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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

Resolution Opportunity

Campaign by UAE-backed Yemeni forces to strangle Huthi-held Hodeida city slowed, as UN envoy pursued confidence-building measures to improve conditions ahead of possible new talks in Nov; fighting could escalate in Nov around Hodeida and on other frontlines. UAE-backed forces continued efforts to surround Hodeida and squeeze Huthi supply lines, pushing as far north as Kilo 16, junction linking city with road to capital Sanaa. Campaign appeared to have slowed mid-Oct, but Saudi-led coalition had reportedly deployed reinforcements around Hodeida by end Oct, possibly signalling forthcoming escalation. New frontlines threatened delivery of humanitarian aid to north, where conditions worst, and aid storage facilities around Hodeida. In south, separatist group Southern Transitional Council (STC) 3 Oct called for uprising against govt in Aden and southern provinces. Govt urged STC to stop mobilising non-state military units and join political process. Pressure from Saudi Arabia on separatists calmed situation. After UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths’ planned consultations with warring parties failed to start in Sept, he worked toward bringing parties together in Nov, again to build consensus on framework for peace talks. U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis 30 Oct called for ceasefire within 30 days. U.S. Sec State Pompeo 31 Oct echoed statement, calling for missile and drone strikes from Huthi-controlled areas into Saudi Arabia and UAE to stop and “subsequently” for Saudi-led coalition airstrikes to cease in all populated areas. Griffiths worked to roll out confidence-building measures, including opening air routes from Sanaa airport to evacuate patients with chronic conditions, prisoner exchanges, evacuation of injured Huthi fighters, and payment of civil service salaries. Huthis 3 Oct released two sons of ex-President Saleh, who were transferred to Jordan. Saudi Arabia and UAE 23 Oct donated $70mn to UNICEF program that pays salaries of 135,000 Yemeni teachers. Saudi Arabia 2 Oct announced $200mn deposit in Central Bank to stabilise Yemeni riyal, but price of goods such as diesel and cooking oil continued to rise. President Hadi 14 Oct replaced PM Bin Daghr over failure to stem economic deterioration.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

4 Sep 2018
I think we're at an inflection point — because of what’s happening in Yemen and in the U.S. Politico

Robert Malley

President & CEO
18 Jun 2018
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. TRT World

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
3 Feb 2018
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. The Washington Post

April Longley Alley

Former Project Director, Gulf and Arabian Peninsula
22 Jan 2018
[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. The New Yorker

April Longley Alley

Former Project Director, Gulf and Arabian Peninsula
20 Dec 2017
Les [rebelles] houthistes [du Yémen] considèrent [les] tirs [de missiles balistique sur Riyad] comme leur meilleure chance de forcer Riyad à chercher un compromis. Le Monde

April Longley Alley

Former Project Director, Gulf and Arabian Peninsula
14 Dec 2017
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. The New York Times

Robert Malley

President & CEO

Latest Updates

Eight Days in Aden – a Forgotten City in Yemen’s Forgotten War

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.

Also available in العربية

Prospect of Talks and Threat of Escalation Both Rise in Yemen

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.

Watch List 2018 – First Update

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.