Regime and Periphery in Northern Yemen

Regime and Periphery in Northern Yemen: The Huthi Phenomenon

Barak A. Salmoni
Bryce Loidolt
Madeleine Wells
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 410
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  • Book Info
    Regime and Periphery in Northern Yemen
    Book Description:

    For nearly six years, the government of Yemen has conducted military operations north of the capital against groups of its citizens known as "Huthis." In spite of using all means at its disposal, the government has been unable to subdue the Huthi movement. This book presents an in-depth look at the conflict in all its aspects. The authors detail the various stages of the conflict and map out its possible future trajectories.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4974-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  4. Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiv-xviii)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. Arabic Terms and Definitions
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  9. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  10. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    For nearly six years, the Government of Yemen (GoY) has conducted military operations against groups of its citizens north of San‘a, known as “Huthis” or Believing Youth (BY). In spite of using all coercive and ideological means at its disposal, the GoY has been unable to fully subdue the Huthi movement, which has sustained a material and popular base over successive phases of armed conflict into the winter of 2010. At the same time, the regime has confronted mounting southern discontent and al-Qa‘ida–inspired terrorism, as well as severely contracting economic prospects. The war against the Huthis, however, has of...

  11. Part I: The Context of Regime-Periphery Relations in Northern Yemen

    • CHAPTER ONE Sa‘da in the North Yemeni Context
      (pp. 19-44)

      After delineating basic themes of recent Yemeni history—and historical memory—referred to by claimants in the current conflict, this chapter explores the physical, geographic, demographic, and economic bases of life north of San‘a. We focus on the Sa‘da governorate, the predominant region in the current struggle between the GoY and Huthi fighters. We will see that the conditions of life confronting Yemenis in this region force particular coping mechanisms that result in certain kinds of communities and particular norms. We will also see that local means for dealing with environmental conditions allow outside actors, such as the GoY, potential...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Sociocultural Ecology of the Huthi Conflict: Tribalism and Religion
      (pp. 45-78)

      The physical environment of northern Yemen influences not only its economy but its social structure as well. Areas north of San‘a have been referred to asbilad al-qaba’il, or the land of tribes, with ancestral regions associated with particular tribal segments.Qabyala, or tribalism, is an enduring way of organizing society in these areas. Beyond an area on a map, however,qabyalafunctions as both a method of social organization and a complex of values informing the way people evaluate their actions and those of others. Likewise, religion plays a role in creating and sustaining beliefs and social values in...

  12. Part II: From Tension to Conflict:: Social Change and Huthi Emergence, 1980s–2004

    • CHAPTER THREE Run-Up to the Regime-Huthi Conflict, 1980s–2001
      (pp. 81-110)

      Physical conditions, along with tribalism and religion, have remained the foundations of life and sociopolitical organization in Yemen’s northwestern governorates. Over the past generation, however, the northern areas, Sa‘da in particular, have undergone intense economic, demographic, and sociopolitical changes. These changes increased Sa‘da’s exposure to the wider world, created tensions within the governorate, and shifted the ways in which people understand and relate to their environment, tribes, and religious identities. These shifts are important to understand, because they informed the emergence of Badr al-Din al-Huthi’s sons and Yemenis who later became Believing Youth (BY) or Huthi supporters. By the mid-1990s,...

    • CHAPTER FOUR From Tension to Confrontation: Triggers of Conflict, 2001–2004
      (pp. 111-128)

      In this chapter, we explore the proximate causes and triggers of the regime-Huthi conflict, in the Sa‘da governorate and at the national level in Yemen. This will enable us to examine in detail the course of the “Sa‘da wars” (June 2004–mid-2010) through an interpretive lens analyzing GoY measures in terms of counterinsurgency lines of operation. These measures have sustained Huthi resistance, which over time might evolve toward insurgency. In the present chapter, we grapple with the question of why the GoY and Huthis broke from accepted and time-tested modes of regime-periphery relations in 2004 and chose violent and enduring...

  13. Part III: The Six Sa‘da Wars

    • CHAPTER FIVE From Phases to Rolling Conflict: Time Line, Geography, and Magnitude of Huthi-GoY Fighting
      (pp. 131-158)

      In this chapter, we focus on the multiple phases of armed conflict between the Yemeni regime and those who resist it under the banner of the Huthis. War has continued from June 2004 until now. It remains difficult to determine the goals of either the Huthis or the GoY. Yet from an outside perspective, it is possible to analyze GoY measures as a form of counterinsurgency (COIN). Whether or not this GoY COIN results from policy or unintegrated actions, we can analyze it according to diplomatic/political, information, military, and economic (DIME) lines of operation (LOOs). GoY actions on these LOOs...

    • CHAPTER SIX GoY Operations: Goals and Methods
      (pp. 159-188)

      As we have suggested throughout this book, whether by design or result, the GoY has approached the Huthi problem in a fashion that can be analyzed as counterinsurgency (COIN). The GoY has made the military and informational lines of operation (LOOs) a priority, although it has taken tactical-level actions on the economic LOO. It remains unclear whether, in approaching the domestic political LOO and the regional diplomatic LOO, the GoY has chosen tactical opportunism or strategic commitment. Because it appears that GoY COIN has elicited and sustained a Huthi resistance that has much in common with—and perhaps is becoming...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Huthis as Combatants
      (pp. 189-242)

      Rather than anorganization, the Huthis are anorganismthat has existed from the first phase of the Sa‘da war as a heterogeneous entity having multiple interests and united under a banner that has different meanings for different adherents. The notion of a hierarchical organization, with a clear table of organization or order of battle, does not necessarily apply to the Huthi entity. The various names used to describe the Huthis manifest this fact: The group is referred to by many as the “Huthis”(al-Huthiyin),the “Huthi movement”(al-Haraka al-Huthiya),“Huthist elements”(al-‘anasir al-Huthiya),“Huthi supporters”(Ansar al-Huthi),or “Believing...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Conflict Prolongers: The Environmental, Human, and Economic Consequences of Huthi-GoY Fighting
      (pp. 243-260)

      As we have emphasized throughout this study, northern Yemen is a place of resilient, resourceful people who live in an environment characterized by scarcity and the delicate balance of competition and mutual reliance among communities. On the rural-to-arid margins of a semi-industrialized society, northern Yemen and the Sa‘da governorate are particularly vulnerable to processes that damage the physical environment and interrupt networks of production and exchange. The multiple phases of fighting among Huthis, the GoY, and both parties’ local supporters have indeed damaged the environment. This is because, rather than solely targeting each other, GoY and Huthi actions have affected...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 261-280)

    In this book, we have treated the Huthi-GoY conflict as emerging from regime-periphery tension aggravated by new social conditions and mobilizational strategies in the periphery during the 1990s. Some of this tension is structural, related to the conditions of existence in northern Yemen and the resultant norms and social structures that have arisen under those conditions—tribalism and Zaydism. Together, these physical conditions and social structures present challenges to the periphery’s integration with all of Yemen. In seeking to influence Yemen’s periphery for its own benefit, the GoY has had recourse to a form of politics known as neopatrimonialism. Accessing...


    • APPENDIX A Population Characteristics of Sa‘da Governorate
      (pp. 281-284)
    • APPENDIX B Zaydism: Overview and Comparison to Other Versions of Shi‘ism
      (pp. 285-296)
    • APPENDIX C Major Huthist Ideological Tracts
      (pp. 297-308)
    • APPENDIX D Important Personalities in the Huthi Conflict
      (pp. 309-312)
    • APPENDIX E Conflict Magnitude
      (pp. 313-314)
    • APPENDIX F Conflict Ceasefire Conditions
      (pp. 315-318)
    • APPENDIX G Fifty-Five Huthi “Leaders” Wanted by the GoY, August 2009
      (pp. 319-320)
    • APPENDIX H Sources and Challenges in Understanding the Huthi Conflict
      (pp. 321-338)
  16. Bibliography: Western Sources
    (pp. 339-362)
  17. Bibliography: Non-Western Sources
    (pp. 363-382)