Two months ago, the Shiite Muslim rebellion of the Houthis – the “Partisans of God” – had made great strides in controlling most strategic places of Yemen’s capital Sanaa. The so-called consensus allegedly reached at the time between the Houthis and President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi never concretized and the latter has reached such importance on the ground that it has de facto ruled the country since then. Concern has grown among Sunni Muslim monarchies particularly Saudi Arabia which considers the Houthis as just another proxy group whose main purpose would be to extend Iran’s regional influence.
From a diplomatic viewpoint, there will be close scrutiny of what the United States government will do as it hopes to sign a milestone agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Probably nothing as the USG is re-assessing the situation that has turned Yemen into an inexplicable battleground between regional powers like Saudi Arabia and Iran, Sunni groups, rival terrorist groups like AQAP vs. ISIS, and the Houthis. In fact, all the parties are mostly interested in controlling Aden, from where they could disrupt world markets enough to become more than just a militant group but a powerful clan with a deterrent.
The seizing of Yemen’s gulf strategic waterway by the Houthis would likely serve Iran’s interests as any complication in the area would possibly send oil prices higher, an increase that could help Tehran cope with its economy’s growing difficulties since oil prices halved. However, the Houthis’ final offensive towards Aden – specifically the world’s maritime trade corridor of Bab-al-Mandab strait – should logically occur once the agreement between Iran and the USA has been reached.
And for Iran to ask a same question as for its involvement in Iraq: will it be us or ISIS in Yemen, what do you prefer? Considering Iran’s advances, there’s little hope the Sunni Arab countries can regain the initiative. The more Aden becomes a military objective, the more oil prices’ volatility rises.