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Crisis Group Yemen Update #7
Crisis Group Yemen Update #7
Crisis Group Yemen Update #6
Crisis Group Yemen Update #6
A child sits on a bed near a hut in an improvised camp for internally displaced people near Abs of the northwestern province of Hajja, Yemen February 18, 2019. Picture taken 18 February 2019. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Crisis Group Yemen Update #7

This is the seventh weekly briefing note as part of Crisis Group’s Yemen Campaign. This week, we look at how tribal dynamics in the north could affect the stalled peace process.

Trendline: As Stockholm Stutters, a Tribal Showdown in Yemen’s North

As UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths continued to push for the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement to demilitarise the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, images circulated on social media on 4 March purporting to show Katyusha missiles hitting houses in Kushar, a small settlement in Yemen’s northern Hajja governorate.

The alleged Huthi missile strikes marked an escalation in a local conflict that has been gathering momentum for almost two months. The trigger of the fighting around Kushar remains uncertain, with Huthis and members of the Hajour, a tribe based in the Kushar basin, each blaming the other for breaching a truce instituted between them in 2013.

The Huthis claim that elements of the Hajour with ties to Islah, Yemen’s main Sunni Islamist party, have been stockpiling weapons provided by Saudi Arabia and bringing fighters into the area, a breach of the six-year-old truce that has seen the Hajour remain neutral throughout the current civil war. In January, they allege, Hajouri tribesmen from Alabaaisah village set up checkpoints along an important highway and detained Huthi loyalists, sparking the violence.

Hajour tribesmen opposed to the Huthis have a different story. Noting that the tribe’s numerous leaders have widely varying political affiliations, including to the General People’s Congress and Nasserist party (the main link between the tribes and the coalition has been the head of the GPC in Hajja), they claim that the Huthis violated the agreement in January after becoming unnerved by gains made by rival forces backed by Saudi Arabia in surrounding areas. Having freed up fighters previously deployed to Hodeida following the Stockholm Agreement, the Huthis, they say, decided to attempt a takeover. The Huthis, who have long coveted Kushar – an area surrounded by mountains that form a natural fortress – held a meeting with Hajour tribal leaders in early January and demanded they allow Huthi forces to set up positions on mountains around the district. When they were rebuffed, they began to force their way into the area. Saudi airstrikes on Huthi positions and airdrops of desperately needed food, medicine and arms followed soon after. Whether or not they sought Saudi support before the fighting began, the Hajour are now receiving it.

The stakes in Kushar are high. The Huthis fear a government offensive from positions in north-western Hajja, originating from Midi port and Haradh city and now deep inside the “Ahem triangle” to the east of the two, could extend along a highway that cuts into Amran governorate, a tribal area that sits between the Huthi heartland of Saada and the capital Sanaa. Kushar, in eastern Hajja, bisects the road. If government-backed forces were to move further east and gain control of Kushar, the Huthis’ main supply line to the Ahem front (see map below) would be under threat. This in turn could allow Saudi-backed forces to advance further along the Amran road, threatening the Sanaa-Saada supply line. In short, if the Huthis are unable to assert their control over the hitherto neutral area, they will struggle to sustain the fight against Saudi-backed Yemeni forces in other parts of the northern highlands. If they win, they will have demonstrated their dominance in north-western Yemen and will further consolidate their control of territory in advance of any political settlement.

Key positions and areas of conflict in Hajja, Yemen. Map data © 2019 Google

The fight for Kushar is also a litmus test for the Saudi-led coalition’s “tribal strategy” in northern Yemen, a long-gestating plan to convince tribes in Huthi-controlled areas to rise up against the de facto authorities. President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government has repeatedly claimed that it is deploying more fighters to the nearby towns of Midi and Haradh, and that it will soon break through to Kushar. In reality it has made very little progress. The government and the Saudis hope that a Huthi loss in Kushar will prompt other tribes to take up arms against the Huthis, sparking a tribal uprising that they have long predicted, but which has failed to materialise.

A late February announcement from Yemen’s government that it would send seven additional battalions to the main front in Hajja, combined with a call to arms by Yahya al-Hajouri, a prominent Salafi sheikh from Hajja who was among the Huthis’ chief antagonists before the war, likely prompted the Huthis to make a stronger push for Kushar. The Huthis now hold the upper hand after a major show of force and the rebels predict that internal resistance will not last long. On 7 March the Huthi-controlled interior ministry in Sanaa announced that the “outlaws” had been cleared from the area. Their rivals agree that the Huthis are in the stronger position, but warn that fighting in the area could still be bloody and destructive. Of an estimated population of 114,000, about 33,000 people have been displaced by the fighting and more than 10,000 have arrived in nearby Amran city in recent weeks, according to UN officials.

Fighting in Kushar demonstrates the lengths the Huthis will go to in order to demonstrate their dominance.

Kushar, the Huthis say, is one of a final few pockets of internal tribal resistance in areas they control, and their assault, they believe, will dampen the likelihood of future internal threats to their position in the north. This assessment of theirs is probably optimistic. Instead, fighting in Kushar demonstrates the lengths the Huthis will go to in order to demonstrate their dominance. The government, meanwhile, holds up recent events in Kushar as an example of the Huthis’ bad faith. The Huthis have used deliberations over implementing the Stockholm Agreement as a stalling tactic, they say, and are using the truce around Hodeida as an opportunity to consolidate their position elsewhere. While accurate, this analysis is selective: it ignores the government’s and coalition’s own attempts to gain ground in the north and other areas.

Bottom Line: Fighting around Kushar is a reminder that even if the deal to demilitarise Hodeida can be implemented, elsewhere the war continues and in some cases has intensified. Should it continue, the conflict in Hajja will, at a minimum, exacerbate the lack of trust between the warring parties. Should the fighting become bloodier, it could precipitate the Yemeni government’s or the Huthis’ withdrawal from the Stockholm Agreement. In the longer term the fighting likely foreshadows the nature of post-Hodeida conflict: battles for much smaller prizes that nonetheless have national ramifications.

Political and Military Developments

Another week passed without visible progress in implementing the Stockholm Agreement. UN officials believe they are close to finalising details of a first phase of redeployment from in and around Hodeida and two nearby ports (See Update #6, Update #5) after a series of delays. The major sticking point among the Huthis, the Yemeni government and its backers in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh remains how to secure territory after both sides have redeployed their military forces. While they have agreed to postpone detailed negotiations over the issue for the time being, the first phase of redeployments requires front-line forces to pull back from the “Kilo 8” triangle on the eastern edge of Hodeida. The UN is struggling to find a security arrangement for the area that is suitable for both sides.

Elsewhere, Aydrous al-Zubaidi, president of the Southern Transitional Council (STC), Yemen’s self-styled southern government-in-waiting, was touching down in London, where he made a series of high-profile appearances. In an interview with The Guardian, Zubaidi argued that a peace process in Yemen can be effective only if it includes southern representatives. Tensions have been rising in the south in recent weeks. Reports emerged on 6 March of fighting between the Hadi-loyalist Presidential Guard and STC-affiliated Security Belt forces in Aden’s Khormaksar district. The fighting came after protests a day earlier over the alleged killing of a witness in a sexual assault case by local counter-terrorism forces affiliated with the STC. It also followed unrest, understood to be STC-led, over fuel and power shortages in the city, reportedly caused by wrangling between the government and a powerful local businessman over payments for fuel.

It will be important to keep an eye on the internal politics in ostensibly government of Yemen-controlled areas, where multiple factions continue to jostle for power.

In Mukalla, the capital of Yemen’s eastern Hadramawt governorate, yet more protesters called for a unified security cordon across the province. The protestors demanded that STC-affiliated Hadrami Elite forces oversee security in the governorate and called for the removal of security forces loyal to Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, Hadi’s vice president and de facto leader of anti-Huthi military forces in northern Yemen. Hadi loyalists held meetings of their new Southern National Congress, a purported counterweight to the STC, in Cairo on 6-7 March.

Marib governorate was rocked by the reappearance of the conservative Salafi cleric Yahya al-Hajouri. Hajouri made a public call for support of the Hajour tribes from his new base in Marib, a reconstituted version of Dar al-Hadith, the Salafi training centre he led in the Huthi heartland of Saada until he was forced out in February 2014. Marib has long been dominated by groups affiliated with Islah, which has had an uncomfortable relationship with Salafi thinkers like Hajouri who preach against engagement in politics. Islah is viewed with suspicion by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which sees political Islamism as a threat to its stability and has backed quietist Salafi groups in southern Yemen. A number of Islah members see Hajouri’s reappearance in Marib as an attempt to counteract their influence. Further complicating matters, one of the two most powerful tribes in Marib, the Murad, is hosting Hajouri, while a rival Salafi cleric, Abu Hassan al-Maribi, has a close relationship with the other, Abidah. The two tribes put aside their historical differences to mount resistance to the Huthis at the beginning of the war. Now local observers worry that the clerics’ rivalry could undermine the tribal détente.

Bottom Line: Implementing the Stockholm Agreement rightly remains a top priority for the UN and the wider international community in Yemen. But it will be important to keep an eye on the internal politics in ostensibly government of Yemen-controlled areas, where multiple factions continue to jostle for power, a process that will intensify if the Stockholm Agreement transitions into a political process.

Regional and International Developments

Saudi Arabia and the UAE continue to complain in public and private that the Stockholm Agreement is not being implemented and they criticise the UN for failing to maintain sufficient pressure on the Huthis to redeploy their forces from Hodeida. On 4 March, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and the Yemeni government sent a joint letter to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighting their concerns and outlining allegations of ceasefire violations around Hodeida. The UN Security Council might hold closed consultations with the UN envoy to discuss the slow pace of progress in the coming days.

In Washington, several bills to reduce U.S. support for the war in Yemen remain under discussion in Congress, although no firm dates for debate have been set.

In Europe, Der Spiegel reported on Friday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed to extend the moratorium on German arms exports to Saudi Arabia for another two weeks. The government spokesperson confirmed that a new agreement on the extension will be needed in the course of March. The controversy over the extension of the export freeze is increasingly splitting Germany’s ruling coalition: Scholz’s Social Democrats are calling for another extension of the moratorium while Merkel’s Christian Democrats, including party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, argue that Germany needs to cooperate with European partners on joint security and that the export ban is hurting these partnerships.

Bottom line: Pressure continues to mount on Saudi Arabia over its role in Yemen. If sustained, this is likely to help prevent a collapse of the shaky truce around Hodeida and the gradual implementation of the evolving demilitarisation plan. Public pressure on the Huthis from the coalition has also served as a useful tool during the process.

Note: Updates will be placed on a brief hiatus for the next two weeks. We will resume publication at the end of March on a twice-monthly basis.

Click here for the latest CrisisWatch entry for Yemen.

A Yemeni man walks carrying food aid provided by a local charity to families affected by the ongoing conflict, in the capital Sanaa on 14 February 2019. MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP

Crisis Group Yemen Update #6

This is the sixth weekly briefing note in Crisis Group’s Yemen Campaign. This week, we look at how economic issues will affect future peacebuilding efforts.

Trendline: Putting Yemen to Work

Late February brought some hope to Yemen’s embattled population, large segments of which were on the verge of starvation at the end of 2018. The UN announced that it had both raised billions of dollars to pay for its humanitarian work over the coming year and had regained access to the Red Sea Mills, an important food storage and distribution hub outside the port city of Hodeida for the first time in five months. But without a peace deal and, in the longer term, significant economic reform, the most the UN and other organisations can do is arrest the sharp humanitarian decline of the past eight years.

Donors, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), pledged a combined $2.6 billion in funding for the UN’s 2019 humanitarian plan for Yemen on 26 February. This represents a significant sum but falls well short of the $4.2 billion the UN says it needs for the single largest humanitarian appeal in its history. On the same day, the UN completed a long-delayed operation to access the Red Sea Mills, crossing from Huthi-controlled Hodeida city into coalition-controlled territory on the city’s eastern outskirts. UN staff are now assessing the condition of grain at the site for spoilage and residue from unexploded ordinance. The UN had not been able to access the Red Sea Mills compound, where the World Food Programme stores around 25 per cent of its food aid in Yemen, since September 2018. Infrastructural bottlenecks created by the conflict are almost as much of a threat to starving Yemenis as their current economic plight (see Update #2).

