You may have heard the name before, when they burst onto the international scene in the wake of the Arab Spring, challenged the central government and eventually a Saudi led international response. However, with the civil war winding down in Yemen, the Houthis name recognition seemed on the decline. The war in Gaza has brought this group back to the forefront of the world's mind, as they began firing rockets and drones at cargo ships in the Red Sea, stating that they would stop only when the war in Gaza came to an end.
So who are the Houthis and what do they stand for? This group has an interesting background that brought them from a local political party, based on a historical Zaydi Islamic kingdom that ruled North Yemen for around 1,000 years to an international disruptor who has changed the way that upwards of 12% of global trade occurs. In this episode we talk with Sarhang Hamasaeed, Director of the Middle East Program at the US Institute of Peace, to learn more about the history of this group, what they are looking to accomplish, and why they were so successful in capturing and maintaining critical territory from the internationally recognized government.
It is important to understand global issues and the people driving it, as we look to understand potential policy responses.
Sarhang Hamasaeed is the director of Middle East Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, DC. He joined USIP in February 2011 and served in different positions before becoming director in 2016. His areas of focus include political and conflict analysis, dialogue processes, reconciliation and post-conflict stabilization, ethnic and religious minorities, and organizational development.
Hamasaeed is a regular lecturer at the Foreign Service Institute on the subjects of ISIS and challenges to governance in Iraq and is featured in events and briefings on Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Middle East. He provides analysis and gives interviews to international media. He was a member on the Task Force on the Future of Iraq and the Rebuilding Societies Working Group, both initiatives by the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
Hamasaeed has more than 15 years of strategy, management, and monitoring and evaluation experience in governmental, nongovernmental, private sector, and media organizations. His prior positions include deputy director general at the Council of Ministers of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (2008-2009), where he managed strategic government modernization initiatives through information technology with the goal of helping improve governance and service delivery; program manager for the Research Triangle Institute International (2003-2004), where he managed civic engagement and local democratic governance programs in Iraq; planning and relations manager at Kurdistan Save the Children (1997-2002); and correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and other international media organizations.
He holds a master’s degree in international development policy from Duke University (2007) and is a Fulbright alumnus.
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