Monthly archives for February, 2016

ICG: Yemen – Is Peace Possible?

Excellent new report from the International Crisis Group on the warring factions in Yemen, their grievances and the prospects for peace:

The media often describes the war as between Iranian-backed Huthis and President Hadi’s Saudi-supported government. This obscures more than it reveals. Within Yemen, there are two main warring factions that enjoy varying degrees of external support: the bloc of Huthi fighters and forces allied with ex-President Saleh, which receives Iranian support but, as discussed below, much less than often asserted; and an anti-Huthi alliance of smaller groups loosely allied with the Hadi government and backed by the Saudi-led coalition. These factions are internally diverse, reflecting competing interests and priorities. There is little to no loyalty to Hadi on the anti- Huthi side; the opposing bloc is less pro-Huthi than virulently opposed to the Sunni Islamist party Islah, which supports Hadi’s government, and to the Saudi-led intervention that aims to restore that government.

The fighting combines elements of three overlapping historical fault lines: the Zaydi northern highlands, where the Huthi/Saleh bloc is strongest, versus the Shafei (Sunni) rest of the county; the north versus previously independent South Yemen; and what remains of Saleh’s GPC versus Islah, both struggling to maintain nationwide appeal against political fragmentation and growing regionalist sentiment. The balance of external support to these loose coalitions is starkly uneven: the Saudi-led coalition lends direct military, financial and political help to anti-Huthi fighters, while Iran operates on a shoestring budget, giving the Huthis political and moral aid but little military and financial assistance. Instead of a neat, two-sided battle, the war is multipolar, with domestic and external components, unlikely alliances and threat of more fragmentation.

News, Notes and Links | 06.02.16


Saudi Arabia is ready to participate in ground operations in Syria, military spokesman says.

U.N. suspends peace talks in Syria for three weeks.

34 groups have pledged alligience to ISIS, U.N. Secretary-General says.

World leaders pledges more than 10 billion dollars for Syria.

Tunisia completes the construction of barrier along its border to Libya.

Russia: “reasonable grounds” to suspect Turkey is preparing a military intervention in Syria.


Recommended Reads:

Syrian rebels are losing Aleppo and perhaps also the war | By Liz Sly, Washington Post

Syrian rebels battled for their survival in and around Syria’s northern city of Aleppo on Thursday after a blitz of Russian airstrikes helped government loyalists sever a vital supply route and sent a new surge of refugees fleeing toward the border with Turkey.

The Russian-backed onslaught against rebel positions in Aleppo coincided with the failure of peace talks in Geneva, and helped reinforce opposition suspicions that Russia and its Syrian government allies are more interested in securing a military victory over the rebels than negotiating a settlement.

Chemical Wonders | By Joost Hiltermann, London Review of Books

Predicting what will start a war, and when, is an unrewarding business. Long-term trends (‘causes’) are often clear enough, but not the proximate causes, or triggers. We can assess the comparative significance of competition for resources, hunger for power, the nature of political systems, the psychology of leaders. What precipitates a conflict, though, may be a sudden, unforeseen event: an accident, misreading or miscalculation, or a temperamental leader’s flash of hubris. Often, of course, it is a combination of such things. Yet there is nothing inevitable about the outbreak of conflict.

China’s Stance on East Jerusalem | By Mohammed al-Sudairi, MERIP

For those accustomed to the themes of Sino-Arab diplomacy, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on January 21 was predictable enough. It might not have attracted much attention at all if not for Xi’s statement that “China firmly supports the Middle East peace process and supports the establishment of a State of Palestine enjoying full sovereignty on the basis of the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.”