How Houthis Control Yemen?

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

Houthis are a small group residing north Yemen, endorsed by Iran in face of Saudi Arabia and Sana’a government. One of Houthis projects is to plant regional agents for it such as the Lebanese “Hezbollah”.

Command of the group is associated with the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) since more than twenty years – and not recently as some think. With time, they became much similar to other armed Iranian groups in the region as they were trained on using arms, organization and propaganda.

Iran picked the group’s name and slogan. The Houthis’ party is actually called Ansar Allah. Its slogan which is repeated on a daily basis is the same as Iran’s: “Death to America. Death to Israel. Damn the Jews. Victory to Islam.”

However unlike “Hezbollah”, Houthi constitutes of a small number in Yemen, less than five percent of population. Iranians pursued to support it via depending on "Hezbollah", which is more developed and is managing Houthis affairs in Yemen making use of its long social, military propaganda experience in Lebanon.

Further, it is preparing Houthis to control Yemen. During the three-year war, Houthis advanced in in using arms including ballistic missiles, and relied on forced mobilizing that executing those who refuse to fight for them and to kill the parents of the escaped recruits.

A Yemeni friend told me how Houthis assign local commanders in the areas they seize, and recruit children aged 11-17 as well as execute those who reject, as part of their intimidation process to subjugate tribal regions that resisted each power before.

He also said that the propaganda activity is similar to IRGC's in persuading children that when they fight Saudi Arabia then it is as if they are fighting Israel and the US. He also talked about how Houthis make small transistor radio due to electricity outages and scarcity of TV devices in rural areas.

Houthis shut 15 newspapers and nine TV official and private channels. Only two pro-Houthis channels remained.

Iran transferred its recruitment and ideological experiences to its Houthi followers in Yemen – it also trained them on how to collect money and other financial resources, which are not less important. The secret to Houthis’ capability to continue fighting is the availability of money.

Most funds are collected via checkpoints via imposing taxes on individuals, vehicles and merchandise on areas they control through the power of arms. They also control the Hodeidah port, which is Yemen’s major naval path, and own almost all oil filling stations.

Hezbollah members handled the organization and planned process for their Houthi brothers, which are considered underdeveloped in their structure and majority of their middle-leaders are illiterate.

Given the small size of the group, the biggest challenge relies in extending domination via alliances, forced recruitment and ideologically convincing young men, and letting them propagate terror in areas they control.

Houthi group resembles ISIS – they are both terrorists in terms of intellect and practice and their philosophy is based on subduing to command and propagating terror. We have seen before how ISIS in Iraq and Syria, despite its small size, seized highly-populated provinces or cities whose population is more than 1 million such as Mosul – liberating it didn't occur until there was an international military intervention.

Without a clear study of the nature and activities of the group, confronting it via airstrikes won't end its danger.
AL-Sharq AL- Awsat

Saturday, November 18th 2017
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

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