21, May 2019
Why in News?
- Renewed clashes broke out between Houthi rebel fighters and Saudi-backed pro- government forces in Yemen.
What is the recent happening?
- The tussle in Yemen is essentially between Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels loyal to the former President and the forces loyal to the current government.
- The two factions claim to constitute the Yemeni government.
- Following the December 2018 ceasefire agreement,
Houthi rebels were withdrawing from three of Yemen’s
ports. But while the withdrawal was under way, Houthis, who are reportedly getting support from Iran, allegedly carried out a drone attack on a Saudi pipeline.
- In retaliation, Riyadh launched airstrikes on Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen controlled by the rebels. The attack killed at least six civilians, including children.
Yemen now risks falling back to the pre-ceasefire days of conflict. Fighting is broken out in parts of the government-controlled south too.
How has Saudi’s role been?
- Saudi Arabia started its Yemen military campaign in March 2015 with the goal of driving Houthis out of territories they captured.
- Four years of war have devastated the country of Yemen. According to the UN, at least 7,000 civilians have been killed.
- Thousands of others have died due to disease, poor health care and malnutrition.
- The blockade Saudi Arabia imposed on Yemen steadily worsened its hunger problem and health-care crisis, and is now on the brink of a famine.
- Even when the ceasefire was holding, the Saudis did not halt bombing Yemen.
- Saudi Arabia appears to be frustrated that it is not able to defeat the Houthis even after years of heavy bombing. The Houthis, on their part, continue to provoke the Saudis through cross-border rocket and drone attacks, both affecting the Yemenis severely.
Why is the recent attack so dangerous?
- The resumption of hostilities is more dangerous in the regional angle.
- Tensions are already on the rise in West Asia over the U.S.-Iran standoff.
- The U.S. had earlier warned against possible attacks by either Iran or Iran-backed militias against American interests or its allies in the region.
- U.S. has also deployed an aircraft carrier and a bomber squad to the Gulf.
- Immediately after the pipeline was attacked, the Saudis blamed Iran for ordering it.
- Both Iran and the Houthis have refuted this allegation.
- Whatever the case be, the incident and subsequent Saudi airstrikes show how the Yemeni conflict is entangled with the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
What is the way forward?
- Moving ahead, the Hodeida model should be replicated elsewhere in Yemen.
- Hodeidah is the city wherefrom Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels agreed on the first phase of a withdrawal. The ceasefire took effect in this Red Sea port city and both the rebels and government forces showed compliance till the rebels pulled out recently.
- It is only safe if the parties to the conflict continue talks under international mediation.
- For this to be achieved, the Houthis should decouple themselves from the regional politics.
They should stay focussed on resolving differences with the government and rebuilding the war-torn country. Importantly, Saudi Arabia should get out of Yemen.