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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

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.

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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.