According to the BBC, Yemen wasn’t expecting their civil war to last more than a few weeks. It’s now been over four years, and the United Nations now consider it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to Aljazeera.
The conflict is between the Houthi armed movement and the Yemeni government, but according to University of Louisiana at Lafayette Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Matthew Ward, Ph.D., the real conflict is between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“It’s largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia has been funding the government in exile, and Iran has been largely funding the rebels,” Ward said.
The United States has thrown their hat in the ring as well in support of the Saudi Arabian-backed Yemeni government. Ward believes the U.S. got involved in the conflict to ensure continued oil deals with Saudi Arabia.
“Most of our relationship is based on the security of Saudi oil and the ability to keep Saudi oil flowing to the west and the United States,” he said. “That’s the primary reason.”
According to the New York Times, both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed legislation to end U.S. military involvement in Saudi Arabia in April 2019, but this was vetoed by President Trump.
“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump said in the veto message.
UL Lafayette Arabic Studies Professor Ahmed Bekhet said the U.S. should be involved in the conflict, but only to put a stop to the war rather than participate in it for economic benefit.
Ward said the U.S. should provide humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen.
According to the BBC, the conflict started brewing after the Arab Spring, a movement in the early 2010s when citizens of several Middle Eastern countries revolted against them. Yemen’s president at the time, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was left with no choice but to surrender his power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
Hadi struggled to resolve many of Yemen’s issues, so, in 2014, the Houthi rebels used this moment of weakness to capture Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, and forced Hadi into exile. In 2015 Saudi Arabia and eight other Middle Eastern countries launched air strikes against the Houthis, with backing from the U.S., United Kingdom and France, in hopes of restoring Hadi’s government.
So far this has been unsuccessful, as Yemen’s capital is still under the Houthi rebels’ control as well as much of Yemen as a whole.
Ward said he’s unsure of who is likely to win the conflict, but Bekhet said the Yemeni people are losing the war to those attempting to profit off it.
“The Yemeni people are losing the war,” he said. “Millions of people were forced to leave their homes. Now there’s thousands or even millions of people who have limited access or they have no access to clean water or the basic needs of life.”