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Who Rules Houthis, How Does Is It Relate to the New Coronavirus Crisis?

Who Rules Houthis, How Does Is It Relate to the New Coronavirus Crisis?

Sunday, 29 March, 2020 - 12:45
Yemenis wear protective face masks in Sanaa, EPA
London - Badr al-Qahtani

Western diplomatic sources close to decision-making circles in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital over-run by Iran backed Houthi militia, believe that the Houthi group is frantic over dealing with the new coronavirus and its repercussions.

The sources, speaking under the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the Houthi administration is weak. This is the result of Houthi distribution of power which wasn’t split according to qualification but according to lineage.

The True Houthi Ruler

In chaos-mired Yemen, there are not many conclusive answers. But a little thought and reading into news headlines may help in understanding the scene.

The name of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard official in Yemen, Abdul Reza Shahlai, emerged in the wake of the killing of Qassem Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force in Iraq.

One of the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Yemen, Abdulredha Shahlai, is one of the most wanted individuals in Saudi Arabia and the US, because of his support for terrorism and the smuggling of weapons and missiles to the Iranian Houthi militia in Yemen.

US law enforcement officials have long tried to bring Shahlai to justice, most recently on December 5, 2019, by offering a $15 million reward for information leading to the disruption of his fund-raising networks.

It is worth noting that the reward for information about Shahlai is greater than that offered for information about Qasim al-Raymi, the emir of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This brings about the question of whether Shahlai is the one truly ruling Yemen.

Yemeni official Hamza al-Kamali says that “Houthis regrettably offer Yemen to Iranians on a silver platter for the latter to use as a platform for its terrorist plots.”

“Houthis seek to control Yemen, and have sold their sovereignty to Iran,” al-Kamali added.

How does this relate to the coronavirus crisis?

Mohamed Abdi, Yemen country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, warned that any outbreak of the virus could have catastrophic consequences for displaced families. Five years of war have damaged and destroyed thousands of hospitals, and water and sanitation systems have collapsed in Yemen.

“We’re extremely concerned that on top of everything else, the possibility of coronavirus reaching Yemen will have devastating consequences for an already overstretched health system and vulnerable population. Five years of war have crippled Yemen’s ability to respond to an outbreak, and it is now a race against time to prepare,” Abdi said.

UN Chief António Guterres has called for a ceasefire in the war-torn country. The call was welcomed by the internationally recognized government and the Arab Coalition backing it. It was also welcomed by Houthis.

But the implementation of a ceasefire did not match the acceptance it received with news reporting that Houthis have escalated their war operations is Sirwah, west of Marib.

For his part, the UN Especial Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, called on the Yemeni parties to hold an urgent meeting to discuss the fulfillment of their commitments to ceasefire they announced on Wednesday in response to UN call.

"I'm calling the parties to an urgent meeting to discuss how to translate their stated commitments to the Yemeni people into practice. I expect the parties to heed Yemenis' desire for peace and immediately cease all military hostilities," the UN envoy said.

This gives rise to the question on whether Shalai will accept Houthis heeding the international call and committing to a ceasefire as the country braces for a coronavirus outbreak.

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