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Huthis and Iran and Jihad

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Simon Henderson has this piece on the Huthi conflict.

He suggests that the reason for the renewed conflict in August was that fighters of “the Houthi clan were blockading roads in the mountainous northwest of the country.” I am not sure it is this simple – the sparring back and forth in the media between the President and ‘Abd al-Malik over schools was important, as was another reason that I mention in an article I have coming out in the next couple of days.

He also makes the statement:

Claims by the Sana government of Iranian involvement are bolstered by the slogans posted on one Houthi website: “Allah is great, death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam.” Such language suggests aims that far exceed a quest for local autonomy.”

I think a more plausible explanation may be this, which I’m cribbing from something I wrote a while ago:

The Huthis have often couched its rhetoric in anti-Western/anti-Israeli slogans. For instance, one of the most common slogans is “death to America, death to Israel.” But this rhetoric should not suggest that the group is actively anti-western, as it has not carried out any anti-western attacks, despite support for the Huthis within San‘a. Instead, it appears that the group is using popular frustration against US and Israeli policies in the Middle East to both engender local support and to implicitly criticize President Salih who is an ally of the US and by extension, according to the local logic, also an ally of Israel.”

I am also curious as to where his estimate of 6,000 – 7,000 Huthi fighters comes from.

Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor also weighs in with what I think is a good article assessing whether or not Iran has an active role in the conflict. Peterson relies strongly on quotes from Joost Hiltermann, whom I have always respected. I agree with most of what he says, but I think to suggest, as he does, that the Huthis didn’t have any grievances in 2004 is to give them too little credit and is a gross misreading of the local history in Sa’dah.

Despite some boilerplate anti-Western and anti-Israeli statements, the Houthis “don’t have any serious ideology or set of grievances, for that matter,” argues Hiltermann. “It was just a few angry guys who in 2004 stepped out of the political process and started a little rebellion.

Finally we have the chief Mufti of Saudi Arabia Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al al-Shaykh giving Saudi’s military adventure in the south some legal cover by telling the soldiers they are on jihad.

أضاف “أقول للجيش السعودي سيروا على طريق الحق، أنتم مجاهدون وحماة ثغور تقاتلون عن عقيدة وإيمان، دفاعاً عن أمن الحرمين، فأنتم في خير وجهاد في سبيل الله، فسيروا ثابتي الجأش، واستعينوا بالله عز وجل”.

There is much to discuss here, including the differences between Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and his predecessor Shaykh bin Baz, but most of these I will save for my upcoming post on the Saudization of al-Qaeda.


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