• During the Arab Spring of 2011, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was deposed and an interim government was established. A transition of power was conducted.
• From 2012, elections saw President Hadi coming into power and process of constitutional amendment was agreed too, national power sharing agreement saw rivalling powers commitment.
• In late 2014, protests were launched by Houthi rebels who follow the Zaidi Shi’ite branch of Islam and are geographically and historically concentrated in the North of the country. Iran denies it’s support of this group, but many believe that the country has provided arms and support for the group.
• Protests began to turn violent and the Houthis quickly began to take key territory from pro-government forces, eventually seizing the capital of Sanaa and placing Hadi on house arrest
• Hadi fled to southern Aden, and claimed he would continue ruling the country from the southern city.
• Houthi rebels continued to advance throughout Yemen, taking the cities of Idlib, Taiz and continually advancing towards Aden.
• Hadi flees Yemen as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) debate intervention due to Houthi attacks increasing in Aden, seizure of the airport.
• Saudi Arabia, backed by intelligence missions from the USA, and actual support from countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Morocco launched airstrikes on Houthi targets. Egyptian ships have been deployed to southern ports. Saudi has committed ground troops to defend Aden.
• Huge protests occur in Sanaa and other cities to condemn the strikes. Rallies in support of the action occur in other Yemeni cities.
• The situation is fluid, and is continually developing
• History of divided nation in terms of tribal, geographical and religious segregation. North and South Yemen united in 1991 following extensive civil conflict.
• Further complicated by severe economic and social insecurity of the country.
• Proliferation of weaponry across the country due to history of militarised unrest.
• Known base of Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) in Southern Areas of Yemen.
• Islamic State militants utilising insecurity of situation, responsible for the death of 137 in triple explosion attack of mosque in Sanaa.
• Situation in Yemen is historically complex, and largely a domestic situation. Many warn that the intervention from foreign powers will only worsen the situation for a political resolution to be made in Yemen.
Saudi-led intervention into Yemen is a significant development in terms of regional and domestic politics. Many are without doubt that conflict is underway in Yemen, but distinguish between the internal, domestic conflict and the increasingly internationalised element. Indeed, many describe the domestic situation as a microcosm of the larger regional alliances.
Domestically, the power struggle between Houthi rebels and Hadi-aligned forces are further complicated by security forces who remain loyal to former president Saleh. The tribal influences that are divergent across the country further complicate this dynamic. Indeed, the presence of internationally recognised terrorist cells, and their ability or align with certain tribal groups adds another level of complexity to the situation. The majority of the population urge for stability to be returned to Yemen, however the populace are endemically divided as to what a “resolution” would look like. This is in turn adding to an existing environment of the militarisation of society. The future in Yemen looks bleak at the point of publication, and any developmental progress that has been made under Hadi’s rule is likely to be undone. Unrest, in terms of street protest will continue and potentially escalate. Poverty will likely rise and insecurity will lead to a further recruitment drive for terrorist organisations. The threat of Islamic State continuing to make gains in the country has already been established, and this will likely worsen.
Iran – Saudi proxy war
The domestic conflict has unfortunately drawn in regional actors to the conflict that has a religious element. The Houthi power is largely speculated to being supported by Iran, their affiliation to the Shi’ite branch of Islam often repeated as a causation of this link. Iran and Saudi have been pitched as the two potential regional powers in the region for many years now, and it is feared that this tension may turn Yemen into the Afghanistan of the 1980’s. Saudi itself has long protected its allies, who are often cited as being threatened by “extremist” Shi’ite minority populations (ie, Saudi intervention into Bahrain in 2011 uprisings.) Hadi’s declaration that he would conduct authority over Yemen from Saudi as he fled Sanaa reflected the potential for the involvement of Saudi Arabia into the conflict. However, the airstrikes were mobilised far sooner than many observers expected. Indeed, many regional actors have come foreword in expressing their allegiance to either side, increasing the rhetoric of an allies Iran vs. Saudi conflict. Notably, the following States and organisations have pledged their allegiance in this division.
• Turkey, members of the Arab League, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Morocco have publically stated their support for Saudi Arabia.
• United States has condemned military aggression, but states it will continue in their allegiance to the Kingdom.
• The British Foreign Office has urged for a “political resolution” to the conflict, but said in a statement; “We support the Saudi Arabian military intervention in Yemen following President Hadi’s request for support by ‘all means and measures to … deter Houthi aggression,’”
• Iran has deplored the airstrikes, and has urged for Saudi Arabia to cease military aggression
• Russia has stated that the embassy will remain in open in Sanaa, and that Russian nationals should not leave the country.
• Hezbollah have stated that the Saudi airstrikes will result in more tensions within the Mideast and that Saudi Arabia should unconditionally halt air strikes.
• Iraq rejects involvement, states Gulf intervention will only complicate situation.
• EU spokesperson claims that military action is not a solution in Yemen, and has urged all actors in the region to act with restraint.
Oil Price Jumps
Economically, as Saudi Arabia declared its intentions to deploy air strikes the price of oil rose. This is due to concern of how the geopolitical actions in the region will effect supply. Indeed, the US has been quick to state that the Bab el-Mandeb Straits which is located in Yemen and serves as a through point to the Suez Canal will be protected. Some suggestions have claimed that Saudi involvement into Yemen is part of the global oil crisis, but this is a radical interpretation.
The domestic consequence for Saudi Arabia
The decision to lead coalition airstrikes will also have consequences domestically in Saudi Arabia.
• Huge element of public support for Saudi intervention in Yemen, likely to affirm the leadership of King Salaman who recently transitioned to monarch. Pro-active involvement a policy that reassures many Saudi nationals, and those involved with foreign trade.
• Military presence has increased across the Kingdom, in fear of a reprisal attack. Heavy security presence will particularly be focussed in the Eastern Province, particularly in areas of dense Shi’te population within this area.
• Operations have also been indefinitely suspended at several airports, including Abha, Bisha, Jizan, Najran, and Wadi al-Dawaswer due to security concerns.
• The border region with Yemen is thought to have been densely militarised, and southern travel should be avoided.
• Saudi Arabia will be consistently cautious over the inroads the Islamic State militants have been able to make in Yemen, and may explain the catalyst to their involvement following the Sanaa mosque attacks.
• International human rights pressure that has increased in passed months is likely to be temporarily side-lined in light of the military developments.
• Further harsh detention measures may be authorised by the state due to the proximity of the Yemeni threat.
• Military call up within Saudi Arabia has potential to increase, which may have knock on effect of other elements of society and service provision.