Connect to share and comment

US keeps wary eye on Yemen conflicts

Despite threats to US interests, America maintains it offers only humanitarian aid — and no military help — to Sanaa.

SANAA, Yemen — As three loosely aligned rebel groups continue to wage war against Yemen's U.S.-backed government, American officials here insist the way to peace is through aid rather than military involvement.

And despite repeated concerns that one battlefront particularly — in the north of Yemen — had distracted Sanaa from the fight against Al Qaeda-linked terrorism, an embassy source told GlobalPost that Washington opposed aerial bombardments like those that reportedly killed more than 80 civilians last month.

Both governments agree, however, that the northern conflict, with the Shi'ite Houthis opposed to the government's close alliance with the U.S., continues to derail counterterrorism efforts in the Arabian Peninsula.

They are concerned that the war strengthens the already growing Al Qaeda presence, bolstered last January, when the Saudi Arabian and the Yemeni branches of Al Qaeda joined forces.

A senior State Department counterterrorism adviser, Shari Villarosa, meantime warned in late August that security in Yemen had "deteriorated significantly," according to The Associated Press.

“Al Qaeda benefits from the atmosphere of instability,” said Mohammad Shahir, the Yemeni deputy minister for press, who added that Yemen was not seeking military assistance. “We have enough power, and we are not seeking outside support,” he said.

But while the Yemeni government has referred to the Houthis as “terrorist elements,” the U.S. government does not consider them part of its fight against terrorism and continues to refer to their activities as “armed rebellion.”

The insurgents, based in the Saada governorate, call themselves the Houthis after their founder, Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, a fiercely anti-Western member of parliament who died when the first round of fighting began in 2004.

The Houthis are one of three violent anti-government groups in Yemen, along with the Southern Movement and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. While the three groups are separated ideologically, they all share a common goal: to see the central government of Yemen fail.

Like Al Qaeda, the Houthis charge the government with being a puppet for the U.S., and the two groups are united in their hatred of the West. On the battlefield, Houthi leaders reportedly shout, “Kill the Americans,” even though they are fighting the Yemeni Army.