News Update 22 May 2015

Highlights:
Diary
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.

Humanitarian Disaster:
Yemen conflict fans food insecurity
IRIN — 22 May 2015
The conflict in Yemen is worsening the country’s food insecurity, according to a new report, which predicts that the parts of Arab state may enter an emergency phase by the end of the year. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) is forecasting that Yemen will be at “PHASE 4: Emergency” by November, meaning “at least one in five households face extreme food consumption gaps resulting in very high acute malnutrition or excess mortality.”

Children bear brunt of Yemen’s war
IRIN — 18 May 2015
Aid agencies in Yemen are warning of dire consequences for the country’s children if the conflict there does not stop soon. Not only are children being killed and injured by bomb strikes and gunfire, but malnutrition and diarrhea are on the rise due to limited access to food and clean water and in the south of the country there are reports of an outbreak of Dengue fever. Meanwhile, vaccination rates have plummeted because vaccines have spoiled in the absence of the electricity for their refrigeration and because it has been too dangerous for many families to take their children to clinics.

Yemen conflict: A passport out of war
BBC News — 21 May 2015
Waves of Yemenis are taking to the sea in packed yachts or wooden dhows meant to ferry fishermen or livestock, not a people fleeing for their lives. The boats dock in Djibouti’s main harbour or the miniature port of Obock further north, a jumble of rocks just 30km (19 miles) across the Red Sea from its neighbour torn by war.

Into Africa: Yemeni refugees wait out war in heat and dust of Djibouti
Los Angeles Times — 18 May 2015
Besides hosting a new flow of refugees, who mostly arrive via boats across the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti has also become a logistic hub for a massive relief effort to Yemen during the five-day cease-fire, which ended Sunday, bringing renewed bombardment – and probably more refugees. During the truce, international aid agencies working out of Djibouti have shipped thousands of tons of foodstuffs, fuel, medicines, sleeping mats and other essentials to Yemen by boat and plane. United Nations officials and aid groups have called for an extension of the cease-fire and the opening of peace talks between the warring factions. The recent fighting in Yemen has forced almost half a million Yemenis to flee their homes, according to the United Nations. Most have remained inside the country, internally displaced, often trapped. About 30,000 people — Yemenis and foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens — have left Yemen since a Saudi-led bombing campaign against rebels challenging the Yemeni government began in March, the U.N. says.

UN Concerned About Enormous Humanitarian Impact of Yemen Bombing
Voice of America — 20 May 2015
U.N. aid agencies report the humanitarian impact of the nearly two month Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen and a blockade of fuel and other imported relief supplies is enormous. After taking stock of the situation following a recent five-day humanitarian pause that allowed for the delivery of life-saving assistance, the agencies say they are extremely troubled by what they see. Officials say the few days in which the guns fell more or less silent has allowed them to view the extent of suffering being endured by hundreds of thousands of citizens displaced by the conflict. The U.N. refugee agency has revised its displacement figure upwards from 300,000 two weeks ago to more than 545,000 now. The death toll also has gone up over the past two months of escalating fighting. Latest United Nations figures put the number killed at 1,849 and the number wounded at nearly 7,400.

UN officials unhappy with Saudi Arabia’s plans for Yemen aid
McClatchy DC — 8 May 2015
The United Nations and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are locked in a bitter dispute over Riyadh’s insistence that humanitarian aid for Yemen be coordinated through Saudi authorities. Senior diplomats in Geneva say that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was taken aback when Saudi King Salman scheduled a May 17 conference in Riyadh to discuss aid to Yemen. Ban had planned to hold such a conference in Geneva on Monday, at which he hoped to restart the failed U.N. peace process.

Humanitarian flights unable to land, after bombing Sana’a International Airport
Yemen Times — 6 May 2015
The United nation urged the Saudi-led coalition to stop targeting airports, and sea ports including Sana’a International Airport in order to facilitate access of aid into the country. “Without access to the airports, aid agencies are unable to bring in staff, vital supplies of medicines and other critical life-saving assistance,” said UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Johannes van der.

Petroleum Derivatives Arrive to Yemen
Yemen Times — 14 May 2015
Yemen Petroleum Company (YPC) announced that large quantities of petroleum products have arrived in Yemen in order to supply the local market in the capital Sana’a and the rest of the provinces in Yemen.

Fuel shortage leads to Yemen hospital shutdowns
IRIN — 5 May 2015
For a doctor in the middle of a warzone, Hamoud al-Jehafi has spent very little time in recent days dealing with patients. The head of Yareem Public Hospital in the central Yemeni city of Ibb, he has been so preoccupied with finding fuel to keep the lights on that he hasn’t found time to treat the injured. “We have had no power at the hospital for days, and the Yemen state oil company said they can’t get us any more for at least two days.”

