The Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen: from partners to adversaries


The Houthis were not the only religious group that aspired to rule and control Yemen by force of arms and by carrying out violent actions against the constitutional authorities in the Arab country.  Yemen's strategic location in the Bab al Mandab strait and its position on the most important maritime routes, through which a large amount of energy that moves the economies of half the world passes, give it a unique importance in the world, but these elements also make Yemen a more fragile country with weak structures in the face of war and conflict, especially sectarian conflicts, which seem to be the origin of all other conflicts. 

Without delving too deeply into the causes and roots of the sectarian conflicts that Yemen suffers from, since it is an endemic evil that the country has been suffering from for decades, if not centuries, we can understand what is happening in Yemen because of the revolts and instability generated by the so-called Arab Spring. This has led to the demise of the General People's Congress Party and the expulsion from power of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was president of Yemen for more than two decades. At the same time, the Reform Party or Islah (Muslim Brotherhood) managed to seize control of power in a quick and complex manner. On the other hand, another sectarian religious group was preparing to take control of the country, the Shia Alnsarola al Houthi organisation, a minority that exerted its power and influence in Sa'ada in the far north of the country. This group has unlimited support from Iran.

Unexpectedly, the Houthis managed to take control of Yemen's capital Sanaa in September 2014, which was followed by a civil war that is still ongoing. At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood adopted a strategy that consisted of taking control of the state institutions and structure, something they have achieved to a certain extent, but what they were not able to do was to defeat the Houthis despite having control over the army, as they preferred to focus on setting in motion a process that consisted of placing their own in the most important positions in order to complete their takeover of the state and its natural resources, especially in the east of the country. 

Throughout these years, Yemen was held hostage to the ambitions of the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand and the ambitions of the Houthis on the other. Meanwhile, the country had reached the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the UN itself. 

The turning point in the development of events came at the beginning of April this year, when all political forces opposed to the Houthis agreed to form an eight-person Leadership Council that would set the political and military roadmap. The Muslim Brotherhood was reluctantly forced to agree to the plan after realising that the other forces wanted to end the stagnation and corruption of the institutions they themselves controlled. 

It is worth noting that the Council faced an arduous task that was to begin with the reform of state structures, especially the army, but this was not welcomed by the Muslim Brotherhood and was seen as a threat to their interests and all that they had achieved during the years of war, especially in areas where there are oil and gas fields. These are regions that the organisation uses for its own benefit. When the Presidential Council made several decisions aimed at changing the military leadership in the Shabwa region, the Islah party concluded that this would pave the way for taking away the sources of wealth, and so it did not accept these changes and encouraged the military leadership to rebel and reject the removal decisions, a move observers believe the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to demonstrate its power and that it is a force that cannot be ignored. They also wanted to send a message to the Presidential Council to prevent it from going further with decisions that could threaten its control over oil and gas reserves. 

The newly formed Leadership Council was faced with a new rebellion, and had two options, either to confront this rebellion or to submit to the will of the Muslim Brotherhood and not clash with them, but it chose the first option in an attempt to control the situation and impose its power once and for all, a gesture that was met by great popular support, but at the same time put the Council and its leaders in the crosshairs of the Muslim Brotherhood's media machine and the states that support them. They launched a concerted campaign aimed at undermining the Council and weakening its legitimacy. 

In the end, the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Presidential Leadership Council became complicated, and al-Islah shifted to a position characterised by confrontation and resistance to the decisions of the country's presidency. 

The Reform Party (Islah) carried out an unprecedented attack on the Presidential Command Council, at the same time calling on like-minded activists to confront the Council, after concluding that any reform process the Presidential Council would like to undertake in the army may undermine its control over it. 

As a result, what is happening now has further complicated the situation in Yemen and made the challenges facing the Presidential Leadership Council more complex as it is now in open warfare with the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter in turn are waging a media campaign to discredit the council and its chairman, Rashad Al-Alimi. Some observers point out that the Muslim Brotherhood are truly terrified of him and are obsessed that he is not a version of Kais Saied, who has managed to defeat the same organisation in another Arab country, Tunisia.