In less than a month, the Houthi rebels seized Yemen’s capital, forced the country’s president and his cabinet to resign and dissolved parliament. The latest crisis has left Yemen’s political system in tatters and heightened the prospects of more instability in a volatile country that has been an important U.S. partner in the fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
#1: Who are the Houthis?
The Houthis are a militant group drawn from the Zaidi population in northwest Yemen. While the country is mostly Sunni, the Zaidis, who make up roughly one-third of the population, practice a form of Shiite Islam called Zaydism. The rebels, now a major political and military force, are widely believed to be supported by Shiite-dominated Iran and to be working with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was overthrown in 2012 during the Arab Spring. The group, created in the 1990s by Hussein Al Houthi, a religious and political figure, has been fighting the central government for several years. After Mr. Houthi was killed in a Yemeni army operation in 2004, the leadership passed to his father and then to his brother, Abdul Malik Al Houthi.