By Aram Mirzaei
For 18 months now, Yemen has been embroiled in a devastating conflict that has killed at least 10 000 people according to official sources, that number is however probably far higher. The Yemeni conflict is characterized by the asymmetric ways it’s being fought on the battlefield and by the massive amount of suffering for the civilian population in the impoverished country.
The current Yemeni conflict can be traced back all the way to 2004, when the Houthis, a Zaidi Shia group in the mountainous northern Yemeni Saadah governorate began a low-level insurgency against the central government in the capital Sanaa. The Houthis have since their uprising called for simple things such as government accountability, end to corruption, fair fuel prices, job opportunities and most importantly, an end to Western influence in Yemen.
Many Yemenis believe the Houthis are right in pushing out Western influence and decision making, and blame U.S. interference for allowing former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to avoid prosecution or exile for crimes against his people during the “Arab Spring” uprising. Under a deal in 2011, in the midst of the “Arab Spring”, he was allowed to step down and still remain in the country. The presidency was essentially handed over in a one-man election, mandated by the Gulf Cooperation Council as Yemen’s first step in transition, to Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who many Yemenis regard as a puppet of the United States. It is worthy of notice that Hadi was supposed to only serve for two years until new parliamentary and presidential elections were to be held in 2014, a deal he reneged on.
The Houthis have previously been accused of wanting to replace the republican system with an Islamic Republic modelled after that of Iran, something that the Houthis themselves have on several occasions denied with the main reason for this being the fact that they are a minority in the country. Hussein Al-Bukhari, a man close to the Houthis said that:
“In Iran this kind of ruling has been implemented because the majority of people are Shia. In spite of this, transparent elections are taking place in Iran. However, we cannot apply this system in Yemen because the followers of the Shafi [Sunni] doctrine are bigger in number than the Zaydis [Shia]. For this reason, repeating an Iran-like system is difficult to materialize in Yemen.”
As the security situation in Yemen began to deteriorate, with the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) ever growing stronger, and with their demands for the Yemeni government to act against this terrorist threat being ignored, the once small group in the highlands of Saadah sought to take their destiny into their own hands.
The conflict was sparked in 2004 by the government’s attempt to arrest Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, the Zaidi religious leader of the Houthis. For ten years (2004-2014) the insurgency mostly took place in the Saadah governorate and the nearby Hajjah, Amran and Al-Jawf governorates until it reached its culmination in 2014 with the Yemeni government announcement of an increase in fuel prices as part of reforms to subsidy programs, which aimed at unlocking foreign funding and easing pressure on the budget. The lifting of subsidies came after pressure from the International Monetary Fund, which conditioned its continued financial assistance on these “reforms”. Fuel subsidies were among the few widely available social goods in Yemen, keeping down the cost of transport, water, and food, while supporting local industry. The decision to lift fuel subsidies gave the Houthi movement the reason they needed to rise up and put an end to what they perceived as corruption in Sanaa. After a five day battle with the Yemeni government forces under the control of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, backed by Al-Islah Salafist militias, the Houthis managed to take over the capital of Yemen on 21 September 2014. Massive rallies began to take place inside Sanaa, often in support of the Houthis, accompanied by the famous “scream”, a Houthi calling card which proclaims
“Death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews, victory to Islam.”
First shouted by Hussein Badreddin Al-Houthi in the ancient Grand Mosque of Sanaa in 2004, it was the “Scream” that started the multiple wars of the Yemeni government against the Houthis. Despite the acerbic words, adherents tend to claim it is to call attention to governments of the West, never to harm individuals. The Houthis have never attacked anything of Western interest, and in fact have a common enemy with America; Al-Qaeda.
“We do not really want death to anyone,” said Ali al-Bukhayti, the former spokesperson and official media face of the Houthis, during an interview. “The slogan is simply against the interference of those governments.”
