The Houthi Conflict
By Ali Younis, Staff Reporter, The Pawprint
The ongoing war in Yemen which started in 2014 is a very complex and nuanced conflict, and unfortunately one which does not get much media representation, despite the fact that the conflict is far from over. According to Tthe Guardian, in the west, issues pertaining to the war often revolve around the hunger and starvation crisis in which some 5 million Yemenis face famine, with another 16 million at risk of reaching the same level of starvation . And even this only receives occasional coverage from western news sources. One cannot understand the complex geopolitics of the players behind the war without understanding the causes. Following the end of the Yemeni Civil war in 1990, Ali Abdullah Saleh al-Ahmar became President of Yemen. Following a consolidated and somewhat authoritarian rule under Saleh from 1990 to 2011, tensions reemerged during the Arab Spring in 2011, when mass protests swept the country calling for the end of Saleh’s regime, as the same was occurring all across the Arabic speaking world.
To bring an end to the political instability, the neighboring countries of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), led by Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners (the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain) brokered a peace deal, which would see Saleh step down, with his Vice President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi succeeding him as President of Yemen. However, this did little to change the unrest of the populace, which still desired changes in the Yemeni government’s policies.
Previously, the Houthi, which are a Shia Islamic minority from the North of Yemen, had been very supportive of the protests against Saleh. The Houthi position remained against the Yemeni government, this time against Hadi, as they viewed the situation as not having changed at all. The Houthi began to openly rebel against the Hadi government, which was backed by the Saudi Arabian coalition, and by extension also backed by the United States and France. Despite this overwhelming degree of support and technological superiority, the Houthis were able to seize the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, and they aligned themselves with Saleh, who was also opposed to the new Hadi government.
The two sides of the conflict were as such poised, with the Houthis controlling the nNorth of Yemen, while the Hadi government with support from the Saudi Arabian coalition held power in the South with the city of Aden as the de facto capital. The Saudi coalition initiated a devastating blockade over Yemen, which is still in effect to this day, and is one of the principal causes behind the hunger crisis in the country. Additionally, the drone bombings carried out by the Saudi coalition have been called out as they target schools and hospitals under Houthi control, marking clear signs of war crimes committed by the coalition.
According to Reuters, the Houthi’s, being that they are a Shia Muslim minority in a largely Sunni country, appealed to the primary Shia power in the Mmiddle Eeast, that being the Islamic Republic of Iran, and regularly benefit form aid and weaponry coming from Iran . In this way, the conflict in Yemen can be viewed as a proxy war between the rival interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Arabian peninsula.
Both sides of the conflict commit a heavy degree of war crimes, with recent attacks against the UAE and Saudi Arabian oil installations drawing attention once more to this key conflict which is still ongoing in the Middle east. The results of the war would shift the power dynamic in the region, and it seems for the time both sides are content with simply keeping the war.
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