The election of Haider al Abadi to the position of Iraq’s Prime Minister in August of 2014 was hailed by most observers as a turning point in the rapidly disintegrating situation in Iraq. ‘Sectarianization’ of institutions including the army, police, and seats of political power under the rule of the previous government reified sectarian identities to a dangerous degree, incentivizing the selection and usage of sectarian identities over others. Some argue the result of that polarization was ISIS, or at the very least this polarization formed the fertile soil from which ISIS sprung. Abadi’s governing experience stretches back to 2003, where he served in various positions and as a minister to parliament and was several times considered as a viable candidate for the job he now holds. While his handling of the many crises facing his nation have been commendable, in the past few days he has been confronted by the specter of a militarized Iraq.
The past six months witnessed monumental upheavals in Yemen. In September, the Houthi rebel movement overran Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, after efforts by Yemeni president Abed-Rabo Mansoor Hadi (who replaced the previous president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, after he stepped down under pressure from national protests) to meet Houthi demands failed. This coincided with the failure of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement. For a thorough background, meriting significantly more mention than this article can hope to provide, please check out “The Huthis: From Saada to Sanaa” and “Yemen Conflict Alert: Time for Compromise”. These articles delve, in greater depth, into the history of the Houthi movement, known as Ansar Allah, the opponents it is fighting, from Islah to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and of course the Yemeni government itself.
In examining the Yemen of 2015, it is important to not only consider the internal actors at play, including the Houthis, Islah, AQAP, and pro-democracy protesters who reject the Houthi takeover, but also the external actors for whom the latest events in Sanaa were a blessing, curse or consternation, depending on who you ask.