Yemen's powerful Shiite rebels today announced that they have taken over the country and dissolved parliament, a dramatic move that finalizes their months-long power grab. In a televised announcement from the Republican Palace in the capital of Sanaa, the Houthi rebels said they are forming a five-member presidential council that will replace President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi for an interim two-year period. The Houthis also said that the "Revolutionary Committee" (the security and intelligence arm of the rebel group) would be in charge of forming a new parliament with 551 members. The statement in Sanaa comes after political parties failed to meet a Houthi-imposed deadline on Wednesday to agree on an acceptable way forward.
Houthis' rising dominance—which included a raid of the presidential palace and a siege of Hadi's residence—forced the president and all Cabinet members to submit their resignations in January. The announcement did not give a timetable for elections and gave no indication on the fate of Hadi. The development plunges the impoverished country deeper into turmoil and threatens to turn the crisis into a full-blown sectarian conflict, pitting the Iran-backed Houthi Shiites against Sunni tribesmen and secessionists in the south. It could also play into the hands of Yemen's al-Qaeda branch, the world's most dangerous offshoot of the terror group, and jeopardize the US counter-terrorism operations in the country. (Read more Yemen stories.)