OPINION | Taking Stock of On-going Crisis in Yemen
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OPINION | Taking Stock of On-going Crisis in Yemen

By Federica Fanuli
Editor-at-Large, IndraStra Global

OPINION | Taking Stock of On-going Crisis in Yemen

Between the late 2011 and the early 2012, the Arab Spring deformed the recent history of Yemen. The ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose ran government for over thirty years, was forced to leave power. Since then, the country is devastated by the conflict between the Houthi Shiite rebels and the soldiers devoted to former President against the Saudi led coalition. It’s a complicated war to understand, because next to the local rebel groups there are external state actors. The United Nations has tried several solutions, political and humanitarian, clearly rejected by Saudi Arabia along with Iran,. Point to be noted, both these countries plays key roles in the Yemeni crisis.

The Events of the Arab Spring

Yemen, a country situated on the south of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by the Saudi Arabia and Oman is one of the poorest States of the Middle East. From 1962 until 1990, Yemen was divided in two State: the Arab Republic of Yemen, ruled in an authoritarian manner by Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, Marxist. After thirty-seven years of dictatorship, in 2011, the President Saleh fell down under the pressure of the Arab Spring, fomented by Houthis and the Islah militia, within which there are also the Muslim Brotherhood Yemenis. A political transition led by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar that are trying to save Yemen from the crisis. The elections after the removal of Saleh have decreed the victory of Abdel Rabbo Monsour Hadi as the new President of Yemen. The change of guard is legitimized by the Arab countries and the West, but in spite of the timid attempts of ceasefire between the parties, the Houthi movement - which has conquered the capital Sana'a and a part of the city of Aden with the support former President Saleh, once a political opponent - has caused the fall of the neo-government. Because of the conquest of Aden, Houthi and their invasion of the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb - which connects the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, strategic Sea Line of Communication (SLOC) route for the traffic of oil from the Gulf and the market between Europe and Asia – has started a military intervention led by the Arab States, with the support of the Arab League and the United State. Yemen was US ally in the campaign against terrorism and Al Qaeda - but without the support of the United Nations. The operation "Decisive Storm" had a goal to provide necessary protection and defence for the government of President Hadi, in order to reject the Houthi aggression and counter the presence of Al-Qaeda and it's growing of Black Caliphate on Yemeni territory.

Rivalry and the Failure of Negotiations

The risk of an ideological and political collision between Shiites and Sunnis, i.e., between Iran and Saudi Arabia, is always higher range of spectrum. Geographical, historical and cultural reasons push the two rivals to clash - as well as in Syria - on the Yemeni camp. Historically, the Saudi strategy in Yemen aims to contain instability across the border and to protect its economic interests by curbing the involvement of non-state actors and strengthen their influence on the country. Among the objectives of the Saudi Arabia it seems the monarchy does not apparently guide Yemen towards a path of democratization and institution building. A strong and independent neighbouring State could be a threat to the House of Saud. As matter of the fact, Riyadh would not have appreciated the involvement of Zaydi al-Houthi movement in the national and international peace process, initiated during last Spring. The political recognition of the group could turn into a serious trouble and eventually granting Iran the opportunity to consolidate its influence in the area by taking advantage of the Houthis who are already depict themselves as an armed wing of the Iranian presence in Yemen. By Shiite propaganda, Tehran could structure the movement of Hezbollah on the Lebanese model, perfecting the decisive apparatus to wage the proxy war that sees Iran opposed to the Saudi Arabia. Yemen is a failed State and it’s a widely accepted fact. And, it is a fertile ground for the political-religious clash between the two regional powers. Although the likelihood of stabilization appears to be linked to the desire of the two competitors, the UN has attempted a series of negotiations to reach a peace agreement, but in vain. The talks - that were supposed to carry out as of December 15, 2015 - have dropped as a result of the attack that killed the governor of Aden province, Jafar Mohammed Saad. Apparently an attempt was made by the rebels to hinder the negotiations, although the murder was later claimed by the Islamic State, the third wheel in the conflict.


The conflict in Yemen could depend on the evolution of the conflict in Syria or escalate as the Syrian crisis proceeds. As in Syria, the civil war in Yemen was born from the cradle of internal instability that was gradually regionalised to become the field where state and non-state actors clash against each other. The dependence on external actors might have influenced the decision of the Houthi to not take part at the negotiations and eventually killing the hope for having a ceasefire. But, one cannot underestimate the terrorist element in the Yemeni context. The slowdown of international diplomacy could lead to the strengthening of Al-Qaeda, although it cannot be ruled out that Al-Qaeda is already exploiting the confuse situation to increase its influence. This could be a defeat especially for the American administration, which for years employs resources in the anti-terror campaign in Yemen.

About The Author:

Federica Fanuli was graduated with honours in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Salento and she has obtained a Master’s Degree in Political Science, European Studies and International Relations at the same University. Foreign Affairs analyst, she is Editorial Manager of Mediterranean Affairs, a project aiming to provide analyses that cover the Mediterranean area. Columnist of the Sunday Sentinel, she is Editorial Board Member of Cosmopolismedia.it and Editor-at-large of IndraStra Global. She can be reached at her LinkedIn profile. / Thomson Reuters ResearcherID : M-9093-2015

Cite This Article:

Fanuli, F. "OPINION | Taking Stock of On-going Crisis in Yemen" IndraStra Global 002, no. 02 (2016): 0068. http://www.indrastra.com/2016/02/OPINION-Taking-Stock-of-On-Going-Crisis-in-Yemen-002-02-2016-0068.html |ISSN 2381-3652|