UN Negotiations:
Uglier by the day
Economist — 9 May 2015
Mediating between the parties has become more difficult. Neither America nor Saudi Arabia appear to have a direct line to the Houthis. Foreigners have previously relied on Jamal Benomar, a former UN envoy, to work with the Houthi leader, Abdelmalek al-Houthi, with whom he met regularly before the war began. Mr Benomar stepped down in April, apparently under pressure from officials in Riyadh who thought he was treating the Houthis too kindly. A new and inexperienced envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has been appointed to replace him, but it is unclear whether he will have much sway over the Houthis. If he doesn’t, Yemenis face harsh days ahead.

U.N. announces Yemen talks, Iran to allow ship inspection
Reuters — 20 May 2015
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday announced talks between warring Yemeni parties in Geneva on May 28 to end over seven weeks of war, as Iran agreed for international inspections of an aid ship sailing to Yemen. In New York, the U.N. Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the Yemen crisis. It issued a statement urging “all Yemeni parties to attend these talks and engage without preconditions and in good faith,” while also calling for the resumption of humanitarian pauses in the fighting. The foreign minister of the exiled Yemeni government based in Saudi Arabia appeared surprised by the announcement and said the Houthis must first disarm and quit cities they seized since last September first. But Yemen’s U.N. Ambassador Khaled Alyemany said all parties, including the Houthis, would attend

The UN’s Yemen Problem
Foreign Affairs — 11 May 2015
The UN’s frustrated efforts in Yemen mirror its past peacekeeping failures during the 1962 Yemen civil war. In September of that year, a cadre of young military officers who called for a Yemeni republic overthrew the last Yemeni imam, Muhammad al-Badr. Six years of civil war ensued, constituting one of the darkest periods in modern Yemeni history as Egypt and Saudi Arabia armed opposing sides in a war that seemed destined to go on forever. Within months of the start of hostilities, UN Secretary-General U Thant asked the Nobel Prize–winning diplomat Ralph Bunche to serve as a special envoy to Yemen. Bunche then spent most of his time shuttling between Cairo and Riyadh to convince Egypt and Saudi Arabia to withdraw from the conflict. When the warring parties reached interim agreement in 1963, the Security Council commissioned the United Nations Yemen Observation Mission (UNYOM) to oversee the withdrawal from Yemen of Egyptian soldiers and Saudi weapons.

Political Leadership:
In Saudi Exile, Yemen Leaders Risk Losing Touch With Country
Bloomberg — 19 May 2015
Hadi still enjoys support in parts of Yemen, especially the south. That’s being eroded, as Yemenis on the ground view him as endorsing prolonged airstrikes amid severe food and fuel shortages, said Farea al-Muslimi, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. The Riyadh meeting “is simply irrelevant to everything,” al-Muslimi said. It will make Hadi more unpopular, because “you’re going on TV and asking the world to keep bombing your country.”

Lebanon’s Hizbollah and Yemen’s Houthis open up on links
Financial Times — 8 May 2015
Hard evidence is scarce, but sources in Washington, Riyadh and London insist Hizbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard experts are in Yemen, most likely for planning and co-ordination. Analysts say any military links are likely quite limited. Hizbollah — already fighting in Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad and playing a small role supporting Shia militias in Iraq — is militarily stretched and based far away from Yemen. While two Hizbollah members said hundreds of Lebanese and Iranian trainers and military advisers are in Yemen already, these claims were impossible to verify.

The Riyadh Conference Concludes
Yemen Times — 19 May 2015
The Riyadh Conference which was held in order to tackle the Yemeni crisis under the slogan “Saving Yemen & Building a Federal State” ended on Tuesday. The three day conference concluded by all political parties, religious and tribal representatives agreeing on a statement that supports President Hadi and creating a joint force that will use military and political means to end the rebellious Houthi movement in Yemen.

Saudi-led Coalition targets Ex President Ali Abdulla Saleh’s residence
Yemen Times — 10 May 2015
The Saudi-led coalition launched at least three airstrikes targeting the Ex President Ali Abdulla Saleh’s residence today in Sana’a. Yemen Today, the TV channel belonging to Saleh aired a pre-recorded video of him addressing the people in front of his house which has been destroyed by the coalition’s airstrikes. He called what is happening in Yemen a “genocide, a war of revenge and hatred”, he called for the people to hold their weapons and fight back, and declared his alliance with all those fighting against the invasion describing it as a “coward invasion.”

