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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

Deteriorated Situation

Conflict Risk Alert

Outgoing U.S. administration designated Huthi group and leaders as terrorists, potentially imperilling aid and diplomatic efforts and risking Huthi retaliation. In one of its final acts in office, outgoing U.S. Trump administration 11 Jan designated Huthi movement as Foreign Terrorist Organisation and Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity, and three top leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, all of which came into force on 19 Jan. Move comes after Huthis early Jan warned of “reciprocal responses” to designation; possible retaliation in Feb could include ban on contact with U.S. citizens, freezing communication channels with UN, and cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and maritime traffic in Red Sea. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock 14 Jan warned designation would precipitate “a large-scale famine on a scale that we have not seen for nearly 40 years” while UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths same day warned it would have “chilling effect” on his efforts to mediate end to conflict. Speaking at his 19 Jan Senate confirmation hearing, incoming U.S. Sec State Anthony Blinken promised to immediately review designation and launch review of Yemen policy; new U.S. Biden administration 25 Jan approved all transactions involving Huthis for one month while designation faces review, and next day announced temporary pause on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, fighting continued along Yemen’s major front lines in Hodeida, al-Dhale and Marib governorates; intense clashes were reported along Red Sea coast in first two weeks of month, prompting UN mission 7 Jan to issue statement of concern after wedding hall 1 Jan was hit during fighting, reportedly killing five. Huthis 17 Jan reportedly launched projectile into Saudi Arabia that hitvillage in southern Jazan region, injuring three civilians; Huthis denied responsibility of 23 Jan missile attack on Riyadh (see Saudi Arabia). In south, tensions rose between Southern Transitional Council (STC) and govt after President Hadi 15 Jan appointed former PM Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr as head of Shura Council without consulting STC, which accused govt of breaching Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement. 

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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

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

Former Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa

Latest Updates

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.

Podcast / United States

Hold Your Fire: President Trump’s Off-the-Rails Foreign Policy

In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Aaron Miller, a veteran U.S. diplomat, unpacks President Trump’s unconventional foreign relations with our President Rob Malley and co-host Naz Modirzadeh, a Harvard professor of international law and armed conflict.

Podcast / Africa

Hold Your Fire: Ethiopia's Political Crisis

In this podcast series, Crisis Group President Rob Malley and Board Member Naz Modirzadeh, a Harvard professor of international law and armed conflict, dive deep into the conflicts that rage around the globe, along with Crisis Group field analysts and special guests. This week, they discuss U.S. support for the Yemen war and the absence of the Palestinian issue from the normalisation agreement among Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Ethiopia, Will Davison, also joins them to discuss the challenges facing Ethiopia.

Rethinking Approaches to Peacebuilding in Yemen (Online Event, 7th July 2020)

Online Event to discuss International Crisis Group's report "Rethinking Peace in Yemen".

Rethinking Peace in Yemen

Yemen’s terrible war grinds on, despite a COVID-19 epidemic that has deepened what was already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Stopping the fighting is urgent. Diplomats should adopt an inclusive, multiparty framework for talks to replace today’s flawed model.

Also available in العربية

Our People

April Longley Alley

Former Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa

Peter Salisbury

Senior Analyst, Yemen