On the same day of the Houthi takeover of Sanaa, Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa resigned. After gaining control over key government buildings in Sana’a, the Houthis and government signed a UN-brokered deal to form a unity government. The Houthis, along with several other Yemeni political groups, signed a deal entitled the Peace and Partnership Agreement which provided for the formation of this new unity government.
On 7 November, the UN Security Council placed sanctions on former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, accused of aiding the Houthi campaign, and two additional Houthi commanders, Abdullah Yahya Al-Hakim and Abd Al-Khaliq Al- Houthi, for “obstructing the Yemeni political process”. Saleh’s political party, the General People’s Congress responded by stripping Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi of his party position, accusing him of instigating the sanctions. With the new government sworn in on 9 November, the Houthis and the General People’s Congress refused to participate. The Houthis began to express calls for Yemen to be partitioned into two federal regions, one in the north and one in the south while accusing Hadi of reneging on his promises regarding a new draft constitution and arming AQAP.
After the Houthi takeover of the Saba News Agency headquarters, the Houthi movement’s leader Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi gave a speech demanding that Hadi move to implement political changes demanded by the Houthis, as well as threatening an armed attack on Ma’rib, a city in central Yemen.
On 20 January, forces loyal to the Houthis attacked the president’s residence and swept into the presidential palace. President Hadi was inside the residence as it came under “heavy shelling” for a half-hour, but he was unharmed and protected by guards, according to Information Minister Nadia al-Sakkaf. Presidential guards surrendered the residence after being assured that Hadi could safely evacuate. On 22 January, Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah tendered their resignations, saying that circumstances in Yemen had been altered by the Houthi advance into the capital in September 2014. Bahah declared he resigned to “avoid being dragged into an abyss of unconstructive policies based on no law”. While senior Houthi officials reportedly welcomed Hadi’s resignation, a statement from the Houthi leadership said the country’s parliament would have to approve it in order for it to become effective. In the wake of this power vacuum, security officials in the southern city of Aden and other nearby towns declared that they would not take orders from Sanaa, with some of them declaring that they would seek an independent South Yemen. On 25 January, the “Southern Movement” declared secession from the North. On 27 January, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi called for a meeting in Sanaa on 30 January between the political factions and tribal leaders to put an end to the political chaos in the country. Most factions however boycotted the meeting, with only Ali Abdullah Saleh’s party joining the discussions. Al-Houthi proposed a six-member transitional presidential council with equal representation from the north and the south, something that the Southern Movement refused.
On 1 February, the Houthis issued an ultimatum to Yemen’s political factions warning that if they did not “reach a solution to the current political crisis”, then the Houthi revolutionary leadership would assume formal authority over the state. Almost a week later, a Houthi representative announced on television from the Republican Palace in Sanaa that as of 6 February 2015, the Houthis were taking control of the country. The statement declared the House of Representatives dissolved and said a presidential council would be formed to lead Yemen for two years, while revolutionary committees would be put in charge of forming a new, 551-member parliament.
The conflict begins
On 21 February, one month after Houthi militants confined Hadi to his residence in Sanaa; he escaped out of the capital and traveled to Aden. In a televised address from Aden, he declared that the Houthi takeover was illegitimate and said that he remained the constitutional president of Yemen. Clashes began to erupt in Aden on 19 March between forces loyal to Hadi and those who refused to recognize him as president. The next day, four suicide attacks occurred in the Al-Badr and Al-Hashoosh mosques in Sanaa, killing 142 people and injuring more than 350 worshippers in what marked the deadliest terrorist attack in Yemen’s history. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for the attacks, stating that “the Islamic state will not rest until they stop the Safawi (Iranian) operation in Yemen”. After these bombings, Abdul Malik-Al Houthi declared that the Houthis and their allies (Republican Guard and pro-Saleh military wings) mobilization for war was imperative under the current circumstances, with Al-Houthi declaring Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, including Hadi to be legitimate targets.
Meanwhile Hadi declared Aden to be Yemen’s temporary capital while Sanaa was under Houthi control, declaring that “We will restore security to the country and hoist the flag of Yemen in Sana’a, instead of the Iranian flag”.
Within days, the Houthis forces advances rapidly and captured Taiz a while advancing in the southern Lahij and Aden governorates. By 25 March they had reached Aden’s outskirts with the Houthis and their pro-Saleh allies quickly taking over the Aden International Airport. That day, Hadi fled Aden and arrived by plane in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, where he was greeted by the Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud. The next day, the Saudi-led intervention began.
The Saudi-led Intervention
On 26 March, a coalition of 10 mainly Arab League countries, supported by the US, UK, France, Canada and Turkey invaded Yemen in an effort to restore the Hadi government in what was dubbed “Operation Decisive Storm”. The air campaign has been characterized by tremendous ferocity, wholesale destruction and massive amounts of civilian casualties. In addition to carrying out airstrikes, the Saudi-led coalition has put ground troops in several parts of Yemen, in order to lead the offensives against the Houthi and allied forces. Within weeks, many parts of Yemen had suffered from indiscriminate Coalition bombings, often with the use of US-supplied cluster bombs, a weapon Washington accuses Russia of using in Syria.
According to the Saudi news outlet Al Arabiya, Saudi Arabia contributed 100 warplanes and 150,000 soldiers to the military operation. Planes from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain were also reportedly taking part. On top of all this, the Coalition imposed an air and naval blockade on Yemen, with US and UK warships actively participating in the naval blockade.
The stated goal of this Coalition was to reinstate the Hadi regime and to “eliminate the Houthi threat”. This goal was claimed to have been achieved less than a month later when
the Saudi Defense Ministry on 21 April 2015 declared in a bizarre statement that it was ending the campaign of airstrikes because it had “successfully eliminated the threat” to its security posed by Houthi ballistic and heavy weaponry. It announced the start of a new phase codenamed Operation Restoring Hope. In a televised address, Hadi said the end of airstrikes had come at his request and thanked the Arab coalition for their support. At the announcement of the new operation, Coalition officials declared that they were intending to attempt a political solution, but that they would continue the air and naval blockade of the country. It didn’t really come as a surprise that the airstrikes resumed immediately after the announcement of the end of “Operation Decisive Storm”.
Whether the change in codenames of the operations was for the namesake or not, it did not really change the situation on the ground as Coalition airstrikes continued to devastate the impoverished country to the south. After the Coalition declared the entire Saadah governorate a military target, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Johannes van der Klaauw said on 9 May 2015 that the airstrikes were in breach of International law. “The indiscriminate bombing of populated areas, with or without prior warning, is in contravention of international humanitarian law (IHL),” van der Klaauw said in a statement. Less than a month after the statement made by van der Klauuw, the UN and several aid agencies said that almost 80% of the country’s population, meaning 20 million Yemenis, were in urgent need of food, water and medical aid, in a humanitarian disaster that came as a direct result of the blockade imposed by the Coalition along with its Western allies.
As the Coalition continued to wage war on Yemen, the Houthis and their allies launched their own offensives across the northern Yemeni border into Saudi territory, thus expanding the war to encompass the three southern Saudi provinces of Jizan, Najran and Asir. Soon after these border clashes broke out, the Houthis and their allies began to advance inside Saudi territory, capturing the border town of Al-Raabuah by November 2015 while securing most of the border crossings in the Saadah governorate. The Houthi capture of this border town and several other outposts across the Saudi-Yemeni border was a clear indication of the weakness of the Coalition forces that were suffering staggering losses. Not long after this incident videos and pictures began to circulate online of deadly Houthi attacks on Saudi bases and outposts, clearly showing that the Saudi-led forces were ill prepared to fight the experienced and highly motivated Houthi forces.
