In recent times the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East has been riddled with conflict and wars. The latest entrant to the series of wars is the Yemen conflict. It is perhaps the most complicated conflict in the whole of Arab world. It has become one of the flash points in the region and can lead to a great Arab war.
So before the war takes a decisive turn read the 10 things that one should know about the Yemen conflict.
1. The Yemen crisis started as a conflict between the supporters of two leaders-Abds Rabbuh Mansur Hadi & the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The supporters of Saleh rebelled against the ruling Hadi Government and marched on the capital Saa’na.
2. The armed conflict is mainly between the forces loyal to Hadi government and the Houthi forces that support Abdullah Saleh. The Houthi forces are either demanding a new election or the reinstatement of Saleh as the president.
3. The conflict has strong sectarian underpinnings.The houthis are pre-dominantly shias and the rest of the combatants are chiefly Sunnis. The religious mistrust and sectarian tension has fueled the simmering conflict even further.
4. Though the chief combatants involve the pro-Hadi and pro-Saleh forces but there exists two others factions- Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda and the forces of the Southern Movement which aim to secede from Yemen and form a new country.
5. The Islamic State also has its affiliates in Yemen. They are against all the other factions, even the Al Qaeda in Yemen. Two suicide bomb blasts in two of saana’s mosques, which were frequented by shias were claimed by the Islamic State. It further polarized the people of Yemen along sectarian lines.
6. Due to the sectarian nature of geopolitics in the Middle East, the Yemen conflict soon found external forces, especially Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran, taking keen interest in the Yemen war. The conflict is turning into a proxy war between these two regional super powers.
7. The Saudis fearing that the country could fall to the Houthis, whom they saw as Shia proxies of Iran, formed a coalition of Sunni Arab states and intervened militarily in Yemen civil war. The threat of ISIS spreading it’s wing so near to the Saudi border also motivated the Arabian Kingdom to opt for armed intervention.
8. The US is helping their traditional ally Saudi Arabia in Yemen civil war and is providing logistical aid.Pakistan has been requested by the Saudis to take part in the multinational armed intervention but the Pakistani parliament has voted against it,at least for now.
9. Almost all the major cities and areas in the western Yemen have been captured by the Houthi forces where as Al Qaeda has been successful in gaining control of vast swathes of Eastern Yemeni deserts and coasts.
10. Hadi has fled to Saudi Arabia and now his bidding is largely being done by the Saudi led Arab coalition. The Houthis have captured large tracts of land but they ill prepared to conventionally thwart a major Saudi Invasion,but that doesn’t mean that the Saudis will have an easy victory over the pro Saleh forces. The Houthis and their allies are capable enough to turn this Yemen civil war into a battle of attrition with their guerilla warfare in the event of a major push by the coalition.
As of now Yemen’s fate hangs in balance and if calmer heads don’t prevail and a genuine peace is not reached with the help of neutral powers then Yemen can turn into another great tragedy like Syria.