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Peace Is Possible in Yemen

Originally published in Foreign Affairs

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

Less than two months ago, Yemen’s civil war threatened to engulf the broader Middle East. The stalemate between Iranian-supported Houthi rebels and forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition had already killed an estimated 100,000 people and spawned what the United Nations considered the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. If that wasn’t bad enough, a split in August within the fragile anti-Houthi alliance risked igniting a civil war within a civil war. And an attack claimed by the Houthis on Saudi Aramco oil facilities in September provoked threats of retaliation against Iran by Riyadh and Washington. Both within Yemen’s borders and in the wider region, further bloodshed seemed inevitable.

Yet, in an unexpected turn of events, these flare-ups appear to have opened a pathway to peace. On November 5, the chief rivals within the anti-Houthi bloc—the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC)—signed a power-sharing deal known as the Riyadh agreement. The deal was brokered by Saudi Arabia, which took parallel steps to ease its own cross-border conflict with the Houthis, expanding dialogue with the rebels and limiting air strikes in Yemen. The Houthis have halted all attacks on Saudi Arabia, and a broader Saudi-Houthi de-escalation initiative is now reportedly being discussed. If both the Riyadh agreement and the Saudi-Houthi initiative survive, and UN mediators are able to weave them into a single negotiation track, a national political settlement could be possible.

Read the full article on the website of  Foreign Affairs.

Contributors

Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
Senior Analyst, Yemen
peterjsalisbury