News Update 28 May 2015

A boy walks as he collects toys from the rubble of a house destroyed by a recent air strike in Yemen's northwestern city of Saada May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

A boy walks as he collects toys from the rubble of a house destroyed by a recent air strike in Yemen’s northwestern city of Saada May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Yemen faces catastrophe without vital supplies: Red Cross
Reuters — 27 May 2015
Yemen faces a humanitarian catastrophe unless the Saudi-led coalition allows it to import and distribute vital food, fuel and medicines, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday. Saudi-led forces began air strikes on Houthi forces in Yemen two months ago. They are enforcing inspections on ships entering Yemeni ports, saying they want to stop arms reaching Iran-backed Houthis. Commercial fuel tankers must have access to ports and the distribution system for fuel must function, Cedric Schweizer, outgoing head of the ICRC’s delegation in Yemen, told Reuters. Fuel is vital to run hospital generators and water pumping stations in the country of 26 million. Only 5-10 percent of usual imports has entered Yemen over the past two months of the conflict, which has killed more than 2,000 people, he said. Food prices have soared.

Why Saudi Arabia’s Yemen war is not producing victory
Al-Monitor — 22 May 2015
As the war in Yemen escalates after a short humanitarian truce, the stakes are getting higher for Saudi Arabia’s princes, the region and Washington. The United Nations-hosted talks in Geneva next week are unlikely to get much traction. The Saudis gave Washington three hours’ notice of the first airstrikes. The king’s son immediately became the face of the war, appearing endlessly in the Saudi media directing operations and trying to find allies to join the campaign. The Salmans also immediately sought experienced combat-tested ground forces from Pakistan to take the war into Yemen. The Pakistanis came away from meetings in Riyadh convinced the king and his son had “panicked” and jumped into the war without a viable strategy for achieving victory; the Pakistanis refused to join the war effort and leaked their worries to the press. The young prince was portrayed as “untested” and unprepared for the job. All this from a Pakistani leader, Nawaz Sharif, who spent years in exile in the kingdom and knows the royals better than any other outsider. There are similar mutterings around the Gulf states now that the Saudi leadership is impulsive and rash.

Yemen under siege: Taiz residents slaughtered by tank shells, mortars and Saudi air strikes
International Business Times — 26 May 2015
In Ta’iz, as in Sana’a, there is a stifling lack of fuel products, power outages, and the danger of Saudi-led coalition air strikes in support of president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Yet Ta’iz has the added peril of an internal armed conflict being waged between the Houthi militias and forces loyal to former President Saleh on one side, and the so called “Popular Resistance,” made up of militias close to the al-Islah Party and forces loyal to president Hadi. The people of Ta’iz are struggling to cope as the entire surrounding area is coming under fire, from the scenic outlying villages nestled beneath the mountains to the city’s beautiful intimate alleys. The mountains that have always calmly embraced the city have become the source of sudden blasts that remind people that they are not as safe as they might think. The streets of the city and villages are now bustling with rockets, shells and bullet rounds instead of people. Continue reading


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News Update 22 May 2015

London Review of Books — 15 May 2015
At the end of February, President Hadi escaped house arrest and fled to Aden, where he retracted his resignation and declared the Houthis’ administration illegitimate. Then the real war began. The Houthis started moving south and east and Aden came under siege. Hadi fled the country and resurfaced in Riyadh; the Saudis started their bombing campaign. According to UN figures, between the end of March and the beginning of May, 646 Yemeni civilians have been killed and more than 1300 injured in the airstrikes. ‘The Houthis lost a historic opportunity when they moved beyond Sanaa,’ one of the few tribesmen who still meets regularly with Abdul-Malik told me. ‘People were hungry for stability and reform. Had he stayed in Sanaa and actually fixed the system they would have become popular everywhere.’ But as it is Yemen is being held hostage by opposing forces: on the one hand, a militia determined to fulfil the divine victories promised by a dead leader; on the other a hubristic Saudi kingdom, with US backing, intent on destroying another country in its quixotic sectarian war against Iran.

Has Saudi Arabia already won its Yemen war?
Washington Post — 15 May 2015
Why then did Saudi Arabia intervene when it could have helped facilitate and influence the outcome of the negotiations, especially at a time when the Houthis faced strong domestic opposition? Because it wanted a war. It did not want a negotiated settlement where the Houthis remained part of the regime; for that would have robbed them of an opportunity to become a real military player regionally. Saudi Arabia has always been a financial powerhouse, but, despite enormous military spending, even the Houthis defeated them in the previous decade.

