YEMEN CRISIS

  23-Aug-2018 14:23:22

Yemen Saudi Arabia UAE ShiaSunni Houthi

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A few days back 11 adults and 40 kids aged between six to eleven years old were killed by a bomb in an airstrike in Yemen. This airstrike was led by a Saudi-led coalition warplane, sold to Riyadh by the US, according to reports based on analysis of the debris.

Bellingcat, an investigative journalism site identified bomb fragments, on photographs and videos taken soon after the bombing, as coming from a laser-guided version of a Mk-82 bomb called a GBU-12 Paveway II. Bellingcat has traced the bomb to a shipment of a thousand of such bombs to Saudi Arabia, approved by the state department in 2015, during the Obama administration.

This airstrike was not unprecedented. This was one of the actions of Saudi Arabia in order to suppress the crisis that is going on in Yemen.

Yemen, officially known as the Republic of Yemen, is an Arab sovereign state in Western Asia at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen is the second-largest country in the peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea to the south, and Oman to the east.

Yemen, one of the Arab world's poorest countries, has been devastated by a civil war. It is also on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The conflict has its roots in the failure of a political transition supposed to bring stability to Yemen following an Arab Spring uprising that forced its long time authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011.

Pro-government forces led by President Hadi and anti-government forces led by the Houthis, who are backed by former President Saleh are now fighting against each other.

The Houthis hail from Yemen's north and belong to a small branch of Shiite Muslims known as Zaydis. The Houthi movement includes Yemen's Zaidi Shia Muslim minority and also contains many ordinary Yemenis - including Sunnis – who now support the Houthis.

They fought a series of rebellions against Mr Saleh during the previous decade and took advantage of the new president's weakness by taking control of their northern heartland of Saada province and neighbouring areas. And in late 2014 and early 2015, the rebels took over Sanaa.

Following this, the president escaped to the southern port city of Aden the following month. President Hadi's government is headquartered in Aden and is the internationally-recognized government of Yemen.

After talking control of Saana, they pushed towards capturing Aden but a coalition of Arab states launched a military campaign in 2015 to defeat the Houthis and restore Yemen's government.

Pro-government forces - made up of soldiers loyal to President Hadi and predominantly Sunni southern tribesmen and separatists - were successful in stopping the rebels taking Aden, but only after a fierce, four-month battle

Mr Hadi's government has established a temporary home in Aden, although the president remains in exile.

The Houthis meanwhile have not been moved from Sanaa, and have been able to maintain a siege of the southern city of Taiz and to fire mortars and missiles across the border with Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis and the Yemeni government have battled on and off since 2004, but much of the fighting was confined to the Houthis' stronghold, northern Yemen's impoverished Saada province.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia launched an international coalition in a bid to reinstate Hadi but it did not yield any results.


At the end of November 2017, a dispute over control of Sanaa's biggest mosque triggered armed clashes that left dozens of people dead. Mr.Saleh tried to have talks with the Houthis but they responded by accusing him of a "coup" against "an alliance he never believed in".

Houthi fighters launched an operation to take full control of the capital and on 4 December 2017 announced that Mr Saleh had been killed in an attack on his convoy as he attempted to flee the capital. But Saleh rejected the call and denounced what he called a coup "against legitimacy and the country's unity" when separatist units attempted to seize government facilities and military bases in Aden by force.

The situation has been made more complex by divisions within the Saudi-led coalition. Saudi Arabia reportedly backs Mr Hadi, who is based in Riyadh, while the United Arab Emirates is closely aligned with the separatists.

Saudi Arabia shares a long, porous border with Yemen, and it fears what it sees as Iranian expansionism through its support for Shia armed groups. Commentators in the Arab Gulf States often claim that Iran now controls four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa.

Yemen's war is far more complex than a Saudi-Iranian, Sunni-Shia conflict.

Along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates has conducted airstrikes on Yemeni soil. Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Morocco, Sudan, Jordan and Egypt have also contributed to the operations. Troops have been deployed to fight in Yemen, while others have only carried out air attacks.

The US government regularly launches air attacks on Al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) targets in Yemen, and has admitted to having deployed a small number of troops on the ground. The US, along with UK and France, has also supplied the Saudi-led coalition with weapons and intelligence.


HUMANITARIAN CRISIS:

In Yemen's "forgotten war," the civilian population has lost the most. According to the United Nations, the death toll surpassed 10,000 at the beginning of 2017, with at least 40,000 wounded. Coalition airstrikes and a naval blockade imposed by coalition forces in 2015 have pushed Yemen - where over 80 percent of food is imported - to the brink of famine.

Most of the country's 27.5 million people live within 100 miles of the western coast, with more than 3 million displaced by the war. The United Nations estimates that around 600,000 people live in the port area, and in a worst-case scenario the fighting could result in the deaths of up to 250,000 people.

Those who aren't killed outright would face even more desperate shortages of food and medical supplies.

Saudi Arabia has pressured aid groups to leave rebel-controlled areas of Yemen, saying that aid workers are at risk. Across Yemen, aid organisations are facing major obstacles to helping Yemenis in need of food, medicine, and other essentials as a siege of parts of the city of Taiz has prevented critical medical supplies from arriving.

In January 2016, a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders was hit by a rocket, killing four people. A bombing carried out by the Saudi-led coalition injured at least six people at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in October 2015.

In short, the situation in Yemen is, the UN says, the world's worst man-made humanitarian disaster. Amnesty International said all sides in the conflict must take precautions to ensure the civilian population is protected and aid supplies are not impeded.

What happens in Yemen can greatly exacerbate regional tensions. It also worries the West because of the threat of attacks emanating from the country as it becomes more unstable. Western intelligence agencies consider AQAP the most dangerous branch of al-Qaeda because of its technical expertise and global reach, and the emergence of IS affiliates in Yemen is a serious concern.

BY: KARUNA BALASUBRAMANIAN

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