Dale Gavlak – Voice of America
AMMAN – Yemen marks five years of brutal civil war that has transformed the poorest Arab nation at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. An estimated 100,000 people have been killed during the conflict, and about 80 percent of the population of 24 million are dependent on food and humanitarian aid to survive.
Yemen’s warring parties have welcomed a United Nations call for an immediate truce, but analysts believe such calls will not end the conflict.
The Saudi-led coalition’s military offensive started five years ago, with airstrikes and a naval blockade against the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels. It aimed to restore Yemen’s ousted government led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Rights groups have accused both sides of systematic rights violations against civilians, as well as war crimes.
British Yemen expert Helen Lackner says the conflict appears to have no solution.
“These policymakers, as far as the Yemenis are concerned, are actively promoting the fighting. I’ve call them barbaric because they are encouraging this war to continue, and they don’t care one bit about the millions who are suffering. This is just totally outrageous,” she told VOA.
Lackner says that at the end of 2019, the conflict seemed to wind down, but two major agreements failed to move forward. The U.N.-sponsored Stockholm agreement was to end the coalition offensive on Hodeida port, while the Riyadh agreement was to solve the crisis between Hadi’s government and southern separatists supported by the United Arab Emirates.
“There has been a serious flare-up in the fighting since January,” Lackner said. “One is the complete collapse of the so-called Riyadh agreement, with the situation in the south being absolutely on the verge of blowing up again anytime. And in the rest of the country, the Houthis have started the major offensive. They’re now threatening Marib governorate, which was proclaimed as a haven of stability.”
As negotiations collapsed, hostilities resumed and then escalated, says Gulf analyst Cinzia Bianco of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“I can only expect it to worsen if the Houthis will decide to follow through on their apparent intention of extending their offensive towards the heart of the Marib province — quite a relevant province in the overall purview of the war,” Bianco told VOA. “In the near term, there is going to be two separate escalations. One in the Marib area in the north, and the other in the south, along the Red Sea coast, probably between the southern transition council and the Hadi government.”
Bianco says the Houthis have shown that they are able to escalate fighting without support from their backer — Iran — which is currently battling a massive coronavirus outbreak.