King Salman needs total victory in Yemen
Al-Monitor — 8 May 2015
An ill-defined war, hastily announced and from the day of its inception shrouded in ambiguous motives, is bound to become a prolonged military engagement. The Saudis risk becoming entrenched indefinitely in an adventure that neither helps battered Yemeni citizens nor scores undisputed victory for a leadership that is navigating a difficult terrain. The only way out of this awkward and dangerous situation is for the proposed five-day suspension of military action to become permanent, giving way to negotiation and compromise. This would allow Saudi Arabia to claim a different kind of victory rather than the one the Saudi leadership hopes for and ensure that the Saudis save face. But it is doubtful that the Yemenis will ever forget the devastation caused by the airstrikes of their neighbor, who has interfered enough in their internal wars. Continue reading

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News Update 03 April 2015

Yemen at War
International Crisis Group — 27 March 2015
Yemen has yet to descend into the mass communal violence and sectarianism seen in Syria or Iraq. Given the parties’ longstanding, if sceptical, participation in talks, there is reason to believe they could return to the table if the right formula is found. But the situation is rapidly worsening, with more fighting in more places, and external intervention is aggravating the potential for protracted violence. Unless this deterioration is halted, the result is likely to be a war similar to those decimating other Arab countries.

Houthi Who?
Foreign Affairs — 25 March 2015
Both the United States and Israel are certainly justified in fearing the Houthi slogan of “Death to America, Death to Israel,” particularly since it recalls for many the Iranian Revolution’s slogans from 1979. Rhetoric alone, however, cannot harm either country: the Houthis are not an international organization, nor are they capable of reaching far beyond South Arabia. The Houthi movement is a local tribal alliance seeking to overturn a secular republic that had marginalized the northern regions for decades, reestablishing instead a central government dominated by tribal authorities that existed before 1962. Their appeals for anticorruption, equality, and security are some of the main reasons they have garnered extensive public support and have emerged as a legitimate force of change for the country.

What We Get Wrong About Yemen
Politico — 25 March 2015
It is a testament to the faults of Yemen’s transitional government that even many Yemenis with deep aversion to the Houthis initially welcomed their takeover of Sanaa in September 21st of last year. Initially, it did appear that thing could be heading in a positive direction: Houthi representatives quickly inked an agreement with Hadi and other political factions; this agreement lead to the formation of a new cabinet lead by a new prime minister, Khaled Bahah, a widely respected technocrat. But tensions between the Houthis and other factions continued to grow, exploding in a crisis over Yemen’s draft constitution that saw the besieging of the homes of the president, prime minister and other key officials and the kidnapping of key presidential aide Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak. This culminated in the resignation of the president, prime minister and cabinet on January 21st, to the general shock and consternation of the Houthis, who had until then preferred to exert influence from behind the scenes rather than overtly within the seat of power.

Saudis airdrop arms to Aden defenders, Houthis pull back
Reuters — 3 April 2015
Houthi forces pulled back from a central Aden district on Friday and warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition dropped weapons and medical aid to fighters defending the southern Yemeni city, a last symbolic foothold of the country’s absent president. The Shi’ite Houthi fighters and their allies withdrew from Crater neighborhood as well as one of Aden’s presidential residences which they seized a day earlier, residents and a local official said.

Saudi airstrikes against Yemen a historic first
Al-Monitor — 2 April 2015
Yemeni political parties are remarkably silent. The external intervention in Yemen is a sensitive subject. Only the General People’s Congress and Ansar Allah have opposed the operation. The military wings of these two groups, not their political wings, are officially targets of the airstrikes. Other forces at odds with the Houthis — unfriendly parties like the Muslim Brotherhood, and those who stormed their headquarters and arrested their members — have not publicly opposed or welcomed the airstrikes.

Saudi border guard killed in gunfight near Yemen
CNN — 2 April 2015
A border guard was killed in a cross-boundary fire exchange with militants in Yemen this week, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Thursday — marking Saudi Arabia’s first publicly known military death since it launched airstrikes against rebels inside its southern neighbor. The clash occurred Wednesday night at the border in southwestern Saudi Arabia’s Asir region, when militants in a mountainous area on the Yemeni side fired on Saudi border troops, prompting them to return fire, SPA reported.

Saudi Leaders Have High Hopes for Yemen Airstrikes, but Houthi Attacks Continue
New York Times — 2 April 2015
The stakes may be highest for the Saudi king’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the king named both defense minister and chief of the royal court. The Saudi government has not disclosed Prince Mohammed’s precise age, but he is believed to be around 30. He was one of the only men in his generation of the royal family to be educated entirely in Saudi Arabia, with no schooling abroad. The Saudi news media has played up Prince Mohammed’s role as the architect and overseer of the Yemen campaign, turning it into a pivotal test.

Al Qaeda Storms Coastal Yemen City, Frees Prisoners
Wall Street Journal — 2 April 2015
Al Qaeda militants in Yemen stormed the coastal city of al Mukalla early Thursday, seized government buildings and freed at least 270 inmates from a prison, including many of its own operatives, Yemeni officials said. The 2 a.m. attack on the eastern city, an important seaport, was a new setback for Saudi-backed government forces already fighting an uprising by Iranian-linked Houthi rebels. Al Qaeda’s incursion into al Mukalla was the latest sign that the extremist group is exploiting Yemen’s sectarian strife.

