Out of a Moment of Crisis, a Chance for a Solution.
Originally published in Foreign Affairs
Originally published in Foreign Policy
Yemeni govt and southern separatists signed agreement to end hostilities in south and Saudis reduced airstrikes in Huthi-controlled areas. Yemeni govt 5 Nov signed Riyadh Agreement with southern separatist group Southern Transitional Council (STC) following Saudi-led mediation; agreement provides 90-day timeline for formation of new cabinet with equal representation of northerners and southerners, implementation of political and security arrangements across south, and STC representation in future UN-led peace talks with Huthis. Parties missed deadlines to carry out initial steps including appointment of new governor and security chief in Aden as well as withdrawal of govt and STC forces from front lines across south. Limited clashes erupted in Aden 18 Nov between STC-affiliated forces and unidentified assailants. Saudi military operations against Iran-aligned Huthi rebels continued to decline as indirect talks continued. UN Envoy Martin Griffiths 22 Nov announced 80% fall in Saudi airstrikes in preceding two weeks. In response to Huthi strikes on coalition locations in Mokha 24 Nov, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes 25 Nov killed unknown number of Huthi rebels in Ras Isa port in Hodeida province; clashes followed between Huthis and govt forces around Hodeida. Huthis continued to refrain from strikes into Saudi Arabia but launched missile attacks inside Yemen, in Mokha and Mareb governorates. Huthi forces 17 Nov seized one Saudi and two South Korean vessels in Red Sea; 19 Nov released crews and vessels. Huthis 29 Nov claimed to have killed two Saudi pilots in attack on Saudi helicopter near border. Saudi-led coalition 26 Nov said it was releasing 200 Huthi prisoners and reducing restrictions on Yemeni airspace to enable medical evacuations from Huthi-controlled capital Sanaa; International Committee of the Red Cross 28 Nov announced successful repatriation of 128 Huthi detainees from Saudi Arabia. Kuwait 22 Nov declared willingness to host UN-sponsored peace talks.
The UN General Assembly kicks off on 17 September amid general scepticism about the world body’s effectiveness in an era of rising great-power competition. But the UN is far from paralysed. Here are seven crisis spots where it can make a positive difference for peace.
Yemen’s anti-Huthi coalition has begun to splinter, with sharp fighting between Saudi- and Emirati-backed elements in the country’s south. With UN assistance, the Gulf monarchies should urgently broker a ceasefire as a prelude to an expanded peace process encompassing southern secessionists and others now excluded.
The UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement to stop fighting around Yemen’s Red Sea city of Hodeida is faltering as violence on other front lines and across the Saudi border escalates. The UN and P5 should stabilise the Stockholm Agreement and push conflict parties toward national peace talks.
Two successive U.S. administrations have backed the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen, helping deepen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Congress should continue pressing the White House to end this support, while working to strengthen its war powers role in the future.
A Saudi-led coalition attack on the city of Hodeida risks plunging millions of Yemenis into famine and will meet fierce resistance from Huthi rebels. The U.S. should stop enabling coalition offensives and international stakeholders must quickly place Hodeida under UN control.
More than three years into Yemen’s war, a bloody battle looms for the Huthi-held port city of Hodeida. International leaders should work for a UN-led negotiated settlement to stop the offensive and, if this fails, take steps to avoid deepening what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
A successful agreement [between the Yemeni government and southern secessionists] would keep a lid on violence long enough to allow progress in other parts of the country.
It has been politically more convenient to lay the blame for Houthis at Iran’s door than to say that the Houthis’ rise was the product of a series of internal political miscalculations and misplaced international priorities.
Without a political settlement, Yemen threatened to play a role as a trigger or to become embroiled in a wider regional conflict, in particular if a Houthi or Houthi-claimed attack was successful.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have allied with distinct Yemeni partners. Yet to this point in the conflict, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have worked to maintain a relative detente between competing interests in the south.
The problem right now from the perspective of ending the [Yemen] war is that Saudi Arabia and to an extent the Trump administration are unwilling to do so without a tangible ‘win’ for Riyadh.
[Al Qaida in Yemen has] become much more focused on integrating with local spheres and much less focused on the brand-name, big-ticket attacks.
Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The third update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Sudan and Yemen.
On 14 September, strikes of uncertain provenance hit Saudi Arabia’s largest oil facilities, taking some 50 per cent of the kingdom’s oil production temporarily offline. Crisis Group offers a 360-degree view of the attacks and their implications for Middle Eastern and international peace and security.
Fighting within the anti-Huthi front threatens to make an already multi-faceted conflict even more complex and intractable. Clashes in Aden reveal tensions within the Saudi-led coalition and highlight the pressing need to address Yemen’s “southern question” now rather than wait until a post-conflict political transition.