After the launch of seven missiles whose intended target was Riyadh and other important center of the Saudi kingdom, Houthis fighters in northern Yemen have warned they will fire more missiles into Saudi Arabia, if the Saudis do not stop their bombing raids.
On Monday, tens of thousands of people gathered in Sana’a to hold a rally marking the third anniversary of the start of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s military intervention into the country’s internal conflict. The massive rally was held inside Sana’a city’s Al-Midan Square, which was completely filled with Yemeni demonstrators.
In a statement for the third anniversary of the start of the Saudi-led coalition’s devastating war in Yemen, the Foreign Ministry Iranian condemned the military aggression and called for the lifting of the “cruel” blockade on the Arabian country. It further described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as “very regrettable” and said the war has brought nothing but instability and insecurity and led to the deaths and injuries of tens of thousands. The ministry added that the Saudi war on Yemen has also caused the destruction of health and civil infrastructure and the suffering of over one million Yemenis from cholera and an increase in terrorist activities.
The ongoing visit of Mohammad bin Salman in the UK is generating opposite reactions: the ruling Conservative Party and royal family are rolling out the red carpet for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince while opposition politicians and rights groups call on British Prime Minister Theresa May to use the trip to challenge the kingdom’s record on human rights. Boris Jhonson, british foreign secretary has underlined the importance of the social reforms put forward by MBS in Saudi Arabia (such as allowing women to drive and lifting a 35-year ban on cinemas). Furthermore, the minister praised the Saudi Vision 2030, in the light of possible economic investments in the project. However, human rights activists gathered outside Downing Street, calling to an end of arms selling to Saudis, responsible of huge bloodshed in Yemen. In addition, activists said the despite the economic and social reforms, Saudi Arabia still has a poor human rights records. On Tuesday, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, joined a chorus of activists, saying that May should tell the crown prince that Britain would no longer supply arms to Riyadh “while the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen continues”. May should also “make clear Britain’s strong opposition to widespread human and civil rights abuses in Saudi Arabia”, he said. Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party, tweeted on Tuesday: “Isn’t it time we stop giving the red carpet treatment to despots and dictators?” indeed, British arms companies are, mainly with the United States, the biggest suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the British government has approved billions of pounds in export licences over the past three years. Thus, by keeping the situation like this, the UK has been totally complicit in the abuse perpetrated in Yemen. Professor Paul Rogers from Bedford University’s Peace Department, told Al Jazeera: “The UK government recognises Saudi Arabia is very profitable for British arms exports and so the issue of human rights in the kingdom is not to the fore in current government thinking, in the sense of money talk.” It appears indeed easy to understand that UK government is willing to go along with the Saudis because there are good markets, thus, it turns a blind eye the human rights abuses and Yemen’s war.
The nearly 3-year-old Yemen war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced 2 million and helped spawn a devastating cholera epidemic in the Arab world’s poorest country. The shocking report on its humanitarian crises goes hand in hand with the affection of Yemen’s culture and historical sites. UNESCO reports numerous example of this silent but still ongoing distraction. For instance, the Awwam Temple, which links a region now on the front lines of the Saudi-led war against Houthi rebels to Arabia’s pre-Islamic past. Experts fear the temple, as well as other historic and cultural wonders across Yemen, beyond those acknowledged by international authorities, remains at risk as the country’s stalemated war rages on. Anna Paolini, the directorate of UNESCO’s regional office placed in Qatar and that oversees Yemen and Gulf Arab nations declares that “All the villages are historic in a way” and that “They’re still heritage of the country. It’s sad to see what’s happening”. ” Saudi-led air attacks have destroyed historic mud homes in Saada, the birthplace of the Houthi rebels. Air attacks have also hit the over 2,500-year-old Old City in Yemen’s rebel-held capital of Sanaa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its intricately decorated, burnt-brick towers. Shelling and air attacks have struck museums and other sites in the country. In 2015, air attacks damaged part of the Great Marib Dam, near the Awwam Temple and built by the same civilization, according to UNESCO. Just the shockwaves of an explosion in the distance can be enough to damage delicate structures. UNESCO has shared coordinates of some 50 historical sites with militaries involved in the fighting, to try to protect the sites, Paolini said, though many remain unguarded now in the chaos of the war.