By December 2015, the Saudi whistleblower “Mujtahid” revealed on Twitter that Saudi Arabia had spent over 60 Billion dollars on its aggressions on Yemen and that over 2000 Saudi soldiers had been killed in combat with the Houthis and its allies. Furthermore over 4800 Saudi soldiers had been killed.  It should be noted that the Coalition had by now not managed to push back the Houthis and their allies with the allied Yemeni forces still in control over much of the country’s north and central regions. Meanwhile the Hadi loyalists had to battle Al-Qaeda in eastern and central Yemen, who took advantage of the chaotic situation and captured the port city of Al-Mukallah in southeastern Yemen.
Despite these losses and the cost of war, the Saudis continued to defy logic and pursued an even more violent approach to the Yemeni crisis. In January 2016 alone, at least three strikes against aid organizations were documented, with the Saudis demanding that the UN and other aid organizations move their offices and staff away from “regions where the Houthi militias and their supporters are active and in areas where there are military operations” to “protect the international organizations and their employees.”.
The Coalition, has repeatedly accused Iran of arming and supplying the Houthis and their allies. This included US Secretary of State John Kerry saying that there were “obviously supplies that have been coming from Iran”, with “a number of flights every single week that have been flying in”. This is a rather bizarre accusation since the Coalition, including the US had imposed both a naval and air blockade on the country since March 2015. There are thus only two things that can explain this accusation; either the Coalition is lying about Iranian support, or the blockade imposed by over 10 nations, including one of the world’s most powerful navies (US navy) is as useless as the Saudi promise of a “political process”.
Either way, the Coalition has never been able to provide any evidence to their claims, which indicates that they are not being truthful about these accusations. Yemen has been known to have had a large black market for arms sales since the country has experienced multiple wars over the decades. A Yemeni friend of mine once said that “there are more weapons in Yemen than there are citizens”.
Another interesting feature in the Coalition’s war on Yemen is the use of foreign mercenaries employed by the wealthy Gulf States to fight their war for them. Already in November 2015, reports began to spread about hundreds of Colombian, Panamanian, Salvadorian and Chilean mercenaries being dispatched by the UAE to fight in Yemen. In December that same year, reports indicated that the UAE had brought in foreign commanders to lead their troops in battle, with Mike Hindmarsh, an Australian citizen and a former senior Australian army officer being listed as a commander of the UAE’s Presidential Guard. Hindmarsh oversaw the guard’s formation in early 2010 shortly after he took up his estimated $500,000-a-year, tax-free job in Abu Dhabi, where he reports directly to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. 
A spokesman for the Yemeni army told Russian media that hundreds of mercenaries are fighting in his country on behalf of Saudi Arabia and its allies.
“They hire poor people from around the world to take part in the hostilities. Among them are Somalis and people from Sudanese tribes,” Brig. Gen. Sharaf Ghalib Luqman told RIA Novosti.
“However, there are also Europeans, Americans, and Colombians. These are contractors from a structure formerly known as Blackwater. This division includes around 400 people.” he added.
Blackwater or Academi as they are named today is the private security firm that became notorious for providing thousands of mercenaries to the U.S. war in Iraq, some of whom were later implicated in war crimes. Mercenaries in Yemen have on several occasions fallen victim to Houthi and Yemeni Army ballistic missile attacks with both Yemeni sources and PressTV reporting in December 2015 that over 80 Saudi-led troops, including at least 42 mercenaries were killed in a ballistic missile attack in the southwestern province of Taiz. That figure included twenty three Saudi, nine Emirati and seven Moroccan forces.
In the following months, Yemeni ballistic missile attacks escalated further, something that put so much strain on the UAE that Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces announced on twitter in June 2016 that “the war is over for the UAE”. Over the summer of 2016, the Houthis continued their campaign in the southern Saudi provinces with Saudi casualties piling up and the Houthis and their allies advancing in the Najran province, coming within striking distance of the large city of Najran. During this campaign, at least 20 Saudi M1 Abrams tanks were destroyed and over 400 Saudi soldiers had been killed.