Yemen’s Houthis seize central Aden district, presidential site
Reuters — 2 April 2015
Yemeni Houthi fighters and their allies seized a central Aden district on Thursday, striking a heavy blow against the Saudi-led coalition which has waged a week of air strikes to try to stem advances by the Iran-allied Shi’ite group. Hours after the Houthis took over Aden’s central Crater neighborhood, they marked another symbolic victory by fighting their way into a presidential residence overlooking the neighborhood, residents said.

Yemen combatants not ready for talks, says neighbor Oman
Reuters — 2 April 2015
Oman is ready to help the United Nations mediate in Yemen’s war, the foreign minister of the neighboring sultanate said on Thursday, but the combatants show no signs they are ready to hold talks on ending the week-old war. Yusuf bin Alawi said Oman had previously passed messages between Yemen’s Houthis and their Saudi foes, but neither had sought out such contact since Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations began air strikes against the Houthis on March 26.

Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen kill 35: Houthi-controled health ministry
Reuters — 29 March 2015
Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen killed 35 people and wounded 88 overnight, an official in the Houthi-controled health ministry told the official military news service 26september.

Rebels Seize Key Parts of Yemen’s Third-Largest City, Taiz
New York Times — 22 March 2015
Houthi rebel fighters have taken control of crucial installations in Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, including the international airport, security officials said on Sunday, in a provocative expansion of the seven-month rebel offensive that has moved the country closer to war. The Houthis’ advance into the city, over the last several days, also put them more firmly on a path toward military confrontation with opposing troops loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, based in Aden, about 120 miles southeast of Taiz. A senior security official in Taiz said the Houthis were flying troops and military equipment into the city’s airport, bolstering claims they were preparing a broader offensive.

Saudi Bombs Begin Falling In Yemen With No Clear Endgame
Buzzfeed — 26 March 2015
Dozens of Saudi jets conducted a late-night raid into Yemen on Thursday, launching an operation that has no clear end. The strikes started around 1:30 in the morning local time, hitting targets in Sa’dah, in the country’s northwest, and the capital city of Sanaa. Thirty minutes later and nearly 7,000 miles away, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, announced the beginning of Operation Decisive Storm.

Yemeni implosion pushes southern Sunnis into arms of al-Qaida and Isis
Guardian — 22 March 2015
In a hollow in the sands of eastern Yemen, a line of pickup trucks carrying tribal fighters idled. A squat man with a shock of black hair, dressed in an overflowing dusty dishdasha, walked around slowly, inspecting the men and the vehicles, loaded with heavy machine guns and light artillery. “The Houthis are behind that hill,” he shouted, pointing at a rocky outcrop sheltering the imaginary foe – northern Yemenis who overthrew the government last autumn, and seized the country’s third largest city on Sunday, according to security and military officials. “We will start by shelling their positions, and then you will storm the hill by cars and finally climb the hill on foot.”

Bombers strike rebel-linked mosques during Friday prayers in Yemen
Washington Post — 22 March 2015
Suicide bombers attacked two mosques linked to Yemen’s powerful Shiite rebels Friday, killing scores of worshipers and wounding hundreds more in a further sign that the country is collapsing into sectarian chaos. The attacks come a day after intense clashes in the southern city of Aden and an attempted assault on an oil-rich province by the rebels, known as Houthis.

Yemen’s Conflict is Getting So Bad that Some Yemenis Are Fleeing to Somalia
VICE — 2 April 2015
Carlotta Wolf, a spokeswoman for UNHCR Somalia, told VICE News that the Yemeni arrivals included elderly people and children. The groups traveled on commercial boats, and told humanitarian workers they had not brokered the trips through smugglers. Each trip reportedly lasted between 12 hours to two days, Wolf said. “Some of them, especially the Somalis, said that they lacked water on the trip,” Wolf added. “And the weather conditions are not very good.” Other refugees have also arrived in neighboring Djibouti, where the agency is currently looking to find areas to shelter them, she said.

Is Yemen Becoming the Next Syria?
Foreign Policy — 6 March 2015
The Houthis know what is coming and seem to be ready for it. In a Feb. 26 speech, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the group’s leader, launched a blistering attack on Hadi, Saudi Arabia and the U.S., accusing them of collaborating to turn Yemen into a puppet regime. It’s ironic that the Houthis, long accused of being backed by Iran, denounce their rivals as foreign puppets; especially because, if war does break out, their only hope of defeating a Saudi-backed coalition will be to lean even more heavily on Iranian support. On March 2, the government of Iran announced a deal with the Houthis to begin twice-daily flights to Sanaa, providing a vital lifeline for the group, and undoubtedly riling the Saudis even further.

Yemen: Huthi-loyal armed forces kill peaceful protesters as country descends into chaos
Amnesty International — 24 March 2015
The death this morning of at least eight peaceful protesters, shot by members of the Huthi-loyal Yemeni Central Security Forces in Ta’iz illustrates a shocking disregard for human life as the country descends into chaos, said Amnesty International. Doctors working at two hospitals in the city of Ta’iz told Amnesty International that at least another 119 individuals were admitted with injuries inflicted by security forces since anti-Huthi protests began on Sunday. Most were treated for injuries related to tear gas inhalation and at least 38 had gunshot wounds.

Why Arab armies won’t save Yemen
Quartz — 23 March 2015
As his country is enveloped in political chaos and sectarian war, Yemen’s foreign minister has called on the Gulf Arab states for military help. Their armies and air forces, he says, are needed to halt the march of the Iran-backed Shia militias known as the Houthis. The plea coincides with reports that Tehran has supplied the Houthis with fresh arms. Having already taken the capital, Sanaa, and forced the elected government to flee to the southern port of Aden, the Houthis have now stormed into the city of Taiz, in the center of the country. Yemen’s own military seems no more able to halt the militias than it has been able to defeat Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, as the local franchise of the global terror group is known.

The Islah Party in Yemen: Game Over?
Muftah — 27 February 2015
The Houthis rise to political prominence in Yemen since 2014 and their apparent alliance with former president Ali Abdullah Salih have largely occurred at the expense of the Islah party, which is considered a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Once viewed by many as the main “hijacker” of Yemen’s youth revolution and primary beneficiary of the transitional process, Islah has since been sidelined. Within a few months after the Houthi’s September 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, Islah lost its grip over most government institutions, the army, and the media; its leaders were either silenced or fled abroad.

Yemen’s Saleh proves to be a survivor
Al-Monitor — 1 April 2015
Saleh is Saudi Arabia’s bete noire. The royal family has wanted him gone for 2½ decades. His home village and stronghold was been bombed this week by the Royal Saudi Air Force. Saleh famously said that ruling fractious Yemen is like dancing on the heads of snakes. He is the consummate snake dancer. Saleh is still dancing. On the night of March 28, in a televised address on Houthi-controlled media, he appealed for an end to the “barbaric” air attacks and for there to be a cease-fire and elections. He promised that neither he nor his son would be a candidate for president but also ruled out Hadi’s return. By coming out publicly, Saleh seems to be trying to play the role of senior statesman. There are rumors that Ahmed Ali Saleh has been in Riyadh trying to broker a deal. Saleh bears huge responsibility for the disaster his country and its neighbors now confront, a failing state turning into a quagmire. But the survivor still wants to play.

Houthis: Ahmed Saleh offers to fight us proves there is no alliance
Yemen Times — 30 March 2015
The Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah, have used leaks by Saudi officials to refute claims that there is any alliance between the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. A Saudi official told Al-Arabiya on Saturday that Saleh’s son, Ahmed, offered to fight the Houthis. Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Salman told the Saudi owned Al-Arabiya that Ahmed Ali offered to fight the Houthis in exchange for a number of concessions two days prior to the launch of airstrikes in the country.

Four Weddings and a Funeral in Yemen
MERIP — 20 March 2015
The hirak’s alliance with Hadi notwithstanding, southerners have not given up their own activism. Street-level protests in favor of southern independence continue, and groups called the Popular Committees are engaged in securing territories and public estates for the south. In doing so, they enter into daily confrontations with troops loyal to the Houthis and, many believe, to former president Salih. The Popular Committees were set up along the model developed in Abyan to fight al-Qaeda and its ally Ansar al-Shari‘a in 2011. Since then, the Committees have been on the government payroll, and formally led by president Hadi’s brother Nasir, whose loyalties seem to shift regularly. The Committees are comprised of local men who sign up to provide security in areas now basically devoid of national army protection. In some towns the Committees have also helped to occupy sites of strategic importance, such as the Aden municipality building, the Aden TV building and the Hiswa power station outside the city. The Committees engaged in heavy fighting with al-Saqqaf’s Special Security Forces units at the Aden airport on March 19. Lastly, the Committees, together with local tribes, have effectively closed the former national border between north and south.

Hadi and the South: Brothers in arms or a marriage of convenience?
Yemen Times — 30 March 2015
When Hadi arrived in Aden with military-backed Houthi militias in pursuit, however, historical grievances were hastily put aside. The political climate in Yemen today makes such an unlikely alliance necessary, and it is by no means unprecedented—something Saleh’s union with the Houthis, a group he waged war with for six years, demonstrates. But Hadi is also a southerner, just as Saleh is a Zaydi-Shia, and such alliances may also reflect strong regional ties in Yemen that are never fully severed. Indeed many in the south are keen to identify Hadi as a southerner first and foremost, making it easier to forgive his political affiliations and past actions.

What a Houthi-controlled Yemen means for women
Al-Monitor — 18 March 2015
Houthis published a circular in January 2015, pertaining to women in the city of Amran, banning them from going out following the Maghrib prayer, prohibiting them from bringing male bands or singers to their gatherings or parties, banning the use of cameras at women’s gatherings and parties, including mobile phones with cameras. These new rules are being implemented in Amran, and the people there have been adhering to these rules to avoid punishment.

