Only time will tell whether Friday’s deadly blasts in two mosques in the Yemeni capital were isolated attacks by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or whether the organisation is flexing its muscles with the assaults in Sanaa and in Tunisia’s capital Tunis.
For now, these attacks have again demonstrated the inability of the Houthi group – which lacks proper training as a police force – to provide security and enforce the rule of law in Sanaa and other areas that are under its control.
The continued political chaos and uncertainty is likely to increase the potential for violence.
The Houthis, together with the supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, may seize this political opportunity to mobilise people for a military and political expansion, probably in the direction of Taiz and Aden, where the Shia Houthis face a severe legitimacy crisis.
Some observers have suggested that the Houthis might view control of Taiz and Aden as higher political priorities than targeting al-Qaeda elements.
It is unlikely that Aden will fall quickly as it did in 1994 to Saleh forces. Furthermore, reports of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s initiation of military recruitment in Aden and other nearby cities in south Yemen suggests that he recognises past mistakes that resulted in the fall of Sanaa to the Houthis.
Saleh has publicly condemned Hadi’s tactics in Aden, citing his military offensive in 1994 against the Yemeni Socialist party (YSP) – which Hadi was then a key supporter of.
Aden will be the most likely source of any future political and military operations against Sanaa, and both the Houthis and Saleh view President Hadi as their biggest threat.
Hadi has the political legitimacy that may attract financial and military support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members. A Sanaa insider for nearly three decades, Hadi is highly respected for his military skills.
Unfortunately, his political skills did not prove equally impressive during his time as president in Sanaa. President Hadi is a huge obstacle to Saleh and the Houthis, therefore, they are unlikely to pass up any chance to eliminate him.
Accordingly, the coming days are vital to Yemen’s future.
The international community should not simply watch the events unfolding in Yemen from the sidelines.
Aggressive and quick diplomatic intervention is needed, especially from Yemen’s neighbour, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Political negotiations in Riyadh should begin immediately, and Saudi Arabia should pressure Saleh to limit his cooperation with the Houthis.
If Yemen enters another era of civil war, it will not be limited to the Arabian Peninsula nation, as in 1994.
Unfortunately, many in the region who are watching from outside Yemen will also be affected.