The unraveling alliance between the Houthi’s along with loyal forces to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has resulted in a conflict taking over Yemen’s capital of Sanaa. The violence has escalated to such a point that Houthi rebels have reported having killed their ally turned foe, Mr Saleh himself. The two rebel factions have had a history of misunderstanding between each other, though, in 2014, both sides managed to put their differences aside to join forces in driving President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile. However, recently, distrust within the alliance has caused the Houthis and Saleh’s forces to believe the other to be working against them, to secure the right to rule Yemen’s capital. The UN is urging the fighting in Sanaa to stop immediately, as the escalating ground clashes and airstrikes have injured and trapped thousands from being reached.
Prior to Saleh’s assassination, the Houthi have claimed that Saleh’s forces were ‘seeking to switch alliance,’ to the Saudi- led coalition that they had been fighting since they had formed their alliance 3 years ago. Saleh’s forces responded to their conceived betrayal by accusing the Houthis of ‘storming Saleh’s giant mosque’, making clear who is actually doing the betraying and challenging the power of their former ally. U.N. spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, has stated that ‘it is paramount that civilians are protected, and deliberate attacks on civilians will constitute war crimes’. However, both sides are prepared for a violent battle by setting up checkpoints and strategically locating snipers on rooftops while closing off entrances to the city, proving the unlikelihood of the violence ceasing anytime soon.
Both groups united 3 years ago to overthrow President Hadi and his government, and are now in competition for the sole right to rule. This conquest of power has had disastrous consequences in Yemen, ultimately ruining the livelihoods of civilians who inhabit Sanaa. It is evident that both rebel factions seeking to rule the capital have little regard for their people whose lives they have ruined, meaning it is unlikely that either group will manage to restore peace and stability to Yemen. In fact, it is probable that whether the Houthi’s or Saleh’s forces take over the rule of Sanaa, conflict within the region will increase.
Due to the assassination of Saleh, the Houthi rebels have secured a short-term military win, however, weakened their position politically as their support base is now much smaller due to the breakage of the alliance. The Houthi rebel group will likely grow weaker, making it necessary for the Houthi’s to look in other avenues for support, predominately in Iran. The Houthi’s are also weakened due to lack of support within Yemen, as civilian anger against the Houthis for assassinating the former Yemen leader while also attempting to impose Houthi ideology within the capital had been rampant.
It is unlikely that the violence that has pervaded Yemen since 2015 will cease anytime soon. In fact, it is predicted to worsen as Saleh’s death is likely to create more instability in Yemen. The conflict in Yemen has already claimed the lives of approximately 10,000, and there is no military solution to end the bloodshed. Only through negotiation with the UN can the different groups attempting to seize the right to rule Yemen’s capital and reach a political settlement.
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