The State of Despair

The world has witnessed surreal disruption last year and now recognises the troubles of uncertainty and fear. Some of the countries, however, have been living that nightmare for years. One such instance is Yemen; the most impoverished nation of the Middle East. For years Yemen has been housing a full-fledged civil war and has been at the brink of collapse several times over the past decade. What started as the rooted rebellion following the infamous Arab spring, while some countries saw the light at the end of chaos, Yemen has been deprived of every glimmer of hope.

Arab spring is arguably the most diffused surge of rebellion of the century since its roots find semblance in the most notorious conflicts lacing the Middle East: be it the Syrian War, Iraq’s dismal affairs and even the complex power games of Saudi Arabia, the list is endless. However, with the passing time, the effects have diluted. Such is not the case for Yemen. Diplomatically known as the ‘Republic of Yemen’, the country is nudged in the southern periphery of the Arabian Peninsula. It shares a border with Saudi Arabia in the northern edge while connects Oman to the Far East, stretching a 2000 km coastline in the South. Despite the enormous size of the state; standing as the second largest in size amongst the Arab sovereign states, living conditions of the country could not be more abysmal. The deplorable way of life could be extrapolated from the fact that in the region denominated by oil rich Gulf, Yemen was pinned as the second worst on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) while simultaneously also scoring the lowest on the Human Development Index (HDI) in the world, just beside the African countries.

This deteriorating order of state is attributed to the shocks of the Arab spring of 2011; the uprisings coupled with ineffective political transition leading to a diplomatic chaos that lasts to this day. The divisions were sowed when the uprisings led to the downfall of the lasting long-term president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The end to the 34-year legacy of Saleh as the first President of Yemen wrecked a political havoc. His successor and former deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansoor Hadi, officially raised up to his rank, however, failed to deal with the iteration of problems faced as an ensue to the Yemeni Revolution. His struggle only worsened and later turned shockingly monochromatic; guided only to fix issues of the teetering economy, rampant corruption and food scarcity. Amidst his fixation to state fundamentals, however, he bypassed the brewing separatist movement in the south,pledging loyalty to Saleh.

The champions of the movement; also known as the Houthis (Formerly rooted from the “Ansar Allah”) capitalised the inexperience and divided attention of President Hadi and started to launch skirmish rebellions all over Yemen. By late 2014, the Houthi Movement had garnered a broad Shiite majority in support while holding key regions in the north of Yemen including the capital city of Sanaa, annexed in early 2015. The conquest could have expedited more if it were all left to internal affairs of Yemen. However, with Iran’s alleged support to the Houthis arguably driving President Hadi to flee the country, Arab nations feared Iran’s dominance boiling right around their borders. This resulted in the Saudi Arabia-led-coalition of Sunni Majority Arab nations to launch a crippling series of air strikes against the Houthis, restoring Hadi’s government in the process.

While President Hadi’s government gripped the wheels of democracy again, the power game had shifted the day Saudi Arabia decided to enter the proxy war. He struggled to handle event the basic services of the state with now a full-blown war raged between Iran-backed Houthis and the US-backed Saudi Coalition. Despite of the countless efforts of a ceasefire, the never-ending war seemed to escalate with each new development in the region. In 2017, a ballistic missile attack towards Saudi Arabia further tightened the alliance against the Houthis while the accusations against Iran sponsoring terrorism in Yemen kept pilling and repeatedly met denial of Tehran.  The killing of Saleh in the missile attack by the Houthis in an attempt to regain the Capital city of Sanaa erased all hope of peace since the motive of the conflict turned more complex than ever. In late 2019, the most destructive attack on the Saudi oil fields resulted in the loss of half of the kingdom’s oil supply; cumulating to 5% of the total world output.

The surge of the pandemic and the subsequent ceasefire offered by Saudi Arabia casts the desperation of the Arab nations to reach a resolution, especially after the withdrawal of Qatar.  Houthis, by contrast, rejected the peace offering and continue to transition into a berserk rebellion. The year 2020 ended with a roar of further destruction when the Saudi coalition-backed cabinet of Yemen was welcomed with several explosions right off their arrival at the Aiden airport, leaving 22 dead. The new year could not possibly fathom the sinister possibilities at crossroads. Thousands of lives lost, hunger and desperation looming and crumbling humanity within the gullies of Yemen; the message of the present-day Houthis could not be any simpler: ‘No Saudi involvement within Yemen!’.

Syed Zain Abbas Rizvi
Syed Zain Abbas Rizvi
The author is a political and economic analyst. He focuses on geopolitical policymaking and international affairs. Syed has written extensively on fintech economy, foreign policy, and economic decision making of the Indo-Pacific and Asian region.