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Houthi Who?
A History of Unlikely Alliances in an Uncertain Yemen
By
Asher Orkaby

March 25, 2015
Houthi fighters ride a patrol truck in Sana'a March 25, 2015.
Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
The Houthi tribal movement, supported by Iranian finances and weaponry, has captured Yemen’s capital city of Sana'a, forcing the resignation of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. In the streets of Sana'a, fighters chant, “Death to America, death to Israel, curses to the Jews, and victory to Islam.” The great irony of this slogan, of which members of the Houthi family are likely unaware, is that the Houthis were receiving weapons and support from Israel decades before receiving military aid from Iran. The Houthi movement and their loyal tribes have long been opportunistic recipients of international support, the origin of which seldom figured in the domestic nature of their political struggles.
THE ODD COUPLE
The last imam of Yemen, Muhammad al-Badr, was overthrown by Abdullah al-Sallal, founder of the Yemeni republic on September 26, 1962. For the next six years, Badr and his alliance of northern tribesmen fought a bloody guerrilla war in the mountainous highlands against 70,000 Egyptian soldiers who had arrived in Yemen in support of the republic. Throughout the conflict, one of Badr’s greatest obstacles was getting his hands on weapons and supplies. Help would arrive to him from a very unlikely source.
On the evening of May 26, 1964, Badr
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ASHER ORKABY is a Research Fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies and the author of the forthcoming book, The International History of the Yemen Civil War, 1962–68.
MORE BY ASHER ORKABY
More:Middle East War & Military Strategy
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