In the wake of the takeover of the Yemeni capital by Houthi militants that has plunged the country into turmoil, Yemen is now suffering from an absence of political authority. The advance of the Iranian-allied Shi'ite Houthi group raises fears of the possible disintegration of the country. Houthi rebels reportedly besieged Yemeni Air Force headquarters in the capital, Sanaa, on Sunday. This move comes after the takeover of the presidential palace prompted President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to tender his resignation on Thursday.
Amid escalating violence, the Yemeni parliament was expected to hold an emergency session on Sunday to decide whether to accept President Hadi's resignation. However, the emergency meeting was postponed "to allow members of the assembly to be notified." President Hadi and the government of Prime Minister Khaled Bahah both resigned on Thursday.
"The speaker of the parliament would become acting president until an election can be scheduled in the next 60 days. If a majority vote fails to accept Hadi's resignation, President Hadi will remain president for an additional 90 days. If President Hadi submits his resignation again in 90 days, parliament must accept it," said United States spokesperson Marie Harf in a daily press briefing on Jan. 23, while stressing the importance of complying with the Yemeni constitution.
Yemen has strategic importance, as the country is located next to oil-rich Saudi Arabia and on the key-shipping route from the Suez Canal to the Gulf. First, Yemen is a United States ally in Washington's fight against radical militant group al-Qaeda, which poses a significant threat for Western countries. Therefore, a Western-backed centralized and powerful government is crucial for the United States to carry out a counter-terrorism strategy against radical militants. Yemen is home to al-Qaida's deadliest franchise, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has orchestrated numerous high-profile terrorist attacks. Yemen's al-Qaida had claimed responsibility for the Jan. 7 Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. The fall of Hadi's Western-backed government would lead to global fear of more terrorist attacks. For Saudi Arabia, Yemen plays a significant role against Iran's influence over the violence-hit Middle East region.
Yemen has long suffered from political instability and insecurity due to threats posed by various militant groups. Since former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in 2012, ending his 33-year rule, the country has been in a state of constant turmoil. In addition to the Houthi rebels, Yemen's local al-Qaida branch would also pose a significant security threat to the Yemeni government, as the militants have tried to impose control over many cities. In addition to the clashes between government forces and Houthi militants, the rival militant groups, al-Qaida and the Houthi rebels, have fought a bloody battle to gain control over several places.