Fact Sheet: Yemen War

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Photo credit: EPA

Tactics Institute for Security & Counter Terrorism takes a brief look at some of the pertinent facts in the Yemen conflict. For information on our parliamentary event on the Yemen conflict and radicalisation please click here.

  • Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, has been in the grip of a major conflict since 2015.
  • Prior to the war, Houthis and the Yemeni government had fought since 2004, but it was mainly confined to the Houthis’ stronghold, the Saada province in northern Yemen.
  • The government lifted fuel subsidies in July 2014. This was met with public anger and there were protests and demands that the government resign.
  • Religious considerations did not spark the war; the Houthis’ grievances were economic and political.
  • The Houthis were assisted by former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his supporters.
  • In September 2014, the Houthis took control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, the government fled and the Houthis pushed south towards Aden.
  • In 2015 an Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, launched a military campaign against the Houthis, hoping to restore the government.
  • The UN estimates that air attacks by the Arab coalition has caused two thirds of civilian deaths. The Houthis have been accused of causing mass civilian casualties during their siege of Taiz.
  • The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that more than 3 million Yemenis are internally displaced, and 280,000 have sought asylum in other countries, including Djibouti and Somalia.

International Involvement

  • The Arab coalition also includes Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Senegal, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.
  • The US government carries out air strikes on al-Qaeda and ISIS in Yemen and has deployed a small number of ground troops.
  • The US, UK and France are the key weapons and intelligence suppliers to the Saudi-led coalition.
  • The UAE became with third largest importer of UK arms between 2012 and 2016.
  • Saudi Arabia is the biggest customer of the UK arms industry. The UK is the world’s second biggest arms dealing country.
  • In 2015, as the Saudis started their assault on Yemen, arms sales from the UK increased 100-fold in three months.
  • Iran is accused of arming the Houthis and Iranian officials have also hinted that they have provided military advisers to the Houthis.
  • Al-Qaeda has expanded in Yemen since Saleh was ousted in 2011, taking control of territory in southern Yemen.
  • In 2015, al-Qaeda took over Mukalla, fifth-largest city in Yemen. This was overturned in April 2016 by Yemeni and Emirati troops.
  • ISIL is also active in Yemen and announced the formation of a wilaya, or state, there in December 2014. In March 2015, it claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in the capital city, Sanaa which targeted Zaydi Shia Muslims and killed over 140 people.
  • President Trump vetoed a congressional effort to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen in April 2019. The War Powers Resolution was passed by the House of Representatives after becoming the first invocation of the War Powers Act by the Senate to end an American president’s unilateral decision to wage war abroad. The ending of American support for the war could potentially transform the situation on the ground and alter regional dynamics.

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