War in Yemen

Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

War in Yemen is a result of a failure in political transition.  A resolution is becoming more and more difficult. 

Saudi Arabia sees Iranian expansionism in Shia centered areas of Yemen and Lebanon and have been actively supporting future Sunni movement in the Arab World. Therefore, Saudis have been spending lavishly on its military budget ($87 billion, third largest in 2016), which included US-approved arms sales during the Obama administration and military aid from the United Kingdom.

The Government in Yemen are fighting Houthi rebels, an extremist faction following Zaydi brand of Shia Islam since 2002, but the war has escalated dangerously in recent years.

Houthi rebels have already gained control of the Saada province and neighbouring areas.  Common Yemenis, including Sunnis, had supported the Houthis and in 2014, they had entered Saana, Yemen’s capital. The following year, Houthi presence in the city was so strong that the President of the country had to deport to the southern port city of Aden for safety.

Saudi Arabia is actively involved in combat in Yemen with military assistance from eight other Arab states. Saudi leaders are justifying their invasion because they believe Houthi rebels are Iranian proxies and are harming the peace in the region. In March 2017, Iran backed arms dispatched to Houthi rebels were intercepted, signifying active connections between Iran and Houthi leaders.

Seventy percent of the country’s population is in need of humanitarian aid. About twenty people die every day. Press reports have put Yemen on the radar where starvation is eminent.

Western Yemen is already in control of Houthi rebels including the city of Taiz, from where the rebels fire missiles in retaliation. Sniper presence in the city have hit their targets silently and bullets come from nowhere and at any time. Not even children have been spared. Anything that moves has been shot at and dead bodies have been lying in open.  Landmines have been planted randomly. Treatment is not possible in hospitals. In Taiz, access to journalists is rare and dangerous.

Yemeni government backed by the UK, US and France have driven the rebels out of the southern port of Aden city to keep the pro-government leaders under safety since last few months. Taking advantage of the war, ISIS militants have also joined in the war, in the southern city of Aden and have been stepping up their attacks by bombing Zaydi Shia mosques.

A majority part of the country’s infrastructure has been turned into rubble.  Being the Arab world’s poorest country, it will take many years for economic recovery under normalisation.

More than ten thousand people, mostly civilians have died in the ongoing war. It is believed that more will die of starvation and hunger in times to come. It is because Yemen relied 90% on food imports but current blockades imposed by UN on April 2015 and aerial bombardments has made survival difficult.  

Saudis have been blamed for bombing schools, health facilities and wedding parties as well. The coalition has been charged of using weapons for the war that have been banned in 100 countries.

In 2013, a reconciliation dialogue conference was launched, but it was given a cold shoulder by the Houthi leaders. Saudi backed mercenaries in Yemen will unlikely achieve its aim for the coalition as well.

About one hundred and twenty thousand Yemenis have already escaped war and have migrated to places like Somalia and Djibouti, where they have to cope with inadequate shelter and lack of food.

In Yemeni culture, invaders are looked down upon. In its history all invaders, despite bigger in numbers and better in armour, have tasted defeat, be it the Ottoman Turks or the Egyptians.

Saudi led coalition needs to learn lessons from US backed invasion of Afghanistan, where trillions of dollars and most advanced military haven’t still defeated the Taliban. How can Saudis aim to defeat the Houthis who now control a sizeable chunk of the country? Infact, Saudis are still struggling to control its southern border with Yemen.

US will unlikely restrain Saudi from military combat in Yemen, and for this reason, the situation in Yemen is becoming threatening day by day. On the contrary, no world leader is attempting to solve the food crises in the country. Infact, Trump administration is looking at a deeper military involvement.


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