Yemeni tensions with Hizbullah

Ahmed Eleiba , Saturday 1 Sep 2018

Economic conditions are worsening in the Yemeni capital Sanaa against a background of rising tensions between the Yemeni government and the Lebanese group Hizbullah

Hizbullah- Houthi meeting
Photo circulated by Houthi-owned media stations shows Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah met with Houthi spokesman Mohamad Abdelsalam and council members Abdul Malik Al Ajri and Ibrahim Al Daylami in Beirut on August 20, 2018

The Feast of the Sacrifice celebrations in the Yemeni capital Sanaa in August reflected the mounting economic straits in the areas under the control of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) Movement, according to local Yemeni sources who said the Houthis had tightened security in the capital, imposed a curfew at night, and arrested a number of Internet activists.

Commerce in Sanaa is suffering due to the political and security conditions in the country as a whole. Merchants are complaining of the slump in trade due to the war and the plummeting value of the Yemeni riyal, one source told Al-Ahram Weekly, adding that “such things are natural in times of war.

However, the recent holiday exposed the extent to which Yemeni families were unable to celebrate in the traditional way.”

“Many people could not afford animals to sacrifice or the customary holiday joys, such as buying new clothes for children. This applies in particular to government employees who have not received their salaries for a long time and are dependent on international relief.”

“Some service sectors such as the communications sector are thriving, however, because of the rise of a new class of Houthi businessmen who have taken over various companies and utilities. They force other merchants out of business and replace them by Houthi loyalists,” the source said.

Certain quarters of the capital have been targeted for more stringent security measures. A curfew went into effect in the Al-Rayan district at 9 pm, and people were arrested for breaking it.

The security measures were tougher during the feast days in all quarters of the capital because the Houthi authorities were determined to maintain tight control over the situation during the holiday period, one source said, since this coincides with the anniversary of the founding of the General People’s Congress (GPC) Party.

The economic conditions have also drawn attention to the role of UN agencies in Sanaa.

The internationally recognised Yemeni government has complained that UN reports on conditions in the capital are based on misleading information and are indicative of sympathies with Houthi views.

As one source pointed out, the government has also levelled such charges against the UN on numerous previous occasions

Meanwhile, a wave of rising tensions between the government and the Lebanese Hizbullah group reached a new peak earlier this week when the government lodged a complaint with the UN Security Council against Hizbullah’s meddling in Yemen.

On Monday, Yemen’s Ambassador to the UN Abdullah bin Mubarak asked the Security Council to launch an investigation into Hizbullah’s support for the rebel Houthi Movement in Yemen and charged that it was trying to sabotage the forthcoming negotiations in Geneva. He accused Iran of engineering these developments.

Shortly before this, the Yemeni Embassy in Washington lashed out against a meeting that Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah had held with a Houthi delegation in Lebanon.

“The Houthis’ recent visit to Nasrallah adds yet another incontrovertible piece of evidence to the many proofs of Hizbullah’s destabilising role in Yemen and its support for the Houthi militias,” read the embassy statement on its Twitter account.

The statement drew attention to the fact that this meeting had taken place just two weeks before the round of consultations between the Yemeni parties set for Geneva on 6 September.

In the context of the forthcoming talks, one person who had served as a member of the delegation representing the GPC, the party founded by former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, in previous negotiating rounds between the Yemeni factions, told the Weekly from Sanaa that the pro-Saleh contingent of the GPC would not be taking part in the forthcoming talks.

He explained that the Houthis had kept many members of the contingent under house arrest or close surveillance while some, most notably GPC Deputy Secretary-General sheikh Yasser Al-Awadi, had left the capital for their home towns and no longer appeared in public for fear of their lives.

The visit by the Houthi delegation headed by Ansar Allah Movement Spokesman Mohamed Abdel-Salam to Beirut to meet with Nasrallah on 20 August triggered Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Yamani complaining to his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil of Hizbullah’s support for the Houthi rebels.

Al-Yamani charged that Hizbullah had “deviated from the brotherly course and damaged the solid and long-established relations between Lebanon and Yemen” through its training and support of the Houthi militias.

Some Lebanese politicians have also lent their voices to the criticisms of Hizbullah, according to the Lebanese Masdar Diplomacy (Diplomatic Source) news site. They say that the visit was a violation of the rules of diplomatic protocol in Lebanon, which recognises only the legitimate Yemeni government represented by its ambassador to Lebanon.

The politicians demanded to know how the Houthi delegation had been permitted to enter Lebanon and who had arranged the visit.

The current escalation between the Yemeni government and Hizbullah was triggered by a speech by Nasrallah on 29 June in which he praised the courage of the Houthi militias and said that he wished he were a fighter in their ranks.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 30 August 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Yemeni tensions with Hizbullah

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