The revolt against the Saleh regime has come in waves where periods of strife have been followed by periods of peace, and then new strife. A total of six rounds – the last ending in February 2010 – have been won. During this period, campaigns have spread out of Sadah province, and both sides have recruited local tribes on their side. The fact that the war has developed in the direction of tribal war makes mediation difficult. The tribes involved often come into conflict due to disputes over land and other resources, and involve both Houthis and government soldiers in local conflicts.
6: Houtistans across the border into Saudi Arabia
According to weddinginfashion, the last round of fighting began on August 11, 2009, when the government launched Operation Burnt Land against the Woods. But the Houthis were difficult to overcome. In November 2009, they took control of Jabal al-Dukhan, a mountainous region in Saudi Arabia , after relations between them and Saudi Arabia had become more tense. Saudi Arabia began to defeat the Houthis, while government troops pushed back the rebels. The United States and the West viewed the campaign as a distraction from their main agenda, namely the fight against al-Qaeda. They are therefore pushing for an end to the campaigns.
In February 2010, President Saleh launched a peace agreement in five points – between other prisoner exchanges, the woodcutters had to escape fortresses, guarantee free movement of vegans and conquered weapons were to be returned. The ceasefire has continued until now, but there have been sporadic skirmishes between tribes allied with the two sides. The 250,000 who have become refugees after the conflict are still in refugee camps, and the human suffering is great.
7: The regional context
What is happening in Yemen is affected by several conflicts in and around the countries around:
- The conflict and rivalry between Saudi Arabia (mainly Sunni Muslim) and Iran (mostly Shia Muslim). Saudi Arabia views Iran with suspicion since Iran has shown interest in supporting Shiites politically and militarily – Saudi Arabia is experiencing internal strife with its own Shiites and is looking with concern at Iran’s regional power struggles. The country does not want Iranian-backed Shiites to gain a foothold in Yemen and has therefore supported Yemen in the fight against the Houthis.
- The dispute between Eritrea and Yemen , which is based on skirmishes over the Hanish Islands in 1996. Since 1996, there have been minor, annual conflicts between them as a result of disputes over fishery resources in the Red Sea. Yemen blames Eritrea for supporting rebel groups in Yemen, while Eritrea’s new friendship with Iran makes Yemen At the same time, the two countries have supported different sides in Somalia. Yemen has supported the transitional government, while Eritrea has supported Islamist rebel groups such as the radical al-Shebab, which also has a close relationship with al-Qaeda in Yemen. Nearly 150,000 refugees from the Horn of Africa in Yemen – most of them Somalis – also complicate relations with countries in the region.
- The conflict between the United States and al-Qaeda , where al-Qaeda’s Yemeni allies are increasingly using Yemen as a training ground. In 2009, a U.S. Colonel (Hasan) killed 13 S. soldiers at a Texas base. Hasan seems to have been inspired by the Islamist Yemeni sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki. Hendinga also shocked the Americans, who alternately try to support and pressure Yemen into more measures against al-Qaeda.
8: Internal, structural problem
Yemen is struggling with several serious structural problems: oil revenues are declining, demographically the country is experiencing a sharp increase in population, groundwater is disappearing, poverty is widespread, opposition groups are numerous and corruption is widespread. But even though the challenges are great, Yemen has powerful allies in Saudi Arabia and the United States, which cannot allow a state collapse on the Arabian Peninsula.
Buying supporters with positions and monetary gifts has been a strategy for the president. Falling oil revenues contribute to the fact that it is no longer so easy for Saleh to buy support from tribes and other groups. Poverty is becoming more visible because neighboring Saudi Arabia and Oman are so much richer. Press censorship and declining living standards have made the regime more unpopular. At the same time, it is important that parts of Yemeni society – many of the tribes – have had little real connection to the state other than through money transfers. This reinforces the negative effect of the shrinking income.
Little outside aid (cf. skepticism due to widespread corruption) and reduced food production (less rain) also make life harder for ordinary Yemenis. One bright spot may be that Saudi Arabia seems to be increasingly supporting Yemen.