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Abstract

For nearly six years, the government of Yemen has conducted military operations north of the capital against groups of its citizens known as “Huthis.” In spite of using all means at its disposal, the government has been unable to subdue the Huthi movement. Along with southern discontent and al-Qa'ida-inspired terrorism, the Huthi conflict presents an enduring threat to the stability of Yemen and the regime of its president. This book presents an in-depth look at the conflict in all its sociocultural, political, and military aspects. Basing their research on a wide variety of sources, both Western and non-Western, the authors provide a history of the Huthi movement and its origins in the Zaydi branch of Islam. They discuss the various stages of the conflict in detail and map out its possible future trajectories. In spite of a recent ceasefire, the 2009-2010 round of fighting, featuring Saudi involvement and Iranian rhetorical condemnation of Saudi-Yemeni actions, points to the conflict becoming transnational and increasingly sectarian. These developments run contrary to the interests of the United States and its friends in the region, as they seek to combat al-Qa'ida-related threats and build Yemeni capacity.

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Table of Contents

  • Part I

    The Context of Regime-Periphery Relations in Northern Yemen

  • Chapter One

    Sa‘da in the North Yemeni Context

  • Chapter Two

    The Sociocultural Ecology of the Huthi Conflict: Tribalism and Religion

  • Part II

    From Tension to Conflict: Social Change and Huthi Emergence, 1980s–2004

  • Chapter Three

    Run-Up to the Regime-Huthi Conflict, 1980s–2001

  • Chapter Four

    From Tension to Confrontation: Triggers of Conflict, 2001–2004

  • Part III

    The Six Sa‘da Wars

  • Chapter Five

    From Phases to Rolling Conflict: Time Line, Geography, and Magnitude of Huthi-GoY Fighting

  • Chapter Six

    GoY Operations: Goals and Methods

  • Chapter Seven

    The Huthis as Combatants

  • Chapter Eight

    Conflict Prolongers: The Environmental, Human, and Economic Consequences of Huthi-GoY Fighting

  • Appendix A

    Population Characteristics of Sa‘da Governorate

  • Appendix B

    Zaydism: Overview and Comparison to Other Versions of Shi‘ism

  • Appendix C

    Major Huthist Ideological Tracts

  • Appendix D

    Important Personalities in the Huthi Conflict

  • Appendix E

    Conflict Magnitude

  • Appendix F

    Conflict Ceasefire Conditions

  • Appendix G

    Fifty-Five Huthi “Leaders” Wanted by the GoY, August 2009

  • Appendix H

    Sources and Challenges in Understanding the Huthi Conflict

The research described in this report was prepared for the Defense Intelligence Agency. The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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