Yemeni Civil War

Yemeni Civil War

Yemen, an Arab country bordered by Saudi Arabia in the North and Oman in the east, has been the site of a civil war for 5 years now. Yemen is a Muslim country, approximately 56% of its population being Sunni and 44% being Zaidi Shi’a – the majority of the Shi’a population live in the North of the country. Sectarian tendencies among many different groups in the country have always been prevalent, yet in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring revolts in early 2011 tensions reached a new high: Ali Abdullah Saleh, then president of Yemen, wanted to remove the term limit for presidential office, which further incinerated widespread protests against poverty and corruption, and eventually led to his impeachment. Saleh had to flee and hand down his office to former vice president Hadi, who then became the new, officially elected president.

In 2014, a Shi’a insurgent group from the north of Yemen, the so-called Houthis (officially Ansar Allah), gained great territorial foothold and captured the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. The Houthis had long since been a group actively fighting for more recognition of the rights of minorities in the Yemeni state – what enabled them to so effectively gain ground in 2014 is that they joined forces with former president Saleh, who remained politically important and still has many loyal friends in the army.
The Houthis took the capital, put Hadi under house arrest, and imprisoned many members of the government. In early 2015, Hadi, along with many other leading politicians resigned, whereupon the Houthis dissolved the government completely and announced plans for an “interim government”, supposed to rule for two years. Internationally, the Houthi’s claim is not recognised. Hadi, who fled to the coastal city of Aden and has since been calling for his reinstallation as the rightful president, remains the internationally recognised president of Yemen.

On 23.03.2015, direct neighbour-state Saudi Arabia, itself an overwhelmingly Sunni country, announced “Operation Decisive Storm” to combat Houthi advancements. This involved amassing its own troops along the shared border, and founding a military coalition comprised of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan. This coalition, under the lead of Saudi Arabia, has been carrying out bombing runs on large patches of land, perceived to be controlled by the Houthis. Neither a ceasefire nor an end to the hostilities is in sight, and the downward spiral in Yemen continues thus.

The conflict in Yemen has much broader international implications than apparent at first. Saudi Arabia and Iran have long since been interlocked in a power struggle in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia fear the possibility of a Shi’a government in Yemen, and tries its best to stop the Houthi advance. Iran on the other hand, a Shi’a country, are accused of supporting the Houthis financially and logistically. Though Iran vehemently denies this, these observations serve to incorporate the Yemeni civil war into a much bigger picture, into a much bigger conflict. Concerns on international side are manifold as well: Yemen controls the Bab al-Mandab strait, through which a large part of the world’s oil trade passes – a Houthi takeover could mean great economic uncertainty thus. Also, Yemen is home to the AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, officially Ansar al-Sharia), the biggest and most volatile branch of Al-Qaeda. Due to the biggest armed forces in the country fighting each other, AQAP has steadily been gaining ground in Yemen, along with the ever – encroaching threat that is the so-called Islamic State.
This conflict yearns to be resolved – how will you go about this?

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