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Yemen Conflict: Will the Death of Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh Open the Doors to ISIS Militants?

Yemen Conflict

In Yemen 8 million people face food shortages and someone just killed the former President. Many fear that the killing of Ali Abdullah Saleh will open the floodgates for ISIS affiliated militants.

The tension in the Yemen conflict worsened as Saudi-backed coalition launched an air strike targeting a prison run by Houthi rebels in the capital Sanaa that killed 30 and wounded 80, as reported by the rebel television station on Wednesday. The previous report claimed 12 prisoners were dead when the pre-dawn raids struck the military police compound.

Most of the deaths were believed to be prisoners trapped inside the camp. There have been no official comments from the coalition so far.

The UN data revealed that the pro-government coalition has killed 8,670 and wounded 49,960 since the Yemen conflict erupted in 2015.  

The conflict also harms the lives of millions of Yemenis as the war-torn country sees an increase in the numbers of people on the brink of famine. The past U.N report estimated that there were 8 millions of Yemenis facing food shortages, due to the blockade by the conflicting parties.

Yemen conflict is one of the world’s bloodiest tragedies, yet, the world seems to pay less attention to what is happening there. Many feared that the killing of the country’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh would make the country a haven for militants affiliated with Al-Qaida and ISIS.

Yemen conflict: The forgotten war

The world is pre-occupied with wars in Syria and Iraq, but humanitarian tragedy in Yemen seems to be overlooked. Some simplify the Yemen conflict as the Sunni-Shia war, while the roots of the problem are more complicated than what we have known so far.

Everything started in the spring of 2011, when countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya demanded a regime change. Yemenis also called for a new leader as they were fed up with the corrupt regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh stepped down in 2012 and was replaced by Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Unfortunately, the regime change led the country to a failed state instead. The appointment of Hadi was opposed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’ (AQAP), formed by Saudi militants and Yemenis. The group accused Hadi of being a U.S. puppet.

The political instability allowed Shia Houthi rebels to seize power. In September 2014, the fighting involving the government-backed troops and Houthi rebels took place in Sanaa.

The Houthis themselves had a long history of fighting against Saleh before the regime change (2004-2010).

As the situation became worse, Saleh allied with his former enemy the Houthis to get even with those who forced him to step down. Both sides benefited from the alliances. The Houthis gained Saleh’s networks, and the Saleh utilised the rebel’s firepower and human resources.

In February 2015, Hadi fled to Southern Yemen’s Aden after being detained in Sanaa. He then left for Saudi Arabia when rebels started launching an attack in the country’s southern part.

Saleh’s alliance with the Houthis collapsed in mid-2017 as the former president aimed to open “a new page” that improved ties with Saudi and its partnerships. His decision to end the alliance cost his life on December 4, 2017.

Foreign intervention and the importance of Yemen to the Middle East

Yemen is not a rich country. However, this country has the Bab al-Mandab strait that connects the Red Sea via the Gulf of Aden. This channel plays an essential role in shipping the Middle East oil.  The Bab al-Mandab strait is considered as vital as the Suez Canal for maritime as well as trading activities connecting Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Israel has also interests as the worsening conflict may hamper Israel’s access to the Indian Ocean.

As Saudi Arabia is getting worried about Iran’s influence in Yemen, the kingdom formed a coalition which includes Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.

What’s next after Saleh’s demise?

The death of Saleh may create a new conflict or worsen the current situation. The solution is still not visible yet. Therefore, it is time for the U.S and all countries involved in the coalition to put aside their interests and focus on helping Yemenis in need of food. Saudi’s blockage must be lifted.

The only possible solution is to bring all conflicting parties to the negotiation table and give Yemenis a freedom to decide their future and maintain stability in the country.

 

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Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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