Aden (GPA) – If successful, this could spell the end for Riyadh’s already minuscule political influence in Yemen through the puppet government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.
The war in Yemen is complex. Western media fails to mention the nuances and alliances that make up the Saudi-coalition as well as Yemen’s resistance to this aggression. The media usually portrays Yemen’s resistance as “Iranian-backed militias” (albeit without evidence) while representing the Saudi coalition as a homogenous group fighting against the so-called Houthis.
However, this couldn’t be further from the reality as long-standing tensions finally reach a breaking point.
The Crumbling of the Saudi Coalition
The Southern Transitional Council (STC) — also known as the Southern Movement or al-Hirak in Arabic — has butt-heads consistently with the Saudi-backed puppet government of Hadi.
The illegitimate yet so-called internationally recognized President of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi resigned from the capital Sana’a in 2015. He fled to Aden in the south where he revoked his resignation and declared war against Ansarullah. Again, Hadi consistently failed to gather public support and fled to Riyadh where he currently lives.
The Saudi-backed government of Hadi formed a shaky alliance with the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed forces in Yemen’s south against Ansarullah. It is important to point out at this point that Muslim Brotherhood affiliates as well as terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda fight alongside Saudi-backed forces with military support from the United States.
In the north, Ansarullah formed a political alliance of convenience with the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh (which has since ended — more on that later) against the Saudi-led coalition.
Now, the Saudi-led alliance in the south is crumbling.
Aden has always seen some degree of infighting between STC/UAE-backed forces and Saudi-backed forces. In fact, the UAE and their Yemeni diplomatic allies banned Hadi from entering their make-shift capital back in August as an attempt to push out failing Saudi influence in Yemen.
The Saudi-backed Hadi government — known throughout the media as the “internationally-recognized government” — is extremely unpopular throughout all of Yemen and a significant hindrance to any future peace agreement.
Southern Transitional Council Launches Coup Against Saudi-Puppet Government
The recent round of disagreements erupted last week when the STC promised a coup if Hadi did not dismiss Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghr and his cabinet from Aden’s government.
Rather than heed the Southern Movement’s demands, Daghr, Hadi, and the Saudi-backed government banned protests in Aden. Early on Sunday, the STC carried through on their promise by seizing government buildings and clashing with Saudi-backed forces.
Hadi’s forces attempted to resist STC-forces from entering Aden without success. At this point, ten are confirmed dead and 30 injured according to local hospital reports.
Local shops and the Aden airport closed in response to the clashes. Yemen now only has one functioning airport. The Sana’a airport — under resistance control — remains closed due to the Saudi blockade and damage from Riyadh’s airstrikes.
The Southern Movement’s coup appears successful at this point as they now control key government buildings throughout Aden.
STC Secretary-General Zaid al-Jamal vowed to continue to coup until Daghr’s — and likely Hadi’s — remaining influence is wholly removed from their capital in Aden.
“We have announced a new programme of popular uprising that will start tomorrow. People have already started flooding into al-Orouth Square and will not leave until the government is overthrown.”
Riyadh’s Failed Coup in Sana’a
In the war’s early stages, Riyadh and the UAE began grooming the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to launch a coup against Ansarullah (aka. “the Houthis”).
They eventually attempted to carry out this coup in December. It completely backfired.
Although Saudi warplanes provided air support to fighters loyal to Saleh, Ansarullah came out on top: they killed Saleh and now fully control Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a.
After nearly three years of military failure on the ground, Saudi Arabia once again failed in their attempts to reach a closed-door diplomatic solution.
Just Another Failure for Saudi Influence in Yemen
This coup must terrify the Saudi-led coalition which sought to capitalize on the death of Saleh by isolating Ansarullah and forcing a military victory. Riyadh also hoped Saleh’s death would secure alliances with factions of the General Peoples Congress (Saleh’s party), al-Islah (the Muslim Brotherhood), and the UAE-backed Southern Movement.
Although the UAE supports the Southern Movement, it also has the support of many people throughout Yemen’s south who view secession as a viable alternative to Hadi.
The STC’s coup is just another nail in the coffin for Riyadh who continues failing against Ansarullah in the northern provinces.
Not only has Ansarullah resisted Saudi-backed military operations and staved off a Saudi-backed coup, but they also control 100 miles of territory beyond the Saudi border in Asir, Najran, and Jizan provinces. Here, Yemen’s resistance has expanded their operations in response to the ongoing Saudi airstrike campaign and aggression against Yemen.
They also face-off against STC forces in these provinces.
So, what’s next?
Will Riyadh finally call it quits, pack up, and go home?
Or will they continue their battles against the STC in the south and Ansarullah in the north?
If this coup in the south remains successful, it could eventually lead to recognization of the Ansarullah government in Sana’a and even a possible peace process. It could also lead to a war between the STC in the nouth with support from Riyadh and the US against Ansarullah in the north.
Also published on Medium.