Last month, an airstrike led by the Western-backed alliance of Arab countries that killed more than 40 schoolchildren marked another low point in the war in Yemen. It led to outrage from humanitarian groups and a call from the UN for an independent investigation. The war has already killed more than 10,000 people, displaced 3 million and left 22 million in need of aid and protection. According to UN experts, the war in Yemen is currently the worst humanitarian crisis worldwide. The war started three years ago, between the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government, which defends the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The conflict continues to worsen as it has turned from a civil one to a regional one. Yemen is the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula and has become one of the major fronts in the Iran-Saudi proxy war for regional hegemony. While Syria used to be the major Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict location, after seven years of civil war, Assad is now restoring his rule in the country. The conflict has shifted toward Yemen and the Red Sea region. UN envoy Martin Griffiths says that if peace efforts in Yemen fail, the world could be facing a “Syria-plus” situation. Beyond the massive humanitarian crisis, he sees the rise of terrorism in Yemen and the risk of increased instability around the Red Sea as potential consequences. Moreover, as the war continues, it will become more fragmented and difficult to resolve as different parties with competing interests become involved. Greater instability in the Red Sea region, for example, will be answered by stronger intervention on the part of Egypt, in an effort to secure its trade activities in the Red Sea.
The international community is also involved in the conflict. Weapons supply to the Saudi-led coalition by the U.S., the U.K. and France is fueling the conflict. And there are no signs that the Saudi-led coalition is prepared to end the stalemated war any time soon. U.S. sanctions against Iran this August have further increased tensions as the Trump administration’s sanctions on Iranian oil exports are boosting Saudi Arabia and putting the U.S. ally on a stronger footing for a showdown across the Persian Gulf. The Trump administration has also pushed for a military alliance with Sunni Arab states, called the “Middle East Strategic Alliance”, to act against Iran.
RISKS MARKED ON THE RISK RADAR AS NUMBER 1: Large-scale migration, tensions throughout the Middle East