Yemen fragmented after six years of war

Saudis and Emiratis had promised to oust the Houthi rebels from power. But these are still there, stronger than ever. Worse, a multitude of armed groups flourished. The country is now divided and unstable, laments Yemeni journalist Yassine Al-Tamimi.

Since March 2015, the military intervention of the Saudi-Emirati coalition in Yemen has had the same effect as the foreign intervention in Afghanistan. In both cases, the geopolitical and security concerns of foreign powers have eclipsed the needs and priorities of the local population. This worsened the situation on the ground and fueled struggles and violence between a multiplicity of actors.

But in Yemen, the people will not be swallowed up by an armed group. He stands against the idea that such and such a faction can impose itself by force and take power by force. Yemenis also oppose plans to carve up their country by foreign powers. And they are able to endure a lot of suffering if it takes to stand up to them.

This is what the situation around the city of Marib shows. Since the beginning of the year, the Houthi rebels have not ceased to fight to conquer this last big city in the North which eludes them, and which would give them access to important oil and gas resources. But they encountered real resistance, solid and effective on the part of the regular army.

Auxiliary forces

The fact remains that, in six and a half years of war, the Saudis and the Emiratis have created an environment conducive to the development of endemic violence. Both encouraged, created and equipped new armed groups.

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United Arab Emirates fueled dreams of a recovery for the former Republic of South Yemen [indépendant jusqu’à 1990]. And this even though the majority of the inhabitants of the South do not adhere to it and see in it only a provincialist project of a few narrow minds. But the damage is done, and Aden, capital of the South, is the prey of secessionist bands which cause disorder there. If need be, this shows that the conditions are not met to make an independent state work in the South.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have put other players in the saddle. On the West Coast [à Mocha, près de Taez, ville très disputée entre houthistes et diverses milices, dont des salafistes soutenus par les Émirats], an army of a few thousand men obey the orders of Tarek Saleh, who is none other than the nephew of the former dictator Ali Abdallah Saleh [chassé du pouvoir par le “printemps arabe” en 2012].

He too has the support of the Saudi-Emirati alliance. And he too cherishes a political project, again harmful. Namely the reestablishment of a dictatorial regime like that of his late uncle. In the absence of being able to reign over all of Yemen, he could be satisfied with one end of the territory to constitute a stumbling block for the Houthis and their Shiite denominational political project.

Project versus project

The situation is extremely confused and fluid. In the South, there is the dream of reconnecting with independence, in the North, the nostalgia for the theocratic regime of the Zaydi Imamate, and in the middle, the chimeras of the old dictatorship. Each of its projects corresponds to an agenda of neighboring powers. ”

Iran wants to establish its domination over Yemen by using the Houthis, while Saudi Arabia wants to keep Yemen in a state of weakness and fragmentation to better be able to pull its strings there, [et que les Émirats sont accusés de vouloir établir un pouvoir fantoche dans le Sud].

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What’s more, Saudi Arabia is seeking to entrench a piece of land in Mahra province in the east, while the Emirates are pretending to be at home already on Socotra Island. [en mer d’Arabie, à la lisière de l’océan Indien].

As for the Houthis, they know they only rule by force. To stay in power, they play on the divisions of society. They are doing everything to accentuate them by pulling local Zaydism towards Twelver Shiism in Iranian style.

The obstacles to peace are therefore very important. Despite this, Yemenis remain determined to continue the struggle and to thwart regional and international complicities designed to prevent them from recovering their state.

Yassine Al-Tamimi

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