IRG and the Nature of its Political and Military Role in North Yemen


Sun, 06-02-2022 05:22 PM, Aden

Ezat Moustafa (Analysis file 3-6)

The government or the authority 

The term “Internationally-Recognized Government" (IRG) has been used in Yemen to differentiate between the Houthi "coup" and the overturned authority. Although this label is more related to media use rather than political differentiation, the position of the Yemeni government and the distribution of its structural powers and responsibility are still vague. This is attributed to the absence of clear institutionalism due to most leaders in different countries.

Therefore, powers have been confined to specific figures away from the structure of the IRG. Any responsibility does not commit them as their performance is not monitored, so they have not been held accountable.

Despite the absence of the parliament as a legislative authority from the political scene, its presence could have constituted a more profound crisis as it became outdated. The last elected House of Representatives dates back to 19 years ago. The changes on the ground have led to the rise of new forces which have no parliamentary representation.  
Moreover, there has been disparity among its members' positions between those who support the Houthis and those who back the "IRG," in addition to the dissimilarities inside the anti-coup wing itself. 
This has been accompanied by a weak judicial system controlled by the executive authority that holds the right to make appointments even at the highest level of the judicial hierarchy. 
However, the biggest crisis in the "IRG" is the lack of apparent constitutional reference. The existing constitution is inconsistent with the requirements of a state of war. Its items have been violated or overlooked many times under the pretexts of emergency and circumstances requirements without alternative text that could organize the affair of the authority (authorities). 
This allowed some individuals to dominate power at the expense of the supposed institutional system as stipulated in the constitution. Thus, a gap has been created by the executive authority in the unliberated Northern governorates at the levels of the presidency, government, and local authorities. 

The local authorities 

While the local authorities in the liberated Southern governorates bridged some of the gap created by the weakness or the absence of the central authority, some of these governorates remained in a state of internal conflict with the main rules due to the constitutional system flaws, especially in light of the growing tendency by organized powers and influential figures to dominate jobs which provides powers that grant them a kind of proactive control. 
Suppose there is a political impact of the “IRG” in the Northern governorates represented in holding control on the ground or running affairs within the scope of the administrative division. In that case, it has zero influence in the unliberated governorates despite the intensity of appointments of general managers and the vast excess workforce at the degree of deputy governors.   
Although the almost only impact that the local authorities in the unliberated governorates could make is to set regulations for domestic gas supplies that reach the Houthi authorities from the Safer fields in Marib, they don’t exploit this advantage as they could at least oblige the Houthis to buy gas using the old currency instead of the new one whose purchasing value is uneven.

Therefore, the “government” allowed the Houthis to collect significant revenue by selling the gas to the consumers at prices that exceeded the purchasing price by multiple times. This is in addition to the substantial exchange rate differences between the two currencies. According to Oil Company, Safer, 1 gas sales to the Houthi areas during 2020 are estimated at more than 191 billion riyals. The payments have been carried out using the new version of the Yemeni riyal, which has low purchasing power compared with the old one. 

As for the partially liberated three governorates, the Islah Party exclusively manages the liberated areas of Taiz and Marib. The local authority in Al Hodeidah played a marginal role in running the affairs of the liberated districts in the western coast without impacting the areas controlled by the Houthis, including the city of Taiz, which is just tens of meters away.  

Consequently, it is expected that the IRG’s seven years of no impact over the Northern governorates will extend if there is no review of the previous failures and if the Parity Government does not declare its framework, publishes its annual budgets, or defines the roles of local authorities, whether in liberated or unliberated areas. 

The military impacts

The National Army made a significant impact in the Northern governorates during 2016 as it constantly advanced towards the areas controlled by the Houthis towards the capital Sanaa.  

However, such an effect began to decline after that time as the progress stopped at Nihm. The beginning of 2020 witnessed a significant setback by the sudden withdrawal from it and large areas in the governorate of Al Jawf in favor of the Houthis who penetrated to the outskirts of the city of Marib. 

Apart from the areas the Houthis have not invaded, there are growing signs that what are considered liberated areas in Taiz are directly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, not to the Defense Ministry. The liberated areas in Al Hodeidah are controlled by forces not officially belonging to the Yemeni government.  
Marib became the only Northern place with an official IRG’s presence, even if it is symbolic. Marib's lack of military impact in the North is because the Houthis failed to invade it before the Arab Coalition’s intervention due to the tribal resistance. Most liberated areas in Marib in 2015 and 2016 fell again during 2020 and 2021.  
Although the internationally-recognized government can politically benefit from the victories achieved by the Southern Giants Brigades in south Marib districts, it is likely that the Arab Coalition will not push for restoring the field control by the National Army Forces over the Northern areas liberated by the Southern Giants Brigades, especially amid growing demands of correcting the conditions inside the National Army which over the last two years incurred serious military retreats that posed a threat against the future of Marib. 
Their residents could form new forces to secure the Northern liberated areas like what happened after liberating the Southern governorates. However, the possibility of handing over the areas liberated by the “Giants” to the National Army is still on the table given that the Southern Giants Brigades have an attacking nature and used to leave securing the areas they liberated to other forces.  
The south Marib battle map shows that the Arab Coalition has changed the way of combating the Houthis from depending on the National Army Forces in the North to relying on the Southern Brigades, which have more reliability. 
The National Army could restore a gradual role in impacting the North if it can shift from defense to attack for making progress towards Sanaa from Medghal and Nihm districts. This would complete the “pincer tactic” around Sanaa from its northern east if we suppose that the Southern Giants Brigades could reach it in the future from its eastern south side in case their operations continue in the Northern governorates. This possibility assumes that the trajectory of the “Giants Brigades” will be Harib, Al Jouba, Sirwah and then to Sanaa.  

Anyway, the National Army’s military impact in the North will remain connected with the extent of the Arab Coalition’s impact on Yemeni Vice President, Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, who remains the first man in the Army bypassing President Hadi, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces since. This dates back to February 2016 when Al Ahmar was appointed a Deputy of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces two months before being appointed Yemeni Vice President. 
Although the position of the Deputy of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces is not a constitutional one, this apparently was necessary to enable Al Ahmar to replace the President on the top of the National Army’s hierarchy.  
Al Ahmar’s appointment as the Deputy of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces came as a prelude for appointing him as Yemeni Vice President.  
It is well known that the Yemeni Vice President has no constitutional powers over the Armed Forces, and this justifies the creation of the new military position that violates the constitution in order to bypass the constitutional obstacle. 
The domination of General Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar over the Army emerges through his selection of military districts and brigades' commanders although it is an exclusive power for the Yemeni President. It is remarkable that most of those commanders assume their positions without presidential appointment decisions published in the Yemeni news agency Saba. This means that they took office based on assignment decisions not appointments. Such assignments are constitutionally entrusted to the Deputy Supreme Commander. This is evident, for example, in the absence of a decision to appoint the Commander of the Taiz Axis from November 2019 until now. Likewise, the Sixth Military District has been led by consecutive commanders since February 2020 without appointment decisions. 

● The issuance of a temporary constitutional declaration in light of war circumstances, which determines the scope of executive authority powers (the presidency and the government) with the consensus of the Riyadh Agreement’s two parties according to the necessities of the war against the Houthis.   

● The establishment of a “Representative Council” consisting of 51 members through consensus among the forces on the ground, especially the new ones. The council will replace the House of Representatives in accordance with the (possible) constitutional declaration. 

● Abolishing the position of Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and limiting the military hierarchy to the President of the Republic, followed by the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff. 

● Appointing two Vice Presidents to enhance the unity in the war against the Houthis. Both of them, along with the President, will represent the presidency establishment until the end of the war and the expiry of the constitutional declaration.
● Re-establishment of the “Supreme Judicial Council” and the “Anti-Corruption Authority” in a way that guarantees the activation of the judicial authority role as one of the “Three Powers”, as well as boosting the transparency and enhancing the governmental role as being an executive authority.  

● Making a quick and accurate accountability system inside the National Army as well as implementing major changes into the Defense Ministry, Armed Forces Staff and military districts commanders.  

● All Cabinet members should return to the capital Aden and hold periodical weekly meetings.

Ezat Moustafa
Researcher and expert specialized in Yemeni and regional political affairs. He serves as a political analyst for a number of TV channels and research centers and the Host of "Red Line" TV Program at Al Ghad Al Moshreq Channel.

- Photo: Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Vice President of Yemen (ABDULLAH AL-QADRY / Stringer)

ShabwaSouth YemenUAEAbu DhabiHouthi AttackSouthern Transitional CouncilSouthern Giants BrigadesYemen