Reducing Yemen’s Houthis to ‘Iranian proxies’ is a mistake -CSMonitor

A good critique of the standard argument that the Houthis are controlled by Iran. The religious connections between Iran and the Houthis is thin. While the Houthis are Shi’a, they are Zeidis:

“There does not exist a natural affinity between the Yemeni Zeidis and the 12er [i.e. follower of the 12th imam] Shia of southern Iraq and Iran. The zaidiya follows a system of religious law (sharia) that more closely resembles that of the Hanafi Sunni “school” of law than that of the Shia of Iran or Iraq. The Zaidi scholars profess no allegiance to the 12er Shia scholarship of the Iranian teachers… In short there is little religious connection with Iran. For a Zaydi to “convert” to 12er Shiism is as big and alienating a step as “conversion” to Sunnism.”

and the politics are local:

“It began with a rivalry between Houthi summer camps and the Saudi-financed salafi institute in the small, historically Zaydi town of Dammaj, which is a story rather more precise and interlaced with contemporary state power than the implied frame of “age-old” dispute between the two main branches of Islam allows.”

Iran is backing the Houthis and the Saudis are backing President Hadi among others. This is a domestic conflict which has drawn in the regional power. Sadly, this has been a common pattern in the region.