Oops my Obamapopcorn just finished.... got to go.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/world ... -fire.html
Yemen Rebels Gain Concessions From Government After Assault on Capital
By SHUAIB ALMOSAWA and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICKSEPT. 21, 2014
SANA, Yemen — An assault on Yemen’s capital rocked the transitional government on Sunday as fighters from a Shiite rebel group stormed through the city, seizing government buildings, state media facilities and military bases. The military broke apart, some units appeared to side with rebels, and the prime minister abruptly resigned.
By late Sunday night, President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi announced that the rebels, known as the Houthis, had agreed to an immediate cease-fire and the formation of a new “technocratic national government.” Although the details remained vague, analysts said the Houthis’ control over the capital would give them the upper hand in dictating the terms of any agreement.
“The agreement will, of course, reflect the new realities on the ground, where the Houthis are much stronger than before,” said Ibrahim Sharqieh, a researcher at the Brookings Institution’s center in Doha, Qatar, who focuses on conflict resolution. But, he noted, “the Houthis are not yet strong enough that they are able to take power without the other parties.”
Smoke rose from the headquarters of the First Armored Division in Sana on Sunday during an attack by Houthi rebels. Credit Mohammed Huwais/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Jamal Benomar, the special representative of the United Nations for Yemen, had announced a cease-fire on Saturday night, but it did not last until dawn. Nor did it impede the Houthis’ swift advance.
The Houthis’ gains on Sunday are certain to exacerbate sectarian and political tensions in the region: Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Muslim-led Persian Gulf states believe that the Shiite rebels in Yemen are backed by their archrival, the Shiite state of Iran. The Sunni-led states of the gulf are waging a fierce proxy fight against Iran through the conflict in Syria, and three years ago Saudi Arabia even sent its troops to Bahrain to tamp down an uprising by its Shiite majority, in part because of fears that the movement’s leaders were in league with Iran.
“In the regional cold war, this has strengthened the position of the Iranians,” Mr. Sharqieh said. “For the Saudis, the Houthis arriving in Sana is definitely not good news.”
The Houthis’ success at strangling the government also puts new pressure on the Western-backed transition put in place after the removal of the strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh during the Arab Spring revolts. The presence of armed Houthi forces in the capital risks more sectarian clashes with the Sunni Muslim extremists from the southern Yemen strongholds of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
And the turmoil is already jeopardizing the ability of Yemen’s feeble government to continue working with Washington against the Al Qaeda group. The conflict began building weeks ago when thousands of supporters of the Houthis, who are named for a powerful northern clan and have often clashed with the central government, began staging protests and blocking roads to demand the reinstatement of fuel subsidies and a cabinet shake-up. But by Thursday the protests had escalated into sporadic fighting in the streets of the capital.
The rebels fought with automatic rifles and artillery mounted on trucks, while security forces countered with shelling. News reports said at least 140 had died in the past four days of fighting. And President Hadi had denounced the Houthi attacks as an attempted coup.
Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa of Yemen, who resigned on Sunday. Credit Mohammed Huwais/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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On Saturday, the Houthis seized the state television building, a central symbol of the government’s power. State media reported Saturday night that military units were moving to recapture it, but instead the Houthis appear to have willingly turned over the site to the military police, a force that is regarded as independent of the government and perhaps potentially sympathetic to the rebels.
By Sunday afternoon, certain military units, including the Fourth Army Brigade and a military leadership center, had appeared to shift their support to the Houthis instead of the government, perhaps switching loyalties to back the winning side. The Houthis and their military allies had control of the state radio building as well as the state television building and the prime minister’s office.
As Houthis surrounded the building housing the Interior Ministry, the ministry issued a conciliatory statement saying that it had ordered the police to “cooperate” with the rebels “in consolidating security and stability.” The ministry called the Houthis “friends of the police in the service of the general interest of the homeland.”
Elsewhere, Houthi forces continued to battle other military units, most notably a major division considered loyal to Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar. One of the fragmented military’s most important commanders, General Ahmar comes from a powerful tribe and his family also has a leading role in Yemen’s mainstream Sunni Islamist party, Islah. Islah and the Ahmars both played major roles in the protests that forced out President Saleh, and they are considered political rivals of the Houthis.
They were also among the losers in the past week’s battles. By nightfall on Sunday, the Houthis had taken the headquarters of General Ahmar’s First Armored Division, according to security officials and news reports. The general’s whereabouts was unknown.
Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa, who resigned Sunday, is also linked to the Islah party, and the Houthis and others have accused him of corruption. But the circumstances of his decision were not completely clear.
“I have decided to tender my resignation from the government out of my concern to pave the way for any agreement reached between the brother leaders of Ansarullah” — the party of the Houthis — “and brother Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the president of the republic,” the prime minister wrote in a letter of resignation, according to Reuters.
Houthi news outlets, meanwhile, published a version of the letter in which the prime minister accused President Hadi of corruption. Its authenticity could not be confirmed.