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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

Deteriorated Situation

Conflict Risk Alert

Suspected Huthi missile strike on govt forces in north led to intensification of fighting on several fronts including across Yemen-Saudi border, which could spread and escalate further in Feb; govt and southern separatists agreed on new roadmap to implement 5 Nov Riyadh Agreement; and troop build-up in Taiz province in south could augur escalation in Feb between Sunni Islamists and Salafists. In north, talks between Saudi Arabia and Huthis continued and for first half of month both sides largely refrained from cross-border violence. But Huthis increased tempo of fighting along key front lines in north and strike on govt forces’ base in Marib province 18 Jan that reportedly killed over 100 soldiers led to escalation between Huthis and their allies on one side and Saudi-led coalition on other in Al Jawf, Marib and Sanaa governorates. Both sides suffered heavy losses. In south, under pressure from Saudi Arabia, govt and separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) 9 Jan agreed on “Phase 2” plan to implement Nov Riyadh Agreement; parties had failed to fully implement deal within initial 90-day timeframe disagreeing on how to sequence security and political aspects, with clashes erupting early Jan. New plan requires govt-affiliated forces to redeploy from Aden to front lines in al-Dhale and Abyan provinces, and for STC forces to move from Aden to Lahj governorate within twenty days from 11 Jan. As part of “Phase 2” agreement, govt and STC exchanged 53 prisoners 12 Jan. Rival Yemeni groups 24 Jan completed transfer of heavy weapons in Aden to Saudi-controlled base in city within fifteen-day timeframe. After early redeployments from Aden, process again stalled late Jan, with local appointments still not made. In Taiz governorate, tensions mounted between Sunni Islamist Islah forces, which control Taiz city centre, and United Arab Emirates-backed forces based in Turbah south of city and on Red Sea coast. Islah reportedly building up forces near Turbah late month raising risk of major confrontation there.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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

27 Oct 2019
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. Financial Times

April Longley Alley

Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
2 Oct 2019
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. Foreign Policy

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen
18 Sep 2019
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. Financial Times

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen
11 Aug 2019
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. Reuters

Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Colombia
11 Aug 2019
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. Los Angeles Times

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen

Latest Updates

How to End the War in Yemen

Since the September attack on Saudi oil facilities, Riyadh and the Houthis have taken a step back from all-out war. All parties, including the United States, should seize this rare opportunity to resolve the conflict.

Originally published in Foreign Policy

Also available in العربية
EU Watch List / Global

Watch List 2019 – Third Update

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.

After the Aramco Attack: A Middle East One Step Closer to Its “1914 Moment”

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.

Special Briefing / Global

Seven Opportunities for the UN in 2019-2020

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.

After Aden: Navigating Yemen’s New Political Landscape

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.

Also available in العربية

Our People

April Longley Alley

Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen