Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

The Yemen Crisis

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The Yemen Crisis

The mounting conflict in Yemen will put an adverse effect on the regional security and inflict heavy sufferings on Yemenis. Following the Syria’s conflict, Yemen is most likely to be the target of militant fighters, who seek to destabilize the region. Moreover, the attacks against Houthis by Arab coalition will backfire filling the victims with a sense of revenge. In the future, there will come radical figures from the heart of crisis and carry out terrorist attacks against the attackers, which will undermine the security situation in the region. The turbulence will pave the ground for the foothold of terrorist fighters, too. Syria is a clear example. With the clash between Syrian freedom fighters and the regime of Bashar al-Asad, the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) capitalized on the turbulence and sought their political objectives.
The conflict in Yemen has been compounded following the killing of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president. The war in Yemen has its origins in the failure of a political transition following the 2011 Arab Spring. Yemen has been devastated by a war between forces loyal to the internationally-recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi movement.
Feeling Saleh’s long-running rule was only serving his interests, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis filled the streets in the first two months of 2011, protesting against poverty and unemployment. As weeks passed, the protesters’ calls escalated from demanding government reforms to seeking Saleh’s removal, accusing him of mismanaging the economy and corruption. In early 2011, student-led demonstrations in the capital, Sanaa, quickly spread to other cities, including Aden and Taiz. The protests prompted a brutal crackdown which resulted in the killing of at least 50 people. The deaths caused a public outcry, triggering mass resignations of government ministers and high-ranking military officials. Saleh, who had previously rejected a proposal by opposition groups that would see him leave power peacefully, indicated in March that he planned to step down. Eventually, the protests forced Saleh to hand over power to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, for a two-year period as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) transitional deal.
With a 65 percent voter turnout, Hadi became president in a referendum-like election that was supported by the international community.
As new alliances were formed, Houthi forces and Saleh supporters, who were previously at odds, teamed up to fight forces loyal to Hadi’s government. In September 2014, the Houthis took over Yemen’s capital. At the start of 2015, the Houthis tried to take over the entire country, eventually forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia, where he has been ever since.
In March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition began its air campaign, code-named Operation Decisive Storm. According to Saudi Arabia, the coalition aimed to “shift from military operations to the political process” in order to restore Hadi’s government.
The conflict continued and more than 8,600 people have been killed and 49,000 injured since March 2015, many of them in air strikes by a Saudi-led multinational coalition that backs the president. The conflict and a blockade imposed by the coalition have also left 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and created the world’s largest food security emergency.
What followed was two-and-a-half years of fighting which appears to have entrenched both sides, while three UN-organized efforts to negotiate a peace deal have failed.
Pro-government forces – made up of soldiers loyal to President Hadi and predominantly Sunni southern tribesmen and separatists – were successful in stopping the rebels taking Aden, but only after a fierce, four-month battle that left hundreds dead.
Jihadist militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and rival affiliates of ISIL have meanwhile taken advantage of the chaos by seizing territory in the south and continuing to carry out deadly attacks, notably in government-controlled Aden.
The launch of a ballistic missile towards Riyadh in November 2017 prompted the Saudi-led coalition to tighten its blockade of Yemen. The coalition said it wanted to halt the smuggling of weapons to Houthis by Iran – an accusation that officials in Tehran denied – but the UN said the restrictions could trigger “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades”.
On  November 29, fighting erupted in Sanaa between the erstwhile allies. With both sides blaming each other for the rift, on 2 December Saleh appeared on television to tell the Saudi-led coalition that he was open to turning a “new page” in relations. He called upon the coalition to stop air attacks and loosen its blockade on the country and offered fresh talks – an offer welcomed by the Saudi-led coalition but that prompted accusations of betrayal from Houthi forces.
On Monday, Saleh’s long and dominant presence in Yemeni affairs came to an end after being killed near Sanaa. Houthi sources said Saleh was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade and shooting attack on his car. Now Saleh’s death will likely stir the political stalemate in Yemen, possibly throwing the country into further chaos.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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