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Crisis Group Yemen Update #10
Crisis Group Yemen Update #10
Crisis Group Yemen Update #9
Crisis Group Yemen Update #9
Yemeni insurgent groups take security measures at the entrance to Aden, in the city of Ad Dali against Houthis on 12 April 2015, as the clashes continue between Loyalists of embattled President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and Yemen's Shiite Houthi movement. Wail Shaif Thabet / Anadolu Agency

Crisis Group Yemen Update #10

This is Crisis Group’s tenth update on recent developments in Yemen, focusing on al-Dhale in the south. A ceasefire in Hodeida notwithstanding, violence is on the rise on other key front lines and could undermine prospects for a future peace process.

Fighting between Huthi (Ansar Allah) and United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed forces is intensifying in the southern governorate of al-Dhale. Battles have cut off key transit routes connecting the southern port city of Aden, the Huthi-held capital of Sanaa in the north, and the central governorate of Taiz, which houses important food processing, packaging and distribution facilities. If allowed to continue, the fighting could significantly deepen the country’s economic woes and further complicate efforts to revive a national peace process.

Al-Dhale sits on the historic fault line between former North and South Yemen, separate countries before 1990. Formed after Yemen’s unification by combining districts of the two former states, it is a natural battle ground for future north-south struggles. Since the Huthis and their allies were pushed north out of Aden in July 2015, al-Dhale became a front line in the current civil war where fighting flares periodically. Before and after the UN-led talks in Sweden in December 2018, fighting intensified in al-Dhale with Yemeni government and UAE-aligned forces claiming advances against Huthi fighters.

Now the Huthis appear to be making gains. Yemeni media reported on 1 May that Huthi forces had captured two towns along the highway linking al-Dhale with Ibb governorate to the west. After seizing the towns of Fakhir and Shakhab, they were closing in on Qataba, a town near an important junction between the westbound and northbound highways that link southern Yemen with Huthi-held territory. If the Huthis were to take Qataba, the ensuing fighting would also cut off the northbound highway that links rival forces in Damt district in northern al-Dhale with their supplies from the south, weakening the position of separatist forces. Fighting on the Damt front has also escalated in recent weeks.

Blocked highways are yet to cause an increase in food prices in the north of the country, but humanitarian organisations worry that continued fighting could cause a price spike. Aden airport has become the main route in and out of the country for Yemenis, especially those seeking medical treatment abroad, and ongoing violence along the highways would also impede travellers from Huthi-held territory.

Map: The Huthis’ Southward Advance into al-Dhale Governorate Google

Yemeni government officials view ongoing battles in al-Dhale and neighbouring governorates as part of a Huthi plan to exploit the current UN-mediated ceasefire in Hodeida to make gains on the ground in other areas. They claim the attacks are part of a pincer move to pressure UAE-backed forces in the south and to draw UAE-backed front-line forces away from the Red Sea theatre. Indeed, some forces have been redeployed from Hodeida to al-Dhale to help turn the tide against the Huthis. Some suspect the Huthis may even be preparing to push south again toward Aden, the government’s temporary capital.

Huthi officials, however, argue that they are fighting back against a months-long campaign by the Saudi-led coalition and its allies to destabilise territory they control and gain new ground, also under the cover of the Stockholm Agreement reached in Sweden in December 2018. The Huthis are likely trying to seize important supply lines and prevent their rivals from opening new routes into territory they hold while expanding buffer zones between the different cantons of control. Damt in northern al-Dhale has become the de facto border between the warring sides along the Aden-Sanaa highway, while Qataba is similarly important to the westbound routes to Ibb and Taiz city. The buffer zones are important because several tribal and religious groups in Ibb, which borders al-Dhale to the north, have remained neutral throughout the war. Yemeni government officials are convinced that they would join the anti-Huthi cause given a supply line connecting them with the south; the Huthis too are concerned that this might be the case.

Meanwhile, southern separatists have their own interpretation of events. Members of the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a pro-secessionist group closely tied to the main UAE-backed forces who are fighting in al-Dhale, suspect that renewed fighting there is directly linked to the issue of southern separation. Their media outlets reported that government military units fell back in the face of the Huthi offensive, and that some previously government-aligned commanders defected to the Huthi side. They have presented the offensive as part of a plot to destabilise the south, undermine the STC and UAE-backed southern forces, and pave the way for a joint Huthi-Islah attack on Aden, despite the fact that Huthis and Islah (a Sunni Islamist party aligned with the Hadi government) are fighting on opposite sides of the current civil war. The STC suspects a “northern” Huthi-Islah reconciliation aimed at subduing the south and pre-empting a possible separation bid.

Regardless of why fighting has again flared up in al-Dhale, the humanitarian consequences could be dire if it continues.

STC suspicions of a new northern alliance against the south are speculative at best, but the Huthis are undoubtedly pressing their advantage to draw forces away from Hodeida. A considerable proportion of the Giants Brigade, the main military force battling the Huthis on the Red Sea coast, are drawn from tribes and families originally from Yafa, a zone that spans modern-day Lahj, al-Dhale and Abyan governorates. Aydrous al-Zubaidi, the STC president and a native of al-Dhale, has visited the front lines there several times since early April, while senior Giants Brigade members have also been photographed near the al-Dhale front. There are reports of some STC-aligned forces already being redeployed from the Red Sea coast to al-Dhale.

Regardless of why fighting has again flared up in al-Dhale, the humanitarian consequences could be dire if it continues. The battle for the governorate has effectively cut off the Aden-Sanaa highway and the westbound highway into Ibb, which in turn links Aden with Hawban, an industrial area to the northwest of Taiz city. As a result, the movement of goods and people between Aden, Taiz and Sanaa is frozen. A great many Yemeni merchants import goods, including foodstuffs, into Aden before transporting them north, often to Hawban, where bulk cargoes are processed and packaged for distribution nationwide. Although food prices have not yet been notably affected by the conflict in al-Dhale, Yemen’s business community warns of a potential “disaster” if the highway remains inaccessible in the coming weeks.

Bottom Line: For better or worse, implementation of the Stockholm Agreement remains the litmus test by which the warring parties judge the chances for returning to national peace talks and as such deserves priority focus. The UN special envoy, Martin Griffiths, may not have the bandwidth to intervene each time fighting escalates along one of the country’s front lines, particularly given the complexity of local dynamics in each location. Still, al-Dhale should not be ignored, given the potential humanitarian consequences and its link to the thorny issue of southern independence/autonomy. While Crisis Group has highlighted other regional battles and political issues in the past, few have the potential to touch as many nerves – or wreak as much economic havoc – as the current battle of al-Dhale. Griffiths has direct contact with both the Huthis and the UAE, who are directing the major frontline forces in al-Dhale. Quiet diplomacy by his team could help reduce the fighting, prevent an escalation in neighbouring governorates and contain the festering issue of southern independence so that it can be addressed through negotiations.

Political and Military Developments

Since concluding the technical details of the first phase of force redeployments from in and around Hodeida in April, the parties have made no progress implementing the Stockholm Agreement (for a breakdown of the latest developments, see Update #9). The UN continues to try to at least partially implement the deal by seeking agreement on two outstanding issues that have stood in the way: a second phase of redeployments from the main population centres inside the city and from positions encircling it (by, respectively, the Huthis and UAE-backed forces), and the composition of local security forces that should secure areas following military redeployments. Absent a quick agreement on these issues, Crisis Group continues to advocate the redeployment of Huthi forces from Hodeida’s ports (at a minimum from Saleef and Ras Issa) as a good-faith, low-cost initial step that does not expose the Huthis to significant military risk but which buys time to enable progress on thornier issues. If there is no movement on the ground, there is a risk that there could be a renewed military push in Hodeida by UAE-backed forces, likely with U.S. support.

Left unresolved, these internal issues [between rival factions] will hamper any attempt to broker a truce in Taiz between the Huthis and the government.

In Taiz, another round of fighting between local government-aligned military units and Salafist fighters saw loyalists of Abu al-Abbas, the UAE-backed Salafist leader, departing the city to a military base to the city’s south. Tensions between rival factions in the city remain high, however (for more details on Taiz, see Update #8). Left unresolved, these internal issues will hamper any attempt to broker a truce in Taiz between the Huthis and the government, as this would require coordination between all anti-Huthi forces on the ground.

Separately, a group of Hadi-affiliated southerners met in Aden on 28 April under the banner of the Southern National Coalition (SNC), which its advocates describe as a necessary counterweight to the separatist-leaning STC. The group’s stated aims are to support President Hadi and implement the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, a series of UN-led talks held in Sanaa in 2013-2014. In particular, they propose a federal model of government that Hadi himself favours. The meeting had been planned for several months; an earlier attempt to convene members in Cairo in March failed. The coalition is largely formed of Hadi loyalists. STC officials have dismissed the SNC as an insignificant group with little legitimacy on the ground (for details of tensions between the STC and the government, see Update #5).

