Even after the re-unification of the state, civil wars and tribal vendettas have not come to an end. Combined with the dictatorship of its former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the disastrous conflict of 1994 between Houthis and the government forces was resurrected in 2004 and proceeded in several rounds, notwithstanding the armistices triggered by the mediation of Gulf countries (Council on Foreign Relations 2015). Being regarded as a regional destabilizer, Yemen has been subjected to multiple foreign interventions, either overt or covert, and the final stage of foreign interference might be considered the Saudi-led coalition which was involved due to the invitation of the Yemeni government (Center for Strategic and International Studies 2015). In this article, I argue that the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition into Yemen is ineffective due to four reasons: the high number of civilian casualities; the dearth of access to food, water and infrastructure; the inability to terminate or restrict the conflict; and the economic recession of Saudi Arabia after the intervention.
Saudi Arabia and its allies conducted two operations in Yemen: Operation Decisive Storm and Operation Restoring Hope on the invitation of the Yemeni President Hadi. Even though these operations are intended to halt the Houthi expansion and to reinstate Hadi to his office, it is also significant to note that the intervening forces ought to consider civilians and protect them while pursuing this agenda. In this regard, the interveners seem to be unsuccessful to protect Yemeni civilians since, according to the World Bank, nearly three thousand civilians were killed by intervening forces and approximately one million persons internally displaced (Nuruzzaman 2015). By the end of July 2015, the United Nations declared the Yemen humanitarian emergency as Level 3, which is the indicator of the most complicated and severe crises (Kandeh & Kumar 2015). After Operation Decisive Storm ended, Operation Restoring Hope was initiated with the inclusion of ground forces. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 7127 civilians were killed and more injured in this operation (Powell 2016).
Access of Civilians to Livelihood, Water, and Infrastructure
When Operation Decisive Storm was initiated, Saudi Arabia and its allies embarked upon the implementation of a naval and aerial blockade of Yemen with the purpose of thwarting the possible escape of Houthi leaders. However, the blockade brought about disastrous consequences for the Yemeni civilians due to the fact that most of the food supply of Yemen was either imported from neighboring countries or provided by humanitarian aid agencies (Kandeh & Kumar 2015). In the impoverished zones of the country, which consists of more than thirty five percent of the country according to the World Bank, famine became widespread (Carasik 2015). Furthermore, air campaigns heavily damaged the infrastructure of the country. Hospitals and schools were bombed and water sanitation was interrupted. Access to clean water and health care is a rare luxury for the Yemeni people. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 25 million people are struggling to have food and almost two-thirds of the country's population are not able to receive any health care (Powell 2015).
Terminating or Limiting the Conflict
Saudi-led coalition forces interfered in Yemen with the purpose of putting an end to the Houthi expansion. However, they were not able to coerce Houthi rebels to withdraw from areas where the Houthis had seized control. Throughout operations, which proceeded for months, intervening parties only managed to retrieve the southern parts of the country from the Houthi forces (Al-Madhaji, Sidahmed & Al-Muslimi 2015). The position of the capital city, Sana'a, is still obscure since neither coalition forces nor Houthi rebels were able to control the entire city (Gause 2016). Thus, Saudi forces could not terminate or limit the conflict. On the contrary, they ultimately only expanded the conflict.
Minimum Degree of Burden to the Citizens of the Intervening Forces
Notwithstanding the fact that there is a coalition formed to interfere in Yemen, the main intervening party and the leader of the coalition is Saudi Arabia, as it undertakes most of the operational cost (Clausen 2015). That's why it is crucial to note in terms of effectiveness that the operations put myriad burdens on Saudi citizens. According to the country development reports of Saudi Arabia in 2015 and 2016, there was a substantial fall in GDP from 3.5% to 1.5% and a significant rise in the price index from 2.2% to 4.2% (IHS Global Inc. 2016). Though the low price of oil has a significant impact on these decreasing economic values, the impact of the costly intervention in Yemen cannot be excluded as a non-factor (Powell 2016). Thus, this intervention has not only been detrimental to basic human services and standards of living in Yemen, it has produced a significant negative economic effect on domestic standards within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well.
The conflict in Yemen was a civil war between the fractions within Yemeni society, based on sectarian and ideological issues, until the Saudi-led intervention in March 2015. Both of the Saudi operations seem to be ineffective due to several reasons. First of all, both operations were not capable of protecting the lives of Yemeni civilians. Approximately six thousand people were killed by the intervention forces and many more were injured. Secondly, the naval and aerial blockade hindered food imports and the delivery of humanitarian aid, which created a catastrophic famine for the Yemeni people. Moreover, Saudi bombardments destroyed the infrastructure which made clean water and health care inaccessible to millions throughout Yemen. Thirdly, the intervention can hardly be considered successful in terms of terminating or restricting the conflict in Yemen. Finally, Saudi Arabia’s own GDP per capita and purchasing power parity was negatively impacted, as well as the annual growth rate, which indicates the heavy burden of intervention on Saudi citizens. Considering these reasons, the evidence is overwhelmingly compelling that the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen was not just ineffective, but disastrously so. Whether it can be altered or adapted moving forward into the future in order to change these disturbing trends remain to be seen. But so far this 21st century example of Arab intervention in another Arab state shows nothing but support for those who oppose intervention under any circumstances.