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.
Our Arabian Peninsula Senior Analyst April Longley Alley finds pride, resilience and an eagerness to end the conflict during field research and many conversations in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital. She concludes that isolating one side or making the famine and suffering worse will only prolong the war.
Originally published in Foreign Policy
Fighting escalated, especially in Taiz governorate, and Huthi rebels fired missile further into Saudi Arabia, raising risk of worse violence in Aug. In Taiz governorate forces backed by Saudi-led coalition claimed several advances on road between Mokha and Hodeida; heavy fighting for control of Khaled bin Walid military base east of Mokha 27-30 July left at least 40 govt soldiers and rebels killed; Saudi-led coalition airstrike on Mawza 17 July killed over twenty civilians. Huthis 30 July claimed strike against United Arab Emirates (UAE) military vessel off Mokha port that they say killed at least twelve UAE soldiers, coalition denied claim saying Huthis were targeting aid deliveries. Huthis 24 July attacked Saudi military vessel off Hodeida coast, killing two crew. Huthis 22 July fired missile from near Sadaa in north Yemen 930km into Saudi Arabia (furthest yet), reportedly targeting oil facility near Saudi port city of Yanbu. Huthi leadership warned Saudi of more attacks against oil facilities. Saudi Arabia did not confirm missile attack, but reported accidental fire at oil facility same day which it said did not affect operations. Huthis 27 July claimed to have fired multiple missiles at Fahd airbase in Taif, Saudi Arabia; coalition said missiles intended to hit Mecca and that it intercepted Huthi missile 69km south of city. UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed tried to secure agreement for withdrawal of Huthi/Saleh rebels from Hodeida port city and surrounding areas in return for Saudi Arabia-led coalition ending military operations in area; govt accepted UN proposal but Huthis continued to refuse to meet UN envoy, claiming he was biased in favour of Saudi-led coalition. Tensions remained high between President Hadi’s govt and UAE-backed, pro-southern independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) formed in May. STC staged protest in Aden 7 July that gathered tens of thousands, while pro-Hadi counter-rally in Aden same day gathered few hundred. At rally, STC leaders called on international community to recognise STC as official representative of south and banned Muslim Brotherhood and govt-affiliated Sunni Islamist party Islah. World Health Organization 29 July said 1,992 people had died from cholera since late April and reported over 419,804 suspected cases.
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.
Yemen must agree on its state structure, including the South’s status, to forge a stable future. A final agreement cannot be forced by the National Dialogue Conference; for some key issues, only continued, more inclusive talks in the context of confidence-building measures can succeed.
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.
The use of U.S. troops and the high number of civilian casualties . . . are deeply inflammatory and breed anti-American resentment across the Yemeni political spectrum that works to the advantage of AQAP.
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.
Le nombre élevé de victimes du raid antiterroriste américain du 1er février au Yémen risque d’aggraver plutôt que d’aider à résoudre un conflit qui est la raison principale de l’expansion d’Al-Qaida dans la péninsule arabique (AQPA) dans ce pays dévasté. Sous forme de questions-réponses, April Longley Alley explique pourquoi.
Originally published in Orient XXI