Yemen's precarious situation has been made worse by the Obama Administration's decision to remove U.S. Special Operations Forces and evacuate diplomatic personnel. Furthermore, over 500 million dollars worth of equipment provided by the DoD for Yemen's special forces remains unaccounted for. Internally, Hadi is contending with numerous divides within his government. Following the seizure of Sana'a, the military did not intervene after the moral guidance division pledged support for Houthi rebels. Meanwhile, the Special Security Forces have opposed the government's authority, which violently manifested itself in an attack on Aden's airport. Subsequently, the army has reportedly made moves to secure the SSF's base in the city. While many authorities and citizens have declared support for Hadi, the extent to which he controls the nation's fractured political system remains unclear. As of now, it appears that both sides exert a significant amount of clout over national and regional institutions.
As it pertains to American interests, the current situation is somewhat worrying in several ways. First, it represents yet another victory for Iran in their pursuit of regional hegemony and geopolitical dominance within the Middle East. According to Reuters, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has a few hundred soldiers training Houthi rebels in Yemen. Furthermore, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed last month that Iran had contributed to the Houthi takeover, though whether they are exerting command and control influence over Houthi rebels remains unclear according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest. It is likely, however, for Yemeni allegations that Iran has financed Houthi rebels to be valid. Houthis are a Shiite ethnic group who oppose Iran's ideological and political rivals, thereby making them a natural proxy for Tehran to further its aspirations in the region.
The second concern stems from the emerging power vacuum in Yemen. As a result of recent tumult, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been granted the opportunity to consolidate and expand its power in the country. The decision to evacuate American special operators came as a result of AQAP briefly seizing the city of al-Houta. On February 19, 2015, AQAP captured a Yemeni military base in the Bihan region of Shabwa province. Furthermore, increasing sectarian violence will only serve to worsen polarization among Sunni and Shiite citizens, providing an ample source of recruitment for Al-Qaeda. Nasser bin Ali al Ansi, a high-ranking leader within both AQAP and the wider global network, was quick to denounce the "rafidah" and proclaim itself as a source of protection for Sunni Muslims after the Houthi's startling victories in January. So while the government collapses due to pressure from internal divisions, Al-Qaeda will be given free reign to expand its influence across Yemen's southern and eastern provinces.
It is clear that a new dynamic has emerged within Yemen's civil war, where three significant factions vie against one another for power in the country. Two powerful players, Al-Qaeda and Houthi separatists, both threaten American security interests in the country by undermining Hadi's grip on power. What remains unclear is how the United States intends on addressing this threat.