Bottom Line: The UN needs a win in Yemen, and in particular needs to demonstrate some form of progress on Hodeida so that peace talks can begin. Ongoing negotiations over the different phases of redeployments from in and around Hodeida are likely to take some time, so the UN should pursue the Huthis’ prior public offer to redeploy from the ports – at a minimum Ras Issa and Saleef – as a sign of good faith.

Regional and International Developments

In a communiqué issued after a meeting of the “Quad” – the UK, U.S., Saudi Arabia and the UAE – in London on 27 April, its members again called for implementation of the Stockholm Agreement. The communiqué focussed heavily on the Huthis, calling on them to redeploy from Saleef, Ras Issa and Hodeida ports, in line with Crisis Group recommendations, and to cease the firing of “Iranian-made and facilitated ballistic missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles by Houthi forces into neighbouring countries”. The Quad members said they had an “expectation” that redeployments would be underway by the time the UN Security Council meets on 15 May.

With the Trump administration trying to ratchet up pressure on Iran, many in the U.S. government will continue to view Yemen as a battlefield for countering the Islamic Republic.

On 2 May, the U.S. Senate voted on whether to override President Trump’s 16 April veto of legislation that invoked the War Powers Resolution of 1973 and would have directed the withdrawal of U.S. forces from hostilities in Yemen. A veto override requires a two-thirds vote from each chamber of Congress. The Senate vote of 53-45 fell short of the mark, and spells the end of this legislation. While some of its champions are now promising to move to new strategies for blocking U.S. support to the Saudi-led campaign – most importantly, by inserting defunding provisions in must-pass annual defence spending and authorisation bills – these do not presently appear to have the same bipartisan support as the vetoed legislation. To the extent that some members of Congress supported the war powers legislation because of outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, that outrage is beginning to fade. And to the (perhaps greater) extent that some felt comfortable supporting the legislation as a political gesture primarily because they believed the president would veto it, they cannot repeat this strategy in the context of must-pass legislation.

Separately, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for delays in implementation of the Stockholm Agreement, and was quoted in the UAE-headquartered The National on 29 April as saying the Huthis "continue to refuse to comply with the agreements that they signed up for in Stockholm, Sweden, they refuse to withdraw from the port of Hodeida...this is because Iran has chosen to direct them to do that”. In the same interview, Pompeo emphasised the Trump administration’s intention to continue its support to the coalition, stating “the support we are providing to the Saudis is in America’s best interest”.

Bottom Line: The U.S. has been the strongest public critic of the Huthis among UN Security Council members since the Stockholm Agreement was signed in December, and is expected to push the Council to censure the group during an upcoming meeting on Yemen in New York on 15 May. With the Trump administration trying to ratchet up pressure on Iran, many in the U.S. government will continue to view Yemen as a battlefield for countering the Islamic Republic. In the aftermath of President Trump’s recent veto, it remains to be seen how effective Congress will be in pushing back against the administration’s policy of continued support to the Saudi-led campaign.

Click here for the latest CrisisWatch entry for Yemen.

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths makes a speech during the UN Security Council meeting on Yemen at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States on 14 December 2018. Atilgan Ozdil / Anadolu Agency

Crisis Group Yemen Update #9

This is the ninth briefing note in Crisis Group’s Yemen Campaign. Notes are published fortnightly. This week, we return to the UN’s efforts to make the Hodeida agreement stick.

Trendline: Holdup in Hodeida

It is almost a year since an anticipated battle for the Red Sea port of Hodeida became the centre of gravity in Yemen’s civil war, as well as international efforts to end it.

In June 2018, Crisis Group described the conflict as having reached an inflection point. Along with other observers, we feared that a bloody battle between Huthi fighters in Hodeida and UAE-backed forces outside it would push the war into a new, more perilous phase and likely trigger a devastating famine. We argued instead for a UN-brokered deal to prevent the fight and, possibly, to lay the groundwork for a nationwide peace process.

The good news, ten months later, is that the battle for Hodeida has not occurred. But the threat of renewed fighting still looms. In December 2018, UN-sponsored talks in Sweden between the northern Huthi rebels, who prefer to be known as Ansar Allah, and the internationally recognised government of Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi put the battle on ice, shifting the focus of fighting elsewhere in Yemen as the UN struggled to implement the terms of the Hodeida ceasefire and military redeployment there.

