The reason Yemen isn’t getting the attention it deserves is because at least with Syria there was a constant propaganda offensive of lies against the government, which produced an equally strong counter-narrative that got tougher to beat over time.
By contrast with Yemen there is no “constant propaganda offensive” against the National Salvation Government (i.e. “the Houthis”) rather there’s mostly silence, interrupted by moments of humanitarian concern, speaking of which, please donate what you can to wfaid.org.
In my experience, even those who have raised large sums of money for Yemen, which I certainly contributed to, have only a vague understanding of what’s happening. Essentially everyone agrees that the Saudis are the aggressors, but what’s the overall significance of this war?
Ever since the assassination of Yemeni President Ibrahim al Hamdi in 1977, Yemen has been swallowed by Saudi influence, funding mosques and schools across the country, especially in the Zaydi heartland, like the Mosque in Dammaj. This war is Yemen attempting to regain its independence by throwing off that influence.
The political substance of the republican revolution in North Yemen (1962-67) had been so subverted by Saudi money, and pacified by Wahhabi ideology, that it did not hesitate to crack down hard on the revival of Zaydism because to them it represented a rival claim to Yemeni nationalism.
The six Sa’ada wars from 2004-10 were started by the Saleh government, not by [Houthi-led] Ansarullah, which never began by attempting the armed overthrow of the Yemeni state, instead only promoting the message that Yemen was being kept artificially poor, as Saudi Arabia’s cheap labour pool, and unable to fully exploit its resources, because of its corrupt leaders and their subservience to Riyadh.
For centuries, Sana’a had been the center of economic life in Arabia, but after years of Ottoman aggression, British colonial occupation, and then Saudi aggression/occupation of historically Yemeni territories, Yemenis were reduced to poverty, and some turned into the foot-soldiers of Saudi foreign policy globally.
This is why it comes as no surprise that the Yemeni army general in charge of waging those six wars against Ansarullah, General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, is one of the founders of the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood (al-Islah), and married the sister of Tareq al Fadhli, the leader of Yemen’s mujaheddin contingent in Afghanistan.
When the Yemeni mujaheddin returned in the early 90’s bringing Al-Qaeda with them, they terrorized the Yemeni Socialist Party into submission leading to the 1994 civil war, which President Saleh won.
After a long history of collaborating with Al Qaeda, Saleh decided to join the US “war on terror” as well, but the few random drone strikes on Al-Qaeda (which gets media attention) always paled in comparison to the far larger military operation against Ansarullah (which didn’t).
In 2004 the Yemeni state went to war against Ansarullah, ten years later, the bulk of the Yemeni state defected to the side of Ansarullah in what’s now called the September revolution of 2014, turning the Saudis from backers of a government fighting a Houthi insurgency, into foreign aggressors, against a Houthi backed state.
Jay Tharrapel is a PhD Candidate at the University of Sydney.