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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.

CrisisWatch Yemen

Unchanged Situation

Huthis continued offensive in Marib and cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia, while govt and Huthi forces clashed along Red Sea Coast and in Taiz and Hajja regions; anti-govt protests erupted in south. In north, Huthis and govt-aligned forces throughout month fought heavily in western and southern Marib governorate; Huthis claimed limited gains around Marib dam south west of Marib city while govt and Saudi-backed forced made repeated attempts to seize control of highway connecting Marib city with Huthi-held Sanaa and al-Jawf in west; threat of Huthi assault to take Marib city remained distinct possibility. Huthis continued drone and missile attacks on targets inside Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia); Riyadh 7, 21 March launched airstrikes on targets inside capital Sanaa for first time since beginning of year. Fighting also broke out in Hodeida, Taiz and Hajja governorates as govt-aligned forces early March launched new offensives on Huthi positions in attempt to relieve pressure on Marib; govt-aligned forces 9 March reportedly seized mountaintop positions west of Taiz city. On diplomatic front, U.S. Yemen Envoy Timothy Lenderking throughout month stepped up outreach to Huthis, reportedly proposing plan that calls for nationwide ceasefire in exchange for lifting restrictions on Sanaa airport and Hodeida’s ports as well as national salary payment mechanism. Riyadh 22 March announced “an initiative to end the Yemeni crisis”, largely reiteration of existing peace proposal that Huthis called “nothing new”. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken and UK, France and German FMs 24 March met to discuss peace efforts; Blinken 25 March held call with Yemeni PM Saeed, stressing need for ceasefire and inclusive peace agreement. In south, protests erupted mid-month in Aden city over deteriorating economic conditions, including repeated blackouts, fuel shortages and food price hikes, with Yemeni riyal sliding to YR900 to dollar; protesters 16 March stormed presidential Ma’shiq palace, where PM Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed has been based since late Dec. Riyadh 25 March allowed fuel shipments to enter Huthi-held Hodeida port for first time in almost two months. UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 2 March expressed disappointment after donors pledged only $1.7bn for UN’s humanitarian efforts, $1bn less than 2019 pledges. 

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

18 Mar 2021
There are probably multiple agendas at play in Marib but the most urgent is the Houthis' belief they can take Marib city and end the war for the north [of Yemen]. Associated Press

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen
14 Apr 2020
The prospect of the coronavirus spreading in Yemen offers a moment and indeed a humanitarian imperative to revive a political process. Reuters

April Longley Alley

Former Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
10 Apr 2020
Implementing a cease-fire [between Saudi Arabia and Yemen] is no small matter, and the first test of this is going to be whether the parties show up for this virtual meeting. New York Times

April Longley Alley

Former Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
15 Mar 2020
Now [Yemen's] fate is linked to a much bigger picture in a three-dimensional chess game. The Guardian

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen
25 Feb 2020
[The Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] hasn’t posed the kind of threat to the West it did a decade ago in a number of years. Washington Post

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen
4 Feb 2020
For now, neither the Houthis nor the Saudis wish to abandon the talks, but the de-escalation process is under severe strain. Washington Post

— Crisis Group Alert

Latest Updates

Crisis in Marib: Averting a Chain Reaction in Yemen

A battle looms for Marib in Yemen’s north, home to some three million people as well as major oil and gas facilities. International actors must stave off a humanitarian disaster, as they did in Hodeida in 2018, and then turn toward brokering a wider settlement.

Also available in العربية
Podcast / United States

Social Media and the U.S. Capitol Events

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and Naz Modirzadeh talk with New York Times cybersecurity reporter Sheera Frenkel about the role that social media platforms played in the mob assault on the U.S. Capitol and the ways that online disinformation fuels conflict worldwide.

The U.S. Should Reverse Its Huthi Terror Designation

The outgoing Trump administration has designated Yemen’s Huthi rebels a terrorist organisation. Proponents argue the measure will provide leverage with the Huthis, but in reality it will hurt efforts to end the war and could precipitate famine. The incoming Biden administration should rescind it immediately.

The International Approach to the Yemen War: Time for a Change?

The international community has mediated in the Yemen war since its outbreak. Although the efforts have yielded some results, none have resulted in a lasting de-escalation of violence or real progress toward political solutions. A new international approach could change that. 

Originally published in Yemen Policy Center

Our People

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen