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.
Since August, a public rift has surfaced between the two main partners on the northern front of Yemen’s war – the forces loyal to the Huthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh. Rather than fostering its rivals’ discord, key powerbroker Saudi Arabia should seize this rare chance to resolve the two-and-a-half year war by championing a new regional initiative.
Originally published in Foreign Policy
Huthi rebels and forces loyal to former President Saleh continued to clash with Saudi Arabia-led coalition along Saudi border and vie for control of Taiz city in south. Govt 10 Sept said 145 Huthis killed 1-10 Sept in Saudi airstrikes and clashes with loyalist forces. Saudi airstrikes 15-16 Sept reportedly killed twenty Huthi fighters in city of Medi on Saudi border; airstrike 16 Sept hit civilian vehicle in Hareeb al-Qarameesh district, Marib governorate killing all twelve passengers. UN 19 Sept condemned Huthi-Saleh shelling of Taiz city that killed three and injured seven children 15 Sept and 16 Sept Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Marib that killed five children, four women and three men from same family. Saudi Arabia 22 Sept said Huthi rockets fired previous day landed in village in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arda governorate, causing no casualties. Saudi Arabia 24 Sept reportedly intercepted Huthi-fired missile targeting King Khaled air base in Saudi’s Asir province. Tensions between supporters of Huthis and of Saleh’s allied General People’s Congress (GPC) party remained high following 25 Aug clash in capital Sanaa, despite leaders on both sides giving public assurances that alliance will continue. In Aden in south, forces loyal to President Hadi 16 Sept clashed with faction nominally loyal to Hadi but backed by United Arab Emirates (UAE), one civilian killed. UAE-backed forces’ campaign against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), begun in Shebwa governorate in south-centre in Aug, continued in adjacent Abyan governorate; by mid-Sept forces had dislodged militants from many areas including Wadea, Hadi’s home district, but AQAP fighters reportedly fled into Mafadh district ahead of offensive. UN Human Rights Council 29 Sept passed resolution establishing group of “international and regional experts” to investigate human rights violations in conflict dating back to Sept 2014.
War is denying Yemenis food to eat. This special briefing, the first of four examining the famine threats there and in South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, urges the Saudi-led coalition not to assault Yemen’s most important port, Hodeida, and both sides to immediately resolve deadlock over the Central Bank.
Thriving on conflict, sectarianism, and local opportunism, al-Qaeda’s affiliates are stronger than ever in Yemen. To shrink their growing base will require better governance in vulnerable areas, not treating all Sunni Islamists as one enemy, and above all ending Yemen’s civil war.
Yemen's outlook is bleak. It is crucial that the opposing blocs and their regional allies commit to a political process to resolve the conflict, but there is no end in sight. The immediate priority should be an agreement on humanitarian aid and commercial goods for areas where civilians are under siege.
Yemen is now at war. Fuelled by Saudi-Iranian rivalry and a violent jihadi upsurge, fighting is fragmenting the country and could spread beyond if parties do not immediately de-escalate and – with the support of Gulf neighbours – return to negotiations on a compromised, power-sharing leadership.
Continued fighting between Huthis and their various opponents could lead to a major conflagration, further undermining the Yemen’s troubled political transition.
[Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] and a small group of warlords that span the various fighting factions are the only clear winners [in the war in Yemen].
Whatever Saudi Arabia's current view of the Muslim Brotherhood in other countries, in Yemen they are natural allies against the Houthi-Saleh alliance.
What we don’t know is how much control will be extended over the Rapid Support Forces [who have been deployed to Yemen by Sudan].
The story of the Houthis' rise to power [in Yemen] shows that they are motivated primarily by a domestic agenda, rather than a regional one.
The [Huthis] almost certainly receive some smuggled weapons, but these are not decisive in their ability to continue the war [in Yemen].
The [recent U.S.] raid ignores the local political context in Yemen, to the detriment of an effective counter-terrorism strategy.
Despite suffering significant blows in Syria and Iraq, jihadist movements across the Middle East, North Africa and Lake Chad regions continue to pose significant challenges. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – First Update early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to prioritise conflict prevention at the heart of their counter-terrorism policy and continue investment in vulnerable states.
With the world's largest hunger crisis, Yemen sits precariously on the brink of famine. Avoiding it will require all warring parties to desist from weaponising Yemen's increasingly fragile economy and return to the negotiating table.
Originally published in World Politics Review
For the first time in three decades, four countries, driven by war, verge on famine. Over coming weeks, Crisis Group will publish special briefings on Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. Each conflict requires tailored response; all need increased aid and efforts to end the violence.
As Yemen's unremitting conflict continues to drive a nation-wide humanitarian crisis, there is an ever-increasing need to quell hostilities. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to rebuild the credibility of the UN-sponsored talks in order to find a durable ceasefire and work toward a political settlement within Yemen.