Some pronounced the December Stockholm Agreement as a breakthrough deal. Following two years of no talks and no agreements, in some ways, it was. But from the start it was clear that turning the agreement to demilitarise Hodeida and the Red Sea trade corridor into reality on the ground would be an uphill battle (Crisis Group’s analysis of the deal is here). One challenge has been ambiguities in the deal itself. The agreement was brokered in a rush, with the Huthis and Hadi government accepting it at the very last minute and under intense international pressure. As a result, the language is vague on some crucial details and the two parties have radically different interpretations of its meaning. A UN-chaired Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC), made up of Huthi and Hadi government representatives, meanwhile, was tasked with turning the accord’s “mutual redeployment of forces” into a technical agreement on who would move what, when, where and in what order – a huge task in and of itself.

The main political sticking point for both sides has been the question of the “local security forces” meant to secure Hodeida port and city, along with two nearby ports at Saleef and Ras Issa, once redeployments are completed. The Hadi government generally sees the agreement as stipulating that these forces should be drawn from pre-2014 police force and coast guards and fall under their interior ministry’s supervision. The Huthis’ interpretation is that current security forces – which include many of their supporters – will remain in the city and ports, with minimal changes, once military forces have been removed. They view discussion of changing the local security forces as a Trojan horse – a way for the Hadi government to use the cover of agreed-upon military redeployments to claim sovereignty over the city and prejudice any future peace settlement. In fairness, both readings of the written agreement are defensible. That said, many who were present in Stockholm say the spirit of the agreement was to prioritise military redeployments, not sovereignty questions, which are to be addressed later, during national political negotiations.

A series of holdups over the past four months have seen the early euphoria of Stockholm dissolve into deepening impatience among international and Yemeni players.

Over the past four months, the RCC’s two chairs, Patrick Cammaert and his successor Michael Anker Lollesgaard, have worked to resolve technical disagreements over redeployments by working with the military-security representatives of the two sides on the committee, while Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy, pushes the political leadership to reach a deal on the local security forces issue. Some progress has been made within the RCC. In February, they agreed to the outlines of the two-phase redeployment plan. Phase one, step one involves Huthi redeployment from Ras Isa and Saleef ports; phase one, step two involves simultaneous redeployments from Hodeida port and an area called Kilo 8; and phase two involves mutual redeployments from the city and its surroundings, with the local security forces taking over control. On 13 April, the RCC finalised technical details of phase one almost to the metre. Yet the thorny issue of local security forces remains unresolved.

The announcement of agreement on the details of phase one redeployments at the 15 April UN Security Council meeting buys time, but frustration is growing. A series of holdups over the past four months have seen the early euphoria of Stockholm dissolve into deepening impatience among international and Yemeni players. In a Security Council meeting on 15 April, the UK’s Permanent Representative Karen Pierce channelled this sentiment, describing the lack of follow-through as “very worrying” and warning of “stronger measures” the next time the Council meets if the impasse persists.

Diplomats working on Yemen face a dilemma. They are searching for new ways of pressuring the Yemeni parties, particularly the Huthis, over whom they have the least leverage, to compromise. But they have a limited toolkit at their disposal for doing so and do not want to inadvertently cause the collapse of a process that, while painfully slow-moving, has yielded progress since December. They also understand that the Hodeida plan’s failure would have far-reaching consequences, including renewed hostilities between the Huthis and their rivals in Hodeida and on other fronts, rapid deterioration of what is already the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and a return to the political paralysis that plagued the peace process between 2016 and 2018. 

In recent weeks, diplomats, some UN officials and even some leaders of the Saudi-led coalition had come to quietly acknowledge that the best-case scenario for the Stockholm Agreement in the medium term is that the first phase of redeployments comes off as planned. This minimum achievement would stave off the threat of a battle for Hodeida. It could precede a much slower march toward agreements on the second phase and the composition of local security forces, with the latter likely becoming part of a broader political process.

Yemen's Red Sea trade corridor: Hodeida port and city, Ras Issa and Saleef Ports. CRISISGROUP

But there is no trust between the Huthis and the Hadi government, and neither side is willing to move forward without greater clarity on what comes afterward. The Huthis worry that they will be militarily vulnerable after the redeployments’ first phase, which will leave the Red Sea ports and Kilo 8 triangle on the eastern edge of the city undefended, patrolled only by UN monitors, while the city would still be encircled by the numerically and technologically superior UAE-backed force. The Huthis do not want a gap between the phases, which they fear that their foes could exploit to seize the ports and city. For its part, the Hadi government, fearful that the process could leave Hodeida under effective Huthi control, wants to resolve the local security forces issue before implementing redeployments.

The technical plan for the redeployments’ second phase, which would be even more intricate than the first, could take months, as could talks about local security forces. Thus the parties and international officials will either have to wait even longer for any movement on the ground, or ram through initial redeployments that would leave the UN monitors forced to act as a de facto security cordon between rival fighters on either side of the Kilo 8 triangle. This is something the Huthis are unlikely to trust as it provides no guarantee against their rivals exploiting the vulnerability in their defences created by the first phase of redeployments. Guarantees that the international community will not allow this to happen may be needed.

The final conundrum for international policymakers is that of leverage.

The final conundrum for international policymakers is that of leverage. Western diplomats acknowledge that they can apply only calibrated pressure on the Hadi government, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. They have fewer tools available to them when it comes to the Huthis, and there is a perception that the northern rebels came to the table in December only because they were on the verge of losing Hodeida – an assertion the Huthis dispute. In effect, a Western diplomat says, international actors’ main source of leverage with the Huthis is the implicit threat that they will allow the Hodeida assault to go ahead – something that would cause international outcry and further convince the Huthis that the UN and Western powers are working against them and cannot be trusted.

Although both the Hadi government and the Huthis have delayed the negotiations with regular nitpicking, many Western diplomats perceive that the Huthis are the proximate barrier to progress. It is true that the Huthis are required to move first in the first phase of redeployments. But both the Huthi and government delegations at the RCC seem to be taking turns raising issues they know their rivals will find unpalatable.

Under mounting pressure from the Hadi government and the coalition to acknowledge the perception of Huthi stubbornness, and have the UN do so, some Western embassies are now tempted to push for public statements calling the Huthis out. But while doing so may satisfy diplomats and the coalition, it is unlikely to help turn the Stockholm Agreement into a reality. Indeed, it could cause backlash from the Huthis and be used as a pretext by Hadi or the coalition to declare the process dead. At the same time, failure to apply pressure in the face of further delays is likely to undermine the credibility of the UN, confidence among the parties and faith that the international community is capable of brokering a solution to the Yemen war.

Bottom Line: Progress of some kind on Hodeida is needed – and fast. But full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement is some way off. Ideally, the two sides would reach agreement on phase two redeployments and the local security forces within the next few weeks, so that implementation could start and proceed as a package. More diplomatic pressure on the Hadi government from the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE and on the Huthis from Oman is probably necessary if the difficult issue of local security forces is finally to be resolved. But if past is precedent, negotiations may drag on, risking renewed violence and the agreement’s collapse. If negotiators see this happening, one option could be to focus on unilateral Huthi redeployment from Saleef and Ras Issa ports at a minimum (and possibly Hodeida port as well), something the Huthis have offered in the past, before returning to the thornier issue of the city and local security forces. Something needs to happen on the ground to build at least a little trust that the agreement still stands.

Political and Military Developments

The Hadi government and the Huthis both made plays to demonstrate their political legitimacy this week, with the government inaugurating a parliamentary session in the eastern city of Seiyun and the Huthis describing this meeting as “illegitimate”, while holding parliamentary elections in the territory they control. The secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC), which had threatened to derail any attempt by the Hadi government to host parliament in the southern city of Aden, also criticised the meeting. 

Some 141 members of the 301-member House of Representatives met in Seiyun, where they nominated a new speaker and deputy speakers, and ratified a budget for 2019. Those present elected Sultan al-Barakani, a senior member of the General People’s Congress, Yemen’s historical ruling party, and a long-time loyalist of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, as speaker. Members also discussed a proposal to name the Huthis a terrorist organisation.

Parliamentary elections were last held in 2003, and since then an estimated 34 elected members have died. The government argues that a parliamentary quorum, the minimum number of members needed to debate and pass legislation, is therefore now 134 members. The Huthis, who have held sessions of parliament in Sanaa and in 2015 announced a “constitutional declaration” that they say overrides the authority of parliament, dismiss this argument. By holding elections for vacant seats, they believe they have further undermined the Hadi government’s claim to parliamentary legitimacy. The STC vice president, Hani bin Breik, also described the meeting as illegitimate, going on to say that the Hadi government held it in “Islah-held” southern territory that is yet to be liberated. (Islah is a predominantly Sunni Islamist party, which encompasses Yemen’s version of the Muslim Brotherhood.) As Islah is a political force nominally backing Hadi, some in the Hadi government regarded this remark as a veiled threat that STC-aligned forces might be sent to attempt a takeover of Seiyun.

Violence continued around Hodeida, with the Huthis reporting repeated attacks on the eastern side of the city and the coalition alleging Huthi attacks in Durayhimi district to the south. Fighting has also escalated up and down the Red Sea coast, in particular in Tuhayta and Hays districts. Elsewhere, heavy fighting has been reported in Hajja governorate, continuing a recent trend, and along the border and in al-Jawf governorate. A number of coalition airstrikes hit Sanaa on 10 April, causing what is reported to be the highest number of civilian casualties in the capital in over a year.

Bottom Line: As the Stockholm Agreement falters, the power struggle that has consumed the country continues unabated elsewhere. While the push for political legitimacy could be seen as a positive signal that Yemen’s power centres see a political process in the offing, in practice it may trigger renewed violence among purported allies in the anti-Huthi camp.

Hodeida port and city: Key frontlines, roads and infrastructure. CRISISGROUP

Regional and International Developments

On 16 April, President Donald Trump announced his veto of a joint resolution of Congress that would have directed the removal of U.S. forces from hostilities in or affecting Yemen, with certain exceptions relating to counter-terrorism operations. 

In his veto message, the president suggested that U.S. support for the coalition helps protect U.S. nationals in Saudi Arabia and other coalition countries that have been subject to attack by Huthi insurgents in Yemen. He also suggested concern that the resolution would, among other things, tread on his constitutional prerogatives as commander-in-chief of the U.S. military, damage U.S. bilateral relations with coalition participants and embolden Iran in “malign activities” in Yemen.

With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signalling that he will not pursue an override of the president’s veto, the question is what additional measures Congress may take in an effort to curtail U.S. support for the war. In the House of Representatives, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer issued a response to the presidential veto message stating that “the fight is not yet over, and the House will explore further legislation and conduct rigorous oversight”. It is not clear, however, what this might entail. Because of procedural challenges in pursuing stand-alone legislation, the best path forward for enacting legislative restrictions on U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict may be to include them in must-pass legislation like the annual defence authorisation legislation. Whether or not this is politically feasible, however, remains to be seen.

For Crisis Group’s comprehensive assessment of U.S. involvement in the Yemen war – both the origins of that involvement and how it has evolved under the Trump administration – see our new report, Ending the Yemen Quagmire: Lessons for Washington from Four Years of War.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the Security Council issued a press statement on 17 April underscoring its “grave concern” at the lack of progress in Hodeida. The Council welcomed the agreement on a first phase of redeployments and called for the parties to implement the plan as quickly as possible and “not to seek to exploit the redeployment process” – a slightly opaque attempt to address the Huthis’ concerns that they could be attacked in the period between the two redeployment phases. Diplomats say that the Security Council will be forced to take some kind of action if no progress has been made in one month’s time, although it has limited options beyond public criticism and perhaps the threat of new sanctions, which members like Russia are likely to reject.

The debate around military sales and assistance to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners in Yemen continues to rage in Europe. Germany's National Security Council, consisting of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her chief ministers, has reportedly approved shipments of weapons parts to countries directly involved in the war in Yemen. The approvals come two weeks after the German government extended a ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. On 15 April, France-Inter and Disclose revealed classified information from the French Military Intelligence Directorate that seemed to confirm the use of French military equipment and weapons in the war in Yemen – something Paris denies.

Bottom Line:  While advocates of the war powers legislation had hoped that President Trump’s non-interventionist tendencies might lead him to overrule his advisers and sign it into law, his veto ended any such hope. The question now is twofold: first, whether the administration will use the Congressional action to persuade its Gulf partners that, while the president protected them, domestic anger at the war is growing and thus the time has come to end it or, alternatively, lend its support to more aggressive coalition action against the Huthis in the name of countering Iran. And, second, whether Congressional opponents of the war will be able to find a new vehicle for applying meaningful pressure on both the administration and the coalition to focus their efforts on bringing the conflict to an end.

Click here for the latest CrisisWatch entry for Yemen.