The Fighting:
Saudi shells hit Yemen aid office, killing five refugees: local official
Reuters — 22 May 2015
Saudi shells hit an international aid office in Yemen on Thursday killing five Ethiopian refugees, a local official said, while violence across the country put United Nations-led peace talks in doubt. The official said that 10 other refugees were wounded when artillery fire and air strikes hit the town of Maydee along Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia in Hajja province, a stronghold of the Iran-allied Houthi rebel group that a Saudi-led Arab alliance has been bombing for eight weeks. Saudi spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri denied Saudi involvement and blamed the Houthis. “If the report is correct, it would be the responsibility of the Houthis, who have a big presence in the area,” Asseri told Reuters by telephone.

Raids hit Yemen rebels, allies ahead of new talks bid
AFP via Yahoo! News — 21 May 2015
Saudi-led coalition warplanes carried out fresh raids on rebel positions in southern Yemen Thursday as pro-government tribesmen advanced on Shiite Huthi strongholds in the north, tribal and army sources said. On the political front, Iran said it backed UN-brokered efforts to relaunch political talks but was opposed to foreign interference in Yemen’s conflict, in which it backs the rebels.

A Cease-Fire in Yemen, but Fighting Is Persistent
New York Times — 12 May 2015
A precarious cease-fire took effect in parts of Yemen on Tuesday night, in the first negotiated halt to hostilities since Saudi Arabia started a bombing campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels in late March. There were reports of clashes and at least one airstrike in the southern city of Aden, a major confrontation point in Yemen’s war, after 11 p.m., the starting time for the cease-fire. And vicious fighting in the hours leading up to the truce, including airstrikes that were reported to have killed at least 70 people, cast doubt on the willingness of the combatants to abide by terms of the cease-fire, which is supposed to last for five days.

Mysterious new force emerges in Yemen to fight rebels
Los Angeles Times — 3 May 2015
A shadowy new pro-government force has been deployed in the embattled Yemeni port city of Aden, according to reports Sunday, sparking speculation that ground troops from the Saudi-led coalition may have joined the battle against Houthi rebels and their allies. Saudi Arabia, however, denied that it had sent ground forces to Aden or any other part of Yemen.

Arab coalition steps up pressure on Yemen’s Houthis
Al-Jazeera — 19 May 2015
A three-day conference on the Yemen crisis has ended in Riyadh, with participants reiterating their support for exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Arab coalition taking part in the ongoing air campaign. The conclusion of the summit on Tuesday came as coalition jets hit Houthi fighters and their allies in Sanaa in the first strikes on the capital since the end of a five-day humanitarian truce on Sunday night. Residents of Sanaa told the Associated Press news agency that the overnight strikes were the heaviest since the truce expired.

Aden: Clashes in Al Tawahy Leave Dozens Killed and Injured
Yemen Times — 7 May 2015
At least 80 people have been killed in the port of Aden in fierce clashes between Houthi militants and Popular Resistance in Al Tawahy district on Wednesday. As the fighting intensified, Houthi militants shelled a boat and a gathering of civilians on the port as they were trying to flee Al Tawahy heading to Al Buraiqa, an area considered relatively safe. Rescue workers said that at least 40 people died, including women and children.

The Province of Saada labeled as a “ Military Target”
Yemen Times — 9 May 2015
The Saudi-led coalition launched on Friday evening what has been described by locals as “the heaviest” air strikes on Saada province since the beginning of the operation on the 26th of March. The coalition’s spokesperson General Ahmed Al Assiri said that the entire province is considered a military target. Locals in the old city of Saada said leaflets were dropped by coalition warplanes warning all citizens to leave the area before 7pm.

On-going Clashes Between Houthis and Popular Resistance in Taiz
Yemen Times — 10 May 2015
Violent ground clashes continue in Taiz between the Popular Resistance and the Houthis backed up by forces loyal to the Ex- President Ali Abdulla Saleh. Although the Houthis have been making advancements in the past three days in Taiz, Popular Resistance were able to regain control over “Al Ekhwa” district and take over Zayed Park. Local Sources said that at least 13 Houthi militants and 2 Popular Resistance leaders have been killed in this attack.

Saudi Arabia vs. Iran:
The Gulf’s Failure in Yemen
Foreign Affairs — 6 May 2015
Now, to help Yemen find its way out of the hole, regional and international communities need to reconsider their methods of brokering peace in the beleaguered country. Neither the current draft constitution nor the proposed federal division of Yemen’s regions enjoy any sort of consensus approval or popularity in Yemen. In fact, the Houthis’ opposition to these so-called political solutions helped them rise to power. Further, creating a new Yemen—through a fresh constitution or federalism—will not work until state institutions are functioning again. A peace plan must stay grounded in the present reality, not balloon into an overly ambitious plan for the future.

