Analysis & Opinions - METRO U.N.

Yemen – What Each Party to the Conflict Has to Do Now

| Dec. 19, 2018

Civil Wars have always been characterized by a particularly high degree of civilian suffering and deaths. The civil war in Yemen appears to beat the historical records and has turned into the contemporary world’s worst humanitarian crisis in one of the globe’s poorest countries. Estimates of persons killed vary between 15 and 60 thousand, some 20 million persons are starving, 75% of the population urgently needs assistance, and every 10 minutes a child dies that could have been saved. Ending this catastrophe as quickly as possible is therefore imperative.

If one contemplates necessary steps of the parties to the conflict, the nature of this war must be kept in mind. It started as a UN supported intervention by a Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-supported Houthi rebellion opposing the Hadi government. The domestic struggle for supremacy is inextricably linked to its international ramifications: Given the potentially enormous geopolitical consequences the prevention of an Iranian foothold on the Southern tip of the Arabian peninsula is by no means a goal of only Saudi Arabia.  In addition, the existence of a significant Al Qaida force as well as an ISIL presence in the South represent more than a mere regional challenge. Moreover, the legitimate outrage in the US Congress and the international community over the murder of journalist Kashoggi has created an atmosphere of urgency and calls for action on the Yemen war, although the murder itself, as abominable as it is, does not change the geopolitical givens of the conflict.

Fortunately under UN auspices a break through has been achieved to reduce the suffering and open a dialogue among the warring parties. At a meeting in Sweden chaired by UN Envoy Martin Griffith the parties agreed on December 13 on a swap of some 16 thousand prisoners, a cease fire and withdrawal of forces from the port of Hodeiah, a humanitarian corridor to the third largest city of Taiz, the access of humanitarian aid and a UN role in preventing the inflow of war relevant materials. Equally important the parties agreed to continue the dialogue in January 2019.

It is now of upmost importance that the Security Council endorses the agreement and along with all other members of the UN helps to implement its provisions.

The US should encourage such an outcome and exert pressure on the Saudi-led coalition by using America’s leverage as the supplier of ammunition, intelligence and air-refueling. In the past Europeans have regretted the Trump Administration’s one-sided support of Saudi Arabia but in this case they hope that the US will use its special leverage for a cause that the international community endorses. The resolution to end US support of the Saudi-led war, which the US Senate passed on December 13, 2018 with a bipartisan majority clearly supports such a posture even though its implementation is temporarily blocked by the House of Representatives.

Given the complex geopolitical and domestic elements of the conflict the UN envoy in the Sweden meeting rightly chose not to look for a political solution, but focused on creating favorable conditions for approaching broader issues. Priority should now be given to creating a UN hosted framework within which the parties to the conflict can deal with the long term issues on a continuous basis. Contrary to Secretary of State Pompeo’s assertion in his Brussels speech criticizing the UN as having outlived its usefulness, the agreements on the Yemen war once again demonstrate the vital importance and effectiveness of the UN in promoting peace. The European Union for its part has reiterated its support for a strong UN role on the Yemen war.

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For Academic Citation: Kaiser, Karl.“Yemen – What Each Party to the Conflict Has to Do Now.” METRO U.N., December 19, 2018.

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