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Where is Yemen heading after three years of war?

Analysis | 2018-03-30 05:08:22
Where is Yemen heading after three years of war?
This week, Saudi Arabia has seen an attack unprecedented since the first day of its military intervention in Yemen's war in March 2015. On Sunday evening, Seven missiles struck four different regions in the kingdom, including in Riyadh.

It was the first time the Yemen war has directly claimed a life and wounded people in the Saudi capital. Saudi media reported that the Houthi missile killed an Egyptian national and wounded two others in the heart of the city.

Today, Saudis have felt the war has really begun to hit home, and shelling is no longer confined to areas on the border with Yemen.

Following three years of unrelenting war on the Houthis in Yemen, the Saudi-led Arab coalition has not brought the militant group to heel. It has so far failed to achieve its major objective: fending off the Houthi threat to Saudi national security.

The latest barrage of Houthi missiles seems to be a stark reminder that the military solution will not be an easy task in Yemen, and the war will continue to drag on before a military victory can be declared.

In spite of the grinding war and huge losses, the Iran-allied Houthis are unwilling to throw in the towel after three years of the bloody conflict, while Saudi Arabia appears more vulnerable to the ballistic missiles fired from its war-ravaged neighbour.

The Houthis continue to show their strength through mass protests and military activities. On Monday, hundreds of thousands paraded in Sanaa's Al-Sabeen Square to mark the third anniversary of what was termed the "Saudi aggression" on Yemen. Moreover, the Houthi recruiting of new fighters is still in full swing, and signs of surrender are few.

What next?

Politically, Yemen has been in deadlock since 2015, and the military option has not paid off thus far. Peace efforts have misfired repeatedly, and the coalition's military campaign appears indefinite. While the Houthis are blamed for the political deadlock due to their inflexibility, the Arab coalition shoulders the blame of the unfulfilled military victory over the Houthis.

Abaad Studies and Research Center, a Yemeni think tank, has this month published a detailed study on the military intervention of the Saudi-led coalition and the potential scenarios after three years of violence and bloodshed.
According to the study, the Arab coalition has not been prioritising a rapid end to the war in Yemen. Instead, the coalition believes that a fragmented Yemen is easier to be controlled and tamed.

"In a realistic reading of the dramatic war in Yemen, the Arab coalition is not looking for a quick and easy victory in Yemen. Rather, it wants to achieve strategic interests, foremost of which is preventing the emergence of a strong Yemeni rival in the region," reads the report.

Yemen is set to see one of three scenarios emerging after three years of failed peace bids and ongoing military confrontations, the think tank predicts.

State restoration scenario:

When the Saudi-led Arab coalition began its campaign in Yemen three years ago, it declared its intent to reinstate the legitimate Yemeni government.

According to the study of the think tank, the state restoration scenario will prevail if the coalition overthrows the Houthis and compels them to implement UN resolutions which stipulate the Houthis should hand over weapons and territories to the state.

"This scenario remains to be difficult, but it is safe and it supports the national security of Yemen and the Gulf," said the study.

The difficulty is the divergent agendas of the Arab coalition members - including the UAE, which favours the partition of Yemen's south from its north.

Division scenario:

This scenario pivots on splitting the country into two, the north dominated by the Houthis and the south controlled by the secessionists.

This scenario will spark long-term and dangerous consequences.

"If the Houthis and separatists succeed in dividing Yemen, the country will open its doors to all local and international partition projects and so multiple conflicting states will emerge," reads the study.

This scenario is possible, but it will threaten Yemen's unity and the security and stability of the Gulf in the long term, the study warns.

Chaos scenario:

This scenario is the most likely. It means the continuation of war and the fragmentation of the Arab coalition as well as the Houthis' alliances, leading to the emergence of new militant and political players.

"This will change the war into a long-standing chaos to exhaust the Yemeni people. Iran and its regional allies support this scenario as they believe that war against the Houthis in Yemen is the black hole for sucking the power of Saudi Arabia and UAE," the study says.

Obviously, this scenario would be the most destructive - not only for Yemen but also for Saudi Arabia. Yemen will become a hotbed of diverse internal conflicts and the kingdom will need to fight Houthis on the border and intercept their incoming missiles indefinitely.

 Ali Al-Bukhaiti, a Yemeni politician and a former Houthi member, said if the Arab coalition cannot win the war within a year, it will never win.

"The Houthi missile capabilities will enlarge, and it will become a real deterrent weapon which will paralyse life in vital Saudi cities. Then the kingdom will seek to establish peace with the Houthis even at the expense of its Yemeni allies," said Al-Bukhaiti.

The New Arab
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