THE Middle East has a long history of conflicts and the region is currently still in turmoil because of the ongoing militancy, and struggle for power. The Yemen Saudi conflict added a new face to the security landscape in the region, and there has been a constant surge in hostilities from March 19, 2015 up till now. The war has caused a lot of collateral damage and transformed into a humanitarian crisis. Therefore, it’s pertinent to dig into the root causes of the conflict, which has culminated into a full-fledged air campaign against the poorest country of the region by the wealthiest country.
The origins of the conflict can be traced back to the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ which culminated in to tumult and catastrophe for many Arab countries. The Houthi insurgency against the Yemeni government had continued since 2004, waxing and waning at different times. The situation exacerbated in 2009, drawing Saudi Arabia in it but became silenced soon. The ‘Arab Spring’ had its reverberations felt across Yemen in the form of a Yemeni revolution. The Houthi leadership sided with the protestors for the removal of the President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Later, Saleh left the office and the Houthis boycotted the 2012 elections, which resulted in the victory of Mansoor Hadi.
The fighting in 2014 culminated in the capture of Sanaa, the capital of Yemen in September, and in the start of 2015 laid a seizure on the presidential palace. After a month of the seizure President Hadi managed to move out of the capital to Aden. The actual conflict started on 19 March 2015, when the troops loyal to President Hadi and those against him fought at the Aden Airport. The fighting reached Aden, and President Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia.
As of October 2016, the war in Yemen has caused almost 10,000 people dead including 5000 civilians according to the UN and almost 3 million people have been displaced. 19 million which constitute 80% of the total population are in dire need of humanitarian aid. Looking from another angle, despite all the sectarian strands associated with the conflict, it also depicts the internal rift between various factions in Yemen. The element of domestic power struggle can’t be ruled out. The ‘Arab Spring’ protests and the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh who had ruled Yemen for almost 33 years resigned paving the road for Houthi insurgency. In the power struggle between the Houthis and the Islamists, the former resorted to partner with their adversary, Ali Abdullah Saleh. In a long rule spanning over 33 years, Ali Abdullah Saleh had mastered the art of playing with all sides and the Houthis slipped into his side. Although the goal of the Houthis remains unclear, the objective of Saleh is quite clear; he doesn’t want Hadi to become president. Therefore, the war in Yemen is a conflict of personalities.
The conflict can be resolved if a personality acceptable to all the fighting groups, mediates. The issue must be resolved without wasting time, as there has been much loss of human life and property. It seems that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been trapped into the US double game as it has made a deal with Iran, thus bolstering its role as a regional power and afterwards making a US350$ arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom claims that it is being surrounded by Iran from three sides, and that Iran is supporting the rebel movements. In this situation, the Kingdom should understand the intricacies of the duplicitous role of the US, and tread carefully to save itself from economic crisis. The war in Yemen is draining the Saudi economy, with many mega projects on the stand still. The Kingdom will have to realize the ongoing power politics in the region, and should decide to act in a wise manner.
— The writer is Research Assistant at the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad