Rifts between Saudi- and UAE-backed groups are increasingly helping the Houthis.
A rift in the Saudi-led coalition battling the Iranian-backed Houthi movement has led to a breakout of violence in the city of Aden, the seat of the Yemeni government, leaving four dead and nine injured.
Separatists from the Southern Transitional Council (STC) clashed with the presidential guard of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Although both sides have been working together to fight against the Houthis, it has become increasingly difficult to hold the fragile coalition together.
The US State Department released a statement saying, “The United States is deeply concerned by the outbreak of violence and deadly clashes in Aden. We call on all parties to refrain from escalation and further bloodshed and to resolve their differences through dialogue.”
However, differences between the warring sides are becoming increasingly difficult to paper over.
On the one hand, the STC, which was founded in 2017, wants to secede from the rest of Yemen, forming a state similar to the one which existed between 1967 to 1990. On the other hand, President Hadi ostensibly aims to rule over the whole of Yemen.
Tensions between the two sides spilled over when a rocket and drone attack earlier this month left more than 37 people dead.
The Houthis took credit for the attack, a signal to Saudi Arabia and the UAE that it could attack their forces at will.
A tangled web
The STC, which is also closely aligned with the UAE, has accused the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned party Al Islah of helping the Houthis.
While Saudi Arabia has worked tirelessly to fight the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East in Yemen, it has aligned itself with Al Islah, straining its relationship with the UAE, which has an even more hardline position against the group.
Accusations made by the STC towards Al Islah will not only put a strain between the fragile coalition fighting the Houthis but also between the erstwhile allies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the latter who is suspicious of the group.
The Yemeni news outlet Masdar Online claimed that Saudi troops had been deployed around the presidential palace of President Hadi to stop the UAE-backed STC group from potentially storming the compound. President Hadi is currently in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-backed Hadi government earlier this year lashed out at the UAE for supporting STC’s secessionist aspirations.
Hadi’s fears seem to have been confirmed when on Thursday the STC called for the overthrow of the UN-backed government and at the same time Aidaroos al Zubaidi, the STC leader, who until recently had been living in the UAE, was whisked to Aden by the UAE in a further sign of heightened tensions.
The Hadi government’s minister of Interior, Ahmed al Mayssari, said, "We reject the irresponsible actions of the Transitional Council groups, which amounted to the use of heavy weapons and the attempt to storm state institutions."
The UAE minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, on Twitter called for “calm” between the warring sides.
Meanwhile, the Houthi forces have been watching closely at the widening split between the UAE- and Saudi-backed forces.
Mohammed Ali al Houthi, one of the members of the Houthi Supreme Council, tweeted, “After the mercenaries' warnings of aggression in Aden, will the bragging remain? Or will it melt like snow? There is no salvation for the occupied governorates except by expelling the occupier and finishing every relationship with it.”
The Iranian strategy in supporting the Houthis has been remarkably similar to its support of the Assad regime in Syria. In supporting the Houthis, Iran has found a stable and single actor capable of operating effectively and with a degree of stability.
Meanwhile, the opposition is composed of a myriad of factions fighting against each other, within themselves and with Saudi and the UAE at odds, leading to a volatile and incoherent political and military approach to the Houthis.
The war in Yemen can trace its beginning to 2011 and the onset of the Arab Spring; since then the war has taken a heavy toll on the people of Yemen resulting in widespread famine and a death toll approaching more than 100,000.