A bold new Arab vision…for 2009
Washington Post — 31 March 2015
Many of the same Yemenis, academics and policy analysts who had for years been warning loudly about the deep problems with the Saudi management of the transition from and grant of immunity to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh are now equally skeptical about the Saudi-led military intervention. The military campaign itself will almost certainly quickly bog down, leaving inevitable choices between embarrassing climbdown or unsustainable escalation. The air strikes, being waged over heavily populated urban areas, will inevitably cause the sorts of civilian casualties such as those inflicted on March 30 on a well-known refugee camp. The campaign’s avowed goal of the eradication or disarmament of the Houthis is unrealistic one, as is attested to by Saudi failures to defeat the Houthis militarily over the last decade. Even if it were not so impractical, doing so would only be an easy first step compared to the difficulty of any forcible reimposition of state authority in Yemen. But since the real goals of the campaign are likely elsewhere, Yemenis seem to be the latest victims of yet another regional proxy war without end.

Who’s fighting for whom in Yemen’s proxy war?
Reuters — 27 March 2015
Because Yemen is viewed as the Arab world’s poor brother — inconsequential and with little influence over the region as a whole — it serves as an avenue for the Arab world to push back against Iran. There is little other incentive for Arab governments to become involved with Yemen’s internal quagmire, other than not having a hostile government in a nation bordering the Bab al-Mandeb strait, a highly trafficked shipping line leading to the Suez Canal. Though Yemen’s domestic power struggle since the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s reign three years ago was based largely on local grievances, these two historical foes, Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, worked to use who they could in Yemen for political advantage.

The Yemen Crisis Isn’t About Yemen. It’s About Saudi Arabia and Its Desire for Regional Power
Muftah — 30 March 2015
However, as the Saudi military continues its assault on Yemen, it is becoming increasingly evident that the greatest threat to the region is not coming from Iran, but from Saudi Arabia, which has also been involved in various proxy wars. While these have mostly been aimed at curbing Iranian influence, Saudi Arabia’s approach to the region is single-mindedly driven by a desire to increase its regional hegemony.

Can Riyadh, Tehran find common ground in Yemen?
Al-Monitor — 1 April 2015
During the last couple of days the Houthis were able to capture new areas, including the Dabab port in Taiz that overlooks the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait on the Red Sea, while they continue efforts to impose full control over the southern Yemeni city of Aden, which used to be Hadi’s base. While the second objective could be regarded as a huge blow to the Saudi coalition, the first is expected to raise concerns in Egypt that defends its decision to participate in the war by citing its strategic interests to keep the Suez Canal open.

Houthi and the Blowback
Foreign Affairs — 29 March 2015
With the intervention in Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s military is trying to kill several birds with one stone. In the near term, it is safeguarding the country from what Riyadh perceives as an immediate military threat posed by advancing pro-Iranian Houthi rebels. In the medium-term, it is asserting its leadership of the Arab world and consolidating its control over what has recently been a tension-ridden Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In the long term, it is redressing what it sees as a geopolitical imbalance in the Middle East between itself and Iran. In recent years, power has tilted heavily toward Iran, in no small part due to U.S. retrenchment. The Kingdom is in a good position to kill the first two birds. And if it plays its cards right, it could make progress against the third and, as a result, shore up its status in the region at a time when other traditional powers such as Egypt, Iraq, and Syria are bleeding influence thanks to domestic conflict, political turmoil, and economic implosion. There is no shortage of risk in Saudi Arabia’s strategy, and a lot could go wrong. But the new Saudi leadership has decided that the alternative—inaction— carries intolerable costs.

The battle for the Middle East’s future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
The Independent — 30 March 2015
Unprecedented in modern Arab history, a Sunni Muslim coalition of 10 nations – including non-Arab Pakistan – has attacked another Arab nation. The Sunnis and the Shia of the Middle East are now at war with each other in Iraq, in Syria and Yemen. Pakistan is a nuclear power. The armies of Bahrain and the Gulf states include Pakistani soldiers. Pakistanis were among the dead in the first great battle against Iraqi troops in the 1991 Gulf War. But already, the battle for Yemen is dividing other Arab countries. In Lebanon, the former Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Saad Hariri has praised the “brave and wise” decision of King Salman to attack. Mr Hariri is not only a Sunni – he is also a Saudi citizen. But the Shia Hezbollah, who oppose Saudi intervention, called the Saudi assault an “uncalculated adventure”. These words were chosen with care. They are exactly the words the Saudis used against Hezbollah after it captured three Israeli soldiers in 2006, a stupid political act which started the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon that year.

Turkey’s misguided Yemen move
Al-Monitor — 31 March 2015
As soon as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lent support to the Saudi-led military operation against the Houthis in Yemen, some in Turkey were quick to jump on a puzzling argument that Yemen still belonged to the Ottomans. This, however, was hardly a surprise, for we are already familiar with the “New Ottoman” mindset, which imagines that people are looking to Turkey in each and every corner of the Muslim world.

