The aspirations for long-lasting peace in the war-torn country of Yemen have once more slipped from between its fingers. A cease-fire was negotiated in the spring between the two warring parties - the Houthis and the forces of the internationally recognized government. Although the cease-fire was maintained through several extensions, negotiations inevitably broke down in October.
Regardless of its longevity, the brief armistice did provide Yemenis with some reprieve. Intel from the United Nations ascertained that neither side enacted a major military operation in the war and there was a drastic decrease in casualties at around 60%.
Saudi Arabia’s government has spearheaded an alliance against the Houthi insurgents, who have asserted control of large swathes of northern Yemen, which includes the capital, Sanaa. The Houthi rebels are supported both militarily and financially by Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical rival in the gulf, Iran. Although the conflict originally began domestically, it has elevated to a full-blown international endeavor.
Yemen’s internationally-recognized government was piloted by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who abdicated the position in April. The stepping-down was purportedly orchestrated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia who in turn installed an eight-member Presidential Leadership Council. This new council was allegedly created to broker a peace deal between Houthi rebels in regard to Yemen’s civil war however, the plans did not come to fruition.
In an interview with DW News, Jens Heibach, a research fellow at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies in Hamburg, affirmed that negotiations ceased because of the Houthis. “They are in a strong position because of the way the war has developed up until now,” he told DW. “The Houthis were making maximalist demands. For example, they said the internationally recognized government should also pay the salaries for troops fighting on the Houthi side in the future. Of course, the government couldn't accept that."
At the beginning of December, a fishing boat transporting a stockpile of weapons from Iran to Yemen was intercepted by the US Navy. Included in the arms shipment were over a million rounds of ammunition along with rocket fuses and fuel. This discovery confirmed an ever-growing assumption that external forces were fueling the already red-hot conflict in Yemen.
The two geopolitical powerhouses of the region Saudia Arabia and Iran have escalated Yemen’s domestic conflict into a proxy war. The ensuing fighting has made it extremely difficult to put aside differences and come to an agreement.
Similar to the war being waged by Russia in Ukraine, it is the nation’s citizens who suffer the most. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, a staggering 11,000 children have reportedly been injured or killed since 2015.
Hunger and disease run rampant throughout the country. Figures from the UN report that around 375,000 people have been killed as a result of wartime violence alone.
Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has affected the production of grain, leading to massive shortages. Up until the start of the war in Ukraine, Yemen imported the majority of its grain from Russia and Ukraine. The conflict in Europe has exacerbated what the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has repeatedly declared as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.
Saudi Arabia’s Role
Despite their efforts to defeat the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Saudi forces have only succeeded in driving the Houthis further into the welcoming embrace of their supporter, Iran. The result of this sponsorship is a stronger Houthi contingent, whose military capabilities are now improved.
Furthermore, this alliance allows Iran to exert pressure on its rivals on the global stage: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the US.
Iran in the spotlight
Iran is under increased international scrutiny due to Iranian leadership’s unwarranted crackdowns on pro-democracy protests. In congruence with the egregious violence endemic throughout the country is the support for Russia’s war in Ukraine in the form of weapon sales, at the moment limited to drones and missiles. As a result of this, the EU has agreed to increase further sanctions on Iran.
Unfortunately for the civilian population of Yemen, none of these retaliatory sanctions are likely to convince Iran to end their sponsorship of the Houthis. In Ukraine as well as in Yemen, the people are resilient and it will take an exorbitant amount of diplomacy in order to finally end both conflicts peacefully.
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