Yemen’s embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has asked Gulf countries to intervene militarily against Shiite rebels who have seized the capital and are advancing toward his new base in the south, his foreign minister told Saudi media Monday.
Riad Yassin said Hadi has also asked the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone so that the rebels, known as Houthis, cannot use the airports they seized. He accused the rebels of being a proxy of Shiite Iran, charges they deny.
Yassin spoke to Saudi-owned Al-Hadath TV on Monday. He made similar comments to the Saudi-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal meanwhile warned that “if the Houthi coup does not end peacefully, we will take the necessary measures for this crisis to protect the region.”
He did not elaborate further. Riyadh also renewed its offer to host talks between Yemen’s rival groups- which has already been rejected by the rebels. The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain — warned earlier this year that they would act to protect the Arabian Peninsula’s security and described the Houthi takeover of parts of Yemen as a “terrorist” act.
“Time is not on our side,” Yassin told Al-Hadath. He didn’t say what Gulf military intervention would entail but said the Houthis’ advance toward Hadi’s base in the southern city of Aden must be stopped. He said the rebels want to foil attempts to reach a political solution.
Yassin said the request was made to the Gulf Cooperation Council after warplanes struck near the presidential palace in Aden over the weekend. Hadi was not harmed in the attack. The Gulf countries’ emergency military force, known as the Peninsula Shield, intervened in Bahrain in 2011 to help the Sunni monarchy crush protests backed by the Shiite majority.
The call for intervention comes days ahead of an Arab Summit in Egypt. It’s unclear whether Hadi will be able to leave Yemen in order to attend. Saudi Arabia last intervened in Yemen in late 2009 and early 2010, launching airstrikes and artillery rounds against Houthis near its border, following a cross border attack against its soldiers. More than 130 Saudi soldiers were killed. At the time, the Houthis were waging an insurgency against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is now allied with them.
On Sunday, rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said his forces will keep advancing south, referring to Hadi as a “puppet” of international powers.
The Houthis seized control of the capital Sanaa last September, along with several northern provinces. Hadi, who fled from house arrest in Sanaa last month, has set up a power base in the port city of Aden.
The international community still views Hadi as the country’s legitimate leader and the U.N. Security Council has sanctioned the two top Houthi leaders and Saleh. The Houthis and supporters of Saleh have captured much of the third largest city of Taiz, as well as its airport, and are advancing toward the south.
Yassin, speaking from Saudi Arabia, said Hadi had asked the U.N. to “intervene by all means to save Yemen and Yemenis from Iranian control.” SAPA