Topic: Addressing Yemen’s Civil War
The most massive humanitarian crisis in the world is not located in Syria but Yemen. Since 2015, thousands of people have been killed, and millions have been displaced by a civil war that seems to have locked into a stalemate.
How did this all start:
Following the Arab spring, Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to resign and hand power to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in November 2011. However, years of economic stagnation, food insecurity, separatist movements and terrorism doomed this transition. This culminated in the current civil war we see today.
On one side, there are the Houthis, a political Shia rebel group aligned with Iran (Iran disputes this). On the other side, are the forces loyal to the Hadi government.
In 2014, the Houthis captured the capital of Sanaa, forcing president Hadi to flee the country and seek refuge in Saudi Arabia.
These events frightened Saudi Arabia. They see a Houthi controlled Yemen as a direct threat to their security as it gives their rival in the region, Iran, a foothold along their border. For this reason, Saudi Arabia began heavily involving itself in the war. Saudi Arabia created a military alliance involving many countries in the region to back the Hadi government. This alliance also involves western powers such as the United States and Great Britain. In 2015, the most intense violence began when Saudi Arabia began its military onslaught on the country.
No matter the ambitions of the Saudi led alliance, they have been unable to take back the north of the country including its capital. Moreover, the failing state of Yemen has made it a breeding ground for terrorist groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda that occupy much of the southern portions of the country. Moreover, both governments lack enough legitimacy to stop the country’s economic depression. Currently, the Hadi government is reliant on cash injections from the Saudi government to prevent economic collapse.
While the war is essentially frozen, the tragedies left in the conflict’s wake, have called attention to various countries participating in the conflict. Most notably, Saudi airstrikes have led to calls for investigations over war crimes. It seems that the Saudi government’s airstrikes do not take into account civilians. This can be seen from the destruction of schools, hospitals, and public markets. Most disturbing from these actions are western countries assistance to the Saudi government through weapons sales and refuelling missions. This raises concerns whether countries like the United States are complicit in Saudi Arabia’s possible war crimes.
On the other side, the Houthi forces have and still use child soldiers to help wage their war.
Like all wars, civilians seem to be paying the biggest price. Destruction of infrastructure and food supplies being cut off have only made food insecurity has only grown with approximately 17 million facing starvation unless they receive humanitarian assistance soon. Furthermore, both sides of the conflict have seemingly failed to manage the sewage and garbage in the country, exacerbating the growing cholera epidemic that has led to more non-military deaths in this war. Finally, two-thirds of Yemenis lack access to clean drinking water. The most impoverished country in the Arab peninsula grows poorer every day. Currently, it is unclear whether humanitarian assistance from the international center is received by those who need it the most.
While Yemen is a relatively small country, largely removed from the rest of the world, the conflict there should alarm every country around the world. The fate of Yemen can determine the balance of power in the middle east as well as be a fundamental part in the West’s battle against terrorism.
The international community needs to find a way that resolves this conflict. In doing so, we must consider:
- The ethnic and religious divides within Yemen (Shia/Sunni)
- The Middle Eastern cold war between the regional powers of Saudi Arabia and Iran
- Addressing war crimes committed by both sides but –> more importantly find ways to mitigate future actions considered to be a war crime
- Determining solutions to addressing Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and ensuring those who need aid receive it.
- Addressing the terrorist footholds in Yemen (especially Al Qaeda)
In this complicated middle eastern debacle, it comes to juggling your country’s foreign policy objectives in the region with the need to address a humanitarian disaster.
Links that may be helpful: