You haven’t heard about Yemen since Chandler Bing moved there. But lately, a growing civil war has put the country at the center of a much larger power struggle in the Mideast.
Back in 2011, Yemen rode the Arab Spring wave that was sweeping through the region, and minority groups overthrew the country’s dictator. President Hadi stepped in, and eventually became one of the US’s closest allies in the war on terror in the Mideast.
Enter: the Houthis. They’re an Iran-backed rebel group that’s had 99 problems with Yemen’s government for a while. They’ve been pushing for more political representation. And earlier this year, they stopped asking and just took it. The group kicked out Saudi-backed Hadi earlier this year. Now, he’s on a permanent vacation in Saudi Arabia. This was when other countries in the Mideast said ‘Yemen, we have a problem.’
Because Yemen’s become a proxy battle between two top dogs in the Mideast, with Iran and Saudi Arabia backing opposite sides of the fight. Because Yemen sits on a major oil shipping route. Because Yemen’s become a hot-spot for terrorism, with one of al-Qaeda’s most powerful branches operating there. Stir all ingredients for disaster.
For months since then, Saudi Arabia has been launching airstrikes against the Houthis. Last month, Iran responded by deploying warships off Yemen’s coast. Then the US made a cameo by sending its own warships. That game of Battleship ended, but the Houthis and Saudi Arabia are still going at it. But they’re not the only names you need to know.
A little group called al-Qaeda. One of its most active branches -- AQAP -- is in Yemen. Over the last few years, they’ve become a major terror threat to the West. They’re the ones responsible for this and this. They also claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. AQAP doesn’t have a side in this fight. But they’ve taken the opportunity to step up recruiting, and in April took control of a major airport and oil terminal in Yemen.
Yemen was once the crown jewel of US counterterrorism efforts in the Mideast. Now, it has become a hotbed for chaos.