From Hope to Despair: The Tragedy of Yemen’s Civil War

Conflict in Yemen is one of the most known conflicts in the last ten years in the Middle East. The conflict is very devastating for the whole region but it can be mainly seen as a war that pushed the whole region into a big humanitarian crisis. The first steps to this were made by Arab Spring in 2011 which destabilized the whole country.  After that, there was not much from the official start of this conflict in 2014 when Houthi rebels took over the capital city of Sanaa and started one of the worst conflicts in the history of the Middle East. This action was intervened by other states like Saudi Arabia, supporting the official government of Yemen before the Arab Spring and before the start of this civil war. Due to this conflict, there was even one of the biggest outbreaks of Cholera that we ever known. However, conflict these days is still scaling up and getting more violent day by day. To this day this war has taken the lives of more than 300 000 people mainly due to hunger that is in the region. It is said that the Yemeni Civil War is mostly one of the biggest humanitarian crises where most of the kids have no education with even more people in desperate need of medical care. On behalf of this conflict, there is a question. Is Conflict in Yemen close to ending the war and humanitarian crisis?

Yemen’s Civil War: Houthis vs. UN-Recognized Government

First of all, everybody has to know that there are two main sides of this conflict but supporters that they have may be some of the bigger reasons why this war continues. On one side there are Houthi rebels that took over the main city of Sanaa in 2014 after an Arab Spring made the region pretty much unstable. The last nail in the coffin was made by the election of a new president named Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh couldn’t react to the economic crisis that was in Yemen and Houthi rebels took over the power which ended up in conquering the city. Houthi rebels are very much supported in this fight mainly by other rebel organizations in the Middle East but one of the biggest players on their side is Iran. Iran is one of the biggest suppliers of weapons and ammunition to Houthi rebels. There is no doubt that Iran is just picking sides of the conflict closer to them. Houthi rebels are now very close to Iran militarily and even politically. Some people even say that Iran has been sending this part of Yemen forces their weapons since 2009 which is long before the conflict even started to prepare them for planned takeover. Houthi rebels took their opportunity and captured the main city mainly with their guerilla tactic of fighting.

On the other hand, there is an official government of Yemen before the war and Arab Spring. This government is supported by Saudi Arabia and its allies. Saudi Arabia is known for their good relationship with the United States of America and they are a practical ally in these conflicts in the Middle East. From this perspective can be said that this conflict can be seen as a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran as one of the views on this war.

Yemen at a crossroads: Peace talks and persistent violence

Conflict these days is still and always scaling up. Both sides of the conflict are still fighting with each other while on the Houthi side there are a lot of new allies. Houthis in this war even sided with every known terrorist organization named Al-Qaida that is supporting them and even fighting by their side. One of the largest changes occurred when major players in the conflicts decided to cease the situation. It can be seen that even the most important states in the Middle East see this war as too long and want to put an end to it. The first try was from the side of the United Nations which wanted to push Houthi rebels to de-escalate the situation from their side. Houthi rebels strongly denied this.

In March of 2023, Iran started to increase their efforts to stop the war. They agreed to stop sending Houthis their weapons, ammunition, and supplies which are one of the most important for Houthi rebels. This was a bold move for Iran but effective as they are one of the most strategic allies of Houthi rebels. Iran on the other hand denies accusations that they ever sent weapons to Houthi rebels but even the United Nations, that are supporting any try for a ceasefire in Yemen, tracked Houthi weapons back to Iran. In 2023 United Nations started an embargo on Iran’s weapons and the United Nations and Saudi Arabia hope that their enemies will respect this embargo. This was one of the first steps to finally see cease fire and peace in Yemen but to this day no one can say if Iran is respecting this embargo either. Either way, it started to push diplomatic relations between Houthis and the Yemen government even more than before.

However, this was not very effective because Houthi rebels did not stop their attacks and the government with their guerilla warfare style fighting. This is a type of fighting that Houthis always do because it is one of the most effective ones. On the other hand, we can see the practical help connected to the Iran military from many sides. Due to ongoing support from Iran, the Houthi rebels could assemble their army.  This was a big help for Houthi rebels from Iran as they finally could assemble their fighting force that we could mark as a “professional “ army. We can see a big influence from Iran due to this effect of evolving the fighting force into something more coordinated.

In April of 2023 started the second round of talking about a truce. This was another chance to finally start a ceasefire and try to put an end to this conflict diplomatically. Both sides were glad for this because there was a major prisoner swap from both sides so those people could meet their family members and friends and finally see their home after long captivity. This massive prisoner swap was appreciated by both sides because Houthi rebels had a lot of fighting force held captive and this was a move that could bring them back. Yemen had many of its people held captive too mainly due to the capturing of the main city of Sanaa in 2014. This was followed by talks about finally ending the war after eight horrible years. Even both big players in this conflict approved any peace talks. Saudi coalition that fights on the side of Yemen’s official government started these talks. They were sent to lead this diplomatic meeting toward peace with their diplomat even with plans for a truce that were not finalized but there was a place for talk. From the Houthi side was this try at a truce very positive and serious. Even the Houthi side said that they hope to complete the truce talk later but from both sides, there were good signs that the conflict would be over soon. We can see that both sides of the conflict are tired and want to put an end to it.

