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06 February 2015


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JM Gavin

Concur with COL Lang's assessment.

This should not be a case of endless navel-gazing about "the enemy of my enemy is my...? The Houthis and the West share a common enemy in AQAP. The Iranians are trying to expand their influence, as are the Russians. So are we...

The press is blowing this up much bigger than need be.

Charles I

The navel gazing will be assisted by headlines playing up Shia rebels as opposed to Houthis, e.g.


Abu Sinan

Indeed! They can and should be an ally for us against AQAP. The Zaydis themselves are not even united. There are Zaidis who do not support Ansar Allah (Houthis). It was my wife's family, Zaydi, who overthrew the Zaydi Imam in 1948, in a short lived coup in 1948. The al Waziri coup.

That was back in the day where the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hasan al Banna worked with the Zaydis and tribal leaders to come up with a national charter that infused ideas of the Muslims Brotherhood, Zaydism, and progressive political ideas. How things have changed.

Now no one can see past the Sunni/Shi'a issue. If our government can see past this simplistic view it will be to our advantage.


Thank you, Colonel Lang, for once again making my heart happy with your observations and writing ability.


Abu Sinan,

I do not believe the Faction in government wants to see past their simplistic Sunni-Shia view because their supporters have an unnatural obsession with Iran and want to drag the motley masses into their war one way or another.

Abu Sinan


I dont believe that is the case at all. To get caught up in the whole Shi'a/Sunni thing is to really not understand Yemen. It might be turning into a sectarian thing, but I dont think it has to and I dont think most the actors in Yemen want that. This sectarianism is being pushed from the outside. The sectarian issue has never weighed greatly in Yemen, and I dont think it really does today despite the pushing from some outside factions. Historically most of the issues have been between personalities and families rather than between ideologies. A Yemeni expert I was talking with today said it well. He said what makes Yemen so hard to understand is because the factions are lead by personalities more than ideology so there are not clear cut lines and things are very fluid.

This is why you have Sunnis members of Ansar Allah (Houthies) and Sunni tribal leaders who back them. This isnt unusual, this is the Yemeni way. The al Waziri coup of 1948 pitted one well known Zaydi family against another well known Zaydi family with most of the tribal leaders, Zaydi and Sunni alike, siding with the al Wazir side. It ultimately failed for reasons too complicated to get into now.

If you are looking at Yemen with sectarian lenses on, you are always going to get it wrong and you are always going to be wrong footed. Yemen is unique and if you apply standards and rational that works in the rest of the Middle East to Yemen, you will never understand what is going on.


Charles I

The BEEB disagrees:

"Yemen crisis: Chaos is security nightmare for US


Notes AQAP successes, possibility of civil war, bemoans sunk investment in previous government who after all allowed all those drones strikes. Big Dilemma = whoever shall we side with today to keep the fight going now that Charlie Hebdo demonstrates AQAP is winning?

Babak Makkinejad

The more fundamental divide obtains not between Shia and Sunni but between the areas of former Seljuk Empire and those outside of it.

By the 19-th century (Treaty of Erzurum (1823)), the relationship between the Shah of Iran and the Sublime Porte had become one of good-neighborly coexistence.

Per the Makkinejad Theses, jihadists reside outside of the boundaries of the old Seljuk Empire, for the most part - please see below:


And per the Makkinejad Theses, I would expect the jihadists to make inroads into India, Bangladesh, Indonesia in time.


Abu Sinan,

I agree with what you are saying. The point I failed to make clear is that our government (US) has a Faction (neo conservatism) that is dead set on damaging Iran. That is why they prevent an in depth look at the true situations on the ground and keep the simplistic view to further their aims.

You are providing a valuable insights on Yemen, thank you.

different clue

Abu Sinan,

I don't believe Thomas is attributing the simple Shia vs Sunni view to yourself. I believe he is attributing it to the establishment governators and intellectuals who exploit it and/or believe in it. The people who would absolutely benefit the most from your reply are specifically the people who are too dumm or dishonest to understand it.

On a talk show I heard just recently former Ambassador Burns to Syria telling us how now more than ever we had to arm up the Moderate Rebels and get involved to overthrow Assad NOW, because it was Assad's resistance to The Revolution which created ISIS to begin with. Will someone like that ever accept a fact and history based analysis of Yemen or anything else?

The Beaver

The latest:

"The United States is closing its embassy in Yemen amid political deadlock and deteriorating security conditions after the takeover of the country by Shiite rebels, two U.S. officials said.

The officials said diplomats were being evacuated from the country on Tuesday and the embassy will suspend operations until conditions improve."


Hello, Col. Lang.

I read this post of yours last night and remembered this article you may have well read years ago. The article, "The Egyptian-Yemen War (1962-67): Egyptian perspectives on Guerrilla warfare." was printed in "Infantry Magazine" in the January-February issue.

"Egyptian military historians refer to their war in Yemen as their Vietnam. President Nasser began by sending a battalion of Special Forces and in the end committed 55,000 troops--all in an effort to sustain a revolution of Yemeni officers who brought an end to a tyrannical and medieval Hamiduddin dynasty. This five-year conflict offers many lessons from the Yemeni officers, who were sent to Egypt and Iraq for military training only to return with Nasserist, nationalist and Baathist ideas, to the underestimation of Egyptian Field Marshal Amer and his general staff, who felt that a battalion of Special Forces combined with airpower could score a quick and decisive victory."


The article doesn't specifically go into the Houti contribution, but from reading it one can tell they were responsible for a good bit of the ensuing carnage.

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