Seeds: Yemen, along with many other Middle Eastern and Northern African countries, experienced an “Arab Spring” movement in 2011 (a movement characterized by demonstrations, protests, civil wars, and riots in order to achieve democracy). The protesters overthrew the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and installed President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Saleh did not retreat quietly, however, and actually rallied behind Houthi rebels (a Shia Muslim separatist group in Yemen who had the support of the Iranian government), and encouraged them to march on the capital city of Sanaa. In January of 2015, President Hadi lost almost all power with the Houthi takeover, and fled to Saudi Arabia, where he still is today. Saudi Arabia saw the Houthis as being part of a greater Iranian takeover, and started conducting airstrikes in the region.
Core: 6,000 lives have already been lost and there is still no distinct winner. Many argue that the conflict is more deeply rooted in the Iranian/Saudi Arabian conflict, and that Yemen is simply a stage for this battle. Some are categorizing the Saudi Arabian actions in Yemen as war crimes. This accusation causes some to question the U.S.’s recent deal with Saudi Arabia that sells them $1.29 billion dollars worth of arms. Also, Yemen is in desperate need of aid, with 4 out of 5 people in need of humanitarian assistance, whether it be basic needs such as food, water and shelter, or more specific needs such as sanitation and medicine.
Skin: The airstrikes in Yemen have garnered some press attention given that the Saudi Arabian-led coalition recently agreed to a ceasefire in Yemen after months of conflict. The Houthi rebels also agreed to the ceasefire. An earlier ceasefire last December was abandoned, but nonetheless the international sphere is hopeful that this one will be more successful.
Leaves: Even if this ceasefire lasts, the tension in Yemen will likely remain for some time. Furthermore, it is unlikely that their infrastructure will be improved in the next few months, or even years. On top of that, the country is still physically divided; President Hadi controls eastern Yemen and the city of Aden, and the Houthi rebel forces control western Yemen and the city of Sanaa (where the majority of the population resides). To make matters worse, ISIS and Al Qaeda have established a presence in Yemen that only grows as Yemen becomes more unstable.
Food For Thought: Do you think that the United States needs to do more to help Yemen? Do you think that the United States should be selling arms to Saudi Arabia?