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Why a military defeat of the Houthis is not enough for Yemen or Europe

When talking about Yemen, one of the most common phrases amongst analysts is that “it’s complicated.” True, to a very large extent. Tribal politics, new movements being infiltrated by old power political structures and when looking at the political actors involved, it becomes less clear how the conflict falls under the ‘Sunni-Shia’ divide that seems to be a top theme when discussing MENA politics. Yet the fact that Yemen is “complicated” does not mean there is no clear power political dynamic.

In a nutshell, if former president Ali Abdullah Saleh did not form an alliance with the Houthis, a group who he has fought six wars with since 2004, including one in 2009 where he requested Saudi support via area bombardment, they would not have been able to stage a coup on Sana’a in September 2014. Before Saleh stepped down, he warned that if he let go of power, Yemen “would turn into another Somalia,” indicating his vengeful intentions. By looking at Yemen today, not only is it clear that Saleh has taken his revenge on his own people for revolting against him, but also against the city that has suffered the most as a result of the Saleh/Houthi tactical alliance: Taiz – the birthplace of the 2011 revolution.

Taiz city, whose province is directly on the old North-South border is currently under a siege imposed by Saleh and Houthis forces. All roads that lead outside the city are blocked. Food prices have soared dramatically as it has become scarce due to the Houthis blocking aid and hospital have run out of medical supplies, including oxygen. The largest public hospital in Taiz, Al Thawra has been forced to close multiple times over the past year and it is only able to function if medical supplies are smuggled through the mountains. Those who do attempt to smuggle basic living needs into the city are usually caught by Houthi and Saleh forces and shot or kidnapped.

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