What’s going on in Yemen and why you should care

The assignment was done in collaboration with Vladimir using Thinglink and Google Maps

From Reuters: Saudi troops clashed with Yemeni Houthi fighters on Tuesday in the heaviest exchange of cross-border fire since the start of a Saudi-led air offensive last week, while Yemen’s foreign minister called for a rapid Arab intervention on the ground.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of Arab states since last Thursday in an air campaign against the Shi’ite Houthis, who emerged as the most powerful force in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country when they seized Yemen’s capital last year.

The Saudis say their aim is to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who left the country last week. The Houthis are allied with Saudi Arabia’s regional foe Iran, and backed by army units loyal to longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was pushed out three years ago after “Arab Spring” demonstrations.

Who’s fighting inside the country

Who’s joining in from the outside and why

Putin says he is against “external interference”

Russian president Vladimir Putin has prompted an angry response from Saudi Arabia after sending a letter to the Arab League commenting on Saudi-led air strikes against Yemen’s Houthi fighters. The letter was read out at a summit of Arab leaders in Egypt on Sunday.

“We support the Arabs’ aspirations for a prosperous future and for the resolution of all the problems the Arab world faces through peaceful means, without any external interference,” Putin’s letter read, going on to condemn extremist groups such as ISIS.

Yemen has been a battling ground between East and West for decades

From Wikipedia: In less than a year, after the Egyptian–Syrian unification in 1958, Egypt’s pro-Soviet strategy had returned to power. Saud had once again joined their alliance, which declined the US-Saudi relationship to a fairly low point especially after he announced in 1961 that he changed his mind on renewing the U.S. base.[11] In 1962, however, Egypt attacked Saudi Arabia from bases in Yemen during the 1962 Yemeni revolution because of Saudi Arabia’s Anti-revolution propaganda, which made Saud seek the U.S. support. President John F. Kennedy immediately responded to Saud’s request by sending U.S. war planes in July 1963 to the war zone to stop the attack which was putting U.S. interests in risk.

British colonialism as possible root cause

From Foreign Policy Journal: Arab nationalism reached unprecedented heights as a result of Western interference in the Middle Eastern affairs, especially after the Suez Canal debacle in 1956. Rebels in Yemen supported by then Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser began guerrilla attacks on British forces stationed in Aden to force their withdrawal from the region.

Civil War In Yemen In 1962

Egyptian incursion into Yemen in the 1960’s is remembered as “Egyptian Vietnam”

From the Washington Post: In the 1960s, Egypt entered into a long, costly quagmire in Yemen. The Egyptian president at the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser, a secular autocrat and a champion of pan-Arabism, chose to intervene in Yemen in support of a republican coup led by military officers seeking to oust the country’s monarchy in 1962. Nasser himself came to power the decade prior on the back of an officers’ coup which overthrew Egypt’s fusty constitutional monarchy. Now, he wanted to help a neighboring Arab nation follow in Egypt’s mold.

But Saudi Arabia was set against this state of affairs and sought to return Yemen’s ruling Imam to the throne, and pumped in arms and money to royalist militias. Ironically, these included many tribesmen from the Shiite Zaydi sect, which now forms the backbone of the Houthi rebellion the Saudis are so desperate to quash.

The tens of thousands of soldiers Egypt sent in as an expeditionary force into Yemen soon found themselves on the front line of a civil war, taking the lead in the defense of Yemeni republicanism. What followed was a long, difficult conflict that ground on for nearly a decade.

More than 10,000 Egyptian soldiers died, prompting some historians to call the war the “Egyptian Vietnam”.

U.S. forces leaving Yemen

From AP, March 21st: The U.S. troops, including Special Forces commandos, were leaving the al-Annad air base near the southern city of al-Houta, Yemeni military and security officials said.

U.S. staying nearby

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U.S. military has a base in Djibouti, just across the sea from Yemen. This base serves as a launch pad for drone strikes in the region.

US military Camp Lemonnier even has a Facebook page. Feel free to ask them a question.