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Yemen in Crisis

Updated: Mar 25

The anti-government movements of the Arab Spring drove Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign in 2012, which ushered Yemen into an era of domestic conflict and civil war. This resulted in thousands of civilian casualties and an ongoing humanitarian crisis. 

The issue was exacerbated by extreme poverty and food insecurity to the point that almost 80% of Yemen’s population was in immediate need of humanitarian aid. Amid the civil war, the Houthis, a group of Islamist insurgents who oppose Saudi Arabian and American involvement in Yemen, pushed the Yemeni government from power in 2015, as they accused it of pro-Saudi and pro-American corruption. (The Houthis are backed by Iran, though the country agreed to stop arming the Yemeni insurgents as part of the China-brokered deal to resume diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia.)


Mansur Hadi, successor of Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his supporters retreated to Aden and later Saudi Arabia. Upon Hadi’s request, the Saudis launched a series of bombing campaigns, military interventions and border blockades against the Houthis that continue to this day. 


There is a stark partisan disconnect between the Democrats and Republicans regarding the war in Yemen, as both parties draw different conclusions from the crisis.  While Democrats argue that U.S. involvement in this humanitarian crisis is morally unacceptable and can exacerbate anti-Americanism in the region, Republicans view the use of military force as an effective way of undermining the Houthis, whom they have referred to as a proxy of Iran. 


President Trump designated the Houthis as a “foreign terrorist organization” in the last days of his presidency; however, President Biden later reversed the decision to raise hopes of a diplomatic resolution. 


In fact, Biden included ending the war in Yemen as one of his top priorities during his presidential campaigns, and on Feb. 4, 2021, he officially declared an end to the US support for the “offensive operations” in Yemen. 


Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans in Congress seem to have fundamentally different priorities for U.S. foreign policy toward Yemen. While both parties are aware of the severe outcomes of the ongoing humanitarian crisis, they have not been able to find a common ground to develop a resolution and put an end to the devastating war in Yemen. 


Sayyed Hadi Razmjo was a Foreign Policy & Defense intern for ONC during the Spring 2022 semester. 


Sources:

Nassereddine, M., et al. “Developing a Multi-Methodology for Conflict Resolution: Case of Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis.” Group Decision and Negotiation, vol. 30, no. 2, Springer Netherlands, 2020, pp. 301–20, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10726-020-09695-x.

Sharaf, Nabil. “Democrats and Republicans Split on Yemen.” Arab Center Washington DC, 3 May 2021, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/democrats-and-republicans-split-on-yemen/.

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