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Yemen's Houthis proxy, not ally for Iran

Although they form part of the regional alliance with Iran, Yemen's Houthis and Hezbollah in Lebanon differ in political contexts and behavior.
A follower of the Shi'ite Houthi movement mans a machine gun mounted on a military pick up in Sanaa October 20, 2014. The truck was taken by the movement's fighters during recent clashes with army soldiers in Sanaa. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah (YEMEN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY) - RTR4AU1L

Armed Houthis took over the reins of power in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in late September in a way that was reminiscent of Hezbollah's takeover of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, in May 2008. There appears to be an increasingly similar pattern between the actions of Hezbollah and the Houthis. However, despite all the similarities that emerge at first glance, the comparison between the two is still only in form and focuses on ideological rhetoric and some mechanisms used to achieve political goals. In fact, there are deep structural, political and social differences between Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis, or Ansar Allah, in Yemen.

Most important of all, any comparison between the Houthis and Hezbollah cannot ignore the fundamental difference in the political and social structure between Yemen and Lebanon. Sects are the most important and decisive factor among Lebanese society, while in Yemen sectarianism overlaps with regionalism. The Houthi takeover of Sanaa created a national and regional rift, not just a sectarian one. It enshrined the general idea that authority and the conflict for it is still based in the far north, which historically controlled Yemen and whose influence decreased, especially after President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who hails from the south, took office. In other words, Hezbollah emerged from the sectarian structure that existed in Lebanon, while the Houthis revived a sectarian conflict that had nearly gone extinct in Yemen. In any case, regionalism — not sectarianism — is still the most decisive factor in Yemen until now.

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