A Beginners Guide To The Conflict In Yemen

Authored by Stucky via The Burning Platform blog,

Don’t have the time to do research on the Yemen conflict? Here ya go, as brief as we can make it...

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- Yemen was a divided country for hundreds of years

- North Yemen gained independence from the Ottoman Empire when it collapsed in 1918

- North Yemen was then ruled by a Zaydi Shiite Imam. Zaydi Shiism is a branch of Shiite Islam found almost exclusively in Northern Yemen.

- in 1962 the military staged a coup against the Zaydi monarchy.

- the conflict lasted several years and essentially became a proxy war between Egypt (who supported the military) and Saudi Arabia (who supported the royalists).  The war ended in 1970.   The royalists and Saudis lost.

- Meanwhile, South Yemen gained its independence from British and Saudi rule in 1967.

- South Yemen aligned itself with the Soviets (the only communist country in the Arab world).

- North and South Yemen clashed for the next several decades



ONE YEMEN under Ali Saleh (1990 -2011)

- The Soviet bloc disintegrated which led to the merger of North and South Yemen  in 1990

- The new ruler for unified Yemen was Ali Saleh, who prior was the ruler of North Yemen.

- Civil war broke out in 1994.  South Yemen felt Saleh’s regime was marginalizing them.,  Saleh quickly squashed the opposition.

- Saleh soon ran into more problems, this time right in North Yemen. Sheikh Hussein al-Houthi (1956 -2004) was a political and military leader.  He began a religious revivalist movement in the early 1990s.  His goal was to reassert traditional Zaydi Shiism which was losing ground to the fundamentalist Sunni (particularly Salafism) proselytizing supported by Saudi Arabia.  His followers and movement were called Houthis.

- The Houthi movement eventually shifted from a religious bent to political. From wiki; — “In 2003 the Houthis’ slogan “The God is great, death to the US, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam”, became the group’s trademark.”  Between 2004 and 2010, there were six conflicts between Houthi rebels and Saleh’s government.

- In September 2004, the Yemeni government announced that their military killed al-Houthi along with 20 of his followers. The Yemeni government creates a martyr.

REVOLUTION!!  (2011 – 2014)

- Inspired by the protests in Tunisia, tens of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in January 2011, demanding Saleh’s resignation.  Saleh refused and many were killed.

- But, Saleh is forced to bow to domestic and international pressure and signed an agreement to cede power.  In Feb 2012 his vice president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, takes over. The agreement was brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Saudi Arabia, and United States.

- The peace did not last long. Hadi lost control quickly.

- There were al-Qaida attacks, the economy was tanking, southern Yemen wanted to secede again, and Houthi rebels were engage in brutal fighting with Hadi’s government. Attempts were made to broker a new constitution, but no one could agree on anything.

- Yemen borrowed money from the IMF.  The IMF as part of the loan agreement demanded austerity measures. So, in 2004, Hadi announced cuts to fuel subsidies. The huge increase in fuel prices hit the mostly poverty stricken population very hard, and served to provoke the Houthi-backed protestors to further destabilize the government. Hadi rescinded the cuts, but the damage was done.

HOUTHI RULE  (2014 – 2015)

- Houthi rebels seize control of most of the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014.

- Hadi signs a U.N.-brokered peace with the Houthis to form a new, more inclusive government within a month.

- By January 2015 the Houthis reject the new government and constitution. They place Hadi under house arrest but, Hadi is able to escape to Aden.

- In February 2015, the Houthis dissolved parliament and formed a new transitional government.

- The GCC, United Nations, and United States quickly denounce the coup.

- In March 2015 Houthis expand their military campaign. They’re able to take over large parts of the country. Hadi flees to Saudi Arabia.

SAUDI INTERVENTION  (2015 – current)

- Saudi Arabia is Sunni.

- Yemen (the Houthi part)  is Shia.

- Iran (Shia) supports Yemen.

- Saudi Arabia hates Iran.

- Yemen (Houthis) / Iran (Shia) were winning.

- This was too much for the Sauds. So, they formed a military coalition with eight other Arab states.  But, the intelligence, arms, and logistical support came from the United States and England. The coalition began their airstrike campaign in March 2015 in order to defeat the Houtis and restore Hadi to power.

- With overwhelming superiority in weapons, fire power, and support from the World’s Lone Superpower the Sauds thought the campaign would be over in a few short months. In over a year of bombing the coalition has made only minimal territorial gains.


- Yemen is functionally two countries, or governments; the Houthis in Sanaa, and Hadi in Aden.

- all the various brokered peace talks have gotten nowhere

- the Trump administration is siding with the Sauds, and wherever possible blaming the various war atrocities on Iran.  But, it is the coalition with bombs and airplanes, and there is zero doubt, as evidence exists, that coalition armaments have struck schools, hospitals, and civilian areas.

- 75% of Yemenis need some kind of humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs, about 8 million are at risk of starvation, cholera is becoming an epidemic, Riyadh is even preventing fresh bottled water from entering the country  … the country meets every definition of a failed state.


“He [Esau] will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” —- Genesis 16:12

The 5,000 year long conflict in the Middle East is not just between Jew and Arab.  It is also (and, probably, primarily) between Arab and Arab. Will things suddenly get better in 2018?  Sure, there have been periods of peace. But, it never lasts. Because Esau is a wild ass of a man. That’s not God talk. That’s history talk.