Yemeni Rebels Preach Unity But Stifle Opposition

February 13,2015

WASHINGTON— After months of turmoil and the president's resignation last month, Yemen appears to be collapsing as its various population groups cannot find common ground. Houthi rebels have taken control of the capital, Sana'a, and their leaders say they want to share power with others in Yemen. However, there have been no apparent steps in that direction.

Thousands marched in Sana'a and other Yemeni cities against the Houthi takeover. The leaders of the Houthis, a Shiite faction which comes from the northern mountains, have moved into the presidential palace and residence. They have dismantled the government and are forming a new council to run the country's affairs. They also have supporters in Sana'a.

The head of the Houthi media office told VOA the departure of foreign diplomats will have no influence over the situation in Yemen.

“The coincidence of the closure of these embassies in Sana'a is that they found out they have no power to control the will of Yemeni people who rejected the foreign intervention,” said Lu’ay al-Shaami.

Houthis have confiscated U.S. embassy vehicles at the airport in Sana'a. They say they will hand them over to the United Nations.

There is speculation that Iran is arming the rebels and directing their moves. A U.S. government spokeswoman Thursday said there is no clear evidence of that.

"The Houthis have concerning relations with Iran, and we are aware of reports of a variety of support provided by Iran to the Houthis, but we've not seen evidence that Iran is exerting command and control over the Houthis' activities in Yemen," said Psaki.

Yemen's president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, resigned last month after the Houthis raided the presidential compound. He is a former military officer who led a unity government and was a U.S. ally in the campaign against terrorism. His departure raises fears that al-Qaida will use the political turmoil to its advantage.

Houthi leaders have said they are eager to share power with rivals and work with Yemen’s traditional allies, including the United States. Meanwhile, their supporters carry posters with anti-American messages. And while they warn against attempts at destabilizing the country, they seem to be doing just that. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that Yemen is on the brink of a civil war.

"Yemen is collapsing before our eyes. We cannot stand by and watch. The country is facing multiple challenges. A dangerous political crisis continues in Sana'a. President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and the prime minister have fled," said Ban.

Ban called for freedom of movement for Yemen's president, prime minister and cabinet officials who have resigned. He also expressed concern about reports of excessive use of force to disperse peaceful demonstrators and arbitrary arrests of civil society activists and journalists.