Differences rise within the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen

Amidst speculation of its rift with the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates begins rapprochement with Iran.

August 30, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Yemen Reuters
Southern Transitional Council forces on the streets of Aden, in Yemen, after clashes with the Saudi-backed Hadi government forces. (Photo: Reuters)

The Southern Transitional Council (STC) forces reportedly took control over the city of Aden for the second time in less than a fortnight, from forces loyal to Mansour Hadi. The fighting commenced yesterday after Hadi supporters tried to retake parts of the city from the STC. However, the Saudi-backed and internationally recognized Hadi government forces could not retain their control for long. 

The fresh round of fighting between the STC and Hadi loyalists, which has claimed more than 30 lives so far, indicates the failure of Saudi Arabia to prevent its coalition partners from fighting among themselves. Even though the United Arab Emirates is a significant member of the coalition, second only to Saudi Arabia, it has allegedly supported the STC in Yemen, which is considered to be operating on a separatist agenda.

Meanwhile, the UAE has admitted to have carried out an airstrike in Yemen against “armed groups led by members of terrorist organisations.” However, the Hadi government officials claim that the airstrike was aimed at Hadi supporters in Zinjibar, to prevent them from joining their comrades, fighting in Aden. Located in the Abyan province, Zinjibar lies to the east of Aden. The  Hadi government has also claimed that the air raids have killed more than 300 people. It has urged for an immediate Saudi intervention to stop the UAE from backing the STC. Saudi Arabia, however, has chosen to remain silent so far.   

The air strikes carried out by the UAE, despite its decision to withdraw its forces from Yemen, along with its recent overtures to Iran, indicate a growing rift within the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. A breakdown of the coalition will result in larger implications for the politics of the region. 

Saudi Arabia, which holds the ambition to become a regional hegemon, may find itself trapped in Yemen, with no end to the conflict. It’s territories have already been attacked by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) fighters from the north of Yemen. 

The STC and its military wing, the “security belt”, belong to the al-Hirak movement, launched in 2007 for a separate and independent country in South Yemen. The South and North had merged to create one Republic of Yemen in 1990. However, disagreements over the merger arose soon after. 

The conflict between Hadi supporters and the STC has opened a new front in the war in Yemen, already in its fifth year. The war has caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions. According to the United Nations, the current lack of food and medicine in the Arab world’s poorest region, has created the “world’s largest humanitarian crisis”, pushing millions into starvation.

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