Political leaders in Aden on Thursday announced the formation of a new body aimed at having South Yemen secede. As Reuters reports:
[Aden’s former governor] Aidaroos al-Zubaidi made his announcement in a televised address in front of the flag of the former nation of South Yemen, whose forces were defeated by the north in 1994 and brought into a reunified country.
Zubaidi said a “national political leadership” under his presidency would administer and represent the south – a region which holds much of Yemen’s modest oil deposits, the backbone of its economy.
The announcement raises the prospect of more division in an already complex conflict in the impoverished Arabian Peninsular country, where Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Gulf Arab forces against Houthi fighters allied to Iran.
The Hadi government rejected the proposal out of hand, but that in and of itself may not mean much. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, keen to fight the Iran-backed Houthis, have cobbled together a coalition composed of President Hadi’s own supporters, the Islamist Islah movement, Aden-based secessionists and the myriad other actors that make up what remains of Yemeni society. Should the Saudi-led coalition achieve some kind of eventual victory against the Houthis in Yemen, the winning side will have no easy time keeping the country together.
All of this might give pause to Pentagon officials weighing deeper U.S. involvement in Yemen. For those looking for a quick win against Iran’s proxies in the region, nothing in the Yemeni conflict so far has been very quick or much of a win. As much as he’d like to bloody some Iranian noses, Secretary Mattis’ preference for a political solution, as complicated as that would be, might be the less fraught choice.