Saudi Arabia, Iran both losers in Yemen war
Al-Monitor — 4 May 2015
Operation Decisive Storm has resulted in collective losses. Saudi Arabia has failed militarily, Iran politically, while the military capacity of the Houthis and Saleh dwindled and prevented them from exercising absolute control on the ground. However, Yemen as a country has lost the most, as it entered the cycle of civil war and witnessed widespread destruction as a result of Saudi bombing and Houthi expansion. On top of this, the damage inflicted to the Yemenis will not be repaired any time soon. Saudi Arabia is looking for a way to get out of the military impasse, while Iran is seeking to use the political situation to its advantage. Meanwhile, a political settlement remains hard to reach in Yemen, as the state institutions collapsed and social conditions have deteriorated as a result of the civil war.

Is Iran really to blame for Yemen conflict?
Al-Monitor — 8 May 2015
This is first and foremost a Yemeni civil war, in which Saudi Arabia and other states have unwisely chosen to dramatically intervene. Furthermore, alleged direct Iranian intervention in Yemen not only contradicts Iran’s intrinsically defensive posture in the region — which many US policymakers and institutions have acknowledged — but also greatly overstates Iran’s capability to influence events in Yemen in such a decisive way.

Yemen Then and Now: The Sad Chronicle of a Failed State
New Yorker — 1 May 2015
What will become of Yemen’s political debris? How will the geopolitics of the Gulf region be affected? It’s not out of the question, a Saudi analyst told me, that Saudi Arabia would want to consume, formally or de facto, part of the Hawdramaut. Control over the former South Yemen would give the kingdom access to the Arabian Sea, a route for imports and exports that would avoid the volatile Strait of Hormuz.

New Tensions Build Between U.S. and Iran in Waters Off Yemen
Wall Street Journal — 19 May 2015
The U.S. military and its Saudi allies are preparing for another potential showdown with Iran in the Gulf of Aden over the fate of a cargo ship said to be carrying aid for Yemen. Two Iranian warships have linked up in the waters off Yemen’s coast with an Iranian vessel believed to be carrying humanitarian aid for civilians caught in Saudi Arabia’s two-month-old bombing campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels who have seized control of Yemen’s capital and government, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

ISIS:
Daesh claims Yemen mosque attack
Gulf News — 22 May 2015
A bomb exploded at an Al Houthi mosque in the Yemeni capital Sana’a on Friday, wounding 13 people, a security source said, and Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on Twitter. “If there was an explosion it has already happened in Sana’a in the people’s district in an Al Houthi mosque. Daesh claims responsibility,” said the group.

Al-Qaeda and Qat:
Top Qaeda Figure Dies in Yemen Drone Strike
New York Times — 7 May 2015
An American drone strike in a southern port city of Yemen last month killed a senior operative of the Qaeda branch in that country who had recently emerged as a public face of the group, it announced on Thursday. The Qaeda operative, Nasr bin Ali al-Ansi, had appeared in some of the group’s most significant public announcements, including a video claiming credit for the deadly attack on the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. A statement disseminated by the group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known as A.Q.A.P., said that Mr. Ansi had died along with his son and six Qaeda fighters during a strike in the port city of Mukalla.

Yemen: Al Qaeda Outlaws a Stimulant
New York Times — 14 May 2015
Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, which seized control over the port of Al Mukalla nearly a month ago, has barred residents from trading or chewing khat, the leafy green stimulant that has been a habit in that country for centuries, local Yemeni journalists reported Thursday. Armed men were seen confiscating bundles of khat, burning them in bonfires and inspecting the markets for violators.

Press:
Journalist kidnapped in Yemen as conflict intensifies
Committee to Protect Journalists — 7 May 2015
Al-Sufi, which is the journalist’s professional name–his legal name is Waheed Mohammed Naji Haider–was at a post office in Sana’a on April 6 with his cousin, Fahmy al-Ezzi, to pay the phone bill for Al-Arabiya, according to news reports. Al-Ezzi told CPJ that two gunmen in civilian clothes heard al-Sufi saying he wanted to pay the phone bill for the newspaper and asked him if he worked for the pan-Arab Saudi TV channel of the same name. Al-Sufi said he worked for the Yemeni news outlet Al-Arabiya, which has no relation to the Saudi channel. Al-Ezzi told CPJ the men put al-Sufi in a white Land Cruiser with no license plates and drove away.

How Yemen information minister’s tweets broadcast the fall of Sana’a
Guardian — 21 May 2015
Nadia al-Sakkaf will never forget the night the rebels took the capital: their first move was to occupy the TV and radio stations and the newspaper offices to issue orders and control the news. So Yemen’s minister of information – an experienced journalist in her previous life – did the obvious thing: she took to Twitter. It was 20 January when Houthi fighters stormed the seat of government in Sana’a, triggering the latest crisis convulsing the Middle East. Yemen had already seen its veteran president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, toppled in the wake of Arab spring protests. But the transition had gone badly wrong – largely because Saleh was still active – talks on a new constitution collapsed, and now outright civil war loomed.

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