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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

Hostilities in Taiz and Marib governorates continued between Huthis and govt-backed forces while tensions between separatists and govt persisted in south. Fighting continued throughout month between Huthis and govt-aligned forces in Taiz governorate as latter sought to open road access to Aden city and Red Sea coast in attempt to break Huthi siege of Taiz city and relieve pressure on Marib governorate. Fears rose that Huthis may be planning more attacks in Marib governorate in May aimed at securing tactical positions ahead of new offensive in summer months when dust storms will likely limit Saudi-led coalition’s ability to provide defensive air support. Huthis late April intensified offensive and advanced deeper into Marib, seizing control of territory to west of Marib city; fighting reportedly killed dozens of Huthi and govt fighters, including senior military official Major General Abdullah al-Hadhiri on 24 April. On diplomatic front, as UN Security Council Resolution 2216 marked its sixth anniversary on 14 April, efforts to broker ceasefire remained stalemated as Huthis continued to reject Riyadh’s unveiling in March of “an initiative to end the Yemeni crisis”, largely reiteration of Riyadh’s position in year-long UN-led negotiations. In south, tensions continued between govt and pro-independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) in Aden amid electricity shortages and protests as STC accused govt of purposely withholding services in city; discord also centred on series of military, judicial and local appointments made by President Hadi, with STC claiming they were not consulted despite formation of unity govt in Dec 2020; popular anger could rise further in summer months if increased demand for electricity is not met. Meanwhile, Huthis continued cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia). 

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

18 Mar 2021
There are probably multiple agendas at play in Marib but the most urgent is the Houthis' belief they can take Marib city and end the war for the north [of Yemen]. Associated Press

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen
14 Apr 2020
The prospect of the coronavirus spreading in Yemen offers a moment and indeed a humanitarian imperative to revive a political process. Reuters

April Longley Alley

Former Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
10 Apr 2020
Implementing a cease-fire [between Saudi Arabia and Yemen] is no small matter, and the first test of this is going to be whether the parties show up for this virtual meeting. New York Times

April Longley Alley

Former Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
15 Mar 2020
Now [Yemen's] fate is linked to a much bigger picture in a three-dimensional chess game. The Guardian

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen
25 Feb 2020
[The Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] hasn’t posed the kind of threat to the West it did a decade ago in a number of years. Washington Post

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen
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

Latest Updates

A Dangerous New Turn in Yemen’s War

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk with Peter Salisbury, Crisis Group’s Yemen expert, about the war in Yemen, a dangerous offensive near the northern city of Marib, and what a new U.S. administration may mean for the fighting.

Crisis in Marib: Averting a Chain Reaction in Yemen

A battle looms for Marib in Yemen’s north, home to some three million people as well as major oil and gas facilities. International actors must stave off a humanitarian disaster, as they did in Hodeida in 2018, and then turn toward brokering a wider settlement.

Also available in العربية
Podcast / United States

Social Media and the U.S. Capitol Events

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and Naz Modirzadeh talk with New York Times cybersecurity reporter Sheera Frenkel about the role that social media platforms played in the mob assault on the U.S. Capitol and the ways that online disinformation fuels conflict worldwide.

The U.S. Should Reverse Its Huthi Terror Designation

The outgoing Trump administration has designated Yemen’s Huthi rebels a terrorist organisation. Proponents argue the measure will provide leverage with the Huthis, but in reality it will hurt efforts to end the war and could precipitate famine. The incoming Biden administration should rescind it immediately.

Our People

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen