The war in Yemen, which escalated in March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition intervened on behalf of the internationally recognised government against Huthi rebels aligned with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has turned a poor country into a humanitarian catastrophe: hunger and fighting could provoke mass famine and waves of refugees; the conflict could destabilise Saudi Arabia; and both sides appear locked in a cycle of escalating violence, derailing UN peace talks. Crisis Group’s focus is on the negotiations: introducing ourselves at key points, shaping the debate, proposing solutions and encouraging stakeholders to modify positions based on our analysis. Concerted effort is required to convince the parties to accept the UN’s roadmap as the basis for a compromise that would end foreign intervention and allow Yemenis to make peace.
In response to repeated attacks by the Houthis on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the U.S. and UK launched airstrikes overnight 11-12 January against Houthi positions in Yemen. In this Q&A, Crisis Group looks at the implications.
U.S. and UK began bombing campaign against Houthis, risking wider escalation, as U.S. “terrorist” designation of group could compound humanitarian crisis and hamper peace process; frontlines displayed signs of possible renewed conflict.
U.S. and UK launched anti-Houthi airstrikes. In major escalation, U.S. and UK 11 Jan launched airstrikes against dozens of Houthi targets in Sanaa, Sa’adah, Taiz, Hajjah and Hodeida governorates, and 13-14, 16-20, 22, 24, 27 and 31 Jan struck locations in Hodeida, Taiz, Dhamar, al-Bayda, and Sa’adah governorates, citing Houthi attacks on international shipping. Houthis remained defiant, as strikes appeared to inflict limited damage on group’s capabilities or morale and proved counterproductive: Houthis 15, 17 Jan struck U.S.-operated ships in Gulf of Aden and vowed further action, raising prospect that attacks from both sides could escalate in coming weeks.U.S. re-designated Houthis terrorist organisation. After removing group from “Foreign Terrorist Organisation” list in Feb 2021, U.S. 17 Jan designated Houthis “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”, citing need to impede funding. Designation may hamper international response to humanitarian crisis, further complicate peace talks between Riyadh and Houthis and dampen prospects of dialogue with other conflict actors.Local fighting escalated in several regions, threatening to upend de facto truce. Houthi shelling 12 Jan killed two govt soldiers in Hodeida governorate. Houthi drone 14 Jan targeted Shabwa Defence Forces in Marib governorate, killing two soldiers. Houthis next day attacked border guards in al-Jawf governorate, killing two. Giants Brigade 23 Jan claimed it repelled Houthi offensive in Bayhan town, Shabwa, causing casualties. Risk of wider ground fighting along frontlines loomed as Houthis may initiate new major offensive, particularly if U.S. and UK provide support to anti-Houthi groups.Eastern leaders formed new group; regional proxy competition continued. In move seen as countering separatist Southern Transitional Council’s attempts to assert control in east, prominent local leaders in eastern governorates (Hadramawt, al-Mahra, Shebwa and Socotra) 9 Jan announced formation of single entity to counter external influence and advocate equal representation in any political settlement. Highlighting competition between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-backed Hadhrami Elite Forces 16 Jan blocked entry of Saudi-backed Nation Shield Forces into Mukalla city.
[The] Houthis wanted to send a message: We are the group that is most committed to Gaza, not just in words but in action.
What's happening in the Red Sea will have a huge impact on the current political process between the Saudis and Houthis.
The visit of both the Saudis and the Omanis aims to discuss the final details of the [Yemen] truce extension agreement, which is expected to be announced very soon.
The temporary cessation of hostilities in Yemen, the longest since the start of the war, has given Yemeni civilians much-needed breathing room after eight years of war.
For over eighteen months, Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been deep in discussions about a formal long-term ceasefire in their eight-year war. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Ahmed Nagi takes the temperature of the slow-moving talks.
Why Local Grievances Cannot Be Overlooked in Any Peace Process
The eight-member body heading Yemen’s internationally recognised government lacks a common vision for the country’s future. With Saudi Arabia looking to exit the Yemeni war, and negotiations with the Huthi rebels on the horizon, now is the time for the council to fix its problems.
After nearly eight years of war in Yemen, talks are under way between the Huthi rebels and Saudi Arabia. Yet, by themselves, these discussions cannot bring hostilities to a close. The UN should begin laying the groundwork for negotiations that include all the conflict parties.
Washington Can Help Broker a Lasting Peace
Yemen’s six-month truce is up for renewal on 2 October. The UN and external powers should redouble their efforts to forge agreement on an expanded deal. If those look set to fall short, however, they should propose interim arrangements that avert a return to major combat.
A floating oil storage facility in Yemeni waters is on the verge of breaking or blowing up. Time is running out to raise the remaining $20 million needed for a salvage operation to prevent ecological and economic damage of historic proportions.
Taiz, a city in central Yemen, is besieged by Huthi rebels and practically cut off from the rest of the country. Restored road access would save lives and build trust that could help bring peace to Yemen, but time is short.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.