Yemen on verge of civil war

24 March 2015

Both sides of Yemen’s political and economic conflict must be convinced to return to the negotiating table

Fears that Yemen is falling into a full-scale civil war increased on 21 March, when rebel Houthi forces took control of Taiz province, which is seen as the gateway to the southern portal city of Aden where President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi has established his government after fleeing Sanaa in February.

Houthi rebels are already in control of the capital Sanaa, as well as several other strategic areas in central and west of the country. The threat to stability in the wider GCC of a full-on conflict in Yemen cannot be underestimated.

A civil war in Yemen could potentially have significant repercussions to the region, opening another front of sectarian and tribal fighting, creating instability that could be exploited by extremists, and forcing refugees into the neighbouring GCC states.

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) has already demonstrated the ease and rapidity with which it can exploit conflict zones, escalating the violence in Iraq, Syria and Libya with horrific brutality.

Oman, which shares borders with Yemen, can ill afford a flood of refugees in this time of depressed oil prices. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is already trying to shore up its borders with Iraq, which Isis fighters are probing. The opening up of a new front would severely stretch resources.

Regardless of which side is to blame for Yemen’s political and economic problems, the international community must not stand by and watch. Two years of national dialogue talks raised hopes of a more prosperous future and the parties must be convinced to return to the negotiating table.

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