War within war: On Saudi’s intervention in Yemen
The conflict has its roots in the Arab Spring of 2011, when an uprising forced the country’s long-time authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The political transition was supposed to bring stability to Yemen, one of the Middle East’s poorest nations, but President Hadi struggled to deal with various problems including militant attacks, corruption, food insecurity, and continuing loyalty of many military officers to Saleh.
Fighting began in 2014 when the Houthi Shia Muslim rebel movement took advantage of the new president’s weakness and seized control of northern Saada province and neighbouring areas.
The Houthis went on to take the capital Sanaa, forcing Mr Hadi into exile abroad.
The conflict escalated dramatically in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states – backed by the US, UK, and France – began air strikes against the Houthis, with the declared aim of restoring Mr Hadi’s government.
Forces aligned with the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) – which wants an independent south – said they had seized control of military camps and the presidential palace.
The opposing Saudi-led coalition said it had responded with military action. The government itself characterised the STC’s seizure of Aden as a “coup”.
Coalition forces had called on the STC to withdraw from their positions in Aden or face further action. It said it launched its strike against a “threat” to the country’s government.
Houthi Rebels supported by Shia majority country Iran:
The Saudi-led coalition feared that continued success of the Houthis would give their rival regional power and Shia-majority state, Iran, a foothold in Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbour.
Saudi Arabia says Iran is backing the Houthis with weapons and logistical support – a charge Iran denies.
Both sides have since been beset by infighting. The Houthis broke with Saleh and he was killed by Houthi fighters in December 2017.
On the anti-Houthi side, militias include separatists seeking independence for south Yemen and factions who oppose the idea.
- In recent, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a militia group that was fighting the Houthis as part of the Saudi-led coalition, turned against their masters and captured the presidential palace in Aden as well as the city’s main port.
- In return, Saudi jets targeted STC fighters before a tenuous ceasefire set in. It now looks like a three-way conflict.
- The Shia Houthis, who the Saudis claim are backed by Iran, are controlling much of the country’s north including Sana’a.
- Yemen’s internationally-backed government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the Saudi ally, is controlling the south, though Mr. Hadi is running the purported administration from Saudi Arabia.
- The STC wants the south to be an independent entity, like it was till the Yemeni unification in 1990.
- The STC’s rebellion also signals the growing friction in the multi-national coalition Saudi Arabia has stitched together to fight the Houthis.
- The STC is backed by the UAE, a crucial partner of Saudi Arabia in its foreign policy adventures.
Consequences of Yemen Instability and crisis:
According to the UN, the stalemate has produced an unrelenting humanitarian crisis, with at least 8.4 million people at risk of starvation and 22.2 million people – 75% of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance.
Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children under the age of five.
Yemen’s health system has all but collapsed, while the world’s largest cholera outbreak has killed thousands.
In June 2018, Saudi-backed government forces began an assault on the key rebel-held port of Hudaydah, the entry point for the vast majority of aid going into Yemen and a lifeline for the starving.
Aid agencies warned the offensive could make Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe much worse.
The latest conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, began when the government slashed fuel subsidies in the summer of 2014, prompting angry protests and forcing thousands onto the streets of the capital, Sanaa.
According to the UN, more than 2 million Yemen families left their homes since the beginning of the conflict, which has spread to various parts of the country.
In Sanaa, international aid and assistance has failed to sustain those who need it, creating a critical shortage of food, medicine, and medical supplies, among others.
According to the data collected by Al Jazeera and the Yemen Data Project has found that more than 18,000 air attacks have been carried out in Yemen, with almost one-third of all bombing missions striking non-military sites.
While Yemen is left with unimaginable human suffering. It is time for a nationwide ceasefire and talks with all stakeholders under the mediation of a willing UN to find a political settlement to the crisis.