In early June 2016, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon slammed the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen for killing and maiming children by adding it to an annual blacklist of states and armed groups that violate children’s rights during conflict. Less than a week later, on 6 June, the UN outrageously announced that it had removed the coalition from the blacklist. Ban Ki-Moon clearly confirmed he had been blackmailed into removing the Coalition from the UN blacklist since Saudi Arabia had privately threatened to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian and “counterterrorism” funds if it was not taken off the list. Ban told reporters in a prepared statement that unnamed countries threatened to cut off financial support for vital U.N. programs if Saudi Arabia and its allies were not removed from the list. Privately, U.N.-based officials said senior Saudi representatives, including Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, threatened to cut funding to such vital programs as those for displaced Palestinians and destitute Yemenis. They also said Riyadh raised the specter that other Arab nations, principally the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, would also follow suit. This is a clear admission that the UN is completely corrupt and sold out, with the UN chief saying that it was “one of the most painful and difficult decisions I have had to make,” and that the threats to pull funding raised “the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously.”
In truth, the decision to remove the Coalition from the blacklist and the decisions made every time by the UN to not condemn any of the massacres committed on the Yemeni people has given the Coalition free reigns to do as they wish in Yemen. In early October a new massacre took place in the capital Sanaa when Coalition warplanes barbarically bombed a funeral session, killing hundreds and injuring at least 500 people.
The attacks were met with outrage from Iran, with Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi denouncing the international community for keeping silent on the Saudi military aggression for 18 months.
“In order to put an end to the fabricated crisis in Yemen, there is no way but to stop the belligerent nature of brutal Al Saud aggressors and begin serious dialog with the participation of all Yemeni sides,” the Iranian spokesperson added. He expressed Iran’s disgust over such an inhumane and heinous crime and sympathized with the families of the victims.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani for his part said that it is “really unbelievable” that Saudi Arabia continues to kill the Muslim people of Yemen, particularly women and children “without any reason,”
The incident, along with the Saudi-led naval exercises in the Persian Gulf, which was aimed at provoking Iran, sparked a new row between the arch enemies Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri saying that “Saudi Arabia has by no means the capability to confront Iran and [in fact] not only Saudi Arabia, but its allies are also incapable of confrontation with the Islamic Republic of Iran,”
The strongly worded statement addressed all Saudi and non-Saudi naval vessels that were part of the maneuvers, suggesting that the IRGC views the ongoing war games as an evident attempt to foment tensions and compromise sustainable security in the Persian Gulf.
Elsewhere, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah condemned the horrible Saudi massacre, noting that the Saudis deliberately targeted the funeral gathering to raise the death toll as much as possible. “The Saudi massacre is not surprising, for Al-Saud’s regime has been accustomed to committing crimes in the Arab peninsula, Iraq and in other areas in the region,” Sayyed Nasrallah added.
At the beginning of his speech during Hezbollah ceremony which marked the seventh night of Muharram, Sayyed Nasrallah stressed that the Yemenis will defeat the terrorist Saudi aggression on their country, offering deep condolences to the families of the martyrs and hoping the wounded will have a speedy recovery.
Meanwhile, US State Department Spokesperson John Kirby defended the Saudi airstrikes, claiming that they were “different” than Russian and Syrian airstrikes in Aleppo. Kirby then claimed that the Saudis were not “deliberately targeting civilians” like the Russians and Syrians, and that the Saudi Air Force is “investigating” the airstrikes. Kirby then asserted that the Saudis are defending themselves against the Houthi fighters that are allegedly being armed by Iran. Kirby failed to explain how his comments are not contradictory since his government is arming the Jihadists in Syria and that the Syrian government according to his logic has the right to defend itself. 
Moreover, Kirby stated that the exiled Yemeni regime invited Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen, which is the same thing his regime attacks Assad for doing in Syria. Kirby’s claims that Iranian-supplied missiles are being used to attack Saudi Arabia are also false since the Zelzal-3 missiles, used by the Houthis fighters are not Iranian-made but rather smaller replicas produced by Yemeni engineers.
