaeda’s most capable foreign affiliate.
The Houthis are a community of Shi’ite Muslim tribes from Yemen’s desert periphery. A Houthi insurgency has been ongoing for most of the last decade, and was sparked in the early 2000s by the largely Sunni central government’s encroachment on traditional Houthi governance and traditional authority, along with the group’s traditional marginalization within Yemen’s politics.
The Houthis have also received forms of assistance from Iran as well, turning Yemen into the latest battleground between Tehran and the Middle East’s Sunni states.
Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Qods Force, the foreign arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps is directing sectarian militias in both Iraq and Syria. At the same time, Suleimani is nurturing the guerilla proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen — in other words, he is controlling powerful Shia proxies all across the Middle East.
“Suleimani is the leader of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen,” Ali Khedery, who served as a special assistant to five US ambassadors and a senior adviser to three heads of US Central Command between 2003 and 2009, told The New York Times in December. “Iraq is not sovereign. It is led by Suleimani, and his boss, [Iranian Supreme Leader] Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.