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

The huge sums of money the UN requires reveal the sheer scale of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. According to the UN and the World Bank, around 80 per cent of Yemenis now live in poverty, up from more than 50 per cent in 2014, and require some form of aid. This represents a total of around 24.1 million people of whom 14.3 million are in acute need of help. The World Bank estimates that about eight million Yemenis have lost their jobs since the war began in 2015. The official unemployment rate already stood at more than 50 per cent in 2014. It is now likely to be far higher.

Humanitarian aid is necessary in the short term, but is ultimately a very expensive fix for a problem no amount of money can solve: an already weak and poorly managed economy that has atrophied since 2014. “The UN can’t feed 28 or 29 million people for a year, let alone forever”, a senior humanitarian official said. “Until people are earning wages and food prices are affordable, the entire country is going to be below the [poverty] line”.

Economic output measured in GDP has more than halved by some measures, while inflation has soared. The rival authorities in Sanaa and Aden have each struggled to pay salaries for an estimated 1.2 million civilian and military staff employed before the war, whose incomes underwrite the livelihoods of about a quarter of the population.

Equally worrying is that the government is prioritising salary payments to the military and security services, which have been the only employers creating new jobs since the war began. This further incentivises unemployed men to take up arms and creates huge problems for the government in the long term, leaving it with a heavily armed and expensive workforce that it will need to move off the payroll in the future.

WORLD BANK

Citing figures from the ministry of civil service and insurance, the Yemeni Development Champions – a group of economic experts – report that a little over half of the country’s 472,353 pre-war civil servants received wages from the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in 2018. At the same time, salaries for the military and security services increased. The Hadi government now spends more on defence ministry employees than in 2014, despite high rates of defections (the military payroll was also likely heavily padded by so-called “ghost soldiers”). Official figures for the rival Huthi administration in Sanaa are unavailable, but an official based in Sanaa during the early years of the war said that the Huthis also prioritise payments to fighters. Meanwhile, some of the many Yemeni armed groups on the ground are paid directly by the Saudi-led coalition. The UAE alone pays the salaries of around 40,000-45,000 men in arms in Yemen.

The conflict has taken a sharp toll on subsistence and commercial farming – a huge if unsteady source of work in rural Yemen before the war. Shocks to the oil and gas industry, once another important engine of economic growth, have shrunk the foreign currency reserves the government used to help pay for food imports. The World Bank estimates that 35 per cent of businesses have closed since the war began, most of them citing insecurity and financial constraints. As a result of these economic hardships, household income has plummeted, often to zero, while the cost of living has shot up thanks to reduced trade and a weakened riyal.

The Hadi government hopes that it will be able to pay more wages in 2019 using revenues from oil and gas exports and savings made on fuel imports, thanks to a $60 million monthly fuel grant from Saudi Arabia. Several oilfields in the south have been producing since 2017, and the government is trying to connect other oilfields with export terminals along the south coast. The Hadi government has said it hopes to produce 110,000 barrels of oil a day in 2019 and export 75,000 barrels a day, netting about $1.7 billion in export earnings, a reasonable estimate. France’s Total may also restart a big gas export project in 2019, which would boost that income.

WORLD BANK

In a new state budget, the government forecasts that it will spend 3.1 trillion riyals ($5.6 billion) in revenues in 2019, set against estimated earnings of 2.1 trillion riyals ($3.9 billion), already indicating a deficit of more than $1.7 billion. How the state will finance this budget gap is unclear, given little domestic or international appetite to extend credit to the Yemeni government. A government official acknowledged that both budgeted spending and revenues are “unrealistic”.

Even if oil income increases, the government is still likely to keep suffering from poor economic management, a troubling prospect considering that economic grievances played a central part in the 2011 uprising and 2014 Huthi takeover of Sanaa. The country already faced successive fiscal and currency crises before the war, caused in no small part by its overreliance on oil exports, huge fuel subsidies, a massive public sector wage bill and mounting dependence on imported basic goods such as food. Simply replicating these policies only means storing up the problems of yesterday for tomorrow.

Once the war is over, Yemen will need more work opportunities to absorb ex-combatants and provide livelihoods, but how those will be generated remains unanswered. Local and international organisations have been trying to create jobs at the local level to get money into the hands of the poorest through cash transfer programmes. These kinds of projects are important and have impressive track records. The Small and Micro Enterprise Promotion Service (SMEPS), founded in 2005, estimates it helped create and sustain around 75,000 agricultural jobs in 2017 and 2018, and believes it can increase the scale of its work rapidly. The World Bank says its cash transfer programmes reach about 1.45 million households and help support 9 million people. But absent a growing economy and new avenues for employment, it is unclear how Yemen will be put back to work in the event of a peace deal.