During this entire 18 month long conflict, the Saudi Arabia’s Western allies have consistently kept silent about the mass atrocities committed by the Coalition while they have continued to sell arms to the Saudi’s to continue this barbaric campaign on Yemen. Recently, the US navy conducted its first attack on the allied Yemeni forces when they fired Tomahawk missiles on the strait of Bab Al-Mandeb. The Pentagon added that the Houthi forces had targeted US ships at least two times over the last four days preceding the incident. That same day, a Houthi spokesperson denied that the Houthis had fired any missiles on US warships, but added that their forces will respond to the Americans if they intend to provoke them. Yemeni activists have since accused Saudi Arabia of targeting American naval vessels in order to provoke the latter to attack the Houthi forces and Yemeni Republican Guard. The next day, the leader of the Houthis Abdul Malik Al-Houthi warned that the US military was preparing to invade Yemen and conduct ground operations against the allied Yemeni forces while vowing that the Yemeni nation would defend its territory, freedom and independence. 
In the latest developments, the Egyptian Air Force has reportedly withdrawn from the Saudi-led Coalition of countries attacking Yemen after a 12 month-long operation. According to locals in Cairo, this move by the Egyptian government came just hours after the Egyptian Intelligence Chief met with his Syrian counterpart. This development would mean that Egypt becomes the second country to drop out of the war on Yemen.
When comparing the Yemeni and Syrian tragedies, it is difficult to not feel disgusted. Syria and Yemen are being punished for their refusal to become imperial pawns of the AngloZionist Empire, and for this refusal, they must suffer through crimes unimaginable. What is truly disgusting is the unlimited amount of hypocrisy and lies being spread by the Western “humanitarian” powers and their propaganda machines (mainstream media). The same powers who are outraged by Russia and Syria’s legitimate struggle to fight terrorism because of the “humanitarian catastrophe” in Aleppo, are the same ones who are currently imposing a 18 month long blockade on Yemen, resulting in mass starvation and the recent outbreak of cholera.
The same powers who are seeking “democracy and freedom” in Syria, are backing the most medieval and criminal regimes in modern times, namely the Gulf Monarchies, in their campaign to destroy its neighboring country.
The same powers who claim to fight terrorism are selling billions of dollars’ worth of arms to the Wahhabi kingdom who shares and exports the same vile and cruel ideology to the world in the form of ISIL and Al-Qaeda.
Yemen is paying a heavy price for its natural right to remain independent and free from foreign dominance, and while the Western media are outraged by the situation in Aleppo, they remain absolutely silent on Yemen’s suffering which is why so many people have no clue as to what’s going on in the country. Hopefully, this article can shed some light on the situation for those of you who seek to understand this tragedy.
Summary of who’s who in the Yemeni conflict + Map of the current military situation
Mansur Hadi loyalists
Islah party Salafists
Southern movement secessionists
The conflict in Najran, Asir and Jizan provinces of Saudi Arabia
- http://www.yementimes.com/en/1826/intreview/4467/Al-Bukhaiti-to-the-Yemen-Times-“The-Houthis’-takeover-can-not-be-called-an-invasion”.htm ↑
- http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-saudi-un-idUSKBN0NU0PN20150509 ↑
- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/05/saudi-led-naval-blockade-worsens-yemen-humanitarian-disaster ↑
- https://www.sott.net/article/307813-Saudi-Arabia-spends-over-60bln-in-9-Month-aggressions-on-Yemen ↑
- http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/mercenaries-charge-uae-forces-fighting-yemen-764309832 ↑
- http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/26/world/middleeast/emirates-secretly-sends-colombian-mercenaries-to-fight-in-yemen.html?_r=0 ↑
- http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/10/08/488215/Iran-Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-Sanaa-Bahram-Qassemi ↑
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYZwgc6GwZ4 ↑
- https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/houthi-leaders-claims-us-preparing-invade-yemen/ ↑