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Explainer: The Civil War in Yemen

Explainer: The Civil War in Yemen

The Conflict:

A sectarian civil war between minority Shiites of the northeast and majority Sunnis in southeast--with outside intervention.

The Players:

Houthis Members of the Zaidi sect of Shia Islam who historically held power in Yemen, now complain to be politically marginalized. Seized control of capital, Sanaa, September 2014.

Yemen President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi – Took office in 2012. Fled to Aden, then Saudi Arabia in early 2015. Internationally-recognized as Yemen’s legitimate leader.

AQAP – Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a Sunni jihadist group that could use political chaos in Yemen to exert influence over Yemen’s Sunnis.

IS – Claims responsibility for several attacks against Houthi mosques since July 2015.

Outside Stakeholders:

Iran – Iran, Saudi Arabia’s chief rival for political influence in the region, backs the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia – Views Houthis as Iran’s proxy and fears they could ignite Shiite uprising inside the Kingdom. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia and nine regional allies began air strikes against Houthis.

United States – Supports President Hadi’s government in exile. Provides support to the Saudi-led coalition to defend Saudi Arabia’s border, contain Iran’s influence, and prevent growth of AQIP and ISIS in Yemen.