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.

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