- Alarabiya (Saudi news and propaganda network) headline: “BREAKING- Dozens killed in clashes between Houthis and tribesmen in Yemen’s Ibb, Al Arabiya correspondent reports”.
- Press TV (Iranian news and propaganda network): “At least 250 people are killed in fighting between Houthis and al-Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen”.
So, one side’s Al-Qaeda is the other side’s tribesmen.
The truth? The Saudis and their allies were never comfortable with the Islah-tribal regime. Even though they helped set up the sham elections of 2012 that set up the not-so-new regime. Generalisimo Abd Rabu Hadi Al Zombie won an astounding 99.8% of the votes, embarrassing even by Arab standards (Al Sisi won less than 98% in Egypt). The Saudis like the tribal part: they have spent decades bribing tribes and their elders across the Arab world, from Yemen to Iraq and Syria. They don’t like the Islah part and not only because the word means “reform” in Arabic, which means that it is in reality meaningless in Arab politics.
The Islah is also dominated by the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood, MB. The MB have bad relations with almost all Gulf GCC rulers now, except for some ambiguity with the Bahrain ruling family. Now the Saudis also worry about their “own” who have set up shop in Yemen, the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
But I suspect that the Saudis worry the most now about the Houthi “rebels”, as the media calls them. They worry about them mainly because they are an offshoot but divergent branch of the Shi’a sect. Saudis have never cottoned up to Shi’as getting involved in politics (not that they like anybody other than princes in politics). They have had past clashes with the Houthis in which the superbly-armed but battle-incompetent Saudi armed forces were trounced. And they worry about an Iranian connection, about being pressured by the mullahs from the south. The Iranians, for their part, have been crowing about the Houthi ‘victories’. Which raises Saudi suspicions about Tehran’s ties with the new masters of Sana’a. But things are fluid in Yemen, too many variables working there, too many local and foreign forces. Nothing is certain.
There has been some propaganda ‘stuff’ in the media about risks to the Bab El-Mandab and Red Sea maritime traffic. But that is probably just propaganda to get Western ‘special’ attention focused more on the Houthis and less on AQAP (or the tribals as Alarabiya calls them these days).
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum