May 2, 2016

"The Giant Al Qaeda Defeat That No One’s Talking About."

So let's talk about it.

51 comments:

Michael McClain said...

Link to article?

jr565 said...

No one is also talking about how we sent troops back into Iraq. What shoudl be talked about then is that if you take the fight to ISIS and/or Al Qaeda in those countries you can in fact decimate them. Perhaps not permanently but certainly in the present. And what was the cost? In this case, not even that much.
So, perhaps we should do more of this, if we want less of Al Qaeda/ISIS.

Ann Althouse said...

"Link to article?"

It's there. Just a little hard to see. Metaphorical.

Michael K said...

The Iran-Saudi contest may not be over yet.

The fighting in Yemen has already intensified, with residents of the capital, Sanaa, reporting the heaviest bombing to date by Saudi-led warplanes. Peace talks planned for this week have been postponed. An airstrike near the Iranian embassy appears to have struck nearby, although Iran initially accused Saudi Arabia of bombing the compound directly.

The escalation is one illustration of an increasingly lethal rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the two powers backing opposing factions in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Bahrain.

Some Yemenis see their country as increasingly engulfed by a confrontation between the two regional powers. The turmoil which began following Yemen’s 2011 pro-democracy uprising first transformed into civil war and is now an internationalized conflict, one that continues to claim the lives of numerous civilians and has plunged millions into a humanitarian crisis.


Maybe the Saudis have won but I would not celebrate yet,. That was written in January.

narciso said...

the problem is the saudis like to kill houthi, more than salafi, this is why aQAp has profitted from this conflict, to a degree, they have retaken mukallah, but that's a fluid situation,

tim in vermont said...

I have been reading "The Sabres of Paradise," which has gotten me to call Star Wars "The Light Sabres of Paradise" given that Star Wars is sort of based on it, by way of Dune, and you know what blowing up the WTC was sorta like? Destroying the Death Star. The jihadis formed a "rebel alliance" against the Russian empire, it's all there. In Dune, the character whom I think is based on Shamyl,is called "Usu" (The Base) like Usama? that might be a stretch, but in turn Skywalker was based on him. We are the empire in the minds of many.

You have to admit, the Jihadis pretty much have a monopoly on the romantic side of this war, kind of like the "Republicans"(Commies) in the Spanish Civil War. This is a problem for us. They are using the power of the narrative against us, and so many fall for it. They offer meaning where we offer deconstruction. Humans were made to believe in stuff. I don't see where this ends up in a century, given the weapons around nowadays.

Dan Hossley said...

We're probably not talking about it because it was a minor setback. AQAP was a big threat before they took the city and it remains a big threat after they lost the city. Don't worry, the Saudi's will cut a deal with AQAP because their real enemy are the Houthi, in their mind.

Meanwhile, the jihadi's are now pumping Libyan oil, the Iraqi offensive to retake Mosul is a month behind schedule, the US just sent another 250 soldiers to Iraq, the Shia militias in Iraq are getting ready to take down the Shia government in Iraq and we still don't have a strategy to defeat these guys....other than "not calling them Islamic terrorists".

Bobby said...

Michael K,

No where in that article did Mike Morell state that the Saudis won anything with respect to Iran or their proxies, the Houthis. The article demonstrated how the Emirates, operating with Sunni Yemeni auxiliaries, were able to seize Mukalla from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is obviously quite separate and distinct from (and opposed to) the Iranian "side."

narciso said...

well Dune is more TE Lawrence, with the Turks being the Harkonnens, there's much more arabic then the chechen or avar in the story, of course shaddam is persian, but you have a point,

narciso said...

when I want to know the real story, I rarely go to Time, Henry Luce agrees through the ether,

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/05/aqap-says-it-withdrew-from-mukalla-to-protect-residents.php

YoungHegelian said...

The other reason we're not hearing much about it is that the Saudis, UAE, et al with our help, are waging a brutal war in Yemen, with quite a few civilian casualties. It's not exactly, morally speaking, the Obama administration's finest hour.

This is what happens when there are no "American boots on the ground". Our allies & proxies do the fighting. Since their training isn't as rigorous, their weapons aren't as accurate, & most of all, their consciences are a lot harder to trouble, the fighting is a lot more brutal on the civilian population.

A lot of innocent folks have to pay in blood for the "pretty consciences" of liberals.

David Begley said...

Those religious nuts will never quit. This war will last for a 100 years.

Curious George said...

YoungHegelian said...
The other reason we're not hearing much about it is that the Saudis, UAE, et al with our help, are waging a brutal war in Yemen, with quite a few civilian casualties. It's not exactly, morally speaking, the Obama administration's finest hour."

What are you talking about? Didn't you see him at the WHCD?

tim in vermont said...

The parallels in Dune are impossible to over look. The sayings in Sabres quoted at the head of each chapter, from this countess, or that history. The phrase, lifted exactly, of "To kill with the point of a dagger lacks artistry." That was a direct lift from Sabres in Dune. But I can see the Lawrence of Arabia thing too.

There was a throwaway line too about "Guardian of Thrones" which I thought some writer might have found inspiration in too.

Quaestor said...

Maybe the Saudis have won but I would not celebrate yet. That was written in January.

Americans tend to have narrow historical horizons. We're accustomed paradigm shifts evolving over the course of a single lifetime, but this is hardly typical. The conflict between ourselves and Al-Qeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, and other terrorist movements we haven't even heard of yet is just the latest manifestation of the violence at the core of Islam. Within a generation of the death of Muhammad the community of Islam had split into warring camps lead by rival imams, each claiming the the inheritance of the prophet. Those camps further bifurcated into the dozens of Muslim sects that regard all outsiders, even fellow Muslims, as infidels fit only for slaughter.

The United Arab Emirates may have defeated Al-Qeda, but until Islam can reform itself into a religion that can coexist with itself, let alone the outside world, the hydra will only grow more heads. It's not clear that this is even possible. Christianity was founded by someone expecting the imminent end of the world, so his doctrine doesn't include anything about government or the use of force. Christians were expected to be a pacifist minority living unobtrusively within a doomed secular state, participating as little as possible in the affairs of the world. We may think the Amish and the Mennonites to be oddballs, but their way of life is more more like primitive Christianity than Catholicism and mainstream Protestantism. When it came to pass that it was the Roman Empire rather than the world which ended, the Christians were faced with running a society that must either sustain itself or collapse into chaos, something Jesus didn't think to include in the Beatitudes. It took 1400 years for a religion founded on pacifist principles to sufficiently compartmentalize the spiritual life such that religious war is now at least unfashionable if not unthinkable. Just imagine how long a faith that embraces holy war as an obligation will take to achieve a similar equanimity, and they haven't even started down that path yet.

JPS said...

I used to get excited about local victories over al Qaeda and their affiliates.

I'm still glad to read of them, I just don't get particularly hopeful about the big picture.

Bobby said...

YoungHegelian,

"This is what happens when there are no "American boots on the ground". Our allies & proxies do the fighting. Since their training isn't as rigorous, their weapons aren't as accurate, & most of all, their consciences are a lot harder to trouble, the fighting is a lot more brutal on the civilian population.

A lot of innocent folks have to pay in blood for the "pretty consciences" of liberals.
"

That is absolutely true, but it's not just liberals who don't want to commit American troops to expeditions like Yemen. Donald Trump and his supporters are at least as adamant as the liberals that the US should not be the world's policemen, and that other countries need to do more to defend their own interests. There's a large degree of resistance to risking American troops abroad that numerous politicians in both parties have seized upon this election cycle.

Morell's article specifically points to the Emiratis campaign in Mukalla as something of a proof of concept and is, in his words, "the kind of military capability and willingness to act against terrorists that should become a model for other countries in the region. It is the kind of action that the United States should support." He's making the case that if Americans aren't willing to put American lives on the line, a strategy utilizing appropriate and committed proxies might very well be able to do the job (even if, as you point out, it is so much more messy).

narciso said...

well lawrence wasn't a prince like paul atreides, but he seeks out the bedouin like the fremen,

holdfast said...

Someone should tell Obama and Ash Carter that fear is the Mind Killer.

Just sayin'

Michael K said...

"No where in that article did Mike Morell state that the Saudis won anything with respect to Iran "

This is all about Sunni and Shia. The Saudis are the Sunni side and Iran is the Shia side. What the UAE and the Yemenis do is not significant and taking pride in such tempests in tea pots is not wise.

Spengler pretty much knows how it will finally end.

We encounter in many of the great conflicts of the past elements of irrationality, including overtly suicidal actions, which provide insights into the kind of conflicts that have emerged during the past two decades and are likely to continue through the rest of the present century. A fresh look at great conflicts of the past should provide a corrective to our past preoccupation with rationality.

Nations do not fight to the death, but they frequently fight until their pool of prospective fighters has reached a point of practical exhaustion. In most cases, this involves reaching the 30% mark where casualties are concerned.

Wars of this character demarcate many turning points in world history. They include the Peloponnesian War, the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War and, at least in some respects, the two World Wars of the 20th century. The 30% solution appears yet again in Germany’s casualty figures during the Second World War. Germany lost 5,330,000 of 17,718,714 men aged 15-44 years, or again 30% of the total.

There are disturbing similarities in these wars to the present situation in Western Asia.


When 30% of Muslim men have died, we might see an end.

madAsHell said...

I just can't believe this article.
1. Why hasn't Obama jumped in front of this parade?
2. If the Saudi's were part of the clean-up, then who is paying for this AQAP organization?
3. I find it hard to believe that Shiite Iranians are paying predominantly Sunni terrorists.

Bobby said...

Michael K,

"This is all about Sunni and Shia. The Saudis are the Sunni side and Iran is the Shia side. What the UAE and the Yemenis do is not significant and taking pride in such tempests in tea pots is not wise."

No. The ongoing Yemen Civil War is a three-sided war: (1) the Sunni "loyalists" of the Hadi government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, and Qatar [the US and France provide materiel and logistical support to the coalition]; (2) the Shi'a Houthis rebel fighters, backed by Iran and Hezbollah; and (3) Al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninusla (AQAP) who are organized under the banner of Ansar al-Sharia.

Bobby said...

madAsHell,

"If the Saudi's were part of the clean-up, then who is paying for this AQAP organization?"

Generally speaking, "Saudis" funded Al Qaeda everywhere except the Arabian Peninsula. It was a deliberate strategy to get Al Qaeda to focus their attention "abroad" so that they would be too busy to focus any attention on the Saudi regime itself at home (which, as we all know, derives its authority not so much on Islamist grounds [contrast to Iran, for example, where the ayatollahs rule because of their religious qualifications], but on traditionalist grounds [i.e., descending from the House of Saud dynasty].

Even today, the numbers of Saudis sponsoring AQAP would be rather limited, as compared to those funding AQ writ large.

Bobby said...

madAsHell,

"I find it hard to believe that Shiite Iranians are paying predominantly Sunni terrorists."

They are not, and nothing in Morell's article suggests anything like that. It's a three-sided war, as identified in my comment at 1:26pm above.

narciso said...

yes, but they do collaborate, saudi hezbollah and aq, did so in khobar towers for instance,

Hagar said...

The Iran - Saudi, or Shia - Sunni, war has not even really got going yet.

coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael K said...

Bobby, I understand but I'm saying the war is an existential one for all Muslims and the battles will continue until 30% of men between 15 and 50 are dead.

Local and temporary alliances are common, as in WWII.

The Iraq invasion was a reasonable effort to see if Arabs, and Muslims in general, were ready for the 21st century. I don't think they are.

That doesn't mean that individuals, like Ayan Hirsi Ali and Fouad Ajami can't adapt to modernity but they are Muslims only in a sense like Catholics and Protestants are in modern countries.

Bobby said...

Michael K,

There's far more at play in Muslim-on-Muslim conflicts than just the sectarian schism of Sunni vs. Shia. There are intrasectarian squabbles- for example, the ISCI / Dawa / Sadrist competition in southern Iraq are all Shi'a competing for power on rather narrow (from our perspective) religio-political grounds.

There are ethnic faultlines that sometimes generally align with sectarian splits (for example, Persians and Arabs who tend to be Shi'a and Sunni, respectively). And there are ethnic splits that do not correlate with sectarian splits (the Kurds and the Iraqi Sunni Arabs, for example, or the Kurds and the Turks, who are both predominantly Sunni).

There are political ideological splits that may or may not intersect with ethnic or sectarian faultlines -- for example, the traditional regimes of the Sunni Gulf States versus the religiously-centered Islamist would-be regimes of Al Qaeda, Daesh or the Taliban. Or the old Leftist Mujahideen-e-Khalq (who fight Iran), the former Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Ba'athist Party (which was predominantly Sunni in Iraq, but predominantly Alawite Shi'a in Syria).

And so on, and so on. It's difficult to stake positions out on purely the grounds of sectarian identity, because the sands are constantly changing- as you admit yoursel- and alliances frequently come and go.

Also, as far as I know, Ayan Hirsi Ali does not consider herself a Muslim, so she doesn't quite fit your example.

Hagar said...

The Muslim primitives believe that we are living in the End Times and, based on interpretaion of something in the Koran (or in the Old Testament?), they believe there is first going to be great war between Shia and Sunni, then the winning side will lead all Muslims to the final war against all unbelievers, which will end in total destruction of the earth and Judgement Day.

Michael K said...

"Also, as far as I know, Ayan Hirsi Ali does not consider herself a Muslim, so she doesn't quite fit your example."

Oh, I know and some of them are converting to Christianity in Germany.

Are you there and have been recently ? You sound as if you have some experience. Mine is mostly from books and blogs.

Sammy Finkelman said...

We don't know much because theer is no foreign press there. The Saudis didn't want the foreign press there because they are violating the laws of war and human rights - including bombing medical facilities. The foeeign press may persist for a while, as it does with regard to Syrua, but once they lose interest, interest will copntinue to stay lost as long as they have no access, and no one's making propaganda against them, and the group in question is not affectingthings aoutside its hoome territory.

Who talks about the Congo, and South Sudan?

I don't really have a good idea how the war in Yemen is going. It seems to be still going on, that's all. I suppose it must be in the back pages of the New York Times.

To get some press coverage, AQAP would have to commit some terrorist acts, preferably in an OECD country.

Yemen is getting so little attention that Yemeinis are not getting asylum in Europe like people from Syria or Afgahnistan, even though there's a war going on there too.

Sammy Finkelman said...

madAsHell said...5/2/16, 1:24 PM

I just can't believe this article.
1. Why hasn't Obama jumped in front of this parade?


Number one: He would only do so if AQAP was wiped out and lost the ability to commit terrorist acts and we're not there yet.

Number two: If he took credit for what's happening then he'd also have to take the blame, or be held responsible for not stopping, the war crimes being committed by Saudi Arabia.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/doctors-without-borders-hospital-yemen-bombed-leaving-4-dead-10-n493566

The U.S. is trying to stop them, arguing this is waste of ordnance. The Saudis are not entirely convinced.

http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-03-16/us-senator-saudis-stop-bombing-civilians-yemen

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/04/07/yemen-us-bombs-used-deadliest-market-strike

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/20/opinion/obama-saudi-arabia-trade-cluster-bombs.html

U.S. opposition to some Saudi war tactics may account for the semi-unfriendly reception President Obama receoved in Saudi Arabia.

2. If the Saudi's were part of the clean-up, then who is paying for this AQAP organization?

Good question. Could be Qatar, or members of the Saudi royal family, who are pretty much immune from any law enforcement. That's part of what keeps members of the royal family from killing each other.

3. I find it hard to believe that Shiite Iranians are paying predominantly Sunni terrorists.

Oh, that's easy. Didn't they support Hamas?

Yes, Iran could be funding it. I thionk actually this is the biggest secret and something we ought to know.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Hagar said...5/2/16, 2:43 PM

The Muslim primitives believe that we are living in the End Times and, based on interpretaion of something in the Koran (or in the Old Testament?),

No, hey don't have the Old Testament. They only have Mohammad's re-telling of some of the things in there. In his version of the Joseph story Potiphar's wife was a good girl. Her name: Zulaika. One of the more common Islamic names. She never tried to seduce Joseph. according to him, but they were in love with each other but were chaste, because she was married.

David said...

The Saudi Rules of Engagement are a bit different than ours.

Also they are preparing to defend themselves on all fronts since they no longer trust the USA.

The Iranians should worry about this because the Saudis will make deals with anyone if it's in their interest. Think Israel.

YoungHegelian said...

@Sammy,

No, hey don't have the Old Testament.

Whoa, there, Mr. Finkelman! The Muslims most certainly do have both the Old & New Testaments as part of their Scriptural tradition. The Testaments were "inspired", but the Koran is eternal & written by God Himself. For the Muslims, it is the greatest of all Scriptures & is the final revelation to men.

Why do you think that there are Muslims named Moses or Sarah or, in the cause of the present Saudi king, Salman (Solomon)? The first most revered figure in Islam is, of course, Mohammed. The second is Jesus. Muslims don't think Jesus was the Incarnate Son of God, or born of a virgin, or the Messiah, or any of the Christian stuff, but they think he was an important prophet. That's why the movie The Passion of the Christ did gangbusters business in Muslim countries.

When Muslims say that Jews & Christians are "Peoples of the Book", what they mean is that these faiths only accept part of the total revelation that God has made unto men. But "partial" is better than the infidels "nothing".

YoungHegelian said...

The Testaments were "inspired"

Let me correct myself a whit here. There are parts of the Old & New Testaments that are "inspired", but the Muslims also believe that there is much "textual corruption" in what Christians & Jews see as the Tanakh/Old Testament & New Testament.

Sammy Finkelman said...

SF: No, they don't have the Old Testament.

YoungHegelian on 5/2/16, at 5:01 PM CDT

Whoa, there, Mr. Finkelman! The Muslims most certainly do have both the Old & New Testaments as part of their Scriptural tradition.

Tradition, but not scripture. And they have some words of wisdom taken from the Talmud as well. (when you kill a man you kill a whole world, for instance) PLus egregious mistakes.

But they don't have any other Scripture than the Koran. This is mentioned in the book Genesis, which was based on a PBS series;

http://www.amazon.com/Genesis-Living-Conversation-Pbs-Series/dp/0385490437 There's probably a better link if you want to cntribute to Althouse.

The Testaments were "inspired", but the Koran is eternal & written by God Himself. For the Muslims, it is the greatest of all Scriptures & is the final revelation to men.

They consider the Jews to have not preserved the correct text. Muslims believe there were five revelations to five prophets: Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and Mohammed with Mohammed beling the last. They supposedly all received the same divine revelation, so taht Abraham can be said to be a Moslem.

Why do you think that there are Muslims named Moses or Sarah or, in the cause of the present Saudi king, Salman (Solomon)?

Yes, they think these were all important figures, butthey don;t have the Old Testament as a source.

The first most revered figure in Islam is, of course, Mohammed. The second is Jesus. Muslims don't think Jesus was the Incarnate Son of God, or born of a virgin, or the Messiah, or any of the Christian stuff, but they think he was an important prophet. That's why the movie The Passion of the Christ did gangbusters business in Muslim countries.

What I said was they don't have any other Scripture.

When Muslims say that Jews & Christians are "Peoples of the Book", what they mean is that these faiths only accept part of the total revelation that God has made unto men. But "partial" is better than the infidels "nothing".

I think they respect it, but according to them, the text was corrupted or changed, and the only reliable source for anything is Mohammed.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Muslims also believe that there is much "textual corruption" in what Christians & Jews see as the Tanakh/Old Testament & New Testament.

That might be correct. Do they actually pick out anything as reliable?

YoungHegelian said...

@Sammy,

The quickest thing I can find is, of course, Wikipedia.

Yes, they seem to think quite a bit of the Bible is "reliable". Now, I'm sure that they don't want your average Muslim mucking about with this stuff & getting led astray, but for the theologically literate Muslim, it's part of the package.

The problem with Islamic revelation is that everything gets so subordinated to the Koran, since it is in every jot & tittle, the eternal Word of God. This causes problems not only with historical & textual analyses of the Koran (strictly verboten!), but also with the "scriptural" standing of not only the Bible, but also the Hadiths.

narciso said...

I recall discovering around the time, that awful exodus film was out, that they regard moses as an important prophet, musa, a more topical point, the folks that ran off with job's cattle,
the sabaens were from yemen,

wildswan said...

According to al Ghazli, Islam accepts Creation, Divine Providence, the immortality of the individual soul and the responsibility of each person to follow their conscience - as they are in the Bible.

William said...

I predict that whoever wins will do so by using tactics that go far beyond waterboarding and drone strikes. I'm not so sure that anyone will actually win, however. Many towns and cities in Germany lost 80% of their population during the Thirty Years War. Religious wars are a bitch, especially if they're also civil wars........I've read that in the Koran that there are many verses detailing the proper treatment of slaves. On the up side, because of this, in former times slaves were treated somewhat better in Moslem rather than Christian lands--leaving aside the castration thing, of course. On the down side, Muslim scholars thought that slavery was sanctioned by the Koran since it was so frequently mentioned. Apparently Koranic scholars have gotten their minds around the abolition of slavery. Except for ISIS, you don't hear many Muslim activists lobbying for its reintroduction. If they can get their minds around the outlawing of slavery perhaps in the fullness of time, they'll be able to accept monogamy or white wine. You just have to be patient for a century or two.

BN said...

"leaving aside the castration thing, of course."

Ok. But how?

Achilles said...

This wasn't a defeat. This is a mob turf war. AQ, Taliban, Houthi militia's are all just little gangs of thugs. They charge protection on the locals wherever they happen to be in power. They are illiterate primitive fucks and the people they harass are not much better.

Michael K said...

"Nations do not fight to the death, but they frequently fight until their pool of prospective fighters has reached a point of practical exhaustion. In most cases, this involves reaching the 30% mark where casualties are concerned."

The world would be better off with a number more like 80% of military age males. Any male who says he believes in Sharia law should be killed. Any women that perpetuate female genital mutilation on their daughters and extended family members the same.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Yeah the 'Major middling' defeat too though bro.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Look every now and pastly we all look and see unnot.

Okay?

mikee said...

"The focus of the coalition has been fighting the Houthis, but over the past five months it has quietly turned its attention to the growing threat of AQAP...."

What happened five months ago to shift the Saudis from prioritizing their efforts against the Iranian proxy, the Houthi, and instead attacking AQAP?

Was this simply a natural outcome of defeating the Houthis and cleaning up the rest of the bad actors in the area? I think not, as the civil war in Yemen continues unabated.

Was this a military necessity, with the port city of Mukalla a necessary capture in a larger plan? The author describes nothing about the overall military strategy of the Saudis and Yemeni government, so who knows?

Who orchestrated this? Saudis and Yemenis. Right. Which ones, local or leading military or political folks, or US-orchestrated CIA-led folks, or just lower level commanders who are tired of fighting an endless war and decided to win this battle?

The article is a puff piece to make the "War on Terror" look won, and is less than informative.

Bobby said...

mikee,

Speaking very generally, the Saudis tend to remain focused on the Houthis (in part because the Houthis have made repeated incursions into Saudi territory), while the Emiratis-- the focus of Morell's article-- have more recently tended to focus on fighting AQAP.

I think Americans are blinded by the media's use of the term "Saudi-led coalition" and mistakenly conflate all of the Gulf States with Saudia Arabia (which is dumb because we implictly realize that the Polish Division that served in the US-led coalition in Iraq was by no means "American").

In fact, each of the Gulf States has their own unique characteristics, the Emirates are quite different than the Saudis, and- if one looks under the hood of their respective military capabilities- it may give further clues as to why the division of labor breaks out as it does in this particular case (i.e., the Saudis have more- and more sophisticated- hardware, but the UAE actually have a respected special operations capability that is second in the region only to the Israelis).

The article is actually quite informative if it's properly read (though I have issues with the accuracy of some of its assertions).

mikee said...

Thanks, Bobby, for the erudite and compassionate explanation. Now, can you explain what all those countries are doing about Iran's role in all this?

Bobby said...

mikee,

Well, so Iran is fighting a covert war in Yemen, backing the Houthis in a bid to enable the country's Shi'a minority to take over. (Like the Syrian Alawites, the Houthis are not actually Twelver Shi'a- the Houthis are actually Zaidis, but in the broader Muslim sectarian divide they're Shi'a). For the most part, Iran is providing war materiel to the Houthis, but they've undoubtedly got Quds forcce special operators and Hezbollah proxies on the ground. Also Iran is believed to have been buying influence with Yemen's former President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to provide Zaidi tribal and political support to the Houthis in what would be some kind of power-sharing agreement (the last one they had collapsed when Iran backed the Houthis to take Sanaa).

The Arab League's Gulf States (all of whom are Sunni ruled) are fighting an overt war against the Houthis in a bid to restore the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansoor Hadi, a secular Sunni (and former Soviet client) who succeeded Saleh as President, to power. All of those parties see Hadi's government as being their "best" option to re-establish control over Yemen's Sunni majority -- and, this is what puts them in conflict with AQAP, who are competing for the hearts and minds of those same tribesmen.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan are all providing warplanes. The US Air Force is providing aerial refueling for these planes in order to enhance their air strike capabilities. By all accounts, the air strikes have been nothing short of a massacre, which is part of the reason the Gulf States have had a hard time getting many of the Yemen Sunni tribes in line.

On the ground, the Hadi Loyalist forces (some of the Sunni tribesmen) are fighting the Houthis and rival Sunni tribes that have signed up with AQAP (some are with AQAP to balance against tribal rivals, some because Ansar al Sharia offered a better deal and some as revenge against the Saudis for killing whole generations of their family members when the warplanes blow up their villages). Saudi Arabia and Qatar have apparently funded the Sudanese Armed Forces to deploy an army brigade to provide ground security for key infrastructure in Aden. UAE, as the Morell article indicates, are taking an unconventional warfare approach, partnering their special forces with Yemeni tribes to seize territory. UAE has also deployed maybe 2000 Colombian mercenaries to provide additional ground force capabilities -- many of these guys are battle tested against the FARC, once worked for the private military company formerly known as Blackwater, and have been working for the Emirates for several years now. There's also some reports that the UAE has brought in Eritrean military ground forces, as well.

The US Navy routinely- as in, routinely- intercepts Iranian shipments of AK assault rifles, RPGs and heavy machine guns headed for the Houthi rebels. Kerry once said Iran shouldn't do that, but it hasn't deterred the Iranians from doing it; the Gulf States are furious at the Obama Administration over it - they think Obama was turning a blind eye to get his nuclear deal and is now continuing to do so in order to keep Iran compliant with the treaty (which, of course, they don't think Iran will comply with, anyway).

There's quite a few other things in play, but that's the most of it. It's complicated. And sadly, Syria makes Yemen look like a very simple problem set.