Civil War in Yemen
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- India and its neighbourhood- relations
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
In News: The Saudi-led coalition resumed air strikes on Yemen’s main port city of Hudaydah after a lull as Western allies pressed Riyadh to end a war that has left the impoverished country on the verge of starvation. But even before the lull, at least 150 people were killed in 24 hours of clashes in the port city.
The respite that followed coincided with a visit by British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt to Saudi Arabia to press for an end to the nearly four-year war that has killed more than 10,000 people. Western governments that support the coalition with arms and intelligence have toughened their stance on Yemen after the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 sparked a global outcry and opened Riyadh to possible sanctions.
Hudaydah is an entry point for 80 percent of the impoverished country’s food imports and relief supplies. The United Nations has warned that any disruption to the port risks triggering a famine.
- The cost of food, fuel and water supplies has skyrocketed as the value of the national currency has plummeted
- Water and sewage treatment services are at risk of collapse because of soaring fuel prices – meaning many of these same children and families may also be without access to safe water and sanitation.
Where is Yemen: Yemen is at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula and borders Saudi Arabia and Oman. It has been in existence as a state in its current form since the early 1990s. Yemen is only 30km from Djibouti in Africa, which sits across the Bab al Mandab straits, which means Gate of Tears.
What has caused this war?
- For a little more than three years, Yemen has been locked in a seemingly intractable civil war that has killed nearly 10,000 people and pushed millions to the brink of starvation.
- The conflict has its roots in the Arab Spring of 2011, when an uprising forced the country’s long-time authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
- The political transition was supposed to bring stability to Yemen, one of the Middle East’s poorest nations, but President Hadi struggled to deal with various problems including militant attacks, corruption, food insecurity, and continuing loyalty of many military officers to Saleh.
- Fighting began in 2014 when the Houthi Shia Muslim rebel movement took advantage of the new president’s weakness and seized control of northern Saada province and neighbouring areas. The Houthis went on to take the capital Sanaa, forcing Mr Hadi into exile abroad.
- The conflict escalated dramatically in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states – backed by the US, UK, and France – began air strikes against the Houthis, with the declared aim of restoring Mr Hadi’s government.
- The Saudi-led coalition feared that continued success of the Houthis would give their rival regional power and Shia-majority state, Iran, a foothold in Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbour. Saudi Arabia says Iran is backing the Houthis with weapons and logistical support – a charge Iran denies.
- Both sides have since been beset by infighting. The Houthis broke with Saleh and he was killed by Houthi fighters in December 2017. On the anti-Houthi side, militias include separatists seeking independence for south Yemen and factions who oppose the idea.
In June 2018, Saudi-backed government forces began an assault on the key rebel-held port of Hudaydah, the entry point for the vast majority of aid going into Yemen and a lifeline for the starving. Aid agencies warned the offensive could make Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe much worse.
Humanity: In Grave Crisis
More than 6,800 civilians have been killed and at least 10,700 injured since March 2015, the UN says. Well over half of the dead and wounded have been caused by Saudi-led coalition air strikes. According to the UN Human Rights Council, civilians have repeatedly been the victims of “unrelenting violations of international humanitarian law”.
- About 75% of the population – 22.2 million people – are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 11.3 million people in acute need who urgently require immediate assistance to survive – an increase of 1 million since June 2017.
- Some 17.8 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and 8.4 million are considered at risk of starvation. Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children under the age of five.
- With only half of the country’s 3,500 health facilities fully functioning, at least 16.4 million people are lacking basic healthcare.
- The war has also forced more than 3 million people to flee from their homes, with 2 million still displaced.
Why should this matter for the rest of the world?
- What happens in Yemen can greatly exacerbate regional tensions. It also worries the West because of the threat of attacks – such as from al-Qaeda or IS affiliates – emanating from the country as it becomes more unstable.
- The conflict is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia. Gulf Arab states – backers of President Hadi – have accused Iran of bolstering the Houthis financially and militarily, though Iran has denied this.
- Yemen is also strategically important because it sits on a strait linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world’s oil shipments pass.