- Amran is the stronghold of the al Houthis’ political rivals, the al Ahmar family and the ruling Sunni al Islah Party
- Expansion of conflict with the Houthi directly north of Yemen’s capital will likely draw on Yemen’s limited military
- Another blow to what President Barack Obama has labeled a model in the global war against al Qaeda
The latest outbreak of fighting in Yemen could jeopardize the country’s continued existence as a unified state. On July 8, the Shi’ite al Houthi tribal movement, reportedly armed and supported by Iran, solidified its control of the strategic city of Amran, only 40 km north of the capital, Sana’a. The seizure of a city so close to the capital is a significant victory for the movement and undermines the integrity of the Yemeni state. The seizure also puts America’s only strategy for dealing with one of the most aggressive al Qaeda affiliates in the region, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), at serious risk of failure.
Al Houthi militants attacked the Yemeni 310th Armored Brigade and local tribal militias throughout the month of June 2014 in order to position themselves near Amran city. Strategic for several reasons, Amran is the tribal stronghold of the al Houthis’ political rivals, the powerful al Ahmar family and the ruling Sunni al Islah (Reform) Party. The al Houthis managed to gain control of positions directly outside of Amran city by the end of June.
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Alexis Knutsen, “Yemen’s Counter-Terrorism Quandary,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, June 26, 2014. Available: http://www.criticalthreats.org/yemen/knutsen-houthi-counterterrorism-quandary-june-26-2014