There can be no doubt over the imbalance of power in the conflict taking place in Saada between the State of Yemen and the Huthi insurgents. This conflict is the sixth war to take place between the government forces and the Huthists in almost five years of bloody conflict that has depleted resources and claimed thousands of lives, not to mention causing a large number of families to be categorized as displaced persons, having fled the scenes of the fighting.
The Yemeni state has the leverage that comes with having an army and air force, not to mention that of political legitimacy. The Yemeni State is also empowered because of the regional and international consensus that it enjoys. The rebels, on the other hand, despite their sources of financing and arms, are nothing more than a militia. The most that they can hope for is to embroil Yemen in a protracted conflict and thereby drain the State’s resources, causing the country to become trapped in a vicious circle.
In the case of similar armed conflicts and civil wars, consolidating national sovereignty and security operations are not the only solution.
Even if this rebellion is wiped out for good by way of military and security operations, there must be reflection–even while military operations are ongoing – regarding what can be done, politically and socially, once the gunfire is over. The State must reflect on how it can address the root causes of this insurgency in a manner that protects national sovereignty and unity.
The current situation in Yemen reveals that such tensions that occasionally spark into violence were present prior to, and following the unification of Yemen in 1994. These tensions take a variety of forms, including political, social, and tribal, and take place for a number of reasons. Today, the Yemen State is faced with three challenges, and these challenges are more dangerous than the sum of all previous challenges faced by Yemen.
There is the rebellion in Saada, which appears to be –in part – an element of a larger regional conflict, there is also the clashes that have taken place in southern Yemen recently, and finally then there is the threat from religious extremism and the Al Qaeda organization. Al Qaeda is seeking to exploit the areas of unrest and gain a foothold there, in the same manner that it previously did in Afghanistan, in order to export its evil ideology throughout the region and the world.
The above challenges must all receive regional and international attention, Yemen is a strategically important country in the Arabian Peninsula, and also with regards to its position along the inlet of the Red Sea and its proximity to a number of important shipping lanes.
If extremist organizations are successful in gaining control of areas in Yemen and transforming these into a base of operation, Yemen will prove to be a far greater threat to regional and international security than Afghanistan currently is. Somalia is a Stateless nation and is adjacent to Yemen [across the Red Sea]. The world continues to suffer from Somali piracy, and armed extremist organizations are present on the ground there.
It does not take much thinking or research to realize that a large part of the never-ending problems and tensions seen in Yemen are related to the lack of development and poverty in the country, as well as the low standard of living. There can be no doubt that achieving any measure of success in improving these will consider ease these problems and tensions, and increase the country’s economic capabilities.
If this is the case, then the thinking should be about long-term solutions on how to financially aid and develop Yemen in order to help the country overcome its problems and achieve development. This may take a long time to implement, as improving education, for example, may take generations, while some projects need years until production and employment can get under way. Therefore the primary task for Yemen and the Yemeni authorities must be to provide policies, and the appropriate level of transparency to achieve a climate that will attract investment, as well as to stand firm in the fight against ideological extremism at a grass-roots level.