Bottom Line: Getting Yemenis back to work is a crucial task, especially the tens or hundreds of thousands of ex-combatants who will be out of work in the event of a successful peace deal. Simply replicating the failed economic policies of the pre-war years could sow the seeds of future unrest. Donors should already be thinking about a mix of future initiatives, ranging from local job creation schemes to international support for the state budget and infrastructure development, to help Yemen’s transition to peace.

Political and Military Developments

The issue of force redeployments in and around the Red Sea port city of Hodeida and two nearby ports, Ras Issa and Saleef, still looms large. After agreeing on a plan for a first phase of redeployments on 17 February, the government of Yemen, Huthis and the coalition quibbled in public and private over details. The December 2018 Stockholm Agreement did not stipulate who would ultimately control the Red Sea trade corridor, only mentioning “local forces”, so Huthi and government of Yemen representatives are each trying to impose their interpretation of the deal. This has been a recurring theme since December.

Having agreed to postpone discussions of which “local forces” will secure Hodeida city and the three ports once frontline forces have been redeployed away from the area, the government of Yemen subsequently backtracked, telling Lt. Gen. Michael Anker Lollesgaard that they would not implement their part of the deal until the issue had been resolved. Lollesgaard, who chairs the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) – a joint Huthi-government of Yemen working group formed to hammer out details of the agreement on the ground in Hodeida – and heads the UN Mission to Support the Stockholm Agreement (UNMHA), was forced to undertake yet another round of last-minute negotiations along with Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy to Yemen, to prevent the deal’s collapse.

Then the Huthis raised their own objections. Their main issue is who will control the so-called “Kilo 8 triangle”, an industrial zone on the eastern edge of Hodeida that is currently one of the main frontlines. As part of the first phase of redeployments, the Huthis are meant to pull back 300 metres west from the area, and government of Yemen and coalition-backed forces are meant to pull back at least one kilometre east from the Red Sea Mills wheat storage and processing facility adjoining the industrial area. The Huthis want the area to be a “neutral zone” with no Yemeni security presence, but the government wants policemen loyal to Hadi to secure it, according to a government official.

The Huthis are also worried that the Yemeni government will try to renege on its part of the deal during the first phase of redeployments. They have asked Lollesgaard for more clarity on how a planned “monitoring mechanism” will confirm to the government’s satisfaction that they have redeployed their forces from the port. They also claim that if talks over a second phase of redeployments begin before the first has been completed, the government will use the discussion as a pretext to delay pulling back its forces. The UN is hopeful that it will be able to break the impasse by 1 March.

Though Huthi and Yemeni government officials have been engaged in a public spat over who is to blame for the delay in redeploying forces, they are not incapable of cooperation.

Though Huthi and Yemeni government officials have been engaged in a public spat over who is to blame for the delay in redeploying forces, they are not incapable of cooperation. On 26 February, the UN travelled from Huthi-controlled Hodeida to the Red Sea Mills compound on the outskirts of Hodeida, which is controlled by the government of Yemen. For this to happen, the Huthis had to demine a section of the Sanaa-Hodeida highway leading to the Kilo 8 triangle. They had resisted doing this since the Stockholm Agreement was signed, arguing that reopening the road would allow their rivals to retake Hodeida. UN officials say that they were surprised that the UN team, which was sent to assess damage to the facility and the volume and quality of grain stored there, was able to enter and leave with little difficulty, the most encouraging signal rival forces have sent since December.

Elsewhere in Yemen, UAE-backed Security Belt forces said they pushed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) out of a key stronghold in Wadi Omran, in the Mudiya district of Abyan governorate. This and other recent operations are discomfiting groups affiliated with the government and not aligned with the UAE. The Security Belt and Elite Forces the UAE backs in the south are nominally under the command of the Hadi government, but in reality operate independently and have clashed repeatedly with Hadi loyalists, most notably during the January 2018 battle for Aden between the Southern Transitional Council (STC) and the government (see Update #5). The Hadi government and Islah, Yemen’s main Sunni Islamist party, which holds sway over tribal areas in the north, worry that there is a bigger agenda at play, with UAE-backed secessionist forces now pushing into border zones that once divided north and south. The day after the Wadi Omran operation, Hadi’s transport minister Saleh al-Jabwani said on social media that the government should bring lawsuits against “militias and mercenaries”, in what local media described as a clear reference to the UAE-backed troops.

