Is Yemen’s future a permanently fractured state?

By | August 27, 2023

Mohammed Ali Kalfood writes:

In mid-June, dozens of political and tribal figures from Yemen’s largest governorate, Hadhramaut, announced the establishment of a new political entity known as the Hadhramaut National Council, which they said “aims to serve as a political platform to express the aspirations and represent the interests of the Hadhrami community in Yemen.” Hadhramaut, which holds some 80 percent of Yemen’s oil reserves, shares a long border with Saudi Arabia—which partly explains why the formation of the council was announced in Riyadh, rather than in Yemen itself.

The Yemeni representatives had been hosted in the Saudi capital for a month of talks, and it was no accident that they announced the new Hadhramaut National Council in the presence of the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed bin Saeed al-Jaber. In early April, al-Jaber had made a high-profile visit to Sana’a to launch public, direct talks with the Houthis for the first time since 2015, in the hope of extricating Saudi Arabia from Yemen’s drawn-out war, building on years of backchannel talks with the Houthis mediated by Oman, and a fragile cease-fire brokered by the United Nations. Yet despite their initial promise, those peace talks between the Saudis and the Houthis have already stalled over their fundamental flaw: the fact that they excluded the many other warring parties in Yemen.

Among those sidelined from the Saudi-Houthi talks are the Presidential Leadership Council, the eight-man group of Yemeni political rivals that assumed power from Yemen’s exiled president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, last year in an orchestrated handover in Riyadh. Also excluded is the secessionist Southern Transitional Council, which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia’s former coalition partner in Yemen that is now more of a rival on the ground. The STC controls much of southern Yemen and sees itself as a government-in-waiting for an independent South Yemen, which was a separate state from 1967 until Yemen’s unification in 1990.

The stalemate in peace talks has exposed the deep rifts and overlapping rivalries in Yemen, including within the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are increasingly at odds in Yemen, backing rival proxies and pursuing diverging interests, especially in southern and eastern Yemen. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE likely have designs on the region’s ports and resources. This brewing rivalry has inflamed tensions across almost all of Yemen’s southern governorates, most of which fall currently under the control of the STC, whose influence Saudi Arabia wants to roll back. [Continue reading…]

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