Dissident Journalist in Yemen Is Shot and Killed
New York Times — 18 March 2015
One of Yemen’s best-known dissident journalists, who survived beatings and imprisonment under the former authoritarian government, was shot and killed on Wednesday by unidentified gunmen outside his home in the capital, Sana, according to witnesses and officials. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting, which a witness said was carried out by two men on a motorcycle. The victim, Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani, was hit by at least seven bullets, according to a Yemeni security official.

Al Qaeda Gets Media Makeover in Yemen
New York Times — 13 March 2015
Leading the fledgling publicity operation is AQAP’s first easily accessible media liaison. He explained that the goal is to dispel misconceptions about the group that the U.S. views as the terrorist organization’s most dangerous affiliate. “We believe we are misunderstood as a result of the continuing American propaganda. That’s why we want to counter the U.S. government’s narrative,” the liaison said, asking to remain nameless so that only the group’s top leaders serve as the public face for al Qaeda.

United States:
Make No Mistake — the United States Is at War in Yemen
Foreign Policy — 30 March 2015
Like all military interventions, there have been many — at times contradictory — justifications offered by U.S. officials. The NSC claimed the purpose was to “defend Saudi Arabia’s border and to protect Yemen’s legitimate government.” The State Department suggested that the intent was “to promote a peaceful political transition and share their concerns about the aggressive actions of the Houthis,” stating on March 27 that the United States backed the GCC because “they are responding to a request from President [Abed Rabbo Mansour] Hadi, who is the legitimate president of Yemen.” (Presumably, the Obama administration would not support an intervention in Egypt to restore its democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.)

Iran-backed rebels loot Yemen files about U.S. spy operations
Los Angeles Times — 25 March 2015
Secret files held by Yemeni security forces that contain details of American intelligence operations in the country have been looted by Iran-backed militia leaders, exposing names of confidential informants and plans for U.S.-backed counter-terrorism strikes, U.S. officials say. U.S. intelligence officials believe additional files were handed directly to Iranian advisors by Yemeni officials who have sided with the Houthi militias that seized control of Sana, the capital, in September, which led the U.S.-backed president to flee to Aden. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview that the Houthis may have captured a “significant portion” of the $500 million in military equipment that the U.S. has given Hadi’s government.

Yemen Chaos Derails U.S. Counterterror Strategy
Wall Street Journal — 23 March 2015
The Obama administration’s calculated gamble during the past three years in Yemen has crumbled in recent days, leaving the country on the brink of a civil war with U.S. troops involved in counterterror operations withdrawing amid intense fighting. What happened in Yemen, according to descriptions by current and former officials and experts, was a miscalculation about the changes unleashed by the Arab Spring revolutions. It involved an overreliance by Washington on a promising new leader who ultimately was unable to hold off rival forces and tensions, they said.

Yemen’s crippled economy
Al-Monitor — 6 March 2015
When discussing agriculture in Yemen, talking about the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, and cotton — all viable options on Yemeni soil — is necessary. Breeding cattle is also possible in Yemen, and there is fish wealth in the territorial waters of the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. Thus, Yemen can enhance its ability to develop and export food products. The country also has potential in the oil and gas sector, for oil production reached 133,000 barrels per day in 2014. Gas production amounted to 270 billion cubic feet in 2014, too. However, production is facing security problems, impeding the improvement of exports that could give the country good revenues. Gulf and global companies are trying to invest funds in this vital sector, but political factors and the lack of trust in the ruling administration have caused their enthusiasm to wane.

Another casualty in Yemen: Internet stability
Washington Post — 2 April 2015
The factions are now battling over the southern coastal city of Aden, which the country’s president was forced to abandon last week. And the country’s Internet connectivity is one of the victims of the fighting. Aden is the access point for one of only two submarine cables that connects Yemen to the global Internet — and researchers noted two major disruptions where that cable, which connects Yemen to Djibouti, appears to have gone dark in the last two days. But Yemen isn’t alone. When conflict strikes, Internet access is often an early casualty — cutting off communications for civilians when they need it the most.

Amid Yemen chaos, China keeps oil shipments flowing
Reuters — 30 March 2015
China has managed to export a large shipment of crude oil from Yemen over the weekend, ship-tracking data showed on Monday, despite mounting chaos in the country after the launch of Saudi-led air strikes last week. The 2 million barrel Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), Tai Hung San, left the Yemeni port of Ash Shihr on Sunday. Trading sources said the vessel was chartered by China’s state-backed oil trader Unipec. Tanker data listed it as being run by Glasford, the shipping-arm of PetroChina.

Yemen basic foodstock enough for six months: Saba agency
Reuters — 30 March 2015
Yemen has enough basic foodstock for the coming six months in all provinces and wheat stocks stood at 930,100 tonnes on March 26, the first day of Saudi-led air strikes against rebels, state news agency Saba said on Monday. Deputy minister of trade and industry Abdullah Nouman was cited by Saba as saying that 660,275 tonnes of wheat had come into the country from January up until March 25.