Fierce clashes continued in the north between the Huthis and al-Hajour tribesmen in Hajja governorate. Some observers had predicted that the conflict, now a month old, might lead to a tribal uprising against the Huthis but thus far, the fight has not expanded significantly beyond Hajja. The Huthis meanwhile claim to have fired several ballistic missiles into Asir and Najran on 24 February, targeting Saudi troops near the border.

Bottom Line: The Stockholm Agreement has survived another week, but not without challenges. Ongoing delays in implementation are frustrating but restoring UN access to Red Sea Mills was an encouraging development. Meanwhile, ongoing tensions and clashes on the northern border and in the south are a reminder that the Yemen war is about much more than Hodeida.

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

Regional and International Developments

Donors pledged $2.6 billion toward the UN’s 2019 humanitarian relief plan for Yemen, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia promising $500 million each. This is in addition to the $250 million they had both announced in November 2018, meaning that the two Gulf states are funding more than half of the UN appeal.

The UN Security Council issued a presidential statement on 22 February once again requesting that the Secretary-General report on non-compliance with the Stockholm Agreement and noting that the council stands ready to consider further measures against violators. The statement came after concerted pressure from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to condemn Huthi ceasefire violations and delaying tactics. However, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi were both angry that Lollesgaard reportedly apportioned equal blame to the forces the UAE controls in Hodeida for ceasefire violations during his 22 February oral briefing to the Security Council, also suggesting that the Yemeni government delegation to the RCC was impeding progress (Lollesgaard’s briefing was held during so-called closed consultations, and there is no public record of his comments). In other news from New York, on 26 February, the Security Council extended its Yemen sanctions regime by one year and the mandate of the Panel of Experts reporting to the sanctions committee until 28 March 2020. The Council also asked the Panel to next report on sanctions implementation and violations by 28 July 2019. 

In Washington, a joint resolution passed by the House of Representatives, which would direct the U.S. to “remove its armed forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen, except U.S. armed forces engaged in operations directed at al-Qaeda or associated forces” within 30 days of enactment, had its status as a privileged bill revoked because of last-minute amendments. The bill has been remanded to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where it is unlikely to be brought to a vote anytime soon. Senators Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee, and Chris Murphy plan to push legislation with similar text in the Senate, but that bill would then have to return to the House for action. This means a bill is not headed to the President’s desk for signature or veto in the near term.

The EU and the League of Arab States (LAS) held their first-ever summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on 24-25 February. In a joint declaration, the EU and the LAS gave their full support to the UN special envoy for Yemen and called for the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement. In November 2018, Germany’s ruling coalition rejected licenses for future arms exports to Saudi Arabia and imposed a temporary moratorium on deliveries of previously approved equipment to Saudi Arabia after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. This moratorium will expire on 9 March. Germany is under pressure from Britain and France to exempt big defence projects from its moratorium on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Reacting to a recent jihadist attack in Iran by Jaish ul-Adl, which the Islamic Republic claims to be backed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Sadollah Zarei, the head of the Iranian Qods force’s think tank, warned that those two countries “should know that if hurting Iran from Pakistan’s soil is a ‘good opportunity’, Iran has better access to the ‘good opportunity’. If it is needed, Iran can be present in a friendly country to hurt the many Saudi and Emirati forces there and make them leave that country,” a comment that would appear to reference Yemen.

Bottom Line: The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been less vocal this week about their frustration on the slow pace of implementation of the Stockholm Agreement, either because they have been sufficiently mollified or because they recognise the limits of what Security Council members are willing to say – and the dangers of demanding that ceasefire violators be named and shamed. Bellicose rhetoric from Iran is a reminder that the alternative to slow, painful implementation of the agreement could be a more violent conflict in which Tehran is more openly involved.

Click here for the latest CrisisWatch entry for Yemen.