Can We Talk about Yemen?
One particular conflict that has not generated as many headlines as possible is undoubtedly the one going on in Yemen. It can be argued that the Yemen war is just as old as the Syrian problem because both conflict started in the same year (2011). Although the conflict in Yemen did not escalate as fast as the one in Syria, it deserves equal attention. The Yemen conflict has its roots in the failure of the political transition that was engineered in November 2011.
Back then, a political uprising had forced longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand the presidency to Mr. Hadi who was his deputy. Mr. Hadi was unable to deal with various Al Qaeda led attacks, as well as a separatist movement in the South led by the Houthis. Corruption, food insecurity and high unemployment exacerbated the situation. In the end, many ordinary Yemeni began to support the rebel movement due to their disillusion with the political transition.
It came as no surprise when in 2011, Houthis rebels took over the capital, Sanaa, and set up roadblocks and street camps. January 2015 was a turning point when Houthis reinforced their stronghold in the capital by surrounding the presidential palace and other key points. President Hadi was able to escape via the port city of Aden the following February.
Things did not end there as neighboring Saudi Arabia feared that Houthis were backed by their arch rival for regional hegemony, Iran. Consequently, the Saudi military as well as other Sunni Arab States, launched an air campaign in order to restore power to Mr. Hadi. It must also be noted that this endeavor was backed logistical and intelligence support from the United States, UK and France.
After two years of fighting, the military conflict appears to be in a stalemate between pro-government forces and Houthis rebels. Terrorists groups such as AL-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and rival affiliates of the Islamic State are operating within this chaos and seizing territories.
The situation today is Yemen is of particular importance because it has the potential to turn into another Syria. According to the latest UN report, an estimated 16,200 people have been killed in Yemen, including 10,000 civilians.
It is unclear what the Trump administration’s objectives are in Yemen but the latest reports indicate that the administration plans to ramp up support for Saudi’s air campaign. This comes as no surprise given that some members of President’s Trump entourage are eager to inflict damage upon Iran in every way possible. Yemen represents the perfect opportunity to do just that when considering the Iran-Houthis connection.Meanwhile, innocents civilians will keep getting caught in the crossfire.