Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Yemen’s War Economy: A Key Factor in the Ongoing Conflict

Arab Center Washington DC - As Houthi negotiators leave Saudi Arabia after five days of talks with Saudi officials regarding the contours of a compromise solution to Yemen’s ongoing conflict, the country remains in the grip of certain war outcomes, specifically that of a war economy. Although the current conflict famously began with the 2015 Saudi and UAE military intervention against the Houthi armed group, it is in large part the pivotal juncture of many others: the 1994 Yemeni Civil War, the 2004 Houthi insurgency, the turbulent events of Yemen’s 2011 uprising, and the Houthi group’s takeover of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014. Deep economic grievances primarily caused these conflicts, just as economic crises stemming from the current war are producing ever-growing poverty, suffering, and despair.

For example, discriminatory resource allocation, unemployment, and land rights violations were among the grievances that fueled the South’s role in the 1994 Civil War. Regarding the Houthi insurgency, historical grievances also played a significant role. The group’s members claim to belong to the sayyed class, which enjoyed ruling authority in North Yemen during the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen (1918–1962, with some vestiges of control until 1970). Following the initial defeat of the kingdom in 1962 by the revolutionary republicans at the start of the North Yemen Civil War, the group was discontented over its loss of power, and aimed to restore what was taken from it. Decades later, additional discontent due to the marginalization and impoverishment of the group’s home governorate of Saada in the North directly led to the Houthi insurgency in 2004. Yemen’s 2011 uprising was also driven primarily by economic grievances, such as corruption and rising poverty. Then, in 2014, the Houthi group protested the government’s fuel reforms, after which it carried out a coup against the Yemeni government, which prompted the Saudi-led coalition’s engagement in the conflict in 2015.

Decades of unaddressed economic grievances ​and conflicts ​have provided fertile ground for the emergence of a dynamic war economy in Yemen, characterized by complex networks of actors all competing for economic power and control. Yemen’s war economy is mainly about resource allocation, organization, and mobilization with the key purpose of sustaining the fighting. Hence, war profiteering and exploitation of the various dimensions of the war in Yemen have prolonged the conflict and impeded the achievement of a durable peace and lasting stability. Additionally, the far-reaching impact of the war economy has been changing the country’s landscape and socioeconomic structure in complex ways.

The War Economy’s Manifestations

The current conflict has been altering numerous aspects of the country’s economic system and activities, and has resulted in the creation of two essentially parallel economies, one in the North and one in the South. Some of the most significant manifestations of Yemen’s war economy include double tariffs and double customs duties, two different currency exchange rates, disputed oil revenues, aid divergence, and an extraction economy, all of which place immense pressure on the Yemeni people.

Disagreement between the belligerent parties, the Houthi armed group in the North and the internationally-recognized government of Yemen (IRGY) in the South, over taxation and customs duties has led to a divided tax system in the country, with each side enforcing its own system of tariffs and customs duties. The IRGY charges customs when any goods arrive in ports under its control. Then, when traders navigate inland crossings to deliver those goods to areas under Houthi control, they are charged additional customs as the Houthis claim to be the legitimate governmental authority in the North. In fact, in August the Houthis increased charges on traders when they import items to Houthi-controlled areas from IRGY-controlled ports, areas, or land crossings by a 100 percent levy. These double tariffs deplete traders’ economic power and exponentially increase the price of goods. The Houthis’ move is intended to boost the group’s economic power, and it is already raking in the profits, having collected at least $1.8 billion in taxes and state revenues in 2019 alone.

The two economies have also produced two considerably different currency values in the North and South, in large part because the Houthis and the IRGY have both been printing bank notes, albeit in different volumes. As of February 2023, the going rate was 600 rials to the US dollar in Houthi-controlled areas and 1,225 rials to the dollar in IRGY-controlled areas—more than double the value. The conflict and the North-South division have also impacted oil exports, leading to a standoff over oil revenue allocation between the Houthis and the IRGY. The Yemeni economy relies heavily on the production and export of crude oil, which generate the lion’s share of state revenues. Revenues from crude oil exports increased in 2021, reaching $1.418 billion, compared to $710.5 million the previous year, primarily due to a rise in oil prices in global markets.

Under the pretext of paying civil sector and military salaries, the Houthis are demanding a large share of oil revenues. The IRGY has refused to share those revenues, and in order to halt them the Houthis in 2022 attacked three oil loading terminals located in IRGY areas, at the al-Mukalla port on October 25, at a Shabwa Governorate port on November 9, and at the port of al-Dabah on November 21. These attacks were intended to weaken the IRGY’s finances. Additionally, the Houthis in June 2023 banned domestically produced gas cylinders coming from the IRGY-controlled city of Marib in order to undermine its revenue streams. The clear message in all the Houthis’ moves is that in the absence of the group enjoying its share of Yemen’s state revenues, no one will enjoy them. Obtaining oil revenues is one of the Houthis’ central economic objectives, and the group has repeatedly tried without success to capture Yemen’s oil-rich Marib Governorate.

International humanitarian aid has become a means for economic benefit for the warring parties. Reports by various international organizations, including the United Nations, humanitarian agencies, and human rights organizations have revealed a pattern of interference in humanitarian aid distribution in Yemen. Humanitarian aid divergence, restrictions, and obstruction are some of the economic strategies that the warring parties have used to strengthen their influence. The IRGY and the secessionist Southern Transitional Council have interfered with and obstructed humanitarian assistance in Yemen’s Aden Governorate. In 2020, the IRGY reportedly engaged in money laundering and corruption practices, which had negative consequences on people’s ability to access adequate food supplies. Additionally, the government devised a scheme to divert funds from Saudi deposits, resulting in an illegal transfer of $423 million in public funds to traders. The Houthis have also been implicated in the exploitation of humanitarian aid, and the World Food Program has acknowledged the group’s aid divergence in the areas under its control. This diverted aid then makes its way into the Houthis’ own war effort.

Simultaneously, ordinary citizens’ financial resources have also gone toward filling the warring parties’ pockets. The high tariffs and the skyrocketing prices of essential commodities are part of an “extraction economy” perpetrated by the warring factions on the population at large. As thousands of civil workers have had difficulties receiving their salaries for years, they have been living off of their hard-earned savings, which in many cases have likely been thoroughly depleted. It is almost certain that the majority of people in Yemen have spent all their savings, considering that Yemen is one of the world’s poorest countries. Their money was taken by greedy warlords who wield both arms and power. The systematic extraction and depletion of people’s wealth, or rather the transfer of wealth from the citizenry to the political and military elite is one of the key manifestations of the war economy, and has led to a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

The Impact on Yemen’s Future

The war economy in Yemen holds two potential effects on the country’s future: structural transformations and the perpetuation of conflict. Players and networks that emerged and gained influence under the conflict have created new economic dynamics, leading to structural changes in the fundamental mechanisms of the country’s economic functions. An evident demonstration is the diverging economic systems between Yemen’s northern and southern regions. The structural changes have also profoundly changed capitalist elite formation in the country. For instance, prior to the conflict, former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his entourage sat at the top of the capitalist hierarchy in Yemen. Today, people from diverse factions—including the Houthi armed group, the IRGY, and the Southern Transitional Council—who dominate and control key economic domains such as the oil and fuel trade have become major players in the economy, and are rapidly becoming Yemen’s new capitalist elite.

The other significant effect of the war economy on Yemen’s future is the protraction of the conflict. The economic gains the warring parties continue to make during the war provide little impetus for ending the conflict, as demonstrated by the fact that a truce that expired in October 2022 has yet to be renewed. In this disheartening scenario, the outlook for Yemen’s future is darkened by persistent conflict.

Tomorrow’s Destiny

Decades of unresolved economic grievances and discontent compounded by a series of conflicts have formed the perfect environment for the emergence of a robust war economy. Double tariffs and customs duties, differing currency values, shrinking oil revenues, the exploitation and diversion of international humanitarian aid, and the extraction of the population’s wealth are some of the most significant economic activities emerging under the ongoing conflict. The warring parties have made economic gains through opportunism during wartime, making them unwilling and less likely to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Meanwhile, the war economy has been transforming the country’s socioeconomic structure. Consequently, Yemen’s future looks bleak, and is likely to be characterized by protracted conflict, deepening poverty, and economic devastation.

Yemen’s war economy represents a critical factor sustaining the conflict, and addressing the war economy is thus essential to ending it. Given that the continuation of the war economy is in the interest of the warring parties, an external party must intervene. Here, the international community’s role is profoundly vital. It must take a multifaceted approach to Yemen’s economy, putting pressure on the warring parties to reach an agreement that addresses Yemen’s economic woes on two levels: historical economic grievances and contemporary economic challenges. Although the latter is an extension of the former, there must be a nationwide discourse to address these issues in order to pave a path toward national economic reconciliation. The outcomes of such deliberations could lay the groundwork for a more stable and prosperous Yemen in the long run. Although it must be said that any nationwide discourse should avoid the shortcomings and pitfalls of the previous National Dialogue Conference (2013–2014).

Regarding the country’s pressing contemporary economic challenges, the international community should press the warring parties to implement tangible measures to address the war economy’s many manifestations by unifying the tax system and exchange rate, resolving the oil revenues dispute, ensuring better and more transparent oversight of humanitarian aid, and redressing economic disparities. The international community also needs to support a ​​preemptive post-conflict economic recovery plan so that once the conflict ends, a plan will be ready for swift implementation. Certainly, reaching a comprehensive peace agreement is the fundamental first step before launching a post-conflict economic recovery plan. At every step, international diplomatic efforts must push the warring parties to prioritize the well-being of the Yemeni people over their own economic interests. Tackling the root causes of economic grievances and dismantling the war economy’s underpinnings are essential for ending the protracted conflict. Doing so may provide hope for a brighter future for Yemen and its people.

*This policy analysis paper was written for and published first on the Arab Center Washington DC website. 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Crackdown on Press Freedom in Yemen Threatens Peace-Building Efforts

Sana'a Center, June 22 - As a Yemeni with over 15 years of experience in journalism, I was delighted to have recently been invited by the Samir Kassir Foundation to be one of the seven jury members for its 2023 Award for Freedom of the Press. I am the second Yemeni to be on the foundation’s jury, after photojournalist Amira al-Sharif took part in 2021. Out of 240 entries, 75 made it to the pre-final stage, where they were judged based on three criteria: relevance to human rights topics, journalistic style, and innovation. 

The winners were announced on June 5: Syrian filmmaker and writer Inas Hakky in the opinion piece category, Egyptian journalist Mahmoud Al-Sobky in the investigative article category, and Lebanese reporter Mohamad Chreyteh in the audiovisual news report category.

Ceremony of Samir Kassir Award for Press Freedom in Beirut, June 2023

Inas Hakky and Afrah Nasser at the ceremony of Samir Kassir Award for Press Freedom

As I reviewed the entries from multiple Arab countries, I could not help feeling disappointed with the small number of entries by Yemeni journalists and the generally poor quality of the work. It was a sad reminder of the severe deterioration of press freedom in Yemen, the dangerous environment Yemeni journalists now work in, and the impact of that deterioration on our struggle for peace and justice in our country.

War on Media

Prior to 2014, Yemen enjoyed a relatively vibrant media landscape, but this has been rapidly eroded during the war. All parties to the Yemen conflict have committed abuses against journalists, and even ordinary citizens who express themselves on social media have not been spared from the recent crackdown on freedom of expression.

Almost half of Yemen’s media outlets that existed prior to 2014 have reportedly been shut down, and at least 49 Yemeni journalists have been murdered since 2011, including five killed by the Saudi-led coalition. The Houthi movement will go down in history for having used journalists as human shields, after abducting two and keeping them captive in a building being targeted by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in 2015, leading to their deaths. In the latest wave of repressive measures against dissent, between December 2022 and January 2023, the Houthis detained four YouTubers for nearly six months before granting them pardons. 

In Aden, largely controlled by the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), car bombs killed pregnant journalist Rasha al-Harazi, and journalist Saber al-Haidari in June 2022. The STC has detained journalist Ahmed Maher since August 2022, with no clear reason for his arrest. The STC’s detention of journalist Adel al-Hasani in 2021 remains particularly poignant for me, as I investigated the case while working at Human Rights Watch, and found evidence that a UAE intelligence officer had ordered his detention.

The Yemeni government, which championed the recent release of four journalists from Houthi prisons, has assaulted nine journalists, detained nine more, and threatened three in 2022 alone.

And the list goes on.

Media Freedom Matters

These violations give a glimpse into a widespread pattern of repression in the country and the dangers facing Yemeni journalists at the hands of all warring parties. They also reflect the threat media freedom poses to them. It is telling that one of the first military attacks the Houthi movement carried out when they took over Sana’a in 2014 was the shelling of the state television building. Attacks on the press in Yemen are motivated by the warring parties’ understanding of the significance of a strong, independent press.

