War In Yemen

Areas of Control

The war in Yemen continues to evolve after almost 7 years of fighting. The internationally recognized Hadi government has been battling the Houthi rebels with little success after the initial gains of the war. The Hadi government has allied itself with Saudi Arabia and the UAE while the Shia Houthi rebels have aligned themselves with Iran.

The Houthi control the populated north and west of the country which is mostly Shiite but also includes Sunni areas as well. The Saudi-backed Hadi government controls the south and parts of the southwest but also shares control of the east with Al Qaeda of the Arabian Pennisula and scattered armed militias.

Areas of Control

The government controls the southern part of the country but has made substantial gains throughout the country since Saudi Arabia intervened in the conflict. Saudi Arabia intervened when the rebel Houthi were at the proverbial gates of Aden, a major city in the south of the country and the last stronghold of the government. Since the Saudis have intervened, they have since taken the city Taiz in the south as well as Marib in the west. The Saudi-backed government also took substantial parts of the coastline and even reached the port of Hodeidah. The Saudis brokered a truce in that area to protect the port after reaching the edge of the city, which the majority of people under the Houthis rule depend on for food and water before the rebel Houthi recently attacked the government forces and pushed the government further south down the coast.

The government has made inroads in the west where they took Marib which is an oil-producing city. This city is not far from the capital Sanaa but the Saudi-backed government would have to fight in the treacherous mountains which are heavily populated with Shiite civilians in order to get to the capital Sanaa. After taking Marib and successfully fighting the Houthi rebels in the mountains, the Houthis were able to take the roads that connected the government with Marib and have been trying to take the city. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been able to recruit their own citizens for the war against the Houthi but have also relied heavily on mercenaries from abroad as well airstrikes to keep the Houthi from winning the war.

The Houthis are an offshoot of a Shia branch of Islam and have aligned themselves with Iran. Iran has given substantial financial and military backing to the rebels which have managed to used armed drones and rockets to hold off Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the government for years.

Houthis Line of Attack

The Houthis have used armed drones and rockets to attack military targets, civilian airports, refineries, and populated areas in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have responded with airstrikes in Sanaa and other locations around Yemen. The Houthis have adjusted their tactics and have been able to fight Saudi Arabia and the UAE into a stalemate in several parts of the country.

In 2011, the Araba Spring was in full force and the president of Yemen, Saleh, made promises to step down. After he reneged on his promise to step down several assassination attempts followed and he agreed to step down to give power to current president Hadi. He remained a power broker in the country and even helped the Houthi rise to power in 2014.

Since 2014, the Houthis had taken the majority of the country and were within eyesight of the city of Aden before the Saudi-backed coalition was able to push back the Houthi. They then began to take parts of the south and the west. Since the Saudi’s got involved in the war, Saleh had a falling out with the Houthis and was killed trying to flee Sanaa.

After initial Saudi gains though, the Houthis were able to maintain gains of their own against the government. The rebels ousted the government from the outskirts of the port of Hodeidah after a surprise attack on coalition forces and pushed the Saudis away from the critical port. The port is significant because it is a lifeline for the Houthi. The Iranians are able to get boats past the Saudis into the port to deliver aid to the Houthis and that aid can include medical supplies, weapons, or food.

Bab el-Mandeb Strait

The Houthis were also able to successfully cut off Marib from the rest of the government-controlled territory. This will allow the Houthi to take Marib and regain critical oil supplies which will help to maintain the current stalemate in the war.

The reason why this war is so critical to major powers is that if an Iranian-backed group controls Yemen they could control the flow of goods and oil from Asia to Europe. The Hodeidah port could be a launching point for attacks on cargo freighters and disrupt trade from the Middle East to Europe and America through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The Bab el-Mandeb Strait leads to the Suez Canal where billions of dollars of trade pass through the narrow waterways. The Houthi could use this to attack US military ships or cargo in a time of war or just use these tactics to blackmail the US into giving more aid to the country.

Also, as the situation in Ethiopia deteriorates with the Tigray forces approaching the capital Addis Ababa, this could lead to Yemen playing an integral part of the safety and security for the greater region. If the Tigray take Ethiopia, then Europe and America will lose a critical ally against Al Shabab in Somalia and the pirates that plague this part of the world. This will make Yemen a critical ally in the region for years to come.

If the US still had control of Afghanistan, they could enact a country-wide draft and let Saudi Arabia hire substantive military personnel from Afghanistan. This draft could take millions of Afghan men out of the country and allow women to develop their independence. This would have a similar effect on Afghanistan as it did to the United States during World War. This would have also had the added benefit of taking fighters away from the Taliban and would have left only the elder tribal heads and young boys to fight the US-led coalition. Since the Taliban cannot rely on 60-year-old men and boys under 15 to fight the US, it would have led the Taliban to give up its fight against the West.

The Saudis could also embolden Egyptians or Pakistanis to subscript into their coalition by offering a financial incentive to join the war against Yemen. This would sharpen the Egyptian’s and Pakistani’s military skills in the same way it did for the country of Georgia. This would allow the countries to much-needed revenue and gain more independence from Russia and China.

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