Narratives are extremely important in any war, but especially in a civil war. In a civil war, or a rebellion, insurgency, justified uprising (depending on your narrative), one side is trying to get a group of people to live with their vision and to accept that they are inherently just. Narratives are similar to and employ propoganda, but they are also more subtle than the screaming headlines of the day (which sometimes comically clash). This war is no different.

In a valuable report, Nasser Arrabyee lays out the six conditions that the goverment is demanding are met to cease hosilities. The last five are pretty standard.

Withdrawal from all districts and removing all check points .Going down from mountains, and stopping blocking the roads and sabotages acts. Handing over all equipments, civil and military, they seized. Handing over the kidnapped people from Sa'ada. Non-interference in the affairs of the local authority.

The first one, though, is the real catch: release the hostages that they took in June- the Germans and the Brit.

Now.

I don't know who actually believes that the al-Houthis are the hostage takers. It isn't their MO; I don't know what they would have to gain. But in saying this, Salih is 1) setting up a condition impossible to meet, guaranteeing that they can keep pounding the north in the face of beligerent intransigence, and, more importantly, 2) setting himself up as the protector of Westerners and subtly tying the rebels to crazy beheading Islamic militants. The war has not been good press for the regime, and here it is trying to place its narrative under a more flattering light.

(I've seen in some places the war called "Salih's Darfur. I think this is pretty shameful, actually. Whatever it is- and there is a lot there, which we'll discuss as this conflect goes on- genocide is not the point. We here at Waq al-Waq believe that words mean something, and to simplify an issue into the worst possible thing is to do a disservice- and not only to Yemen, but also to the people of Darfur.)