On Sunday in the Yemenite city of Ateq a protest has been held to denounce the target of innocent civilians by US drone. On January 28 in Shabwa’s Said district residents confirmed that a drone attack has blown up a car carrying at least six male members of the same family and another person. Saleh al-Aishi al-Ateequi, a relative of the victims who organized the protest, told local media that “the victims were all innocent civilians who had nothing to do with political or religious organisation”. In addition, he harshly blamed the Arab coalition at war with Yemen to be responsible for the deaths, saying it is in charge for the country’s airspace and for protecting civilians lives. The United States is the only force known to operate armed drones over Yemen and normally it does not comment on its operation. However, the January raid, the first operation of this kind authorised by Trump administration resulted in a bloodshed. The Yemenis “casualties” and the number of US soldiers injured and the death of a Navy seal shows how risky the operation was. Thus, because of the involvement of the American soldier, the raid attracted widespread media attention. Trump refers to the Yemen’s operation only to praise the service of the US soldier, without mentioning that the raid on Yakla, an impoverished and desolate town, resulted in the deaths of at least 16 civilians, including women and children. The White House has admitted the likely involvement of civilians while the proposed objectives of the operation were al-Qaeda fighters. After Obama, the first president who widely used the drones attacks in order to do not deploy “troops on the ground”, President Trump is likely to follow, or even empower, the previous administration strategy. Only last year Donal Trump authorised 125 drone attacks.
In the framework of the conflict between government forces and separatists, new questions on the role of the unity of action of the Saudi-led coalition rise. Indeed, the observers have noted that the weakening of Hadi’s government has gone hand-in-hand with the UAE’s growing power. Indeed, the United Arab Emirates is believed to be sponsoring southern Yemen’s secession in order to advance its interest in the region. Saudi Arabia support for Hadi’s government, who is from 2016 resident in Riyadh, can be also explained by the fact that its government is the one internationally recognised, thus meaning a source of legitimization for Saudi military intervention in Yemen. However, Saudi’s involvement in the conflict has diminished over time and it is more concentrated in blocking Houthi forced in its southern borders. In the meantime, the United Arab Emirates has become more involved in the conflict, indicating a division in the two countries’ agendas. Despite having a relatively small army, the UAE sent a significant number of ground forces to Yemen. In contrast, Saudi Arabia was cautious to deploy troops. The United Arab Emirates’ interest relates to the security of the Bab el-Mandab strait, one of the world’s busiest oil and gas shipping lanes. Indeed, protecting the flow of oil and gas shipments in the Red Sea and Egypt’s Suez Canal is vital for UAE’s ability to trade with Europe and North America. Since the start of the conflict, according to Human Right Watch, the UAE has been financing and training armed groups that only answer to it, setting up prisons, and creating a security establishment parallel to Hadi’s government. The Middle East Eye news website, quoting sources, reported that Hadi was incensed with the UAE, accusing Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of acting as an occupying force as opposed to a liberation one.
On Sunday, in the southern Yemenite port city of Aden, forces loyal to the government of President Hadi exchanged fire with the Southern Transitional Council (STC), an armed and secessionist movement supported by the United Arab Emirates. Until today, both sides were fighting alongside the Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, which are still in control of the capital Saana and of the northern part of the country. However, the cohabitation between the two forces has been precarious since the beginning and difficult to keep in place after almost three years of conflict. In a statement issued on Sunday, the prime minister, Ahmed bin Dagher, accused the STC of staging a “coup” directed towards the internationally recognised Yemenite government. Last week the separatist force has launched an ultimatum to Hadi’s government, blaming it for corruption and mismanagement in southern Yemen. However, announcements have been followed by actions and real confrontation in the city. The Sunday’s conflict in Aden has leave on the battlefield at least 21 dead and more than 130 wounded. This new open source of confrontation could not only exacerbate the ongoing conflict in Yemen, leading to more destruction and loss of civilian lives but could also threaten the territorial integrity of the country. It is important to go back to the history to explain the ongoing growing secessionist sentiments in southern Yemen. Then, after turning to history, it is also useful to have a look to the current geopolitical situation in the region. Indeed, unification between North and South Yemen is not far, it dates to 1990. Thereafter tensions and secessionist movements have never been totally silenced. The city port of Aden was the only British colony in the entire Arabian Peninsula administered directly by the British government between 1839 and 1967. The British set up their own administrative, trade and educational institutions in the colony. The city was truly a cultural melting pot for many ethnic groups including people of Indian and Somali origins. After the withdrawal of British troops in 1967, Aden joined the rest of the British protectorates in the south to form the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, with the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) eventually taking power. Bloody conflict within the political movement favoured the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990. In Aden, the deterioration of economy and the sentiments of independence even challenged the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s tight grip to power. Less than four years after merging with the north, the south tried to split away in 1994 citing economic and political marginalisation, but it was crushed after a short-lived but bloody civil war. It was then created a mass peaceful pro-independence movement, the “Al-Hirak al-Janoubi” (the southern movement). Since the beginning of the conflict, government’s army and “separatists” fought side by side to defend the city of Aden from the Houthi’s incursions from the North of Yemen. However, since the Houthi’s failed attempts to take control of the city, Aden has witnessed severe security challenges, economic and basic infrastructure problems, and most recently growing support for secession from the North. In April 2017, forces loyal to President Hadi clashed with armed men supporting UAE-backed Aden Governor Aidarous al-Zubaidi at the city airport. Hadi responded to the incident by sacking the governor. Then, in May 2017, al-Zubaidi announced the establishment of the Souther Transitional Council which he claimed would represent “the will of the people of the South”. There are serious chances not only that this movement would undermine the integrity of Yemen’s territory, but also the course of the war against the Houthi placed in the North. The future military responses of president Hadi and its allies would definitely shape the southern question and future country’s alignment.
As lasted reported by a military official, on Thursday the Houthi army and popular forces foiled two attempts of US-backed Saudi-paid mercenaries to infiltrate into army sites in Taiz province. The mercenaries was inflicted heavy casualties in Dhubab, Bir-Basha, and Osaifra fronts during their infiltration attempts. Furthermore, three civilians were killed and two others injured when the US-backed Saudi-led aggression airstrike hit their car in Jawf province. On Wednesday, President of the Supreme Political Council Saleh al-Sammad met with sheikhs and notables from Sanhan tribe of Sanaa province. In the meeting, the President and Sanhan’s sheikhs discussed the developments at the national arena in light of the US-Saudi-led coalition’s war on the country and its plots that aimed to undermine Yemen’s security and stability. Mr. President praised the sheikhs and sons of the district for their solidarity and popular cohesion in resisting the foreign invaders.
A group of separatists in southern Yemen, backed by the United Arab Emirates, has declared a state of emergency in the port city of Aden and confirmed the intention to overthrow the country’s internationally recognised government, led by Mr Hadi, within the next week. The leader of the separatist group, Aidarous al-Zubaidi, speaking at a meeting on Sunday, accused Hadi’s government of “rampant corruption” and of “waging a misinformation campaign against the southern leaders using state funds”. The new force, which has clashed with forces loyal to Hadi for control of the strategic areas including Aden airport, will “become the core of a new force that will rebuild South Yemen’s security and military institutions” as they added in a statement. The announcement shows the masked tensions between the set of forces allied to fight against the Houthi rebels. President Hadi and its government is supported by Saudi Arabia while the separatists are backed by the United Arab Emirates. Indeed, The UAE entered Yemen’s war in March 2015 as part of a Saudi-led coalition after Houthi rebels, traditionally based in the northwest of the country, overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa, in 2014. However, the involvement in the war is slightly changing, nearly three years on, Saudi Arabia has said it “wants out” of the war, while the UAE has become more involved in the conflict, indicating a division in the two countries’ agendas. The UAE has been financing and training armed groups in the south of the country who answer to al-Zubaidi, a 50-year-old militia leader who emerged from relative obscurity in late 2015 after helping purge the Houthis from Aden. At this point, the separation within the forces opposed to the Houthi rebels are enhancing the chaos in the region.