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Yemen

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

Deteriorated Situation

Conflict Risk Alert

Fighting escalated in north as Huthis pursued counteroffensive against govt forces, seizing control of al-Jawf governorate and resuming cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia, raising risk that violence intensifies further in north in March; fighting erupted in east near border with Oman between Saudi-backed forces and local tribesmen; and govt and southern separatists failed to advance implementation of Riyadh Agreement in south. Huthis 14 Feb claimed responsibility for downing Saudi military jet in al-Jawf governorate; Saudi-led coalition next day retaliated with airstrikes killing 31 civilians. After Saudi Arabia agreed to join talks between Yemeni govt and Huthis on confidence building measures in Jordanian capital Amman, Yemeni govt 16 Feb agreed in principle with Huthis to organise exchange of up to 1,400 detainees. After govt forces launched major offensive toward rebel-held capital Sanaa in Jan, Huthis pursued counteroffensive in al-Jawf, Sanaa and Marib governorates begun late Jan. Intense Saudi airstrikes slowed Huthis’ progress toward capturing govt-controlled cities of al-Hazm, capital of al-Jawf, and making push to Marib city, govt’s main urban strongholds and operations centres. In response to Saudi airstrikes, Huthis resumed missile attacks on southern Saudi Arabia. In east, Saudi-led coalition forces late Feb clashed with local tribal forces in al-Mahra governorate after members of Hurayzi tribe attempted to stop Saudi-backed forces from taking control of Shehn border crossing with Oman. Govt attempted to calm situation by replacing al-Mahra governor. In south, govt and separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) failed to fulfil commitments in Saudi-brokered “Phase 2” roadmap to implement Nov Riyadh Agreement; notably, govt delayed appointment of security chief and governor in Aden following STC’s refusal to allow presidential guard to return to Aden. STC mid-Feb requested greater UN participation in implementation of agreement. Army regiment on island of Socotra 27 Feb switched sides and pledged allegiance to STC.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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

27 Oct 2019
A successful agreement [between the Yemeni government and southern secessionists] would keep a lid on violence long enough to allow progress in other parts of the country. Financial Times

April Longley Alley

Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
2 Oct 2019
It has been politically more convenient to lay the blame for Houthis at Iran’s door than to say that the Houthis’ rise was the product of a series of internal political miscalculations and misplaced international priorities. Foreign Policy

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen
18 Sep 2019
Without a political settlement, Yemen threatened to play a role as a trigger or to become embroiled in a wider regional conflict, in particular if a Houthi or Houthi-claimed attack was successful. Financial Times

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen

Latest Updates

Peace Is Possible in Yemen

Out of a Moment of Crisis, a Chance for a Solution.

Originally published in Foreign Affairs

Also available in العربية

The Beginning of the End of Yemen’s Civil War?

For the first time in years, a viable pathway to peace in Yemen is in view. But obstacles remain, chiefly the gaps between the conflict parties’ positions. 

Also available in العربية

How to End the War in Yemen

Since the September attack on Saudi oil facilities, Riyadh and the Houthis have taken a step back from all-out war. All parties, including the United States, should seize this rare opportunity to resolve the conflict.

Originally published in Foreign Policy

Also available in العربية

Yemen’s Multiplying Conflicts

A Huthi suspension of hostilities in Yemen and an apparently positive Saudi Arabian response offer a chance to avoid regional conflagration. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 - Third Update for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage inclusive dialogue between the warring factions, which can lead to intra-Yemeni negotiations.

EU Watch List / Global

Watch List 2019 – Third Update

Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The third update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Sudan and Yemen.

Our People

April Longley Alley

Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen
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