Yemen conflict escalates: Red Sea shipping dilemma

However, as we know today Yemeni war and this horrible humanitarian crisis did not stop and it is getting even more escalated these days. After one of the major signs of peace in April, there was a long silence which led to a big surprise and a major scaling point in this conflict. In October of 2023, American navy destroyer used their anti-rocket systems to destroy two missiles sent from the land captured by Houthi rebels in north Yemen. These missiles were targeted mainly a Red Sea trading ships. American ships are in these waters mainly due to the ongoing Israel and Palestinian conflict in these days. Houthi rebels broke the long ongoing silence and started to attack these Red Sea shipping routes. Later in October, there was a massive hijacking attack on one of the British cargo ships which are owned by Israel owner. Houthi officials reacted to this with their intentions to target all ships in the Red Sea that are owned by Israel due to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Attacks continued with smaller attacks on red cargo shipping until December when Houthi rebels attacked one of the ships with their missile attacks which led to actually hitting the ship that caused fire on the ship. After this incident, many delivery companies that are operating in the Red Sea announced that their operations in these waters are going to be held until Red Sea waters are safe again. This was a major problem that struck trade in this region mainly due to the ongoing Israel war and their supplies. This move by many companies was expected because many of the ships that the Houthi rebels attacked were not even connected to Israel. Later in December, there was another attack on Red Sea ships which led to hitting one ship. After this incident happened there was most priority to ensure the safety of Red Sea ships which led to coordinated operations against Houthi attacks on ships.

Many would just see these attacks as a bold move from Houthi rebels and just an easy way to support Hamas in their war while attacking trade routes that are causing 12 % of all of the world’s trade on the market. Behind all of these facts, we can see the connection between Houthi rebels and Iran, and although Iran and Hamas are connected a lot. However, there are much bigger ambitions from the side of Houthi rebels that are behind the Yemeni civil war. Houthi rebels want to pursue their ambitions in the region. Ambitions of Houthi rebels are not just to support Hamas in their ongoing war but after all help and strengthen their position in Yemen. The problem for Houthi rebels is in one condition ensuring the safety of the Red Sea and their shipping routes are under the protection of the United States these days. From many perspectives, it can be seen that the United States most interest is to ensure safety in the Red Sea as the main trade route but on the other hand to ensure that Houthi rebels will not succeed in their moves and that they will not prevail. It can be seen as a bold move from Houthi rebels but on the other, it is just a good reason for the United States to join these fights and ensure the final victory of the Yemen-Saudi coalition.

Turbulence persists: Yemen’s ongoing struggle in 2024

After a big crisis connected with Red Sea shipping and Houthi attacks on the trade routes started a big operation in 2024 which was led by the United States. This operation was very reactive to the actual situation and started massive missile attacks and bombardment of Houthi rebel territory to ensure the safety of Red Sea shipping. The operation known as Operation Poseidon Archer is led mainly by the United States and Great Britain with their military force to practically decimate Houthi rebels as a threat to Red Sea shipping. However, this was an expected move by allies of the Israel and Saudi coalition on the other hand it is still escalating conflict and making it even bigger with no way possible or near peace that both sides almost got to. Houthi rebels are making even more strikes and it is not making Red Sea shipping any safer than it was. Yemen is with all of these always getting deeper into the conflict and the humanitarian crisis is getting worse day by day. This operation from the United States and Great Britain can bring help but for now, it is making this conflict even worse. Another way of looking at this is that Red Sea shipping needs to be protected but who knows if this is the way. Operation Poseidon Archer remains active to this day with no chance of stopping it at this point when Houthi rebels are making counterattacks and making even more attacks on shipping routes in the Red Sea. The United States got many suggestions to stop this conflict and stop attacks on Red Sea shipping.

There are more possible ways for the United States to stop the Red Sea crisis and stop the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Missile attacks can help but not as much as political tools and just helping the government of Yemen. The best move could be just to start to support the official government of Yemen to win the war. Houthi rebels will in that case fail in their ambitions in north of the Yemen and the attacks on trade routes will stop. The United States needs to focus more on Houthi rebels and not Iran. Iran is playing a big role in this conflict as much as in the Israel and Hamas conflict but Iran cannot make any moves directly to help Houthi rebels because that would lead to war between Iran and the United States.

To this day conflict in Yemen is still unresolved with many of the people injured, killed, or just without a home where they can live. War in Yemen stole more than ten years from every person in the region and many people that are now in Yemen know only war as something they have been born into and something that they live in every day of their lives. Some people know only war and practically forget what normal living is. To this day the country is divided and no one can know when or if it will ever end.

Where will it go from here?

Will there be an end to this awful war and humanitarian crisis this year? As we can know the conflict is still scaling up and it is getting more violent day by day. While most of the people starve or are just without medical care main sides of the conflict are still fighting and with new moves from the United States and with attacks on Red Sea Shipping companies persisting there will be no peace for some time. Something that started as rebellion inside the state became something more of an all-out war of religion. On one side is Yemen with the support of Saudi Arabia and now with the support of the United States. On the other side is the Houthi movement supported by Iran while Houthi rebels also support Hamas in their War.

 

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Source of the picture: Source of picture: https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2022/3/22/photos-yemen-7-years-of-war-7-things-that-changed-for-7-people

 

 

Written by Tomáš Hutta

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