Yemen 1962: some military officers staged a coup d’etat against the royal family, the Imamate of Hameediddeen. The new Imam Badr sought refuge in Saudi Arabia. A civil war ensued in Yemen, with some Saudi-supported tribes rising against the new regime, and leftist Egypt under Nasser siding with the officers. Saudis and Jordanians supported the tribes. Egypt sent thousands of troops to Yemen to help the Republican regime. It was a quagmire for the Egyptians, a quagmire the Saudis made sure would make Nasser suffer. Nobody really won that long civil war, and in the end they reached a compromise. The Egyptians left Yemen, but they faced a more difficult and tougher enemy in June 1967.
Yemen 2009: The Saudis briefly forgot their own lesson from the 1960s. They intervened in North Yemen against the Houthis. The best Western weapons that money could buy were essentially defeated by lightly-armed Houthis.
Yemen 2015: during 2014 the Houthis swarmed from their northern stronghold and easily defeated the corrupt Yemeni establishment that was set up and supported by the Gulf GCC, with UN blessing. More recently they have sidelined the president Hadi Al Zombie and the parliament and established new institutions. Now the Gulf GCC are making some political noises. There have even been hints at intervention by GCC. That would be interesting: would they send their imported foreign mercenaries into Yemen? How big a defeat would the Houthis inflict on them? Would the Gulf potentates align with the secessionists (former Marxists) in South Yemen? Would they kiss and make up with their AQAP (Al Qaeda) kin against a common enemy?
Recently, Egyptian media and some Egyptian officials have also been making warning noises about Yemen, in conjunction with GCC complaints about the Houthis. Their worry about possible Iranian inroads is understandable. It is unlikely that the Egyptians are thinking of re-entering Yemen. If they do, it is unlikely that the results would be better than in the 1960s. The Iranians themselves would be making Egyptian-like mistakes if they actually get deeper into Yemen. It would be the first Iranian intervention in Yemen in fifteen centuries, and it would be a big mistake. Yemen has always made a nice quagmire for foreigners.
Regardless of media fear-mongering, nobody is going to close the Bab El-Mandab Strait of the Red Sea, anymore than anybody will close the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. So just leave Yemen for the Yemenis to fight over: it is much safer and cheaper that way. Everybody else, from Iranians to Saudis to Qataris to Egyptians, stay out.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum