Four years since start of Yemen war, Houthis cause stalemate to continue

The United Nations, through Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, has not contained the Houthis’ bellicose behaviour.
Sunday 31/03/2019
Guns blazing. A 2018 file picture shows a Yemeni supporter of the Houthi movement attending a rally in Sana’a.  (AP)
Guns blazing. A 2018 file picture shows a Yemeni supporter of the Houthi movement attending a rally in Sana’a. (AP)

ADEN, Yemen - Four years since the start of Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi-led military intervention against Iran-backed Houthi forces, Yemeni political sources said it has succeeded to some degree in preventing Tehran from extending its encroachment in Yemen through local proxies.

However, with the Houthis emboldened by Iranian support, an overall stalemate continues despite UN efforts to mediate a peaceful solution.

Military experts said that, with the Arab coalition’s support, armed forces affiliated with Yemen’s internationally recognised government expelled the Houthis from Aden and most southern governorates.

Houthi forces have also been ousted from the port of Mocha, near the Bab el Mandeb strait, which provides international shipping access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

Saudi Arabia launched a military coalition in 2015 backing the internationally recognised government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the Houthis, who had seized control of Sana’a and large parts of northern Yemen in September 2014.

Yemeni political sources acknowledge that the alliance’s mission faces many obstacles, as shown by the gridlock over the port of Hodeidah.

In December, during talks in Sweden, the Houthis and the Yemeni government agreed to a ceasefire in Hodeidah and to exchange prisoners. They were to withdraw their forces from the city and its ports, handing control to the United Nations. Several deadlines for the withdrawal passed without action and both sides blamed the other for being responsible.

Yemeni sources said the United Nations, through Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, has not contained the Houthis’ bellicose behaviour.

On March 28, Griffiths said the redeployment of rival factions in Hodeidah was “slow” going but would happen.

“As I’ve been reminded recently, there are 50% fewer civilian casualties in Hodeidah since the ceasefire went into account than in the previous three months,” Griffiths told the Associated Press. “So that’s quite a change and that’s good for the people of Hodeidah but we need to go further. We need to quickly see those redeployments happening.”

On the same day of the UN envoy’s comments, Talal Qafesh, a military commander in the pro-Yemeni government forces, and two civilians were killed in a roadside bomb explosion south of Hodeidah.

Qafesh was “one of the most important military leaders” and was head of military operations against the rebels in Yemen’s west coast, Al-Masdar News reported.

Fighting again erupted March 26 in Hodeidah, resulting in the death of civilians, pro-government fighters and Houthis. The new round of fighting was the heaviest since the ceasefire went into effect December 18, residents said.

Yemeni sources said it is a mistake for Griffiths to try to deal with the Houthis on the same level as the recognised government.

The United Nations said approximately 14 million people, half the country’s population, are facing famine and are reliant on aid for survival.

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