Yemen Conflict – UPSC GS2

Yemen Conflict:
  • Since 2014, Yemen has been facing a multi-sided conflict involving local, regional, and international actors.
  • The Houthis, a group of Zaidi Shia Muslims who ruled a kingdom there for nearly 1,000 years, used widespread anger against President Hadi’s decision to postpone long-awaited elections and his stalled negotiations over a new constitution.
  • They marched from their stronghold of Saada province to the capital Sanaa and surrounded the presidential palace, placing Hadi under house arrest.
Saudi Arabia’s Intervention:
  • A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in March 2015, at Hadi’s request, after the Houthis continued to sweep the south and threatened to conquer the last government stronghold of Aden, prompting one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises ever.
  • Yemen Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia-backed forces loyal to the President of Yemen agreed to a United Nations-mediated ceasefire agreement in 2018.
Resurgence of Houthi Attacks:
  • In 2019, the Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels, violating the ceasefire, attacked Aramco crude oil production in Saudi Arabia.
Consequences of Yemen-Saudi war
  • The war has produced a humanitarian crisis. At least 8.4 million people are at risk of starvation and 22.2 million people (75% of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance.
  • The conflict has killed more than 100,000 Yemenis and displaced 8 million.
  • Towns and cities have been destroyed. Poverty has spread and diseases like cholera have proven difficult to combat because of poor medical infrastructure.
  • According to the UN, 50,000 Yemenis are starving to death and 16 million will go hungry this year.
  • Yemen is strategically important because it sits on a strait linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world’s oil shipments pass.
  • It also worries the West because of the threat of attacks – such as from al-Qaeda or IS affiliates-emanating from the country as it becomes more unstable.
  • The Houthis have escalated cross-border attacks on the kingdom even after the United States delisted the rebels as terrorists and stepped up efforts to de-escalate the six-year conflict.
  • The conflict is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.
India’s Interest:
  • For India, it is a challenge which cannot be washed away taking into consideration the oil security and 8 million expats living in the region with more than USD 80 billion of incoming remittance annually.
Indian Initiatives:
  • Operation Rahat:
    • India launched a massive air and sea operation to evacuate over 4000 Indian nationals from Yemen in April 2015.
  • Humanitarian Assistance:
    • India has provided food and medical aid to Yemen in the past and thousands of Yemeni nationals have availed of medical treatment in India over the past few years.
    • India also continues to facilitate education of a large number of Yemeni nationals in various Indian institutions.
What are the steps taken by the US?
  • Joe Biden has announced an end to US support for Saudi-led offensive operations in Yemen.
  • The Biden administration had put a temporary halt on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Moreover, US-appointed a Special Envoy for Yemen.
  • Other than that, the US also Removed the Shia Houthi rebels from the terrorist list.
  • The US is planning to increase the number of refugees accepted by the US from 15000 to 125000 for the fiscal year.

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