Out of a Moment of Crisis, a Chance for a Solution.
Originally published in Foreign Affairs
Originally published in Foreign Policy
Saudi airstrikes against Iran-aligned Huthi forces in north reduced in intensity and scope, and Yemeni govt and southern separatists made headway in Saudi-mediated talks, creating opportunity to avoid further hostilities in south and pivot to national level peace talks. Saudi Arabia responded positively to Huthis’ Sept unilateral ceasefire, largely limiting airstrikes to front-line positions and, reportedly at Riyadh’s request, Yemeni govt 16 Oct allowed eight fuel shipments to enter Huthi-administered port of Hodeida. Saudi airstrike in Saada province in north 21 Oct killed five civilians. After Huthis’ unilateral prisoner release in Sept, Huthis 10 Oct proposed prisoner swap with govt, which has not yet responded. In south, sporadic fighting continued in Abyan and Shebwa governorates between govt forces and southern separatist groups including Southern Transitional Council (STC). But in Saudi capital Riyadh, negotiations to end rift between Saudi-backed Yemeni govt and UAE-backed STC advanced toward signing of so-called Riyadh Agreement (formerly known as Jeddah Agreement) that would see southerners gain equal representation with northerners in govt and place in future peace talks with Huthis. Govt repeatedly postponed signing ceremony due to differences over selection of interior and defence ministers, govt’s demand that UAE withdraw completely from south and request for security-first sequencing of implementation. Fighting between govt forces and STC escalated in Abyan province 31 Oct prompting parties to postpone signing of Riyadh Agreement without setting new date. Saudi forces progressively took control of Aden in south during month as UAE forces withdrew, completing withdrawal 30 Oct. Saudis brought in new troops and equipment 26 Oct. Huthi forces 29 Oct attacked convoy transporting defence minister in Marib province in centre, killing two soldiers.
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.