In the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day in May of this year, “Freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy and justice.” If Yemen enjoyed media freedom, journalists could play critical roles in raising people’s awareness of their rights and promoting peace and justice. A free press could contribute to the prosperity of the nation.

How We Can Support a Free Press in Yemen

In June of 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, said, “Independent, free, and pluralistic news media is crucial for democracy, accountability, and transparency, and should be nurtured by states and the international community as a public good.” Ensuring media freedom in Yemen likewise requires international action.

Calls on the warring parties to end their violations and abuses against journalists have been in vain. Holding them accountable, however, could pay off. The UN Human Rights Council is morally obliged to establish an independent and impartial monitoring body to investigate and document human rights abuses and possible war crimes in Yemen, which could contribute to accountability efforts. 

Yemeni journalists lack international support for press-related work. The UN, European Union, UK, US, and relevant international organizations should generously fund and support media groups in Yemen. Journalists need support in three main areas: projects that aim at building a strong and independent press, journalism oriented toward a peaceful settlement, and projects that improve journalists’ skills. This support would go a long way in helping Yemeni journalists document attacks and threats directed at the media, gather evidence to hold perpetrators to account and bring impunity for war crimes to an end.

*This article was first written for Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies

Monday, June 5, 2023

Samir Kassir Awards for Press Freedom

I was a member of the jury committee that decided the winners of the Samir Kassir Awards for 2023, given by the delegation of the European Union to Lebanon and the Samir Kassir Foundation. This year, 242 journalists participated in the competition from many Arab countries. 81 candidates competed in the Opinion Piece category, 110 in the Investigative Article category, and 54 in the Audiovisual News Report category. The winners were Inas Hakky from Syria, Mahmoud Al-Sobky from Egypt, and Mohamad Chreyteh from Lebanon. The awards ceremony was in Beirut. I was delighted to hand one of the awards to Inas.


Wednesday, May 3, 2023

The Thorny Relationship between Yemen’s Government and the Southern Transitional Council

Arab Center Washington DC - In Yemen, the Southern Movement calling for separation between the North and South of Yemen is controversial. For those who oppose it, it is a simple secessionist movement; but for those who take a more neutral position, it is a movement for self-determination. Its supporters think of it as not merely a secessionist movement but a struggle for both independence from a northern “occupation” and the reestablishment of the now defunct state of South Yemen (the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen), which in 1990 was unified with North Yemen (the Yemen Arab Republic) following more than a decade of conflict.

After the 1994 Civil War between the southern socialist separatists and the northern pro-union forces, which the latter won, the Southern Movement (known in Yemen as al-Hirak) gradually emerged as a peaceful movement. It grew to prominence due to its regular and continuous protests, demonstrations, and marches starting in 2007 in the city of Aden and in many other places in the southern region. The protests were met with a brutal crackdown by the Yemeni government’s forces. Although the movement was composed of a mix of several southern factions with different ideologies and politics, they all shared a common goal: independence for the South. In addition to the disregard of injustices carried out during the crackdown, southern grievances include protests against political and economic marginalization.

The Southern Transition Council (STC) is the major player within the Southern Movement today. Since its establishment in 2017, the STC has effectively been calling for the establishment of “a sovereign independent federal state” in southern Yemen—a proposal the internationally recognized government of Yemen (IRGY) has continuously rejected. The IRGY and the STC are adversaries and politically and militarily challenge each other. But despite this, both have been members of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) since its establishment in April 2022, opening the door for a pragmatic relationship between the two, especially in light of recent Saudi-Houthi talks in Sanaa.

Increased Southern Grievances

The STC and the Yemeni government’s problematic relationship today is directly impacted by a long historical context of deep-seated, decades-long tensions between the government of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Southern Movement. Many argue that the tensions began in 2007, at the beginning of the Southern Movement. However, these tensions have their roots in the unification period, when a combination of nation-building and the attempted integration of the North and the South ultimately turned out to be a failure. The unified government under Saleh’s rule failed to manage the challenges of integrating the northern and southern economic systems and resolving the implications of the post-civil war period. Over the next three decades, the Southern Movement faced a fierce crackdown by Saleh’s regime, which antagonized Yemeni citizens in the south and essentially made them second-class citizens.

Prior to 2015, southern grievances included exclusion from political power, discrimination, abuses against southern security and military officers, and land rights violations. Similar grievances existed in the North, but they were differently motivated in each region. The southern region suffered the most from alienation and exploitation by Saleh’s regime.

In the wake of Yemen’s 2011 uprising and the overthrow of Saleh’s regime, national plans for federalism were intended to resolve southern grievances. However, with the beginning of the current civil war between the Houthi armed group and then President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government in 2014, the conflict weakened the government, deepened southern grievances, and radicalized the Southern Movement. Today, southern grievances include insecurity, negligence, and poverty. The government has failed to protect people in the South on many occasions; but the Southern Resistance Committees and later the STC did. Despite the liberation of Aden from the Houthi armed group in 2015, the government has failed to provide citizens in the South with basic services such as electricity, water, and infrastructure development, and has also failed to stabilize the Yemeni currency, which has depreciated more in the South than in the North.

The STC-IRGY Relationship

There exists an undeniable ​​incompatibility between the IRGY and the STC. This incompatibility includes the 2017 dispute between former President Hadi, and the then governor of Aden (who is also the leader of the STC), Aidarous al-Zubaidi. Although Hadi is a southerner, he was unpopular in the South because he supported the pro-unification northern war against the South in 1994 and favored the Islah political party that dominated his government, and that was a foe of southerners. The dispute between Hadi and al-Zubaidi included the fact that Hadi’s government had northern generals who were loyal to him but adversaries of al-Zubaidi, and also stemmed from al-Zubaidi’s close ties with the United Arab Emirates, which had strained relations with the Hadi government. Consequently, Hadi sacked al-Zubaidi, who the following month announced the establishment of the Southern Transitional Council, with which numerous armed groups are affiliated. In 2018, STC-affiliated armed forces seized control of the Yemeni government’s headquarters in Aden. This “takeover” of Aden marked the increasingly strained relations between Hadi and the UAE.

In the ensuing months, several serious military confrontations occurred between the STC and IRGY forces. In August 2019, unprecedented violence and deadly clashes took place in the wake of the killing of a senior STC military commander. The Houthi armed group claimed responsibility for the killing; the STC, however, accused the Yemeni government of assisting the Houthi offensive. The STC then removed IRGY political officials from Aden and Abyan. After Saudi mediation, the two sides signed the Riyadh Agreement at the end of 2019, ensuring the establishment of a power-sharing government and temporarily reducing tensions. But the following year, tensions and military confrontations resumed, leading to additional Saudi mediation attempts in 2020 and 2021.

After the formation of the PLC in Saudi Arabia in 2022, the relationship between the two sides took a new turn motivated by pragmatism. Because of their divergent political agendas, the STC and the IRGY were made members of the same council and put under Saudi pressure to cooperate, a desperate attempt to mitigate the volatile situation. At first glance, it seems illogical that al-Zubaidi would be a member of the PLC while still heading the STC. Although the STC has a uniquely different political agenda than the rest of the PLC’s members, it has remained in the PLC out of pragmatic interest.

At this point, the PLC and the STC need each other for different reasons. The IRGY may be internationally recognized, but it is not recognized by many Yemenis. In the view of the majority of the Yemeni public, the Yemeni government has lost legitimacy over the course of the conflict due to its countless failures in securing a stable economy and providing basic services, and for its having violated Yemen’s constitution. All this time, the government has survived because of Saudi Arabia’s support. Meanwhile, the STC has gained a sufficient popular base in the majority of Yemen’s southern region, including in Hadramawt Governorate, which has the same political aspiration of separation. And yet, the STC has been repeatedly sidelined from political peace talks. Thus, on one hand, the PLC needs the STC because the latter has a popular base in the South, something the Presidential Council lacks in both the South and the North. No matter what comes, the PLC would reject the breakaway of southern Yemen, including of Hadramawt; should that happen, it would not have much to govern in the country. On the other hand, the STC also needs the PLC—although obviously temporarily—because the latter provides the political opportunity and venue for the former to finally ensure its political participation in any upcoming political process and to push for a political roadmap for restoring the state of South Yemen.

The UAE Has Its Thumb on the Scale

One sign of the Saudi-UAE spat is their divergent approaches in Yemen, with the UAE’s approach being essentially a thumb on the scale. Although Saudi Arabia and the UAE together intervened militarily in Yemen to fight the Houthi armed group, they have been supporting opposing sides in southern Yemen. Saudi Arabia supports the IRGY while the UAE supports the STC politically, financially, and militarily. The UAE also supports other Yemeni forces operating outside of government control, mostly situated along Yemen’s Red Sea coast and the Gulf of Aden.

The IRGY has publicly condemned the UAE’s role on several occasions. In 2017, former President Hadi described the UAE’s role in Yemen as an occupation. In 2019, at a UNSC briefing, Yemen’s representative to the UN, Abdullah al-Saadi condemned the UAE’s support for the STC. But condemnations did not deter the UAE from expanding its role. During the August 2019 military confrontations between the STC and the IRGY, the UAE was directly involved, launching airstrikes on government forces, apparently in support of STC-affiliated forces. The UAE denied such accusations, saying that the strikes were carried out on terrorist targets. Subsequently, the IRGY demanded an end to the UAE’s participation in the Saudi-led coalition.

The UAE sees Yemen as holding strategic significance for its commercial and military interests, for example in its developing an airbase on the island of Mayun in the Bab al-Mandab Strait. And Yemen’s Socotra Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is controlled by UAE-backed armed forces.

Saudi Arabia has not publicly expressed opposition to the Southern Transitional Council. However, the kingdom’s tireless attempts to merge STC-affiliated armed forces with those of the IRGY demonstrate its desire to dissolve the STC’s military power. The Riyadh Agreement, which calls for a unity government, along with a subsequent push to implement the agreement and the creation of the PLC in Saudi Arabia are all Saudi attempts to challenge the UAE’s plans in southern Yemen by tinkering with fundamental domestic rifts.

Possible Scenarios

On April 9, the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber arrived in Sanaa for talks with Houthi officials regarding a solution to the conflict. The UAE has not officially commented on the Saudi-Houthi talks, but two days after the Saudi visit to Sanaa, the STC said that the South seeks to restore “its usurped state with full sovereignty as a strategic goal for the people of the South,” and that it would accept no alternatives to this goal. Moreover, Amr al-Bidh, an STC official, reportedly indicated on March 9 that due to the isolation of the STC, the potential Saudi-Houthi deal cannot be binding on the STC.

The Saudi-Houthi talks provide hints that the kingdom is starting to recognize the Houthi group as a legitimate political component in the country. A new round of Saudi-Houthi talks is expected soon, many believe that there will be a push to reach a joint political agreement between the country’s domestic warring parties. This is indeed the focus of the current visit by US Special Envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, to the Gulf where he is to push toward securing “a durable ceasefire and inclusive, UN-mediated political process while ensuring continued efforts to ease the economic crisis and suffering of Yemenis.”

One of two scenarios might follow. In one scenario, if a deal to establish a national transitional government were to be discussed, one in which there would be a power-sharing government between the Houthis and the PLC, the STC would completely refuse to sign on. From the STC’s viewpoint, the Houthis would not allow for the possibility of southern independence, let alone the opportunity to hold a peaceful democratic process of self-determination for the South. The STC would disregard Saudi pressure because it enjoys the UAE’s support. In a Houthi-PLC political dialogue, the STC would use every opportunity to try to ensure southern independence, which would be met with the Houthis’ rejection. In this scenario, fighting would rage again, likely seeing Houthi attacks on Aden similar to those in 2015; but this time clashes would occur between Houthi forces and STC-affiliated forces and their supporter, the UAE. Yemeni analysts anticipate that in this scenario Yemen would become yet another of the world’s incredibly protracted conflicts. This would obviously derail whatever efforts the United Nations envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg,

In another scenario, the STC might sign onto a Houthi-PLC deal, but only if Saudi Arabia succeeds in convincing the UAE of its value. The STC might then acquiesce to UAE pressure and sign such a deal. Public outrage in the South would surely follow, leading to greater unrest, instability, and quite possibly the outbreak of armed public resistance since the Southern Movement is ultimately larger than the STC. It would then be up to the Southern Movement to reposition itself and decide the South’s future. In this scenario, the chance for a power-sharing government would be quite limited as well. Both scenarios thus promise to lead Yemen even further down the road of conflict and instability.

*This policy analysis report was written for & published in the Arab Center Washington DC. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Discussion with Catholic University of Milan Students

During the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, I was invited to speak to students from Catholic University of Milan, doing MA in Journalism. I shared my experience in doing investigative journalism, & the challenges & opportunities for critical independent journalism. You may know more about my talk at the International Journalism Festival here