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Houthis and the war in Yemen

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 31, Mar 2022
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Iran has offered its support for a ceasefire plan put forward by rebels it backs in Yemen’s war, saying it could be an “appropriate platform” for ending the conflict.

  • The Houthi rebels have announced the proposal and offered peace talks on condition Saudi Arabia stops its air strikes and blockade of Yemen and removes “foreign forces”.

Need for ceasefire:

The Yemen war has killed hundreds of thousands of people directly or indirectly and displaced millions, creating what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Who are the Houthis?

  • Founded in the 1990s by Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, a member of Yemen’s Shia majority.
  • It is a group of Zaidi Shia Muslims who ruled a kingdom in the province for nearly 1,000 years.

What’s the issue?

One of the Arab world’s poorest countries, Yemen has been devastated by a near seven-year civil war, which started after Houthis captured the capital Sana’a, following which Saudi-led forces intervened and fought the rebels with the aim of ending Iranian influence in the region and restoring the former government.

  • The UAE joined the Saudi campaign in 2015 and has been deeply involved in the conflict ever since, despite announcing the formal withdrawal of its forces in 2019 and 2020.

The war in Yemen: Background:

  • The conflict has its roots in the Arab Spring of 2011, when an uprising forced the country’s long-time authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
  • The political transition was supposed to bring stability to Yemen, one of the Middle East’s poorest nations, but President Hadi struggled to deal with various problems including militant attacks, corruption, food insecurity, and continuing loyalty of many military officers to Saleh.
  • Fighting began in 2014 when the Houthi Shia Muslim rebel movement took advantage of the new president’s weakness and seized control of northern Saada province and neighbouring areas.

Why is Saudi Arabia in Yemen?

Saudi Arabia interfered in Yemen after the Shia Houthi rebels captured Sana’a, the capital city, and the internationally recognised government of President Hadi moved to the country’s south.

  • The rapid rise of the Houthis in Yemen set off alarm bells in Saudi Arabia which saw them as Iranian proxies.
  • Saudi Arabia started a military campaign in March 2015, hoping for a quick victory against the Houthis. But the Houthis had dug in, refusing to leave despite Saudi Arabia’s aerial blitzkrieg.
  • With no effective allies on the ground and no way-out plan, the Saudi-led campaign went on with no tangible result. In the past six years, the Houthis have launched multiple attacks on Saudi cities from northern Yemen in retaliation for Saudi air strikes.