IMF says postpones Yemen loan program for now
Reuters — 26 March 2015
The International Monetary Fund on Thursday said it was postponing its next review of its $553 million loan program to Yemen given the uncertain situation in the country. “Obviously we’re watching the rapidly evolving situation carefully and closely at the moment,” IMF spokesman William Murray told reporters. “Given a host of uncertainties surrounding Yemen at the moment, the first review of the Fund-supported program is postponed until the situation clarifies.”

Yemen’s largest power plant in need of urgent repairs: ‘could stop at any point’
Yemen Times — 18 March 2015
Yemen’s largest power plant will, at most, run for 1.8 years before completely ending operations if urgent maintenance on deteriorating parts is not carried out. The plant provides power for 40 percent of the country. The General Corporation for Electricity warned on Tuesday that the 1.8-year figure, about 16,000 hours, is the maximum amount of time the country has, and that the gas-operated plant, based in Marib, could stop operating at any point. The plant began operating in 2009 and has been repeatedly attacked. Those attacks increased in the aftermath of Yemen’s 2011 uprising.

Majority of Yemeni minors lack birth certificates
Yemen Times — 23 March 2015
For many people around the world, a birth certificate is a person’s first legal recognition by the state that they exist. In Yemen, 83 percent of minors remain without one, leaving them vulnerable to a number of abuses. For parents, the first time most are asked to produce a birth certificate for their children is when they register them for school. Registration for first grade begins in Yemen at age six.

Political crisis and Yemen’s literary resurgence
Yemen Times — 23 March 2015
Despite ongoing political and economic turmoil, national literature saw an unexpected surge in 2014. Twenty novels were published by Yemeni authors last year, and while that figure may seem insignificant in a regional or global context, it is considerably more than the eight books produced the previous year. Indeed, it is about ten percent of all the books ever published by Yemeni writers, and considering the hardships facing the country today it is an extraordinary achievement.

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News Update 20 February 2015

The “Yemen Model” as a Failure of Political Imagination
International Journal of Middle East Studies — February 2015
Unfortunately, there is something of a vicious cycle in this process. The seeming irrelevance of formal institutions to crisis management—let alone to the more robust standard of accountable governance—is at once a symptom and a contributing factor to activists’ turn outward. Yet activists will find it difficult to effect change without engaging state actors and institutions. How will the informal meet the formal without being subsumed by its impoverished logic of representation? By failing to account for the role of informal practices in building formal institutions, scholars and policymakers may overlook a critical ingredient in the development of the kind of state capable of responding to Yemen’s current crises and to the broad and diverse aspirations of Yemeni society.

The Failure of the Transitional Process in Yemen
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik — February 2015
In the end, only the Yemeni stakeholders can lastingly counter the political crisis in Yemen, and then only through political action. Given the complex mesh of Yemeni actors, external military intervention is more likely to aggravate the situation. Since the international community no longer has any real influence on these stakeholders, it can only attempt to exert pressure by either approving or disapproving of specific Houthi actions. Germany and its partners therefore need to urge the Houthi movement to make real compromises; and they must reject its unilateralism. At the same time, they should insist that all stake holders participate within the framework of the existing political institutions. It is especially important to integrate the Hirak leaders so as to prevent further radicalization of that movement.

In Yemen, Hard Times Remain a Constant as Rebels Take Charge
New York Times — 6 February 2015
Difficult is just how life is in Yemen, yesterday, today and every day. It does not matter that the president and his cabinet have resigned, that the government has not functioned for weeks or that the gunmen in control of the streets say they plan to set up a new regime to their own liking. Families have always had to struggle to get through their days in a country where the government has long been incapable of delivering essential services. There is hardly any running water now — and there was hardly any before the political crisis. Continue reading

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News Update 29 January 2015

How the Houthis Did It
Foreign Policy — 23 January 2015
Abubakr al-Shamahi, who until recently worked as a researcher in Sanaa, says that Hadi’s decision to resign was inevitable given this week’s events, but may not have been what the Houthis ultimately wanted given that their modus operandi has been to chastise Hadi for neglecting to address the population’s economic grievances and policy failures. Yet, the Houthis don’t seem intent on governing: thus far, they have failed to provide practical alternatives and have never showed a keen interest in ruling, preferring rather to pull strings from behind when convenient. After all, trying to lead Yemen is not a task for the faint of heart. “It puts them in a bad position. Who else do they have to blame? The president’s gone,” said al-Shamahi, who also reports for London-based newspaper al-Araby al-Jadeed.

In Yemen, Violence Pays
New York Times — 28 January 2015
Throughout a six-month Houthi onslaught last year, Mr. Hadi refused to send army reinforcements to fight the Houthi militia in the north. Instead, he set up a series of mediation committees to try to arrange cease-fires as well as involve the Houthis in the political process. This approach made sense to Mr. Hadi and the United Nations — they wanted to avoid outright civil war, and thought diplomacy would work. But Yemen moves to a different rhythm. In our country’s culture of tribalism, a party to a conflict must engage in the ritual of violence, if only for the sake of saving face, and leave it to third parties to negotiate. Mr. Hadi’s repeated failure to punish Houthi aggression and his tepid calls for peace were read as weakness.

