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.
When the plan for consultations between Yemen's warring parties, scheduled to begin in Geneva on 8 September, collapsed, the frozen battle for the Red Sea port of Hodeida resumed. It could prove fatal for many of the millions already on the brink of starvation.
Intense fighting continued ahead of UN envoy’s planned consultations with President Hadi’s govt and Huthi leaders in Geneva 6-8 Sept; initiative could increase parties’ commitment to restarting peace talks, but fighting could also escalate in Hodeida port city and elsewhere if initial discussions end in acrimony. Efforts by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths slowed United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed campaign to capture port city Hodeida, but UAE-backed forces 19 Aug said they had taken Durayhimi, town south of Hodeida, from Huthis, opening route to main Hodeida-Sanaa road. Infighting between Yemeni forces in Saudi-led coalition intensified: UAE-backed Salafists clashed with Saudi-linked Islamists with ties to Hadi govt in Taiz city in south 15 Aug, leaving dozens dead and injured; Security Belt forces, UAE-backed faction largely comprised of southern secessionists, clashed with Hadi govt forces in Aden 18 Aug after flag of unified Yemen was raised at military graduation ceremony. Huthi spokesperson, Mohammed Abdulsalem, 18 Aug met Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanese Iran-linked movement Hezbollah reportedly in Lebanese capital Beirut. In Hodeida, alleged Saudi-led coalition mortar fire 2 Aug (apparently aiming at Huthi attack boat) hit busy shipping wharf, killing at least 28 civilians. Coalition airstrike 9 Aug hit school bus in Saada region in north, killing some 30 schoolchildren; coalition spokesperson said target was legitimate, claiming two senior Huthi commanders were on board. Under international pressure including from senior U.S. Pentagon officials and military commanders, Saudi-led coalition investigated incident. Coalition airstrike in pro-Huthi district near Hodeida 23 Aug killed at least 22 children and four women. Associated Press 6 Aug alleged that Saudi-led coalition has been recruiting and making deals with members of radical group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; key figures involved said that U.S. was aware of arrangements and held off drone attacks on group.
More than three years into Yemen’s war, a bloody battle looms for the Huthi-held port city of Hodeida. International leaders should work for a UN-led negotiated settlement to stop the offensive and, if this fails, take steps to avoid deepening what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
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.
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.
I think we're at an inflection point — because of what’s happening in Yemen and in the U.S.
A better chance of success would be a deal whereby the Houthis permit a neutral third-party monitoring of shipments coming through the [Hodeida] port, essentially moving UNVIM [UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen] onshore.
The narrative of a ‘legitimate government’ [in Yemen] fighting the ‘Iranian-backed Houthis’ obscures a complex local reality, and it hinders efforts to achieve peace.
[In early 2011] we were all debating what [the Arab Spring] would mean for Yemen, exactly, and I remember [Sana'a's mayor Abdulqader Hilal] saying it wouldn’t be the same.
Les [rebelles] houthistes [du Yémen] considèrent [les] tirs [de missiles balistique sur Riyad] comme leur meilleure chance de forcer Riyad à chercher un compromis.
Nobody doubts that Iran has been helping the [Yemeni] Houthis. [But], nobody doubts that Saudi Arabia has been conducting activities that are violations of the rules of war either.
Originally published in IRIN
Two and a half years after the last major fighting in the southern port city of Aden, officially Yemen’s “temporary capital”, our Arabian Peninsula Project Director April Longley Alley finds a patchwork of rival armed forces, buildings in ruins and political groups’ effective steps toward autonomy, if not outright separation.
As the Yemen war enters its fourth year, prospects for military escalation are growing between Saudi Arabia and its allies, particularly the United States, and Iran. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2018 – First Update, Crisis Group warns European policy makers of the risks of a looming Saudi-led coalition invasion of Hodeida. We urge the European Union to take a clear public position against it and assist the UN envoy in reviving a more inclusive and realistic political process.
Crisis Group’s first update to our Watch List 2018 includes entries on Burundi’s dangerous referendum, militant Buddhists and anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka, the impact of the Venezuelan crisis on the region, and the situation in Yemen. This annual early-warning report identifies conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.
Originally published in The Washington Post