All You Need to Know About the Civil War Raging in Yamen


Yemen has constantly been in a civil war for more than a decade. Its current conflict escalated in March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition intervened on behalf of the internationally recognized government against Houthi rebels aligned with the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

What was defined as a war in the poor country is now described as a 'humanitarian catastrophe'. Riyadh expected its air power, backed by regional coalition including the United Arab Emirates, could defeat the Houthi insurgency in a matter of months.

The Cause

Yemen Civil war has its roots in Arab Spring. President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to resign in order to end his 33-year rule as protestors marched on the streets. He replied by giving economic concessions but refused to resign.

By March 2011 tensions rose in the capital due to which many protestors died at the hands of the military.

Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the only candidate to lead the transitional government and the vice-president made its mark to become the president in February 2012 due to a international brokered deal. His attempt to reform constitution and budget were rejected by Houthi rebels from the north.

The Houdis belong to a small branch of Shia Muslims known as Zaydis. They captivated the capital which forced Hadi to flee finally to Riyadh. There is also a strong secessionist movement in the south. Arguably too many sides benefit financially from the status quo.

What Is the Human Cost?

UN has verified the deaths of at least 7,700 civilians by March 2020, with the most caused by Saudi-led coalition strikes.

Monitoring groups believe that death tolls are more. The US -based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) declared in October 2019 that it had recorded more than 100,000 fatalities, including 12,000 civilians killed in direct attacks.

More than 23,000 fatalities were reported in 2019, making it the second most lethal year of the war by so far.

Thousands more civilians have passed away due to preventable diseases such as malnutrition, hunger and poor health. The charity, Save the Children estimated that 85,000 children with severe acute malnutrition might have died between April 2015 and October 2018.

About 80% of the population - 24 million people - need humanitarian assistance and protection. Some 20 million people need help securing food, according to the UN. Almost 10 million are considered 'one step away from famine'.

An estimated 2 million children are acutely malnourished, including almost 360,000 children under five years old who are struggling to survive.

With only 3,500 medical facilities functioning, almosy 20 million people lack adequate healthcare and almost 18 million do not have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation.

Consequently, medics have struggled to deal with the outbreak of cholera ever recorded in October 2016 with 2.2 million cases suspected and 3895 related deaths.

The UN has warned that Covid 19 is another reason for the shoot in rates in various aspects. It also filed for a desperate plea for financial aid, saying its operations in the country, including vital health services were severely underfunded.

The war has displaced more than 3.65 million from their homes.

Is Britain Supporting the Saudi-Led Coalition?

The British play dual role as military advisers to the South coalition in Riyadh and diplomatic pen holders on Yemen file at the UN Security Council. This implies to some context that British is trying to be in the invidious role of broker and belligerent.

Claims like 'it has influence over not just Saudi military but also its diplomatic thinking, restraining the Saudis for instance from launching an all out assault on the port city of Hodeidah' are made by UK diplomats, including some Saudi sceptics.

What About the Peace Process?

After five months of knotty discussions a small part of the agreement has been implemented on the ground. The event took place after the UN brokered an agreement in Stockholm in December to demilitarize the Red Sea City of Hodeidah.

The Houthis promised to a two- phase redeployment out of the city and agreed that an alternative force- which was poorly defined in the Stockholm  agreement will take security in the areas vacated. However, conversations between Houthi and the UAE- backed government forces procrastinated over the details.

The UN sanctioned unilateral Houthi withdrawal from three main ports on Yemen's red sea coast- Hodeidah, Ras Issa and Saleef as it had reached to a dead end. The government claimed it as fake, denoting that the Houdis had merely rebadged their fighters as coastguards.

UN's special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths was urged to resign. He ultimately resigned as not everyone in the Yemen government agreed with the analysis.

No changes or advancement has taken place in phase two redeployment or the exchange of political prisoners. To say the time is ripe for wider political talks on a transitional government to be held in Bonn, Griffith has now tried to secure enough progress in Hodeidah to get it off the hook.

Is Yemen Becoming Connected With the Wider Gulf Tension?

Yes. The Houthis with a controversial level of assistance from Iran, have escalated their use of drones and missiles strike in Saudi Arabia.

However, UAE and Saudi in turn have claimed that these attacks are engineered by Tehran to put pressure on Saudi, America's chief ally, so as to make Iran renegotiate the nuclear deal and end its regional intrusion.

The Houthis claim that the attack is a justified retaliation for the repeated Saudi airstrikes.

Why Should This Matter to the Rest of the World?

What happens in Yemen to aggravate regional tensions. It troubles west of the threats they could receive from al-Qaeda or IS affiliates- exhale from the country as tensions rise.

The conflict is also seen as a part of the regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.

Backers of president Hadi- Gulf Arab states have accused Iran of bolstering the Houdis monetarily and militarily, though Iran has denied of this.

 Yemen is also strategically important as it is situated on a strait linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which most of the world's oil shipment pass.

Written by - Peter Fernandes

Edited by – Adrija Saha

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