Conflict Alerts # 430, 1 September 2021
In the news
On 29 August, the Houthis launched drones and ballistic missiles on the al-Anad military base in Lahij, a government-held southern province. Considered as one of the deadliest attacks in recent years, it killed at least 30 and wounded more than 60 soldiers belonging to the Southern Forces backed by the UAE and part of the Saudi-led Arab coalition.
On 31 August, the coalition stated that the Saudi air defence forces intercepted a drone launched targeting the Abha International Airport.
Issues at large
First, the stall of ceasefire talks. Saudi Arabia proposed a ceasefire plan in March 2021, aimed at lifting the blockades on Sana'a International Airport and the seaports of Yemen and ending six years of fighting that now includes multiple national and international actors. The plan and the talks were supported by the United Nations and backed by the United States. Following brisk diplomatic activities and high profile talks mainly held in Oman, the talks are now stalled after the parties failed to reach a deal. The drone attack comes against the backdrop of the failure of talks.
Second, continuing war and lingering stalemate. Yemen is marred by internal political differences and the fight between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government. The role of the external countries like the US, Arab countries and Iran fuelled the war further. The Marib offensive is one of the deadliest clashes in the six years, taking a heavy toll on the conflicting parties. While the Houthis seemed near victorious in capturing a resource-rich Marib, they are facing stiff resistance from the government forces and the coalition that have killed thousands of fighters in recent months.
Third, continuing confrontations. Even prior to the battle of Marib, the confrontations between the Arab coalition, especially Saudi Arabia and the Houthis, have occurred. While the Houthis have launched a series of attacks on the bordering cities, airports, and Aramco oil facilities, the Kingdom has responded by intercepting the drones and missiles.
Fourth, the sustenance of the Houthis. The Ansarallah started as a movement to overthrow the internationally recognized regime and gained substantial territorial control of Yemen. Over the years, they have been able to sustain, despite heavy military bombardments from the Arab coalition supported by the US. This speaks volumes about the support they receive from Iran and Hezbollah and also Tehran's expanse in the region.
Fifth, the Middle Eastern great game. Yemen is a battleground that is used by the regional states to establish their influence in the Middle East. 2015 marked the intensification of the war when the Arab coalition entered. As mentioned earlier, Iran and its proxies are supporting the Houthi rebels against the coalition. In other words, the war in Yemen has unfolded the larger geopolitical rivalries in the Middle East and the necessity of the key states to prove their sway over regional affairs.
First, misplaced priorities. Yemen is experiencing the world's worst humanitarian crisis, claiming the lives of more than 233,000 people and the risk of one of the greatest famines. Yet, the fighting seems to occupy a central stage, and the misplaced priorities of the conflicting parties are evident. With the war reaching a stalemate, the objectives of either side are far from achieved.
Second, the indifference of the international community. Yemen is not the first country to face such a crisis. Rwanda, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan, and many others, have all been victims of long-lasting conflicts that have affected millions. Yet, the indifference and insensitivity of the international community have remained consistent.