By | January 26, 2024

The United States and the United Kingdom have announced the launch of targeted air strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen, escalating their involvement in the long-standing and complex conflict in the Middle Eastern nation.

Background of Conflict in Yemen

The conflict in Yemen has its roots in the failure of a political transition supposed to bring stability to Yemen following an Arab Spring uprising that forced its longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011.

Mr. Hadi struggled to deal with a variety of problems, including attacks by jihadists, widespread corruption, food insecurity, and the continuing loyalty of many military officers to Mr. Saleh. This led to a power vacuum, which the Houthi movement, championing Yemen’s Zaidi Shia Muslim minority, took advantage of to take control of the Saada province and neighboring areas.

Background of Conflict in Yemen

The Rise of the Houthi Rebels

The Houthi rebels, officially known as Ansar Allah, have been involved in a series of rebellions against the Yemeni government for over a decade. However, the conflict escalated in 2014 when the Houthis seized control of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, and later declared themselves the government of Yemen.

The rebels have been accused of causing a large-scale humanitarian crisis in Yemen, with millions of civilians displaced and in dire need of humanitarian aid. The UN has described Yemen as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

US and UK Involvement in Yemen

The United States and the United Kingdom have been involved in the Yemen conflict in various capacities since its early stages. They have provided logistical and intelligence support to a Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to restore the government of President Hadi.

The US and the UK have also been heavily criticized for their arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other coalition members, which have been used in the ongoing conflict, leading to a large number of civilian casualties.

 

Origins of the Houthi Rebellion

The Latest Air Strikes

The recent decision by the US and the UK to launch air strikes directly against the Houthi rebels represents a significant escalation of their involvement in the conflict. Both countries have stated that the strikes were aimed at specific military targets and intended to minimize civilian casualties.

The US Department of Defense and the UK Ministry of Defence have said the strikes were in response to Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two key allies in the region. The strikes also signal a continuing commitment to the Saudi-led coalition and its efforts to combat the Houthi rebels.

 

Future Implications

The intensifying involvement of the US and the UK in Yemen could have significant implications for the ongoing conflict and broader regional dynamics. How the Houthi rebels and their allies will respond to the heightened international pressure remains to be seen.

Critics worry that the increased military action could further exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and call for a renewed focus on diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the conflict.

The situation in Yemen continues to evolve amid these latest developments, with the international community watching closely as the conflict enters a new, potentially more dangerous phase.

Who supports the Houthis?

Houthi Rebels, who are they?

The Houthi rebels, also known as Ansar Allah (Supporters of God), have been a significant player in Yemen’s ongoing conflict, dramatically shaping the country’s political landscape. Yet, despite their prominent role, understanding who they are, their origins and their motivations remain challenging for many.

Origins of the Houthi Rebellion

The Houthi movement emerged in the 1990s from the Zaidi Shia community, a branch of Shia Islam that made up approximately one-third of Yemen’s population and had traditionally held power in the country until the 1962 revolution. The group was founded by Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, a former member of parliament for the Islamist Al-Islah party. However, he soon grew disillusioned with the party’s ties to Saudi Arabia and the United States and began forming a movement centered around protecting Zaidi’s interests.

Evolution into an Armed Rebellion

The movement’s transformation into an armed rebellion was triggered in 2004 when the Yemeni government attempted to arrest Hussein al-Houthi. This marked the beginning of the ‘Houthi Wars,’ a series of six conflicts that raged until 2010, culminating in the death of Hussein and the ascension of his brother, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, to leadership.

The Houthis capitalized on the instability of the 2011 Arab Spring, seizing control of Saada province and neighboring areas. By 2014, they had swept into the capital, Sanaa, effectively taking control of the government.

The Houthi-Saudi Conflict

The Houthi takeover of Sanaa and their continued expansion southwards sparked a military intervention in 2015 by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states backed by the US, UK, and France. The coalition’s goal was to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The Houthis, however, have proved resilient, maintaining control over large parts of Yemen, including Sanaa. They have also launched numerous missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, deepening what has become a protracted and devastating conflict.

Who supports the Houthis?

The Houthis have received significant backing from Iran, a Shia-majority country and rival to Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia. This support has included funding, weapons, and training, although Iran denies this. The conflict has thus taken on the dimensions of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, reflecting broader regional tensions.

Humanitarian Impact

The war in Yemen, exacerbated by the Houthi rebellion, has resulted in one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises. The United Nations estimates that over 24 million people, or approximately 80% of Yemen’s population, need humanitarian assistance. In addition, the unrest has spurred a refugee crisis, with millions displaced from their homes.

What Do the Houthis Want?

The Houthi movement’s stated goal is to address the perceived economic and political marginalization of the Zaidi Shia community. They have also expressed resentment at foreign influence in Yemen, particularly from the US and Saudi Arabia. However, their continued expansion and aggressive tactics suggest a broader ambition for power and control.

Houti Rebsl Seize Oil Tankers.

Reports confirm that Houthi rebels have seized multiple oil tankers in an alarming escalation of the ongoing conflict in Yemen. This direct attack on international trade routes has sparked global concerns and prompted renewed scrutiny of this insurgent group’s activities.

The Houthi Rebels: Who Are They?

The Houthi rebellion, or Ansar Allah, has been a religious-political armed movement in Yemen since 1994. The group adheres to the Zaidi sect of Shia Islam. This branch makes up approximately one-third of the population in Yemen and is concentrated mainly in the country’s northern regions.

The group was initially formed in opposition to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom they accused of corruption and nepotism. They also claimed the Yemeni government was overly accommodating to Saudi Arabia and the United States at the expense of the Yemeni people.

The Houthi Insurrection

The Houthi rebellion escalated into a full-blown insurrection in 2004, leading to six rounds of conflict known as the Saada Wars, which lasted until 2010. The group’s influence expanded significantly following the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, taking advantage of the political instability to seize control of Saada province and neighboring areas.

The Houthi rebels then launched a coup d’état in 2014, seizing control of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. This event triggered a military intervention in 2015 by a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, marking the beginning of the ongoing Yemeni Civil War.

What Do the Houthis Want?

Impact on the Oil Industry

The recent seizure of oil tankers is a significant development in the Houthi rebel’s strategy. This illustrates the group’s naval capabilities and indicates a potential shift in their tactics toward disrupting international trade routes and the global oil industry.

Despite its relatively small oil reserves compared to its neighbors, Yemen sits along one of the world’s most crucial maritime chokepoints for the global energy trade: the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. This strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, is a critical route for oil tankers traveling from the Middle East to Europe and North America. Any disruption to this route could significantly affect the global oil market.

International Response

The international reaction to the Houthi seizure of oil tankers has been swift and unequivocal. Several nations, including the United Kingdom, have called for the immediate release of the seized vessels. The United Nations and the European Union have expressed concerns over the potential escalation of the conflict, urging all parties to resume peace talks.

One of the Houthi Leaders

Looking Ahead

The situation in Yemen remains highly fluid, with the Houthi rebels showing no signs of backing down. As the conflict evolves, it poses a significant threat to regional stability and international oil markets. The seizure of oil tankers by the Houthi rebels adds a new dimension to the ongoing crisis in Yemen, one that will require a coordinated international response to prevent further escalation.

The world will watch closely as events unfold in this strategically important region. The hope is that a peaceful resolution to the conflict can be found, bringing an end to the suffering of the Yemeni people and ensuring the stability of global oil routes.