My enemy's enemy is Iran. This statement encapsulates South Yemen's quest for Iranian support and friendship. Since the civil war ended with a Northern victory in 1994, South Yemen, the formerly Soviet backed independent republic fell into oblivion, both domestically and internationally. The Southerners lived under complete Northern domination in all walks of life; the Saudi-backed Yemeni dictator, Ali Saleh, deprived them even of basic services, let alone any political rights. The grudge that South Yemenis now feel towards their GCC neighbors and their Western sponsors/backers, paves the way for "the forbidden" in today's Arab politics: an alliance with Iran.
And for Iran, there is no better timing for this golden opportunity. Saudi Arabia is leading the chorus against Iran's only Arab (state) ally, Bashar Assad's regime in Syria; it has also agreed to raise its oil production to meet any shortages, following painful sanctions on Tehran's oil exports.
It seems the alliance is underway. Beirut has hosted meetings between Southern leaders to coordinate their politics and unite their efforts.South Yemen's two former presidents, Ali Salem Al Beidh and Ali Nasser Mohammad, and the former Prime Minister Haidar al-Attas met in Beirut late last month. Al-Beidh made a statement on his "regional" alliances in a Beirut press conference last week, in which he rejected the Saudi sponsored GCC initiative that kept Ali Saleh in power, and called for a Southern boycott of the elections.
Till now, there is no indication of any military support. While the Southern secessionists maintain that their movement is peaceful, Yemen's tribes are well armed and sometimes well-accustomed to using their weapons.
In the North, specifically in Saada, which used to be part of the former independent republic, the Iranian backed Shiite Houthi movement maintains a strong armed presence, and is clashing regularly with Saudi-sponsored Salafists. The question remains whether the "Southern cause" will destroy Yemen's already dim prospects for a democratic transition.