In 2015, a civil war broke out in Yemen. A war that has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Yemen has been politically unstable until the unification of the Yemeni Arab Republic which was backed by the US in the north and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen which was backed by the USSR in the south. When the two united, Ali Abdalla Salah, the president of the Yemeni Arab Republic, became the new president of the new state. Until then, the county saw many uprisings many of which came from the south between 2004 and 2010. In 2011, the Arab Spring broke out in many Arab countries, leading to the overthrow of many dictators such as Husni Mubarak of Egypt and Zainu Al Abidin of Tunisia; Yemen and Ali Abdalla Salah were no an exception. When the Arab Spring reached Yemen, heavy protests erupted and later forced Salah to transfer his power to his vice president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
There was a power vacuum at this point, allowing southern separatists and Al Qaeda to gain power in the country; even Salah’s loyal military units participated in this power grab, adding to the instability. After years of political unrest, the Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah, emerged as the main player in the county’s civil war and took control of a large portion of the country. As a Shia group, the Houthis instilled fear in several Arab Sunni countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. They were concerned that Iran would develop significant influence in the region and establish itself on its boundaries.
Saudi Arabia formed a Sunni-majority Arab coalition in 2015, which included Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as non-Arab countries such as Eritrea and Pakistan. The war was mostly initiated with air campaigns against the Houthis. Because of its length and human cost, the war has drawn worldwide attention and criticism. However, due to their interests, many Western powers support the conflict.
The primary backers of the war are Britain, France, and the United States. We can argue that Britain and France support the war because the weapons used are acquired from them, and these two countries benefit financially from the ongoing conflict in Yemen. Although the United States supplies weaponry to the coalition, other causes motivate the US to support this conflict.
The security of the Saudi border is one of the reasons why the US supports this conflict. Saudi Arabia is an oil powerhouse, producing half of the world’s oil, and an unstable Saudi Arabia will lead the oil market to collapse. If the Houthis take control of the country, Iran will gain a significant amount of influence and pose a significant security danger to Saudi Arabia.
Another factor is the free passage of the Bab Al-Mandeb strait; this strait is critical for global oil transportation, and a Yemen controlled by the Houthis will raise concerns about the strait’s security and free transit. Finally, Washington wants a government in Sanaa that will work with the United States to combat terrorism. Because the Houthis have been recognized as a terrorist organization by the US State Department, the US government must work with the coalition to combat them.
The war has resulted in one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises. The official death toll from the war is 7,700, but monitoring groups believe it is much higher; they estimate that the true death toll is 100,000, with a thousand more deaths due to malnutrition, disease, and poor health. 24 million people require humanitarian aid and protection, and 18 million people do not have access to safe water. The battle also resulted in the greatest cholera outbreak in history, displacing 3.65 million people.
Saudi Arabia and the Houthis should lift their restrictions on humanitarian aid and commercial imports. Yemen is dealing with not only a horrific war but also a devastating humanitarian disaster. Only international assistance and foreign aid can help the millions of people who are starving and malnourished. Due to Saudi Arabian and Houthi blockades, supplies are unable to reach their intended destinations.
A bridge controlled by the Houthis was demolished by the Saudi-led coalition. This bridge used to transport 90% of the UN’s food supplies. A naval blockade established by Saudi Arabia, which is backed by the United States, has resulted in food scarcity. These limitations and blockades should be lifted immediately as a solution to the Yemen situation, as Yemen is in the midst of a deadly conflict and a humanitarian disaster.
Another answer to the country’s political unrest is for the majority to take control of its political and economic affairs. This may not appear to be pragmatic, but it is. Countries headed by minorities in terms of politics and economy end up in chaos. For example, prior to the 1990s, South Africa was an apartheid state ruled by a minority white population. The whites clung to power as the blacks fought back, resulting in years of turmoil and uncertainty about the country’s future. Yemen’s majority Sunni should govern the country while respecting the Shia minority’s independence and rights in order to overcome present and future challenges.
Proxies battling over the country should not participate in the reconciliation process. States that fuel conflict for domination and influence will never honestly participate in peace talks and reconciliations to end the war since their primary focus in the conflict is to achieve their own goal and prevent their adversary from achieving theirs. These states will not participate in any peace processes and will instead exacerbate the conflict. All sides should be committed if peace is desired, including the mediating countries, to all peace efforts to terminate the ongoing war in the country.