2018 has been a year filled with intense conflicts such as the war in Yemen, Syria, South Sudan and ISIL related events and may birth higher profile crisis in 2019. The war in Yemen is a schoolbook illustration of a tragic humanitarian crisis, with over 2.4 million Yemenis people displaced and about 13,600 people have been killed so far. Famine, droughts and diseases are the most challenging issues in Yemen. Unemployment has grown to 40% while nearly 54% of the Yemen population are below the poverty line.
The Yemeni Civil War is an ongoing conflict that started in 2015 between two sides: the Houthi militia and the then-incumbent Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government with their allies involved. The government’s arrangement to lift fuel subsidies in July 2014 fired heavy protests in the streets by the Yemeni people and mostly the Houthi supporters who held that the Hadi’s government should resign. In September 2014, the Houthis militants forced the government to leave by taking over Sana’a – the largest city in Yemen and the centre of Sana’a Governorate. The Houthis were supported in their advance by former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in 2011.
Yemen is more of a proxy war than a Sunni-Shia war.
Iran is believed to be supporting the Houthis with arms and logistics, Saudi Arabia sees the Iranian action as a threat and in turn supports Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government to fight the Houthis. The involvement of Saudi Arabia has increased the number of deaths of civilians. The Saudi-led coalition has applied air strikes in the markets, villages, schools and even on a school bus, killing about 29 children on board. The Yemen war is more or less a scuffle of power between two enemies, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The prolonged conflict has permeated ISIL and AlQueda elements into the country which of course has attracted the US involvement in the Yemenis crisis: to fight against the ISIL/AlQueda from further expansion. The US-Saudi Arabia partnership has also extended to Yemen as Saudi-led coalition relies on US intelligence and logistics to stabilize the conflict.
Can Yemen War Be Fixed?
Yes. But it is going to take the full audience of the local actors involved – to sit down and negotiate for the future governance of Yemen. A third party country can mediate between the two belligerents and seek to address the issues that caused the crisis first. For humanitarian sake, an interim government should be installed based on a power-sharing model. This will lessen the intense humanitarian crisis and further buy time for unbiased infrastructural government policies that will benefit all. Again, much time and attention will be assigned to enforcing a proper election.
For the above to work facilely, all the foreign actors like Iran and Saudi Arabia should withdraw their interests and military aids in the Yemenis war. If it becomes impossible, both parties should take responsibilities in protecting civilians and aid workers. The Saudi-led coalition should halt its relatively frequent air strikes which killed many civilians and destroyed homes, schools and markets.
Thawing ISIL and AlQueda strongholds in Yemen should be a priority not just for the US alone but by the international community before it spreads like a virus to other vulnerable parts of Yemen and becoming a breeding ground for recruitment. ISIL militants have claimed some numbers of bombings and killings of civilians and military including the bomb clash in the military base at Aden. Although AlQueda is against the Houthi rebels who they see as infidels, posing same sides with the Saudi-led coalition -a twisted plot.
Yemen needs top humanitarian attention. The warring factions must provide safety of the aid workers, humanitarian organisations such as Doctors Without Borders, Red Crescent Society, World Food Program etc. The Yemen crisis may not be settled instantly but proper negotiation and leadership can quieten the intense conflicts and create a smooth environment for a wave of long-term peace and stability.