Middle East Analysis

The End of the Saudi-UAE Military Coalition?

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A member of the southern separatist movement rides an armoured military vehicle in Yemen's government-held second city Aden on August 11, 2019, following clashes between pro-government forces and separatists. - A Saudi-led coalition launched a strike against Yemen's southern separatists after they seized the presidential palace in second city Aden in deadly fighting that threatened to push the war-ravaged nation deeper into turmoil. (Photo by Nabil HASAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read NABIL HASAN/AFP/Getty Images) 

The already fractured and contradictory alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was undermined further over the weekend. The alliance has led a war on the Middle East’s poorest country, Yemen,  which has been in the grip of a humanitarian crisis since 2015 when an Arab coalition, fronted by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, launched a military campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthis, hoping to restore the previous government.

But on Sunday officials from the United Nations-recognised government conceded defeat to the UAE in Aden, the key port city, after southern separatists took control of government military camps and the presidential palace. The development followed days of fighting that killed a reported 40 people, including civilians.

However, Saudi Arabia did not back its supposed ally and instead gave its support to Yemen’s exiled president. On Friday, the International Crisis Group said that the situation in Aden “threatened to tip southern Yemen into a civil war within a civil war.”

Tens of thousands have been killed by fighting in Yemen since 2015, and the ensuing food crisis has caused the death by starvation of an estimated 85,000 children. Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with some estimates suggesting the death toll from the conflict could reach a quarter of a million in 2020.

You can read Tactics Institute’s fact sheet with background to the latest developments in Yemen here.