Yemen Conflict Alert: Time for Compromise
International Crisis Group — 27 January 2015
The current situation is dire, but it offers opportunities as well. All political groups, as well as the majority of average citizens, are dissatisfied with Hadi’s stewardship of the transition. Since the September takeover, especially, he is widely perceived as weak and unable to put the political process back on track. His departure, while destabilising, offers a chance to Yemenis to select a more broadly acceptable and effective leadership. This, in turn, would make it possible to forge the informal political consensus necessary to implement and clarify existing transitional agreements. Until now, the Huthis have had little incentive to compromise. As the victors, they have increasingly been enforcing their interpretation of existing agreements, while claiming to speak for all Yemenis. In doing so, however, they are alienating and even radicalising their opponents, particularly Islah and southern separatists. Under the current circumstances, any attempt by the Huthis (Ansar Allah as they prefer to be called) to form a military or presidential council without genuine buy-in from other parties would result in a significant domestic and international backlash against them. Continue reading

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News Update 23 January 2015

Yemen crisis: A coup in all but name
BBC News — 22 January 2015
The true extent of Houthi ambition is unclear; but the fact that they did not kick Mr Hadi out of the presidency or claim the premiership indicates they prefer to control from behind the scenes by placing their members in ministries and high-level government positions. This allows them to consolidate power, but without being saddled with ultimate responsibility. But the resignations of Mr Hadi and Mr Bahah now turn the table on their strategy. Sadly, the rebels’ tactics affirm the power of the gun over the power of persuasion, and it marks a massive setback for the democratic transition process that began in 2011 with a youth-led uprising against longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a new government, and a successful National Dialogue Conference that produced agreement on the country’s most pressing problems.

Yemen in Crisis
ECFR — 23 January 2015
The next few days will unquestionably be crucial. At writing time, Houthi fighters reportedly have the homes of many members of the now-resigned cabinet under siege. All eyes are set on Sunday’s meeting of the two houses of the Yemeni parliament, which could very well reject the president’s resignation, sending the country into further uncertainty. Indeed, little remains clear at the moment, except for the fact that the country is likely facing its most crucial juncture since the overthrow of the Mutawakkilite Monarchy on 26 September, 1962.

The End Of Yemen?
Buzzfeed — 22 January 2015
Huthi spokesmen on al-Jazeera television have suggested that the movement will name a presidential council to take control of what is left of the government. But any such Huthi move toward a consolidation of political power in Sanaa, will likely be met with opposition in the south of the country. Already there are reports from local television in the southern port city of Aden, which has long desired secession, that orders from Sanaa are to be disregarded. Continue reading

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News Update 16 January 2015

Thousands protest in Yemen against president, Shiite rebels
AP via Yahoo! News — 14 January 2015
Thousands of people have demonstrated in Yemen’s capital to demand both the ouster of Shiite Houthi rebels who control the city as well as the country’s beleaguered president. The demonstrations Saturday were the first of their kind demanding President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi step down since he took over the presidency after a popular revolt toppled his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in 2011. Many in the streets chanted slogans accusing Hadi of mismanaging the country to the point where state institutions collapsed and militants could take over. They have named their protest the “rejection” movement.

Iran’s shallow influence in Yemen
Al-Monitor — 12 January 2015
Iranians are very wrong to believe that the delicate situation in Yemen ended with the Houthis’ control of the capital. In Beirut, Iran has extensive influence held by Hezbollah, which is playing its political role as part of a specific and clear process divided among different parties. In Syria, the sectarian dimension of the regime has only just appeared. In the past, this dimension was marginal in a regime leaning more to nationalistic dictatorships, such as the Baath Party in Iraq. In Iraq itself, the situation is also different. A sectarian regime was established there and favored Shiites after the US invasion in 2003. However, in Yemen, things are completely different, since there is no state and the real power of the president and government is almost totally absent.

Defying the expected: Yemeni women in the formal economy
Yemen Times —1 January 2015
Recent decades have seen a large increase in the number of women entering the formal economy on a global scale, but countries in the Middle East and North Africa are lagging far behind. According to a 2013 World Bank report on gender inequality and development, over 50 percent of the female population aged 15 and above are participating in labor markets in every other region of the world, but the corresponding figure in the Middle East and North Africa is 25.2 percent. In Yemen, it is estimated that just five percent of women are involved in the country’s formal economy. It is easy to assume that tradition or social customs explain this lag, but there is often more involved. “Not surprisingly,” the World Bank report reads, “the lowest participation rates are in fragile or conflict-affected states such as Iraq, Palestinian Territories, and the Republic of Yemen.” Continue reading

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