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Yemen Civil War - 2019

The Saudis fear the Houthis will give their regional rival, Iran, a strategic foothold in the Arabian Peninsula. The warring sides have fought to a stalemate, and several rounds of UN-sponsored talks, the last held in Sweden in December 2018, have failed to implement any deal to end the war. UAE, which began withdrawing troops from Yemen in mid-2019, appeared more interested in securing its interests in the south which lies along major trading routes linking Africa to Asia than waging a war that appeared increasingly unwinnable. The UAE intends to split Yemen into two countries of South and North where it will have influence and dominance over the southern part. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is more interested in defeating the Houthis and ending Iranian influence. The United Arab Emirates and its allies view President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government as being too close to the Muslim Brotherhood, a regional Islamist movement that the Gulf monarchies view as a threat.

The four-year war in Yemen has led to tens of thousands dead with millions forced to flee their homes. In February 2019, UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said that about 80 percent of the population – 24 million people – were in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.

In June 2019 the United Arab Emirates began scaling back its military presence. After the UAE troops' withdrawal, Saudi Arabia moved in to secure two strategic Red Sea ports and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced it will reduce its troop presence throughout war-torn Yemen, moving from a "military-first" to a "peace-first" strategy. UAE troops still have a substantial presence in Yemen, and this development was made more to antagonise the Saudis who are facing more military pressure from the Houthis at their borders with Yemen.

The UAE, which announced the beginning of a troop withdrawal from Yemen, had armed and trained an estimated 90,000 allied fighters in the south. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), part of a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, is not leaving the war-torn country despite an ongoing withdrawal and redeployment of Emirati forces, a senior official said. "Just to be clear, the UAE and the rest of the coalition are not leaving Yemen," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in an opinion piece published on 23 July 2019 in The Washington Post. "While we will operate differently, our military presence will remain. In accordance with international law, we will continue to advise and assist local Yemen forces."

The war in Yemen can be stopped because the warring parties recognise a military solution is unattainable after four years of conflict and are working to pull back troops from a key port city. UN envoy Martin Griffiths said on 23 July 2019 all fighting sides and the international community support a United Nations peace deal brokered in Sweden last December and are making progress towards achieving it. "I believe that this war in Yemen is eminently resolvable," Griffiths told reporters in Geneva. "Both parties continue to insist that they want a political solution and the military solution is not available, they remain committed to the Stockholm agreement in all its different aspects."

The United States Senate on 29 July 2019 failed to override President Donald Trump's vetoes of legislation passed by Congress that would have blocked the sale of certain weapons to Saudi Arabia. In the first of three separate efforts to overturn the Republican president's vetoes, supporters failed by a vote of 45-40, well short of the two-thirds needed. Five of the chamber's 53 Republicans joined Democrats in voting to override Trump. Congress's effort was aimed at attempting to pressure the Saudi government to improve its human rights record and to do more to avoid civilian casualties in a war in the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen.

The United Nations' food agency and Yemen's Houthi rebels said 04 August 2019 they had reached a deal to resume food deliveries to rebel-controlled parts of the war-torn country after suspending the aid in June 2019. The WFP halted some aid in Sanaa on June 20 out of concern that food was being diverted from vulnerable people but said it would maintain nutrition programs for malnourished children, pregnant and nursing mothers. The partial suspension of aid affected around 850,000 people, according to the UN. The Houthis' said the deal included a biometric database of civilians in need of aid to guarantee "effective and efficient distribution" and to "benefit the most needy".

Deadly clashes between the UAE-backed separatists and the government troops highlighted a rift fracturing the alliance, threatening to open a new front in Yemen's five-year-war that has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine. The infighting began on 07 August 2019 when forces loyal to the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), which seeks the secession of the south, attempted to break into the presidential palace in Aden after a call from former Cabinet Minister Hani Bin Braik, who serves as the council's deputy head, to "topple" Hadi's government. Hadi, who was swept from power in 2014 when Houthi rebels overran Yemen's capital, Sanaa, is currently based in Saudi Arabia 's capital, Riyadh.

The interior minister of Yemen's internationally recognised government said 11 August 2019 the United Arab Emirates won in the southern port city of Aden, a day after UAE-backed southern separatists took control of all government military camps and the presidential palace. Ahmed al-Mayssari said: "We acknowledge defeat and congratulate the UAE on its victory … but this will not be our last battle." He also blamed the Yemeni government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and ally Saudi Arabia for remaining "silent" about the developments that had unravelled in Aden over the past few days. According to al-Mayssari, around 400 armored vehicles provided by the UAE launched attacks against his forces in Aden.

The secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC), a UAE-backed group that has widespread support across southern Yemen, forced government forces out of its temporary capital of Aden in August 2019. This led to the worst fighting between anti-Houthi forces since the beginning of the war, as clashes spread across southern Yemen. It also led to increasingly apparent divisions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who supported the government and the STC, respectively.

Shortly after separatists announced their forces had seized the palace on Saturday night that the Saudi-led coalition called for an immediate ceasefire. "[The coalition] asserts that it will use military force against anyone who violates it [ceasefire]," Saudi Arabia's state news agency SPA quoted a spokesman as saying. The coalition had also called on all military groups to immediately return to their positions and retreat from areas that have been seized over the past few days.

Hani Bin Braik, a separatist leader and former Cabinet minister, said 11 August 2019 that the Southern Transitional Council would not "negotiate under duress." He said his group accepts Hadi as president and is committed to the coalition but wants his Cabinet replaced. The government has said it will not negotiate with the separatists until they hand over all the military positions they seized. The southern separatists advocate secession and the division of Yemen into two countries, in the north and south, as it was during much of the Cold War before unifying in 1994.

Yemen's Houthi fighters claimed 28 September 2019 a major raid resulting in the capture of "thousands" of enemy troops, including many officers and soldiers of the Saudi army, as well as hundreds of armored vehicles and weapons. Houthi military spokesman Yahia Sarie told the Houthi-run al-Masirah broadcaster that three "enemy military brigades had fallen" in the operation. He said the offensive was supported by drone, missile and air defense units. "This is the largest operation since aggression started on our country," he said. The operation, reportedly near the southern Saudi region of Najran, has not been confirmed by the Saudi-led coalition leading the fight against the Houthis. The Houthis offered no visual evidence for their claims.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on 07 September 2019 called on Yemen's separatists and the internationally-recognised government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to halt all military actions in south Yemen. A joint statement by the two Gulf states, leaders of an Arab coalition that is battling Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis, called on the UAE-backed separatists and the Saudi-backed government to prepare for "constructive dialogue" to end the crisis between the two nominal allies. Talks to end the power struggle, in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, reached a dead-end and both sides were gathering troops to prepare for further battle, an indication that a rift between Saudi Arabia and ally UAE had deepened.

The United Arab Emirates announced 30 October 2019 it had completed the withdrawal of its military forces from the southern Yemeni city of Aden, as part of an agreement with Saudi Arabia to end a fight between southern Yemeni separatists backed by them, and the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi backed by Saudi Arabia. UAE said its troops returned home and the control was handed over to Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s forces, according to state news agency WAM which issued a statement from the country’s military officials. The Gulf state, which had started in June to scale down its military presence in the war-torn country, added it would continue fighting "terrorist organizations" in other areas and southern Yemeni provinces.

A Saudi-brokered agreement in November 2019 was supposed to bring the two sides back together, but had yet to be implemented fully. Yemen’s Saudi backed government signed 05 November 2019 a power-sharing deal with the separatists’ Southern Transitional Council (STC). The agreement was signed under the supervision of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) who welcomed it as the first consequent step to end the multifaceted war whose principal victims are civilians. The deal called for the formation of a new government that would have equal representation for northerners and southerners. All military and security forces will be incorporated into the defense and interior ministries, and the STC would join any political talks to end the war. To pave the way for the deal Emirati forces left the region and handed the control of the southern city of Aden to Saudi Arabia.

The Houthi militia backed by Iran used ballistic missiles and exploding drones. Most of them were intercepted and some fell on residential areas, a displaced persons camp and a health center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the pro-coalition joint military command of the western coast said in a statement 07 November 2019, without mentioning whether military targets had been hit. The Houthis launched a new attack on one of Yemen's Red Sea ports this week, causing significant damage to the city after their drones and missiles rained in on the area.

According to reports, the Houthis heavily bombed the city of Al-Mokha, hitting several sites around this historical port in Yemen's western region. There was no immediate confirmation of the rare attack on a coalition naval base from Houthi-run media or the spokesman for the Saudi-led Sunni Muslim alliance that has been battling the Iran-aligned movement in Yemen for more than four years. Once a thriving coffee-exporting hub, al-Mokha had, along with nearby al-Khokha, served as military bases for the United Arab Emirates until they withdrew earlier this year as part of a phased drawdown of the Emirati presence in Yemen. Saudi-led forces took control of the ports in July.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 11:39:00 ZULU